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Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 9, page 13 [newspaper clipping], approximately 1857

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Identifier: DX03412350

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 9, page 13 [newspaper clipping], approximately 1857

Description: Newspaper clipping of article written by Mort Thomson that describes a fight between Fitz James O'Brien and George Wilkes from the perspectives of O'Brien, Wilkes, and a bystander.


[handwritten by Gunn] Written by “Doesticks.” [Mortimer Thomson]



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 Concklin Titus, No. 600 Broadway. The parties to the affray 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 expected 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 morning, 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 imbibing 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 indignant 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 contesting parties.

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 before, (Thursday), when they met and became acquainted 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 assertion to the effect, that “all actors are blackguards” Mr. O’Brien instantly took. . . .

Rights: NoC-US


Dates: 1857

Type(s): Diary

Maker/Creator: Thomson, Mortimer, 1832-1875

Subjects: Actors
Drinking of alcoholic beverages
Bars (Drinking establishments)
Bohemians (New York artistic and literary movement)


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