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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 209

              [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.               
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