[handwritten by Gunn]
Written by Doesticks.
A RUMPUS AMONG DISTINGUISHED
On Friday night of last week a quarrel, resulting in
the knocking down and severe beating of one of the
contestants, occurred at the drinking-saloon of Conck-
lin Titus, No. 600 Broadway. The parties to the af-
fray are two literary men, both connected with the
newspaper press of this city; the one being Mr. Geo.
Wilkes, of Porter s Spirit of the Times, and the other
Mr. FitzJames O Brien, formerly of The Daily Times,
and now known as the Man About Town of The
Journal of Civilization, also a person of some mark as
a poet and magazine writer. Two stories are current
relative to the particulars of the affair, and that there
may be no explanations, corrections or cards
to print hereafter, we give the two versions. First,
the veritable history as related by the Wilkes party.
During the course of conversation in a saloon, on
Thursday night, Mr. O Brien, who was much excited
by wine, took occasion to call Mr. Wilkes to account,
in very impertinent terms, for certain editorial articles
lately printed in Porter s Spirit of the Times, saying
that if James Wallack were twenty years younger he
would thrash him (Wilkes) for his insolence. Mr.
Wilkes, though very indignant at this interference
with his sacred editorial rights, perceiving O Brien s
condition, and being himself alone, while the other
had two friends with him, smothered his anger, bid
the gentlemen a very short Good night, and left
the precincts. The next night he went to a drinking
saloon on the corner of Fourth street in which he ex
pected to meet Mr. O Brien, and waited there for the
purpose of having an explanation and a retraction or
settlement. After waiting in vain for the advent of
the Man About Town, until 2 o clock in the morn-
ing, the barkeeper wished to close his establishment,
which he did, after which he invited Wilkes to go
across the street and take a parting drink. While im-
bibing this spirituous luxury Mr. O Brien entered the
room, and, perceiving Wilkes, came up and offered
his hand to him. Mr. W. rejected it with an indig-
nant slap, and addressed him as follows: Were you
drunk last night, Sir? To which interrogatory he
received a decided negative. He then propounded a
similar question, with a slight alteration as to time:
Are you drunk now, Sir? And the answer being
still in the negative he said: You insulted me grossly
last night, Sir, and now take that, striking him at
the same time in the face, with his flat hand. O Brien
did not sail in, but contented himself with saying:
You will hear from me in the morning, Sir, and
then he at once left the room.
As he was leaving the saloon, he became engaged
in a quarrel with a hackman, who knocked him down
and pommelled him. This last fight was an entirely
different affair from the affray with Wilkes, and that
person has no knowledge of the hackman, and did not
incite, or in any way encourage his attack on Mr.
O Brien. Such is the version of one of the high con-
We now proceed to relate the story according to
the report of the O Brien party. They say that the
two gentlemen were strangers until the evening be-
fore, (Thursday), when they met and became ac-
quainted at Florence s drinking-place in Broadway.
In the course of the conversation upon certain articles
lately printed in Porter s Spirit, which followed
the introduction, Mr Wilkes made a very broad as-
sertion to the effect, that all actors are blackguards
Mr. O Brien instantly took offense at this remark, and
said that he had the honor of numbering among his
personal friends a number of the prominent members
of the theatrical profession, who were in every respect
true gentlemen he also, in very emphatic terms, gave
Mr. Wilkes the assurance that if old James Wallack
were twenty years younger, he would whip him,
(Wilkes). At this Mr. Wilkes made no belligerent de-
monstrations, but shortly left the room.
On Friday night the parties again met, in the early
part of the evening, at Niblo s Saloon, but no words
passed between them. A couple of hours afterward,
Mr. O Brien having occasion to enter the saloon No.
600 Broadway, found there assembled Mr. Wilkes and
a number of fighting men, among whom were the noto-
rious California ruffian Billy Mulligan and Charley
Walsh, with a number of backmen. Mr. O Brien was
alone. He was approached by Wilkes, who addressed
him thus: Last night you insulted me by saying
that if Jim Wallack was twenty years younger he
would whip me. Having made this little observa-
tion, Wilkes proceeded to punch O Brien s head;
whereupon, the latter made a demonstration to hit
back, but was at once seized by Mulligan and held,
while Wilkes struck him twice more in the face.
O Brien, seeing that no one was disposed to see fair
play, attempted no further resistance, and was soon
permitted to leave the room, which he did, with the
remark to Wilkes: You will hear from me in the
As he stepped upon the sidewalk, he was set upon
by one or more hackmen, friends of Wilkes, and mem-
bers of his crowd, who were congregated there,
and who knocked him down and beat him severely
about the head. In the course of the latter row, Mr.
O Brien also receiving three slight cuts in the face,
which he asserts were made with a small knife, such
as is sometimes concealed in a ring. Mr. O Brien is
ignorant of the names of any of his last assailants, but
a friend of his thinks that he will be able to identify
the one who knocked him down.
A looker-on who saw the fray, but who knows
nothing of the causes which led to it, gives the follow-
About 12 o clock, Mr. Wilkes came into No. 600, ac-
companied by a man named Wilson and Charley
Walsh. Soon Billy Mulligan and a number of other
fighting characters dropped in. Wilkes and the others
took a number of drinks, and in about half an hour
O Brien came in. He stepped to the bar and asked
the bar-tender to be kind enough to give him a cigar,
which he took and lighted. Wilkes now stepped up to
him, and the following dialogue ensued: Do you re-
member gravely insulting me last night?
I do not.
Were you drunk last night?
I may have been slightly.
Do you remember telling me that if Jim Wallack
was a younger man he would lick me?
I don t remember anything of the kind.
Do you remember telling me that you yourself
would thrash me?
I certainly do not.
You are a liar, and my friend Darcy is my author-
ity. As Wilkes said this he struck O Brien across
the face with his flat hand. The latter individual
then made a rush at Wilkes, but the bystanders inter-
posed and the parties were separated, but not until
O Brien had received one or two more blows. Seeing
by this time that the feeling of the crowd was so de-
cidedly on the side of Wilkes that he stood no fair
chance, O Brien ceased to resist and was permitted to
leave. As his cigar had been knocked from his mouth
in the scrimmage, he stepped to the bar and procured
another. As he was lighting it he remarked to Wilkes
You shall hear from me again Wilkes replied,
Oh, d n you, you are too contemptible for me to
notice any further. Go, you d d puppy. To this
O Brien made no reply, but went out doors, where he
was attacked by some hackmen and beaten. A man
came in and said that Somebody outside has licked
that man who just went out. Wilkes then said
that he was sorry for it, and that if he had supposed
there would be any trouble he would have gone out
with him himself. It is pretty certain, however, that
the hackmen were friends of Wilkes. The proprieter
of the place did all in his power to stop the fuss, and
it is partly owing to his intercession that O Brien got
away from the rowdies in the bar-room without more
There was a rumor to the effect that O Brien was so
badly injured that he had to be carried home on a
shutter, and that his countenance was marked for life.
This, however, is not the case, as he will convalesce
without any personal disfigurement, and is even now,
as heretofore, prevalent about the establishment of
The Journal of Civilization.
We learn that an action will probably be instituted
against Mr. Wilkes, and an attempt made to malot
him heavily in civil damages, in return for the very
uncivil damages, which, through his instrumentality
was asserted, were inflicted on the person of Mr. O Brien.
|Title:||Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nine: page thirteen|
|Description:||Newspaper clipping written by Mort Thomson, describing a fight between Fitz James O'Brien and George Wilkes from the perspectives of O'Brien, Wilkes, and a bystander.|
|Subject:||Actors; Darcy, John; Drunkenness; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Mulligan, Billy; O'Brien, Fitz James; Thomson, Mortimer (Doesticks); Wallack, James William; Walsh, Charley; Wilkes, George|
|Coverage (City/State):||[New York, New York]|
|Coverage (Street):||600 Broadway; Fourth Street|
|Title:||Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nine|
|Description:||Includes descriptions of boardinghouse living, a picnic at Hoboken with other New York artists and journalists, his drawing and writing work in New York, attending a lecture by Lola Montez, visits to James Parton and Fanny Fern and the Edwards family, a controversy over Fitz James O'Brien's story ''The Diamond Lens,'' artist Sol Eytinge's relationship with writer Allie Vernon, the suicide of writer Henry William Herbert, antics of the New York Bohemians, the interest of people living in his boarding house in spiritualism, a visit to his friend George Bolton's farm in Canada, a visit to Niagara Falls, and a scandal involving Harbormaster Willis Patten, who lives in his boarding house.|
|Subject:||Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Farms; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Publishers and publishing; Suicide; Travel; Women|
|Coverage (City/State):||New York, New York; Rochester, New York; Elmira, New York; Paris, Ontario, Canada|
|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.|