Born and raised in England, Thomas Butler Gunn first worked as an illustrator for the famous British satirical journa
Covers the period from June 1, 1860 to September 22, 1860.
Gunn says O'Brien chose Pfaff's for a quiet altercation, even though the Bohemian gang was present, including Clapp, "So O'Brien, conscious, it may be, that House is a thinner and sparer man than himself, chivalrously determined on punishing his detractor. He told Shepherd that he was going to be very quiet, didn't want a row &c but yet chose Pfaff's as the scene for this altercation, when the whole crowd, Clapp, Wilkins, George Arnold – in short all the Bohemian gang – were present" (81).
Gunn hand writes Clapp's name into song lyrics (83).
Gunn states that George associates primarily with Clapp and Winter, "Shepherd, too, is "on a rock" as he phrases it. Arnold, he says he sees little of. "George is very much changed." He consorts principally with Clapp and William Winter "the poet"!" (114).
Gunn describes Clapp's selfish and begging manner, "A few Bohemian items, got from Shepherd. Clapp he estimates much as I do, and knows much to corroborate that opinion. A deliberately dishonest and utterly villainous borrower, relying on his overrated colloquial powers as the chameleon or ant-eater or I know not what beast does on its tongue – sticking it out for silly flies to alight on and be ensnared by its glutinosity. Very silly insects they must be, not to be warned off by the natural beacon of his hideous countenance! But he has victimized many; his whole problem of life being utterly selfish and damnable. He cronies most with George Arnold now. O'Brien asserts that he has lent Clapp money repeatedly (which may be the case, for the Irishman's vanity might induce him to play the free handed Bohemian) but that, when he, O'Brien was out of luck, in want of a dinner, homeless and half desperate, though he wrote almost supplicatory letters to Clapp, for a single dollar, he failed to obtain it. Clapp has next to begged from men at Pfaff's, recieving [sic] a disdainfully given $10 note from one who "didn't mind throwing that away on the Saturday Press." He and Arnold hunt carrion- flesh of the female sort in common now; treating demi-harlots of the singing-saloon order to supper and seduction – sometimes losing their game, too" (119-120).
Gunn details Bellew's acquaintances, "Bellew knew James Hannay, Wilkie Collins and others of that rank. With North he was a schoolfellow. He made Clapp's acquaintance when that little vampire came to England" (177).
Gunn quotes Wood, "Belle likes Clapp for his esprit!" said Wood, anon regretting that all this valuable experience couldn't be used in a literary (!) way – as in Paris! He was going off to the country with O'Brien, on Saturday" (199).
Gunn records that Clapp was present when O'Brien was introduced to Roberts, "Another O'Brien incident. He met Roberts of the "Constellation," in a barroom, Clapp, George Arnold, Shepherd and others being present, when one of the party introduced O'B. to Roberts. It was subsequent to the publication of Shelton Mackenzie's attack on O'B., who drew himself up inquiring if Roberts were the publisher of the paper, and on being answered in the affirmative first walked aside with him, then returned and abused him to his face, before those assembled, as a liar, blackguard, &c" (206).
Gunn adds a handwritten note ("Ada Clare") to the At Pfaff's printed song lyrics.
Gunn describes a visit to English "Returned to Fort Lee by a woody road and visited Dunn English, whom we found in the bosom of his family. He showed us pictures, took a brief stroll with us, to point out historic localities and dismissed us by the 5 o'clock boat, which was heavilyfreighted with passengers. Among them we found our Coitville hostess, Mrs. Brough, and her two guests" (6).
Gunn notes having a beer with English, "Writing a bit. To the "World" office in accordance with a note from Stedman. He wanted me to come in the afternoon to see Marble. To "Courier" Office previously – lager with Dunn English, to Post-Office, "Nick-nax" &c." (204).
Gunn describes Eytinge and Waud in their office before heading to Crook and Duff's: "Called at the Illustrated News Office and found Alf Waud and Sol Eytinge doing muscular club practice in their office, a sort of artistic aquarium, being glass-walled. Sol and others went off to Crook and Duff's and Alf and I presently did the same, after he had shown me some of his Japanese Washington sketches and some recently-received from little Tommy Nast, at Palerno, on Garibaldi revolution subjects" (103).
John Wood tells Gunn that Sol Eytinge may accept another offer, jeopardizing the future of "Illustrated News": "Saw John Wood and got a bit of gossip anent the "Ill. News," now apparently worthy of that abbreviation, for it seems in a very shaky condition. One of the proprietors, the best man has seceded, and Sol Eytinge, talking about accepting another offer (?) was induced to remain by the prospect of becoming a proprietor – having "a third of the profits" or something of the sort" (190-191).
Gunn details an encounter with Eytinge at Croook and Duff's: "Meeting Hitchcock at the portal of Crook and Duff's he must fain take me in to see Alf Waud, sitting at the counter, with a row of men, lunching, Sol Eytinge on one side of him. His greeting was not so bearish as usual, he said he was too busy to call on me and that he was "getting rich," showing a rent under his coat-sleeve in ironic corroboration – from whence I infer that he is malcontent with the Ill. News payments, as well as with all the rest of the world. His "wife" and family are in Brooklyn, Mrs Jewell still in New Jersey" (232-233).
Gunn describes a talk with Gayler, "Will Waud, John McLenan, Gayler, young Fletcher Harper, and others, together, apart, in groups, hither and thither, drinking and talking promiscuously. Day tropical. I saw Thad Glover pass by. (By the bye Cahill accompanied him to the Fashion Race Course and spent a good deal of money on that occasion.) Bellew and I lunched in the dining room, subsequent to visiting Bobbett and Hooper's office, previous to which I went to see Paul, whom I found prostrate with a sick headache. Set off about 2 1/2 with Bellew to see the newly- arrived "Great Eastern" steam-ship. Gayler walked a it of the way with us. (He was out of sorts, down on his luck and condemnatory in his sentiments, was "Charley," when in the barroom. He talked of Addey's impecuniosity [sic], of how repeatedly he had disappointed him (Gayler) of money, of the forthcoming collapse of Momus, anon of the Courier's postponements in cashing up. I asked him if he had anything dramatic under way. He said he couldn't get a piece accepted. "They know, too, that I never wrote a piece that wasn't a success!" Then he disparaged "Doe sticks." Raising his black widebrimmed sombrero, his broad red face perspiring freely, the thronged barroom for background it made a picture" (59-60).
Gunn explains Gayler's part in writing Hick's "Confession", "There's a so-called "Confession" of his [Hicks] published, in which he claims to have been engaged in a hundred murders – evidently lies, exaggerations and melodramatic rot. The fellow couldn't write or read; Charley Gayler had a hand in his "Confession[x]." Home, rather [x] Wrote it" (99).
Gunn learns that Lotty knows Gayler from a note from her, "The note concluded with regards to me. Boweryem was rather chapfallen, his dignity upset – albeit his general "cockyness" has brought him similar rebuffs heretofore, from his own talk. He criticized the spelling, which was – Lotty's! I find she knows Gayler: she commissioned Boweryem to get a M.S. play of her husband's from him, which the burly biographer of Hicks "the pirate" had undertaken to correct" (235).
Laura Keene is mentioned when Gunn is descrbing a brawl between O'Brien and House, "He [O'Brien] had just got a $10 check in part payment for the "Tycoon" burlesque at Laura Keene's written or adopted by him in conjunction with Rosenberg. Of course his self esteem was swollen by the possession of money and he felt a truly Irish desire to distinguish himself before the crowd."
Gunn tells of O'Brien's attack of Roberts, the publisher of Mackenzie's article, "Another O'Brien incident. He met Roberts of the "Constellation," in a bar-room, Clapp, George Arnold, Shepherd and others being present, when one of the party introduced O'B. to Roberts. It was subsequent to the publication of Shelton Mackenzie's attack on O'B., who drew himself up inquiring if Roberts were the publisher of the paper, and on being answered in the affirmative first walked aside with him, then returned and abused him to his face, before those assembled, as a liar, blackguard, &c. Roberts took it sensibly, said that O'B. was surrounded by friends, he without any, that he didn't want a bar-room brawl, but offered his card and what subsequent satisfaction a private interview might afford, and so left. O'Brien asserts that he sent Wilkins to him with a hostile message and that Roberts tendered some apology" (205-7).
Gunn reveals that Cahill is going to brothels with Wood, Mullen, and the like, "Cahill's clothes discovered in the bathroom, he in bed. Whether, on coming home at 5. A.M., he disrobed himself with some drunken idea of bathing, I don't know. He has been drinking and going to brothels with young Fool Wood, Mullen and the like. This miserable "Vanity Fair" "crowd" show him the cold shoulder and insult him when he is hard up, now he has some command of money, they willingly drink and whore with him" (10).
Gunn journals about Cahill's money squandering. Mullen is present at Cahill's supper, "Our theory about Cahill's having squandered money which he couldn't replace proves correct. He gave a supper to most of the Vanity Fairians, including George Arnold, Mullen, Winter F. Wood, and others, not O'Brien, and certain of the colored prostitutes resident at the house in Greene Street which he and Bob Gun used to frequent, at a Broadway saloon, I believe the Jones house, where the whole delightful company got drunk, Cahill paying expenses" (34).
Gunn indicates that Mullen's rambling lead to an altercation between O'Brien and House, "These particulars being dropped into Mullen's ear, of course found vent at his mouth; when drunk he confided them to O'Brien, not naming his informant. So O'Brien, conscious, it may be, that House is a thinner and sparer man than himself, chivalrously determined on punishing his detractor. He told Shepherd that he was going to be very quiet, didn't want a row &c but yet chose Pfaff's as the scene for this altercation, when the whole crowd, Clapp, Wilkins, George Arnold – in short all the Bohemian gang – were present. He had just got a $10 check in part payment for the "Tycoon" burlesque at Laura Keene's written or adopted by him in conjunction with Rosenberg. Of course his self esteem was swollen by the possession of money and he felt a truly Irish desire to distinguish himself before the crowd. So approaching House who sat swinging his legs on a side-table, in the cellar, where the Bohemians assemble, he put a few questions to him and suddenly slapped his face. House made a rush at him, O'Brien retreating and squaring off, and forced him against the wall, seizing him by his collar or throat. There was a confused struggle, ended by House's breaking away, running to the table and endeavoring to seize a tumbler or decanter, for the purpose of throwing it at O'Brien, which intention was frustrated by Wilkins and Shepherd, who held him from his adversary. After that there was clamor and cackle. House asserted the truth of his statements, called O'Brien "a muscular beast" more than once, told him he would not have dared to attack a man physically his equal and sat down calling for drinks, inviting the company to partake. They did not do this, so he drank his lager himself. O'Brien said but little in reply, keeping aloof with Shepherd and Winter or Mullen, and presently departing with them. A whimsical mistake ended the affair; House having looked about for his hat, O'Brien mistaking a table-napkin for his adversary's handkerchief, handed it to him, with a dignified Celtic bow. House, drawing himself up, replied, "I cannot accept anything from that person! And Pfaff receiving the napkin, walked off with it! O'Brien subsequently sent Mullen to House, offering him the "satisfaction of a gentleman" but House, not recognizing "the code," the business is supposed to have terminated" (81-82).
Gunn documents Mullen being present the night of the row, "Walt Whitman, Winter, Mullen, a friend of Wilkins and others were present at Pfaffs on the night of the row, besides the persons I have mentioned" (85).
Gunn sees Mullen in the cellar with Arnold and Whitman, "Arnold was there, in the "Bohemian" cellar, with Walt Whitman and Mullen, whom I saw for the first time – a coarse-looking young fellow, with his coat off, in deference to the sultriness of the evening. I left soon and went to 745" (87).
Gunn journals about his short stop in Sheperd's room, "In Shepherd's room for five minutes after supper, finding foolish young Wood there, to whom and to Shepherd, enter O'Brien with a big patch over his eye, carrying a bottle of brandy, and Mullen. O'B" (215).
Gunn writes that Nast is going to Sicily, "Little Nast has written from Genoa to Jack Edwards. He is going to Sicily to sketch Garibaldi's revolutionary doings for the Illustrated N.Y. News, which is, of course, a great secret. Sally always throws him over and professes utter indifference to him in conversation, now" (48).
Gunn talks about sketches from Nast, "Sol and others went off to Crook and Duff's and Alf and I presently did the same, after he had shown me some of his Japanese Washington sketches and some recently-received from little Tommy Nast, at Palerno, on Garibaldi revolution subjects" (103).
Gunn describes about a conversation with Sally Edwards about her love admirers, including Nast, "Meantime it must be remembered that Nast was a suitor and very much in earnest. But Sally hardly gave Haney what he designated his "quietus" in consequence of her preference for his rival; as I judged at the time his position was anomalous, the transition from a friend of the family, who had known these girls from their babyhood, to a lover, was too great to be at once understood or regarded as agreable. Then he had played too close a game, his reticence and undemonstrativeness were against him. His "crossness" and perhaps jealousy had displeased Sally at Grafton; she must have contrived these with Nast"s behavior.... (146-152).
Gunn describes a letter from Nast, "Jack Edwards got a letter from Nast this morning. He has been in Naples, abandoned it as unsafe, writes from Sicily and thinks his next letter will announce the time of his return" (169).
Gunn discusses the fiananical troubles of the "New York Illustrated News," "Little Nast not getting his salary remitted in England, borrowed Â£20 or Â£40 of the pugilist Heenan, who recently presented himself at the office of the Ill. News and demanded repayment" (191).
Gunn and Newman discuss Addey again, "Met Newman with Underhill, and the first joined me, talking of Addey as usual, of his (Newman's) difficulty in extracting money from him, of his having to strike and the certainty of "Momus" coming to grief uncontinently, if Addey don't succeed in getting a partner" (38-39).
Gunn recalls his evening with Newman, "The former Newman describes as dissipated, "gentish" and cockney to an extreme degree, says he was "shocking," "dreadful;" that at one of the early "Punch" suppers – they had a weekly one, on Saturday night, "when the number was out" and business over – Smith sang a song of his own writing so obscene, unnatural and abominable that were he (Newman) to repeat the three first lines to us we should be utterly revolted. Leech was shocked at it. Jerrold, says Newman, was the man whose counsel made "Punch" of national importance. Left Bellew's at 11, leaving Newman at his own door" (53).
Gunn gives an insight to Newman's character, "Newman had vowed he wouldn't miss seeing Bellew off "for a thousand dollars" – hence Mrs Bellew inferred he wouldn't come, and her inference proved correct" (173).
Gunn mentions that O'Brien has been staying in Shepherd's room, "O'Brien showed at our supper-table in Shepherd's company again, on Saturday. He sleeps in his room on the sofa; is very hard up. Must be, indeed, to prey on the juveniles" (73).
Gunn says Bob Gun almost mistook O'Brien on the sofa for Shepherd, "Going into Shepherd's room to get something, on rising, he found O'Brien on the sofa and being extremely short sighted, had almost mistaken him for Shepherd and punched him in the ribs, when there might have been a row, for the Irishman hates honest Bob, ever since he got an order for a suit of clothes out of him, advance payment for the story of "From Hand to Mouth" which of course he left unfinished in the Picayune" (73).
Gunn details a fight between O'Brien and House at Pfaff's, "A row at Pfaff's last night of which I heard particulars of Shepherd, over our breakfast-table. It appears that House has been talking loosely of O'Brien, mentioning things which everybody knows he is guilty of, but which it isn't manners to speak too openly of. For instance he stated that O'Brien had claimed the authorship of other mens writings, both inhold Words, that he told such lies that one couldn't believe a word he says and the like...Besides O'Brien's stupendous assumption, occasional large gains – always exaggerated in the telling – and dishonest generosity, evidences an unconscious deference to him, as also his superior depravity, for it's a damnable truth that a man may rise in the estimation of his fellows from his wickedness" (80-82&84).
Gunn describes an argument between House and O'Brien over money, "Looking into Shepherd's room, on going up stairs after dinner, there was O'Brien, undressed and asleep on the sofa, a half finished poem about the coming of the Prince of Wales on the table. I omitted putting down one incident of his row with House. After the struggle, the latter demanded repayment of monies loaned to O'Brien, who responded, in his Mulberry Hawk voice, "I was not aware, Sir, that I owed you anything!" House stated the amount. Loafing all the evening. Three just-arrived Britishers in the parlor, going to board here" (103-104).
Gunn describes involving O'Brien, Shepherd, Marsh, and a black man they insulted by refusing to ride in the streetcar with him, "Dining at Ittner's with O'Brien and one John Marsh, whom I have heard of, they got into a dispute about abolition, Shepherd advocating it and the two others going in violently on the pro-slavery side. (Of course! catch an Irishman on any but the mean and cruel and oppressive side!) The squabble was continued in a 6th avenue car, which being one admitting colored people, on the entrance of a stalwart negro, Marsh offensively objected to his presence and demanded, with oaths and abuse, that the man should be put out. This the conductor very properly refused, so the drunken fast men quitted the car, the insulted negro doing the same. Forthwith he marched up to the March, pitched into him, blacked his eye and gave him a richly deserved licking. The neighborhood of Varick Street being a low and niggery one, Africa had plenty of champions, black and white. O'Brien was collared and throttled and Shepherd, taking off his coat, had a turn up with a red-shirted rowdy, whom the others told him he vanquished. It was a "free fight" and the "swells" got generally mauled. Shepherd went into a grocery-store, "to get a cheese-knife or something," and on emerging saw Marsh knocked down by a blow "straight from the shoulder" of the African Hercules. Finally the three well-dressed rowdies were hustled into a car and discharged at a drug-store in the 6th Avenue. There Marsh insulted the shop-man on the old abolitionist question and another fight was imminent – being only prevented by the accidental presence of a coachman or hack-driver who knew and championed Shepherd. Anon the three adjourned to Reilly's tavern, in University place and got very drunk indeed. Shepherd concluded with the intimation that he was "going to Jenny (at '30') to get doctored!" Marsh and O'Brien, as subsequently appeared, went to a Broadway drinking place, where the former insulted and narrowly escaped a thrashing from an individual who had once been bar-man of the "Pewter Mug," which, no less than his powerful appearance, vouched for his pugilistic abilities. Marsh, himself, is rather a dandy and coxscombe in aspect" (108-109 & 110).
Gunn explains that O'Brien expected Clapp to return a favor, "O'Brien asserts that he has lent Clapp money repeatedly (which may be the case, for the Irishman's vanity might induce him to play the free handed Bohemian) but that, when he, O'Brien was out of luck, in want of a dinner, homeless and half desperate, though he wrote almost supplicatory letters to Clapp, for a single dollar, he failed to obtain it" (120).
Gunn journals O'Brien's account of Bellew's wife's former husband's infedility, "Speaking with Shepherd in his room after supper, this evening, I learnt a little about Bellew's wife's former husband. The man had to do with a mistress of O'Brien, who thrashed him for it, in St John's square, and this marital infidelity enabled his wife to procure a divorce. This is O'Brien's account: I remember hearing something to the effect that the business was plotted for the purpose obtained, moral evidence of the man's infidelity being undoubted beforehand. If so, it may explain Bellew's toleration of O'B., who knows that Mrs. B dislikes him and returns the feeling" (205-206).
Gunn describes an incident between O'Brien and Roberts, "Another O'Brien incident. He met Roberts of the "Constellation," in a barroom, Clapp, George Arnold, Shepherd and others being present, when one of the party introduced O'B. to Roberts. It was subsequent to the publication of Shelton Mackenzie's attack on O'B., who drew himself up inquiring if Roberts were the publisher of the paper, and on being answered in the affirmative first walked aside with him, then returned and abused him to his face, before those assembled, as a liar, blackguard, &c. Roberts took it sensibly, said that O'B. was surrounded by
friends, he without any, that he didn't want a bar-room brawl, but offered his card and what subsequent satisfaction a private interview might afford, and so left. O'Brien asserts that he sent Wilkins to him with a hostile message and that
Roberts tendered some apology" (206).
Gunn describes the aftermath of the fight between O'Brien and Roberts, "Looking in Shepherd's room found the hero of the last story lying asleep on the sofa, with a tremendous black eye. He had come in at daybreak or later, very drunk, wanting Shepherd to go out and have a cocktail with him. Towards evening I saw him again, with Shepherd and two others, "hard-looking" men, one occupying O'Brien's morning position, but dressed. "Fitz," as Shepherd calls him, talked with Sir Mulberry Hawk-like accent and his hands were swollen and bruised. The little room was hot, in spite of the day's coolness, and it smelt of men. A suggestive picture of Sunday life among "fast" men" (206-207).
Gunn comments on Seymour's dishonesty, "He is now theatrical critic on the Times "during Mr Seymour's absence" – which absence may be protractted [sic] for ever and a day, according to Welden's report. He says that there have been many inquiries after him, that he owes a great deal of borrowed money and lastly that he went off in debt to and with the wife of the German, his partner in the publication of "Our Musical Friend." They made money by the thing. Seymour alias Bailey, sailed for Hamburg. Does dishonesty run in families? when he encounters Cahill, which cousin shall be entitled to cast a stone at the other?"
Gunn learns from Boweryem's letter that Stedman has left the Tribune, "In doors most of the fore and afternoon, writing – the last fifteen pages and letters to Morris, Boweryem, and a note to Lotty, in answer to one of hers, arrived by today's mail, inclosed in Boweryem's. Lotty and "Jule" are at Bleecker Street, occupying the back attic, adjoining that opposite to mine: they propose going to the Phalanx with Boweryem, from Wednesday till Monday. Boweryem writes that Stedman has left the Tribune for the evening editorship of "the World" (140).
Stedman tells Gunn in a note to meet him at the World Office, "To the World Office in accordance with a note from Stedman and saw him. A prospect of a reporter's berth, to commence at $16 weekly. Going down stairs met Meyers, man who used to know me in Picayune days, before I went to England, who edited paper out west, I think at Chicago, who I met a month or two ago, crossing the Park, who is now "on" the World at $20, a week.[A fib of his telling. He only got $12.] Up town, sent speciment work to Stedman by Boweryem, wrote and did [phonography] the rest of the evening" (196).
Gunn receives another request to meet at the World Office, "To the "World" office in accordance with a note from Stedman. He wanted me to come in the afternoon to see Marble" (204).
Gunn describes Marble and makes a comment about business, "Marble is my "World" acquaintance on the Great Eastern, a gentlemanly fellow. It appeared Stedman was rather too fast in engaging me, but the business is only delayed temporarily" (205).
Gunn recalls that he "encountered Thomson, fresh or rather weary, from the officer, where he had been 'noticing' a new burlesque of Brougham's"; "Thomson looked jaded, I thought, as if life were not 'all beer and skittles' to him, even with Grace Eldredge for Queen-pin" (87).
Whitman is described at being present at Pfaff's the night of the row, "As, disappointed, he turned his head, George Arnold, with scarcely room to do it, put his thumb to his nose and gyrated his fingers. It was very ludicrous. Gayler and
another man were there; they came in after me. The triumvirate trooped off, and so did I, up-townwards. Walt Whitman, Winter, Mullen, a friend of Wilkins and others were present at Pfaffs on the night of the row, besides the persons I have mentioned. Frank Wood didn't happen to be there" (85).
Gunn describes seeing Whitman and Mullen in the Bohemian cellar, "At Pfaffs, 745 and Elsewhere. to find George Arnold, Bob Gun hoping to get Yewell's Parisian address from him, I having written Gun a letter of introduction. Arnold was there, in the "Bohemian" cellar, with Walt Whitman and Mullen, whom I saw for the first time – a coarse-looking young fellow, with his coat off, in deference to the sultriness of the evening. I left soon and went to 745" (87).
Gunn says that Whitman was voted mean, "The Bohemians tell this as a good story among themselves. Walt Whitman is voted mean as he never stands drinks or pays for his own if it's possible to avoid it" (121).
Banks tells Gunn about his row with Whitman, "Out in the afternoon, down town. Met Welden and anon Banks. A rainstorm drove the latter and myself into a lager-bier place, where Banks talked for an hour, among other things giving me particulars of a row he had, at Pfaff's, with Walt Whitman" (169).
Gunn writes Winter's name into the "At Pfaff's" song lyrics.
An electronic version of this text is available in a CONTENTdm viewer. Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.
Born and raised in England, Thomas Butler Gunn first worked as an illustrator for the famous British satirical journa
Born in Massachusetts to a family of merchants and seamen, Clapp traveled to Paris to translate the socialist writings of Fourier.
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015