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Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 7, page 209 [newspaper clipping]

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Identifier: DX03926806

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 7, page 209 [newspaper clipping]

Description: Newspaper clipping about the Ornithorhyncus Club and a song sung there by Fitz James O'Brien.


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 existed 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 staggered 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 “Ornithoryncus,” 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.


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.


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.

* Captain O’Brien, who died in Western Virginia, bravely fighting for his adopted country.

[handwritten along the left side of clipping by Gunn]

Written by [Frank] Bellew in his abortive “Northern Magazine,” published in or about 1867.

Rights: NoC-US



Type(s): Clipping, Newspaper


Subjects: Bohemians (New York artistic and literary movement)
Bars (Drinking establishments)


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