Before trying his hand at writing, Charles F. Briggs spent several years working as a sailor on voyages to Europe and South America. He also spent a few years as a merchant in New York City.
Covers the period from November 1858 to May 1859.
Gunn describes Clapp's hatred toward Brisbane: "I believe he admires Stephen Pearl Andrews and hates Brisbane – he was always saying infernal things of the 'meanness' of the latter" (15).
Aldrich is described as having left the Saturday Press : "O'Brien's left the Saturday Press, which, he says, owed him some $100 and more. Wilkins supersedes him and does better. The paper is horridly in debt, the milch-cow having gone south. So the hideous little 'free-lover' and Socialist (Clapp is both) has it all his own way – Aldrich having left, too" (103).
Gunn describes an encounter with Briggs: "from Briggs, who tapped me on the shoulder one morning and complimented me on my(!) article in the Constellation. I believe he was trying the dodge in order to get confirmation, or information, as to the real writer, though he stuck to it that he supposed me the author. Shrewd man is Briggs, and an ugly."
Gunn describes Clapp's hatred toward Brisbane: "I believe he admires Stephen Pearl Andrews and hates Brisbane – he was always saying infernal things of the 'meanness' of the latter."
Gunn learns of Clapp's past: "Emerson, Hawthorne, Edmund Quincy &c, Hitchings has met, knowing the last familiarly. From celebrities to notorieties – he could tell me something of Clapp. I am not a bit surprised to find that the hideous little 'Free lover' is a scoundrel. He had some clerkish post in Boston, perpetrated some dishonesty in it, which either necessitated his flight to France or was discovered subsequent to it. He has, says Hitchings, 'been everything' in the come-outer way. When in Paris he lived the usual depraved life – took men to see the Industrious fleas &c. Probably he kept himself by corresponding with American papers – a wretchedly stale re-hash of which contributions he is now serving up in the 'Saturday press.' He's a Fouricrist, a Freelover of the ultra order and, I fancy, – if anything theologically – an Atheist. Nevertheless he has certain ability, of a third rate-order, with his pen. I fancy he owes much of his general estimation – such as it is – to his matchless assurance and egotism. Haney was rather taken by him at first, thinking him a good talker – which praise is not uncommonly bestowed upon him. (I fancy the 'Saturday press' has enlightened Haney as to his caliber of intellect.) Clapp puns a good deal, and if permitted, always tries to ride roughshod over others. His impudence is matchless, in this. I believe he admires Stephen Pearl Andrews and hates Brisbane – he was always saying infernal things of the 'meanness' of the latter. O'Brien consorts with Clapp, and affects to admire his powers of conversation. Morally they are on the same level, basing their every act on utter selfishness. They swindled their landlord in this (Bleecker Street) of some hundred dollars or so and the man came to a smash in consequence. This I had from Mrs Potter. Some acquaintances of hers, seeing Clapp and O'Brien entering this house in one of their visits to Haney, warned Mrs P. against them, thinking they might design boarding with them. By the word swindling I mean they owe that amount to their unlucky entertainer" (16).
Gunn describes Clapp's physical appearance; a newspaper cartoon of Clapp follows: "Clapp is the ugliest man I ever saw in my life, his countenance almost justifies his nature. He is small and spare in stature, has nothing particular in the way of nose, eyes which glance at you with a sort of stare, and a copious beard. Haney and Cahill say his voice is agreeable. I dissent. Latter's testimony is worth nothing, as he is weak and, also, by his pecuniary position and antecedents committed to the Clapp and O'Brien code of morals. Then, too, Cahill's judgment about Intellect, literature &c isn't worth a straw. Clapps tremendous assumption goes down with him. It's a very common thing when a man is uniformly hideous – Nature being sternly consistent in her work – to find out some detail to eulogise in him. The beauty of an ugly womans hand, bust &c will be descanted on by her would-be toadies. Honestly I don't think Clapp's voice agreeable. He has sense and shrewdness, and I think did not one's inner instinct rise in judgment against him, might be, by some considered a pleasant companion. He affects me just as I fancy some of the Jacobins of the first French Revolution would have done. I find no modesty, no kindness, no humanity in him. He took in Haney by his unparalled assumption, mixed with his certain amount of real ability" (16-17).
Gunn talks about Clapp's Saturday Press: "North's stories are reprinted besides Clapp's Parisian trash, and his own stories from Harpers Mag" (18).
Gunn describes an encounter with Clapp: "Next day Clapp, who has heretofore officiated as O'Brien's jackal, comes round, says that O'B[rien] can't write without money in his pocket and must have $100! This ended the affair. Doesticks declared, before his loss, that he wouldn't write for it, Brougham will do scarcely anything – so Watson confessed to me – and I won't write unless I get money paid when I bring in copy. It's time to break off with bad paymasters" (66).
Gunn encounters O'Brien in the Saturday Press office: "At noon went over the way to the Saturday Press office. There I found not Clapp, but O'Brien standing with back to the stove, in a small, rather dingy and decidedly unventilated room, two others being present. O'Brien chose to assume his ultra-insolent, supercilious airs towards me, wherefore we had a little conversational spar" (82-83).
Gunn says that O'Brien has left the Saturday Press, giving Clapp what he wants, "O'Brien's left the Saturday Press, which, he says, owed him some $100 and more. Wilkins supersedes him and does better. The paper is horridly in debt, the milch-cow having gone south. So the hideous little 'free-lover' and Socialist (Clapp is both) has it all his own way – Aldrich having left, too" (103).
Gunn reveals that Clapp victimized Haney: "Clapp victimized Haney only to the extent of $1.50. His morals(!) pecuniarily and socially are a counterpart with O'Brien's, but he has more shrewdness in his rascalities, not the extravagant, grandiose swagger of the Irishman" (108).
Gunn describes an encounter with Clapp: "Clapp in, addressed me, was so civil that I conclude he don't believe in the long continuance of his paper and wants to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. Expressed regret at O'Brien's behaviour, when I went up in the office, vilified O'B[rien] – justly enough. Picton drinking 'Monongahela plain' and talking enough for sixty. To Mataran's, where I left him in a fair way to get drunk. Met Bellew. Writing all the evening and till 2 or 1" (110).
Gunn says that O'Brien had to stay in Clapp's room: "Pretty recently O'B[rien] was so hard up, he had to camp in Clapp's room. They both vilify each other now. O'B[rien] is every day a dropper in at Haney's office. Wonder what he expects to make by it?" (112).
Gunn describes an embrace from Clapp: "Anon came in Haney and Cahill, from Edward's probably. Clapp gave Haney a burlesque French embrace – unpleasant to look upon, anon going over to the side table where he and Cahill sat at, to converse with him. Thus till midnight, then to room and bed, quitting Haney & Cahill at the corner of Broadway" (114).
Gunn meets Clapp at Howell's Tavern and they discuss the life of William North: "Meeting Clapp there, who since O'Brien and he quarreled, has n't tried any of his airs on me! I set him talking of North and here goes for particulars, which I have little doubt are true enough. North's character and wretched end make his career unusually interesting, especially as affording such a contrast with his own self-painted snob-hero portrait, 'Dudley Mondel.' Clapp met North first in London, at a party where were Hannay, Coventry Patmore and others. North came in late, had been compelled to take shelter from a shower of rain in a coffee-shops, where he had written some indifferent 'poetry' which he read to the company which didn't mind it much. Clapp's attention flattered him and procured the American an invitation to visit him at 'his chambers.' These were in Lyons Inn, consisting of one indescribably dirty and slovenly room where Clapp found North in bed at 1 P.M. The sheets, Clapp described, as of as dark a hue, from dirt, as one of the fellow's pants – I mean the listeners to the narrative. Well, Clapp was invited to breakfast, so after knocking about among utensils which had been put to all sorts of indefinite uses, North went out and ordered a cheap meal from an adjacent coffeeshop, threatening to pay the boy who presently brought it with a kick a posteriori on his objecting to leave the grub without the money. Thus commenced, the intimacy continued. When Hannay's 'Singleton Fontency' was published he presented North with a copy, who with Clapp was exceedingly hard up, so they sold it to a bookseller on the day before publication, at trade price, neither of them having read it. Clapp described, not unamusingly, their subsequent separate interview with Hannay, when he questioned them as to their opinions of his book. North was then in love with his 'Blondine' – whom he has put in divers books. Clapp describes her as clever, pretty, cockneyish, law-born, says that North shared her favors with a 'greengrocer's clerk' who stood first in her affections and by whom she became pregnant. This woman North wanted to marry. He and Clapp peddled it about at the book stalls, having agreed that the minimum price should be half-a crown. Much more did Clapp relate of North's amours, of a similar character. He was always 'in love' – hot, enthusiastic – idealistic – capulatory – devil knows what! Ada Clare was one of his latest flames, but, Clapp says, didn't like him. He always talked about himself and nothing else to the women on the second interview, and bored them. At first his eager, impulsive, lively talk attracted them. All the novelistic surroundings of his 'Columbia' in the 'Slave of the Lamp' are simply bosh, but he intended that heroine for a scraggy little girl who had written a book. She didn't care a jot for the fellow, but attitudinized, went into deep mourning and such rot on the strength of his suicide. North's egotism was so ill-balanced as to incline towards craziness. He told Clapp, once, that he had come into a fortune of Â£1000 or so, that he designed returning to England, hiring Exeter Hall, scattering the money (in gold!!) among the audience, after a revolutionary harangue, in consequence of which proceedings, in two weeks he would be on the throne of Great Britain! He borrowed, got in debt, was reckless of moral or pecuniary obligations, quarreled with everybody – in a word acted as though license were man's rudder through life. What a life and what a death! The ghastly side of Bohemianism with a vengeance! Clapp asserts that he 'knew North like a book' and though during the life of the latter their mutual selfishness and egotism must have again and again brought them into antagonism, nay, have induced the hatred of which only intensely vain people are capable, Clapp can have no more inducement to pervert truth about his dead comrade that is offered by a desire to shine at his expense. I find Clapp does nearly everything for effect. His literary judgments are not worth a rotten straw, he neither thinks or trys to think honestly of anything, has no reverence, no belief; neither his life or thoughts are squared with truth. I am inclined to think North was the less depraved man of the two, the wretched suicide with all his insane vanity, did aspire to something, alloyed as it might be with Free-Love Phallus worship, His Millenium of invention-gone-mad is a poor business to be sure but better that than none at all" (146-149).
Gunn believes Banks idolizes Clapp: "Banks' epidemical hero-worship has now elevated Clapp to the place of honor in A. F's ill-balanced mind! Clapp goes to call on Banks at his Wall Street office and on one of the latter's fellow clerks commenting on the ugly and sinister appearance of the little man, Banks blazes into Euphinistic wrath, telling the ribald clerk that that man, Sir, possesses more talent in his little finger than he and his preceding seventeen generations – if he has seven- teen generations, which A. F. doubts! Furthermore, Banks eulogizes Clapp's villainous egotism for the profoundest thought &c after the old, delightful fashion. I find something exquisitely appropriate in this conjunction. Clapp in his heart must have the hardest contempt for Banks: the latter is the honester of the two. It's immensely funny" (168).
Gunn believes that Clapp's "free love" philosophy has influenced Banks: "Then Banks mounted the Slavanic hobby, asserted than in ten or twenty years there would be but two nations, Russia and the U. S. existing in the world. Then he talked 'Free Love' rather coarsely. (I suppose he got this Phallic itch from Clapp.) Leslie's face, listening to Banks, was funny to contemplate. He disputed loudly, dictatorially, dissented logmatically, but Banks outtalked him. Came away and had some oysters at another place with Leslie" (172).
Gunn reminisces about a party he attended at Henry Clapp's: "Wrote a letter to George Bolton; went down town, sent off parcel to him. (By todays paper I see that the man of whom he purchased his farm has been condemned to be hanged for the murder of the mailman.) To a Mr Ames who has patented divers life-preserving garments, one of which I remember as the invention of a Mr Delano, the queer man whom I saw at Clapp's on our first visit to him. Clapp & O'Brien had him in as a butt, though he appeared to infinitely greater and advantage than they did. It was on this occasion I believe that I became antagonistic to the ugly little Free Lover. O'B had proposed his health in an inflated speech, and I fearing what subsequently happened, that speechmaking would set in for the evening, that we should all alternately be playing pumps or buckets – fearing this, I, in drinking Clapp's health adding to it the hope that he wouldn't be lengthy in response. It was done jocularly and he affected to take it well, but it subsequently appeared that he and O'B had arranged a little programe which I inadvertently upset. Clapp's strong point among the asses who pretend to admire him is his speechmaking" (213-214).
Gun sees Wood and Banks at Howells. They are discussing Clapp, "Passing Whitelaw's shop, looked in and saw him. To Howells where I found John Wood, Banks and another. Banks boring the other, raving about Clapp's ability. I talked to Wood. When we came out at 11, That Glover was at the door with four or five others" (244).
Gunn describes William North's romantic relationship with Ada Clare: "He [North] was always 'in love' – hot, enthusiastic – idealistic – capulatory [sic] – devil knows what! Ada Clare was one of his latest flames, but, Clapp says, didn't like him. He always talked about himself and nothing else to the women on the second interview, and bored them. At first his eager, impulsive, lively talk attracted them. All the novelistic surroundings of his 'Columbia' in the 'Slave of the Lamp' are simply bosh, but he intended that heroine for a scraggy little girl who had written a book. She didn't care a jot for the fellow, but attitudinized, went into deep mourning and such rot on the strength of his suicide."
Du solle was not in the office when Gunn tried to take a story to him: "Down town to Pic Office and Sunday Times. Du Solle not within. (I've a story to take to him)" (24).
Gunn notes that Du Solle and Dean were civil to him: "Left note for Picton at 'Omnibus' office, to Pic & Sunday Times. Saw Du Solle and Dean, got a very civil reception – can't afford to pay out any more $, at present – like to have me write – come in again. Eheu!" (32).
Gunn describes Eytinge's and Waud's distaste for the bathroom situation at the boarding house:"During the hardest part of winter, when going downstairs to the water-closet might be considered cold – not to hint at the chance of old Patten (a perfect beast in that respect) having pre-occupied it – the Martin family actually made a cloaca of a closet for weeks and weeks, and the servant girls used to leave, one after another, demurring at having to empty the chamber pots, Mrs P, of course, backing the nice family! Sol Eytinge and Bill Waud were so indignant at the nastiness of this revelation, that they tried for another boarding-house. I remember one of 'em figuring the boy Daniel sitting stinking in the closet, with the rest of the family occupied in singing a hymn, around him!!!!" (41).
Gunn states that Sol wouldn't attend Anna Thomson's funeral: "Sol wouldn't come to the funeral – "he couldn't bear to be present" said Allie. I know his sensitiveness to such matters, half feeling, half selfishness" (58).
Cahill tells Gunn that Eytinge has left the "Illustrated News": "Cahill came up to see me this afternoon. Looks in better health and general condition, is living at Thomson's, employed by Mort on some "History," written to order, with more work in perspective. Says that Sol Eytinge has left Leslie, and threatened to lick him when he has paid up $60, which is owing to Sol. The row was about unpunctuality in cashing up, of course. Sol has seceded to the Harpers'" (72).
Gunn says that Rosenberg and Brightly found a better artist than Eytinge: "Rosenberg came and separately, Brightly. The latter vilified Sol's artistic abilities and said they had a better artist from Philadelphia on the paper" (74).
Gunn describes Eytinge's departure from the "Illustrated News": "Sol Eytinge, it seems, isn't engaged by the Harper's. He's drawing at Hitchcocks place. Little Nast seceded too. There was a row at Leslie's – of course about money – Leslie charged Sol with idleness and drunkenness and the latter responded by bidding Leslie go to h__l. Swinton says Sol got paid up" '(74).
Gunn and Wood talk about Sol Eytinge: "To Houston St, for Bob Gun, not there, Arnold & Sears at whist – went to the House of Lords, found only Wood – F. Leslie's Wood. Talk of Sol Eytinge, who won't make so much now he's "off" Frank Leslie's. Hitchcock with whom he works, is a spreeish fellow, goes on his "bursts" and can knock up Sol in it. And Sol is as bad as Cahill, when temptation comes. His intimacy with Doesticks, too, will a little accelerate his proclivity, for Mort knows too many people and drinks with too many. Both he and Cahill "swore off" some time back – Cahill's "on" again, I know. Well, if Sol don't bring home the game, as beseems a warrior, his squaw will give him Candle, I know. Dear Allie – Margaret, they call her, now, – her "maiden" name was Margaret Inskip – has, Wood is confident, made a purse for herself. Sol's mother tries hard to believe in her, but justifies the sisters in holding aloof though Allie has tried, persistently, to do the gushingly- affectionate sister to them, written sonnets &c after her fashion. (I recollect when she got married to Covill – a perfectly illegal business, like her union with Sol, for she is a divorced wife – divorced on the ground of adultery – her writing poems to his sisters – talking of her having, at length, found beings to sympathize with and love and such rot. This time she has poured out her soul in the Home Journal "Over the Way" – Wood says pretty verses – (don't believe it!) Josey lives next door to Sol and has "no perceptible means of getting a livelihood." O'Brien came in while I was talking to Wood. Didn't volunteer or obtain greeting" (96-97).
Gunn says Eytinge had caricatures of Frank Leslie in his office: "Whiting, of Frank Leslie's paper bored us. This fellow is notorious as a sponge or "sucker," and used to be caricatured as such, and as a leech – with his head on – on the walls of the office in Sol Eytinge's time" (109).
Wood tells Gunn about Sol Eytinge's intentions to fit Leslie: "Wood told me he had met Arnold subsequent to his (Arnold's) being drunk for a week. So they drift. Cahill's no better than of old. One hears of him swaggering round to F. Leslie's, with Sol Eytinge, Hitchcock, Mc Lenan &c, Sol being "on the fight" with evil intentions towards Leslie" (127).
Gunn says that Eytinge has talked negatively of Watson: "To return to Watson. He is shortish, bearded and mustached, red haired – that sort of hair which always looks rather wet. Altogether, I should say, he fills his position well enough. I've heard Sol Eytinge talk against him but Sol alway affected decendentalism in conversation, as indicating shrewdness" (128-129).
Banks and Gunn talk of Allie Vernon's divorce: "Allie Vernon, Banks says, used Watson as a tool to allow her husband to get a divorce from her –"sold" him completely. He always assumed the injured party in speaking of her while she painted him as a monster to beguiled and begulled Sol. In Watson's odious talk about the drab, he let out the secret – the only one – of her attractions to him, as, perhaps to Sol – physical sensuality" (160).
Gunn says that Eytinge and Allie Vernon are miserable living together: "Sol and Allie live miserably together, now, as is inevitable. They can retain no intimates. Which is also the lot of "Fanny Fern." Indeed, the natures of the two ^|women| are intrinsically the same, but the one is the more overpoweringly selfish" (186).
Gunn speculates that Getty Gay had an affair with Charles Gayler, "which together with his wife and family – four or five children – he abandoned for a married woman of the Allie Vernon stripe with whom he lives now, miserably enough. Levison and Haney met him once, when he intimated his intention to commit suicide, saying he 'was going to hell direct'. He is not constant to his mistress nor – in all probability – is she faithful to him. He had an affair with 'Getty Gay' – another little, literaryish [sic] strumpet of the Allie V. order who writes idiotic bosh in one of the Sunday papers. I believe he got into a quarrel with Underhill about her."
Gunn describes meeting Gayler: "Met Gaylor. Banks has supervised him in editing(!) Strong's Yankee Notions! Gayler did little else than abuse Mc Lenan, saying that John had no notion of fun, never had an idea in his life &c – that he, Gayler had put 'hundreds of dollars' in Mac's pocket, by suggestions &c – that Mac had been 'ungratified' to him – with much more. Judging from the stupidity of Mac's notions, I should think it highly probable that Gayler had favored him with the ideas and cursedly bad ones. I defended Mac, on principle, for he is an artist and can put splendid effect in his drawings. Gayler is a tall, burylish man with an over-rich complexion, (something of an Irish voice – I always suspect him of Celtic descent) and plenty of self esteem which manifests itself unpleasantly when he's conversing with those whom he considers his inferiors. He sings a good song, makes puns, and wouldn't be a bad tavern-king were he not prone to attempting rough-riding over others. He can write parodies and dogged – nothing else. Born (so he gives out) in New York he once had a good position on a Cincinatti [sic] commercial paper (hence probably his intimacy with Mac Lenan who was born in Hogopolis) which together with his wife and family – four or five children – he abandoned for a married woman of the Allie Vernon stripe with whom he lives now, miserably enough. Levison and Haney met him once, when he intimated his intention to commit suicide, saying he 'was going to hell direct.' He is not constant to his mistress nor – in all probability – is she faithful to him. He had an affair with 'Getty Gay' – another little, literaryish strumpet of the Allie V. order who writes idiotic bosh in one of the Sunday papers. I believe he got into a quarrel with Underhill about her. Cahill recollected something of it as occurring at the Ornithoryncus. Also Gayler was especially down upon Wilkins of the Herald, and used to talk of him as 'a d____d' Life in Boston 'black mailer' &c &c. Gayler can sing a good song. All his instincts and characteristics are Irish. Strongs Notions could hardly have been more stupidly edited under his own control. Banks will be a spectacle for gods and men on assuming the editorial(!) chair. He'll swear Bai Jove! he's been keeping quiet for the last five years, and now, Bai Jove! he's got the chance he's been looking for and people shall see what is in him!! Left Mort & Gayler – the former goes to Boston to night – and to Bleecker" (34-35).
Gunn talks about Jackson, Herbert's wife's lawyer: "To Hitchings' in the evening; Oliver there, Jackson the sculptor and a lawyer – jolly fellow. Songs and stories. This lawyer had Henry William Herbert's wife for a client. The woman, not herself unexceptionable, flightyish &c, had a horror of her husband. He had struck and sworn at her. She told a wild story of 'the Cedars,' the house at Newark having secret rooms and passages. Oliver says the current rumor as to the crime which compelled Herbert to leave England was incest with a sister Fellow was a bad lot anyway."
According to Gunn, Grant owes Matilda Heron money: "Story of Richard Grant White, 'Shakspeare's scholar' and editor. He borrowed $1,800 of Matilda Heron and wont pay her. Not the first Scoundrelism of that sort he has been guilty of."
Gunn believes the Saturday Press won't last without Howland's money: "The paper will last just as long as the milch-cow Howland sinks money in it. And – God save the mark! – before the ineffable trash appeared, if they didn't talk of it's going to be equal in merit to the Atlantic Mag, in point of literary production! B–––ah!!
Gunn mentions Laura Keene's Theatre: "Wrote a note to Wilbour & Underhill, latter came over, had talk with Roberts, undertook the job of reporting, phonographically, the piece 'Our American Cousin' which has been played for over so many weeks at Laura Keene's. Roberts proposes printing it in next 'Constellation.' (It is a kink of Benjamin's – and speaking editorially, a 'smart' one)"(79-80).
Gunn describes Underhill and a friend's trip to Laura Keene's gallery: "They yesternight went to the gallery of Laura Keene's, and had jotted down half of the play when Lentze, Laura's 'fancy man' came and stopped 'em. All the actors were on the qui vive, too. Underhill now proposes to complete the thing by taking a private box, filling in the front of it with three women, while he and his phonographic chum squat behind during the latter half of the piece, scoring down the remainder. Wants to see Roberts about it, that he may be assured about money" (84).
Gunn writes about Mackenzie's letter: "Talking of Irishman, there's that old 'blower' Shelton MacKenzie, in a 'London letter' written at Philadelphia, to the 'Constellation,' vilifying and lying about Thackeray in a thoroughly Celtic manner. Reason; Thackeray's Irish Sketchbook and Irishmen in his novels; which Irishmen can not forgive. And when they hate they lie: they can't be fair to an evening. Some time ago MacKenzie put Doyle above florious John Leech(!) as an artist; attributing Punch's decadence to the Irishman's retirement. Bah! Erin go Brag! Brag! Brag! I wonder how many Generations it takes to graft something like veracity, and fair play into the Celt – whether it can be done, after all!" (108)
Gunn describes Mackenzie's article about Fitz-James O'Brien: "Old Shelton MacKenzie has written an article on O'Brien, in the Constellation; just the sort of article one Irishman would write of another. There's one lie in it, I know, that asserting the precedence of Doesticks Witches of N.Y over O'B's fortune tellers. All the rest I've heard before. The assumed baronetry has caused much mirth to those who know the man. It's in accordance with his principle of when desperately cornered to do some- thing audacious. 'When in doubt, play a trump.' Not being known in Boston and anticipating that a real live baronet might get the entree to 'society' – O'B[rien]'s constant aspiration – he has trumped up this characteristic lie" (137).
Gunn attaches a newspaper clipping written by Mackenzie, regarding the rumor that O'Brien is the heir to an Irish baronetcy (139).
Gunn discusses the friendship between O'Brien and Henry Clapp: "O'Brien consorts with Clapp, and affects to admire his powers of conversation. Morally they are on the same level, basing their every act on utter selfishness. They swindled their landlord in this (Bleecker Street) of some hundred dollars or so and the man came to a smash in consequence. This I had from Mrs Potter. Some acquaintances of hers, seeing Clapp and O'Brien entering this house in one of their visits to Haney, warned Mrs P. against them, thinking they might design boarding with them. By the word swindling I mean they owe that amount to their unlucky entertainer" (15-16).
Gunn describes O'Brien's Saturday Press theater column: "The 'Dramatic Feulleton' by Fitz james O'Brien, with his distinguished name to each article (why wasn't English good enough for their paper, I wonder?) is cleverish, but infernally conceited. O'B[rien] actually reviewed his own two-act farce of the 'Gentleman from Ireland' (plot hocked from the French – a thing that even the venial Wilkins of the Herald has the grace to refrain from in similar cases)" (18).
Gunn talks about O'Brien breaking his word to write a story for Frank Leslie's Stars and Stripes: "O'Brien's break of with Frank Leslie, the particulars of which I heard the other day, is funny and characteristic. He had agreed to furnish a serial story for the 'Stars and Stripes,' which they had announced grandiloquently in circular & advertisement. Well time came for copy, O'B said he had no place to write in &c, so they fixed up a room for him in the building. He loafed awhile, then declared he must have a bottle of Heidseick and cigars, when he would incontinently blaze away. Cigars and champagne were procured. He drank the latter, smoked the former, wrote ten pages and then left – taking M. S. with him. Next day Clapp, who has heretofore officiated as O'Brien's jackal, comes round, says that O'B[rien] can't write without money in his pocket and must have $100! This ended the affair. Doesticks declared, before his loss, that he wouldn't write for it, Brougham will do scarcely anything – so Watson confessed to me – and I won't write unless I get money paid when I bring in copy. It's time to break off with bad paymasters" (66).
Gunn describes an encounter with O'Brien at the Saturday Press office: "At noon went over the way to the Saturday Press office. There I found not Clapp, but O'Brien standing with back to the stove, in a small, rather dingy and decidedly unventilated room, two others being present. O'Brien chose to assume his ultra-insolent, supercilious airs towards me, wherefore we had a little conversational spar" (82-84).
Gunn recounts O'Brien's departure from the Saturday Press: "O'Brien's left the Saturday Press, which, he says, owed him some $100 and more. Wilkins supersedes him and does better. The paper is horridly in debt, the milch-cow having gone south. So the hideous little 'free-lover' and Socialist (Clapp is both) has it all his own way – Aldrich having left, too" (103).
Gunn reveals O'Brien's falsification, "Apropos of "House hold Words," I must put down something characteristic of O'Brien, on the authority of Briggs of the Courier and Times, a very reliable one. When O'Brien came to this country he claimed the authorship of certain admired articles in Household Words and other English publications, and got some credit on the strength of the representation. In due time a volume was published comprising, among its contents, the very articles claimed by O'B with the true author's name attached!" (105-106).
Gunn tells a story about O'Brien trying to escape a creditor, "Looking accidentally at the list of arrivals at the hotels, the other day, I saw chronicled Fitz-james O'Brien, at the "Everett house!" O'B is out of luck, I know, hence probably this Barry Lindon proceeding. Heard a characteristic thing of him, too. I was not the only person who noticed his name in the papers. That unfortunate old man in blue specs, whom he owes $125 or so, for board, who must have become quite an "old man of the Sea" to O'B for one meets this equally unlucky and pertenacious creditor everywhere, in newspaperdom, when he launches out into his piteous and prolix details to anybody who will listen to him – this old man, then, goes to the hotel and tells his story to . Word is conveyed to O'B. "Man wants money? send him up!" is the order. Man is shown up accordingly, an employee accompanying him, probably to see how the land lay. "Good morning, Mr O'Brien," says creditor. "You have the advantage of me, sir!" says O'B. "Isn't 'your' name O'Brien, sir? don't you recollect me? – owe me so and so," says creditor. "Never saw you before in my life!" says O'B. And he persisted in denying his identity, and the poor man had to go away, making nothing by the visit. Pretty recently O'B was so hard up, he had to camp in Clapp's room. They both vilify each other now. O'B is every day a dropper in at Haney's office. Wonder what he expects to make by it?" (111-112).
Gunn describes a quarrel between Clapp and O'Brien, "Talk, incidentally of O'Brien, who it seems, has quarreled with Clapp or something like it. O'B sent a lawyer's letter apropos of money owing to him for his "feulleton"izing in the Saturday Press, which Clapp related as an excellent joke. Then he passed into general comment on O'B. "He was too d____d infernal selfish altogether – there was no denying he was a smart man though, and he could stand anything but a fool – give him a rogue, a smart rogue, rather. He don't believe in the good, amiable, Christ like men" (how the ugly countenance grew uglier with spite and unbelief as he said the words) "like Greeley." (113-114).
Gunn journals about O'Brien's departure to Boston, "Mort says O'Brien has gone to Boston, having entirely used up all his chances here. He was shewn the door at the Everett House. The "Diamond Lens" theft ended all his chance in the Atlantic Mag – so a man connected with it told Thomson" (117-118).
Gunn talks about an article that MacKenzie wrote about O'Brien, "Old Shelton MacKenzie has written an article on O'Brien, in the Constellation; just the sort of article one Irishman would write of another. There's one lie in it, I know, that asserting th precedence of Doesticks Witches of N.Y over O'B's fortune tellers. All the rest I've heard before. The assumed baronetry has caused much mirthto those who know the man. It's in accordance with his principle of when desperately cornered to do something audacious. "When in doubt, play a trump." Not being known in Boston and anticipating that a real live baronet might get the entree to "society" – O'B's constant aspiration – he has trumped up this characteristic lie. He started it first in a letter to the Times, as I learnt from Briggs, who tapped me on the shoulder one morning and complimented me on my (!) article in the Constellation. I believe he was trying the dodge in order to get confirmation, or information, as to the real writer, though he stuck to it that he supposed me the author. Shrewd man is Briggs, and an ugly. I wish O'Brien had got a baronetry. It would be delightfully funny to see him under the influence of it. He would give dinners to his acquaintances, pay his debts (or a tithe of them) with the most magnificent flourish contract the times as many and in a word, be, if possible a still more insufferable puppy and snob than now. Marry his coronet would be spouted in a week or two" (137 & 141).
A newspaper engraving depicting O'Brien wearing a crown, alluding to the rumor that O'Brien is the heir to an Irish baronetcy (138).
Gunn includes a newspaper clipping about the rumor that O'Brien is the heir to an Irish baronetcy (139).
Gunn includes a newspaper clipping written by Mackenzie regarding a rumor about O'Brien (140).
Gunn describes a feud between Picton and O'Brien, "He kicked up a row at the Office, after Haney's temporary secession, when O'Brien and the "Bees" were present, chiefly in consequence of his dislike to O'B. Picton and his "crowd" were drunk and averse to the "G_d__n English hole" as they called it. His feud with O'Brien arose thus. When cashier to the Nassau Bank, Picton having recently been introduced to O'B, on the following day got a note on Sedgwick (the Crystal Palace man) for some $30 or $50, with a request that he would cash it. Mistaking the signature for Bellew's, whom Picton knew and good-naturedly wished to oblige, he complied. It proved to be O'Brien's and there was considerable difficulty in getting Sedgwick to take it up, which however he did for value received (I suppose in Times puffs) from O'Bouncer. Picton believes he risked "being stuck" himself" (143).
Cahill inquires about O'Brien at the Parker House, "Cahill has been on to Boston, appropos of some of Doesticks book-making business. Inquiring at the "Parker House" as to whether O'Brien lived there, he got a very emphatic "No Sir–ee!" from the bartender as answer. O'B had run up a bill of over $100 there; has been giving "literary breakfasts" and conducting himself after his usual Barry Lyndon fashion. Bellew gave him an introductory letter to Emerson and he had others – I question the honesty of endorsing the swindler. He was living at Cambridge, said to be "literary editor of a Boston paper" (150).
Gunn noted that Thomson's wife died after giving birth to a son (51).
Gunn describes Thomson following the death of his wife: "The poor fellow...was dreadfully cut up" after the death of his wife; the men who were at his wife's wake included: "Ottarson, Underhill, Gaylor, McLenan, and little Nast, Cahill" (52).
Gunn wonders aloud how Whitman manages to support himself: "Monday. To New York again – passing the 'kosmos' Walt Whitman by the way. How does that man – a unique character in his own way – live? He has a mother, an industrious brother and one idiotic. I sup[pose] the second maintains the family. Then too, there is or was some middle aged Philadelphia lady a widow of indifferent character, who admired him and whom he spunged from. And [Sara Willis] Partons [aka Fanny Fern] $200 might have sufficed to let him 'loaf and lie at his case' for a long time" (79).
Gunn describes seeing Whitman: "Down town with it after dinner &c. Saw Walt Whitman at Brady's entry, with another. Hardly knew the 'Kosmos' who had partly shaven himself. His pale grey eyes looked more protuberant than usual" (231).
The Vault at Pfaff's
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