Search Our New Beta Online Collections!

Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 9, page 89, ca. 1858 [newspaper clipping]

<< Back to search results

View this document

From collection:Part of:

Identifier: DX03475411

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 9, page 89, ca. 1858 [newspaper clipping]

Description: Newspaper article titled ''Confessions of an Ex-Dramatist'' written by George Arnold for the New York Mercury, regarding his and Frank Cahill's failed attempts to become successful playwrights.


{For the New York Mercury.}


O F A N E X — D R A M A T I S T.




I have an affection for my species, and an especial sympathy with those who are given, like myself, to ladling their brains into their stomachs ; I mean, in short, earning their daily bread by writing. The confession I am about to make is, perhaps, a trifle humiliating ; for it treats of my failure and defeat. But as the above-mentioned affection and sympathy are stronger than my personal vanity in the matter, I shall tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—hoping that my readers may profit by the moral hereinafter contained. May they avoid the pit which received me into its gaping jaws!

In the summer of 1856, Frank Haycill [Frank Cahill] and I—fellow-Bohemians and brothers of the pen—were suddenly fired with a desire for fame. We had an idea that no happiness could be greater than that of seeing our names on big posters, covering the dead walls of the metropolis. Haycill had been on the stage in London, and had written a little one-act piece ("adapted" from the Chinese, and called, "I Despise the Matron"), which had been produced at one of the minor theatres here. This pointed the way for the realization of our aspirations, and we considered it.

I remember well one evening—a warm and delicious one in July—as my friend and myself strolled idly up Broadway, with vacant pockets, and in seedy attire, Frank stopped, wheeled around, and seized me by the arm—making a melo-dramatic gesture as he did so. At first I thought that he was taken with a fit ; then I imagined that he had come across a stray quarter in an unexplored pocket, and was about to propose beer.

"Stop !" cried he, in a very English stagevoice.

"What is it?"

"See there?"

I looked, and saw a show-bill, in front of Buncombe [possibly William E. Burton]'s theatre, announcing a new play.

"Well, what of it?"

Beer faded from my visions.

"Let us write a play!"


"Yes; Beaumont-and-Fletcher style of thing, you know."

I enthusiastically agreed, and our doom was sealed.

Not many evenings after, Haycill and I sat in his modest apartment at the Ornithorynchus Paradoxus in Spring street. I was flush. I had paid my board, bought a pair of boots, and had fifty cents remaining, so we ordered up two pots of beer, and laid in a stock of pipes (halfpenny-clay) and tobacco (Mrs. Miller's).

"I have a plot," said Haycill, "that I think would make a first-rate farce; I got it from a story in Blackwood—a translation from the German. We can adapt it, I think, without much trouble, and can easily get it produced. I should think we—"

The remainder of the sentence was lost in the beer-mug, which he had been gradually raising to his lips.

He told me the plot, and suggested the alterations he had thought of. Three sisters were to be melted into one walking lady ; the hero was to be made into a tremendous muff, etc., etc. I was charmed with the idea ; and, after reading the original story over, we set to work. Our candles waned—the beer grew low—the tobacco diminished. Occasionally, we paused to discuss the working out of a scene, or to connect the dialogue where one left off and the other began ; and took a turn up and down the room, or filled our pipes anew. Until midnight, however, we kept at it pretty steadily ; and I sought my lofty attic in Grene street—promising to come around again early next morning—and feeling as. . . .

Rights: NoC-US


Dates: ca. 1858

Type(s): Diary

Maker/Creator: Arnold, George, 1834-1865

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


| More

Disclaimer: We are working to create a web-based collection index. Information available through this website should be considered "draft only."