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[newspaper clipping]
	The Diamond Lens Controversy.
		NEW-YORK, Friday, Feb. 26, 1858.
To the Editor of the New-York Times:
  SIR:  Observing a controversy in your paper
with respect to an alleged manuscript production of the
late WILLIAM NORTH, which bears most a remarkable,
if not identical, similarity with a recent performance
of a Mr. FITZ-JAMES O BRIEN, I beg to add my per-
sonal testimony as to the correctness of the corres-
pondent in your issue of this morning.  I had the
pleasure of a most intimate acquaintance with Mr.
NORTH, who was engaged by me to contribute to the
Sachem newspaper, of which I was editor and pro-
prietor, and during a period of a long and severe ill-
ness, Mr. NORTH was a daily visitor to my house and
there remained many hours in my companionship.
At that time Mr. NORTH submitted for my perusal
several manuscripts, upon two of which he had ex-
pended much time, and which he regarded with a
deal of pride and satisfaction.  One of these was sub-
sequently printed in Putnam s Magazine, under the
title of the  Living Corpse;  and the other, which
remained inedited up to the time of his decease, I
can conscientiously identify as the waif on which Mr.
O BRIEN has lain violent hands.  I remember both
tales with great distinctness, as much from their fan-
tastic conception as from the apparently Germanic
source of their origin.  Mr. NORTH had been educated
at a German University, and was an enthusiastic ad-
mirer of HOFFMANN, and other writers of the gro-
tesque school.
  Mr. NORTH, in his life-time, had been on intimate
terms with Mr. O BRIEN; but shortly prior to his
composition of the Slave of the Lamp, their good fel-
lowship had been dissolved from a quarrel, and the
romancer satirized his former companion under the
title of Fitzgammon in that novel, which was only
finished the morning of his suicide.  Any person ac-
quainted with the two parties cannot fail to draw a
disparaging distinction between the scholastic attain-
ments of the late Mr. NORTH and the Hiberrian pre-
tensions of the ever-present and somewhat perti-
nacious Mr. FITZ-JAMES O BRIEN, whose sole merit in
Saxon literature must be derived from his apochry-
phal descent from the Kings of old Erin.
	Respectfully yours,      THOMAS PICTON.

	         LETTER FROM MR O BRIEN.
To the Editors of the Evening Post:
  The tardy candor which Mr. AUGUSTUS MAVE-
RICK displays in a letter concerning the authorship of
 The Diamond Lens, published in your paper of
last Thursday, compensates somewhat for the evasive
character of his reply to my first note.  In his last
communication Mr. MAVERICK fathers the anonymous
report that I am not the author of the story in ques-
tion, and with a warlike contempt of threats that
were never made, and pugnacity that was never de-
monstrated declares his readiness to substantiate his
assertion.  I am to be demolished the instant I de-
sire to be demolished.  I have only to say the word,
and Mr. AUGUSTUS MAVERICK will descend upon me
like the Assyrian.  Terrible powers with which Mr.
AUGUSTUS MAVERICK supposes himself invested are
vaguely by him hinted at.  Masked batteries of fatal
facts are ready to open on me.  Ambuscades of
mysterious literary gentlemen (who, I suppose, are
kept concealed on the premises of the NEW-YORK
TIMES) only await the signal from their leader to
rout me utterly.  A melodramatic stranger clad, I
presume, in the usual slouched hat and mantle is
patiently waiting for his cue from Mr. MAVERICK to 
rush upon the scene, armed with the conventional
speech, commencing  It is now four years since I
read the Diamond Lens, &c.; after which, it is sup-
posed that I will retire, covered with confusion and
shame.  This potent personage is thus alluded to by
Mr. MAVERICK in his programme:
  An intimate friend of Mr. NORTH, who has not yet pe-
rused Mr. O BRIEN s version read Microcosmos years be-
fore poor NORTH came to his end.  My statements were
made on this gentleman s authority, and until I had ob-
tained his consent to the use of his name if necessary, I
refrained from replying to the charges of Mr. O BRIEN.
I am now in possession of his permit to give his author-
ity; and his name, with those of several other gentle-
men, is entirely at Mr. O BRIEN S service together with a
number of other, facts which I shall be happy to air for
that gentleman s benefit, if he desires it. 
  I will refrain from commenting on the singularly
ungrammatical manner in which Mr. MAVERICK has
introduced his band of Spadassins to your notice be-
cause, to be a good grammarian and a great captain
at the same time, is a favor granted to few men but
will proceed at once to invite that gentleman to the
sacrifice.  I desire to be demolished.  Let Mr. MAVE-
RICK s mercenaries come forth.  Let the batteries
open.  Even destruction is preferable to the terrible
state of suspense in which I am left by such vague
but awful threats.
  In order that M. MAVERICK S legions may have
something substantial on which to spend their valor,
I will here once more distinctly define my position.
  I assert, without any reservation whatever, that I am
the sole author of the story called  The Diamond Lens, 
which was published in the January number of the Atlan-
tic Monthly; that I am indebted to no one for any por-
tion of the plot or language; and that previous to its
composition I never had any knowledge, direct or indirect,
of any similar story, whether by Mr. North or any other
person.
  This, I trust is sufficiently plain.  The lists are
now open.  Let Mr. AUGUSTUS MAVERICK S unknown
knight enter.
  In conclusion, permit me to  air  one or two
 facts  for Mr. AUGUSTUS MAVERICK S especial benefit.
  I am very well aware that a story entitled Micro-
cosmos, was sent by Mr. WM. NORTH to the editor of
a leading Magazine in this City.  This tale was prompt-
ly rejected on account of its incoherence.  The edi-
tor of the Magazine in question has a distinct recol-
lection of Mr. NORTH S story, and states that it did
not bear the slightest resemblance to  The Diamond
Lens. 
  Now, as Mr. MAVERICK S charge of plagiarism, so
far as it has gone, rests exclusively on an alleged
similitude between Microcosmos and  The Diamond
Lens,  I presume the matter may be looked upon as
settled.
  For the present, I take my leave tranquilly, await-
ing my threatened destruction.  Should I survive the
onslaught of Mr. MAVERICK S legions, and should that
gentleman think fit to  air  any new  facts  for my
benefit, he will find me quite ready to meet him.  In
any event, I have the honor, gentlemen, to subscribe
myself your obedient servant.
			FITZ-JAMES O BRIEN.
  NEW-YORK, Saturday, Feb. 27, 1858.
		               
		NEW-YORK, Saturday, Feb. 27, 1858.
  MR. EDITOR: Having just read Mr. AUGUSTUS MAVE-
RICK S letter to the Post, in which he makes the charge
of plagiarism against the author of the  Diamond
Lens,  allow me to call your attention to the remark-
able fact that, by Mr. MAVERICK S own admission, the
person upon whom he relies mainly to substantiate
the charge, has never read the  Diamond Lens,  while
he himself, (Mr. MAVERICK,) has never read the story
from which, on such more than doubtful authority, he ven-
tures to assume that it was stolen!
  I submit, Mr. Editor, that, under these circum-
stances, it would appear that Mr. MAVERICK who, I
learn, is a very estimable and inoffensive gentleman
 has allowed himself to be made use of as a  cat s
paw,  by some less scrupulous but more cautious in-
dividual.	Yours truly,		   JUSTICE.
			    
		       REJOINDER.
To the Editors of the Evening Post:
  Mr. O BRIEN publishes a reply to my first com-
munication.  In that reply, he seeks to shelter him-
self under a tone of playful ridicule, which fails to
meet the point at issue.  None of those  positive
proofs  which he was anxious to produce are forth-
coming.  Moreover, he attempts to cast the onus of
the attack in this controversy, upon me.  I respect-
fully decline to be considered as occupying that po-
sition.  It was I who was first attacked.  Mr. FITZ-
JAMES O BRIEN will find it a difficult matter to con-
vince the parties who may have read the letters thus
far, that I am acting in any other matter than on the
defensive.  Having set myself right on this point, I
shall pass by Mr. O BRIEN S irrelevancies, and proceed
at once to the production of the testimony in the
case.  The gentleman, while he studiously avoids the
publication of his own  most positive proofs,  calls
loudly upon me to bring out my  legions,  marshal
my  mercenaries,  and unmask my  unknown
knight.  We will take the cohorts singly into the
field, and deploy them as Mr. O BRIEN S need may
justify.  The first witness I shall produce is Mr. SEY-
MOUR, the literary executor of Mr. WM. NORTH, from
whom I have received the following letter:
	     NEW-YORK, Wednesday, March 3, 1858.
  DEAR SIR: Mr. O BRIEN S communication of the
27th  compels me to appear as a witness in the Dia-
mond Lens controversy.
  In such an august literary presene, it is highly im-
proper for me to make any flippant remarks, but
there is something so ludicrous in Mr. O BRIEN S in-
troductory burst of gayety, that for the nose of me, I
cannot resist the temptation of comparing that excel-
lent litt rateur to the Mr. Merryman of the circus,
who, you will remember, plunges into the arena,
makes a few jokes more or less funny, indulges in a
little exaggeration with the master, and introduces
the next performer with a playful show of disparag-
ing humor.  If anything were needed to complete the
picture thus presented to my willful mind, I should
find it in the communication signed  Justice,  which
seems to me like the incidental performance of the
Trick Clown, who, with admirable dexterity, bal-
ances a feather on his nose, and wins a cosy little
round of applause from those who, with gaping
mouths, wonder how it is done.  I choose to follow
out the simile, and with the dignity of a distinguished
rider in tights, who never replies to Mr. Merryman s
impertinent question as to whether he is going to
jump through the hoop,  horse and all,  I proceed to
the performance of my  daring act. 
  1. The late Mr. WM. NORTH wrote a story called
Micro-Cosmos, which he read to me.  It related the
adventures of an enthusiast who discovered a new
lens of remarkable power.  Enthusiast turns this
lens on a dew-drop and discovers a world.  One of
the creatures of this world is a charming girl, with
whom enthusiast falls in love.  Soon after, he discov-
ers that she has a favored admirer in this crystal
sphere.  Enthusiast watches the couple with jealous
eye, and when he is quite sure that their passion is
reciprocal, he brushes the dew-drop from his sight,
and as Mr. NORTH poetically described it,  destroys a
world.  This plot, as narrated here, I mentioned to
a gentleman in the TIMES office.  It recurred to my
mind by simply reading the title to Mr. O BRIEN S
Diamond Lens.
  The gentleman referred to at once detected a simi-
larity between it and Mr. O BRIEN S story.  The coin-
cidence was talked about, and Mr. O BRIEN wrote to
Mr. MAVERICK on the subject.  When I was informed
of this fact, I determined to take the first opportunity
of telling Mr. O BRIEN what part I had taken in the
matter.  The same evening I met Mr. O BRIEN, and
also a friend of Mr. O BRIEN S, within a few minutes
of each other the latter first.
  2. Mr. O BRIEN S friend, a celebrated artist [handwritten by Gunn] ^|Bellew| of this
City, touched on the impending controversy.  At once
I repeated the substance of section 1 above.  On men-
tioning the title of Mr. NORTH S story, Mr. O BRIEN S
friend who was also one of Mr. N. s friends im-
mediately remembered its existence, and he said (in
substance:)  Now that you mention Micro-Cosmos,
I remember very well that NORTH used to be talking
constantly about it, and I have no doubt he either
read it to me, or told me its plot.  But the fact had
entirely escaped my memory.  I am very awkward-
ly situated in the matter Mr. O BRIEN S friend con-
tinued for it was I who gave Mr. O BRIEN the sub-
ject for the Diamond Lens story.  It came into my
mind, and I thought it was my own, but I now see
that it may have been nothing but a reminiscence of
NORTH S story.
  A few minutes later I met Mr. O BRIEN.
  3. I told Mr. O BRIEN I had not read his Diamond
Lens, but that I heard there was some discussion
about its originality, and wished to tell him what I
had said about NORTH S Micro-Cosmos.  Again I fired
off section 1.  That is the idea of the Diamond Lens 
said Mr. O BRIEN an idea which I have had in my
mind for many years.  If NORTH used it, he must have
borrowed it from me.
  I did not think it necessary to refer to what Mr.
O BRIEN S friend had told me only five minutes be-
fore.  I am, yours respectfully,
			CHAS. C. B. SEYMOUR.
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nine: page seventy-eight
Description:Newspaper clipping regarding alleged plagiarism in Fitz James O'Brien's ''The Diamond Lens'' from a story by the late William North.
Date:1858-02-26
Subject:Bellew, Frank; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Hoffmann, E.T.A.; Maverick, Augustus; New York evening post.; New York times.; North, William; O'Brien, Fitz James; Picton, Thomas; Plagiarism; Seymour, Charles (Bailey)
Coverage (City/State):New York, [New York]
Scan Date:2011-02-02

 

Volume
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.