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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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[newspaper clipping]
  The Ornithorhyncus has acquired some literary
fame in New York City, from having stood god-father
to a small club of writers and artists which once ex-
isted in Spring street, near Broadway.  The way in
which it came about was this:  a certain German
widow, known to some of the members of the press,
in order to retrieve her fallen fortunes, opened a small
restaurant and lager-beer saloon, which was duly
patronized by her friends, and her friends  friends.
The lady wished for a name to give her house, and
one of the party suggested the Ornithorhyncus.  The
imposing proportions of this title at first rather stag-
gered the good lady, but she loved a joke, and as
the name was merrily approved of by others, it
was adopted.  One of the artists painted her a sign,
representing the Ornithorhyncus Paradoxus smoking
a pipe and drinking a glass of lager-beer, which was
duly hung up outside, to the no little bewilderment
of the neighborhood.  Well, at this little caravansary
was organized a club, also called the  Ornithoryn-
cus,  where were wont to meet many young writers
and artists, for the purpose of talking, cracking jokes,
singing, drinking lager, and smoking long pipes.
Many of the songs were original, and many of the
jokes were not.  Among the former, one, by poor
Fitz-James O Brien,* was capital, and was received
with thunders of applause every time it was sung.  I
cannot, I think, better close this sketch of the funny
little animal with the long name, than by giving the
words of O Brien s song, which, I believe, never had
any name.

               AIR:  Chorus from Fra Diavolo.

                                        I.
          Along Australian rivers,
               A strange, amphibious beast behold:
          Bill of duck and legs four-fold,
               Quadruped and bird enrolled:
                      Good gracious!
          I can t remember his name  
               Just now it clung
               To the tip of my tongue,
          But I fear  twill remain unsung.

                                        II.
          His coat is always glossy,
               Beacause he dwells amid the brush;
          His food lies in the marshes  slush,
               And he takes it with a rush.
                      Good gradious! etc.

                                       III.
          When first he was discovered,
               His bird-like-bill was thought so queer,
          The savans they all called him  duck, 
               The ladies called him  dear. 
                      Good gracious! etc.

                                      IV.
          Whatever his name, let s drink him;
               So all of you your glasses fill:
          Here s to the beast that s nameless still  
               I ve known worse beasts with a bill!
                      Good gracious! etc.

  * Captain O Brien, who died in Western Virginia, bravely fight
ing for his adopted country.

[handwritten along the left side of clipping by Gunn]
Written by Bellew in his abortive  Northern
Magazine , published in or about 1867.
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Seven: page two hundred and nine
Description:Newspaper clipping about the Ornithorhyncus Club and song sung there by Fitz James O'Brien.
Subject:Bellew, Frank; Bohemians; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Newman, Mrs.; O'Brien, Fitz James; Ornithorhynchus Club; Songs
Coverage (City/State):New York, [New York]
Coverage (Street):Broadway; Spring Street
Scan Date:2011-02-02

 

Volume
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Seven
Description:Includes an account of his family history and descriptions of his visits with family and friends in England, witnessing a procession for Louis Napoleon in London, traveling in Paris with his brothers Charley and Edwin, his friend Harry Price's mental illness, his journey across the Atlantic to New York on the ship Washington, the marriage of Fanny Fern and James Parton, meetings of the Ornithoryncus Club in New York, and Alfred Waud's elopement with Mary Brainard.
Subject:Bohemians; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Marriage; Mental illness; Publishers and publishing; Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):London, England; Paris, France; New York, New York
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2011 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.