For rather obvious reasons, I love Fitz-James O’Brien! But it used to be very hard to find anything by him or about him. This has apparently changed drastically over the last fifteen years or so. Hence today’s dark fantasy set in China, which I found on a site called Horrormasters.
Fitz-James O’Brien (if he wasn’t making this up) was born Michael O’Brien in County Limerick on December 31, 1828. He claimed to have run through his inheritance in a year or two after his majority and then immigrated to America, changing his name to Fitz-James somewhere along the way. But nobody really cares about the lack of documentation of his European life, other than the amusing air of mystery it lends him. The important thing was that O’Brien moved to New York in 1852 and became a leader of both Bohemian life and a gifted journalist. He was the Lileks or Terry Teachout of his day, caring deeply about both his own writing and that of others, and guiding readers to interesting new writers they would enjoy. At the same time, he was writing all sorts of interesting stories without regard to genre, much like his predecessor Poe. He also spoke out against slavery, the unsafeness of the tenements, and other social issues; but when Stowe wrote a novel called Dred that was nothing but ranting, he reviewed it that way, even though he happened to agree with the rant. He believed in his adopted country and loved the United States with intense patriotism and a sense of ownership. Finally, he not only recruited and volunteered for the Civil War, he went in the place of his friend and fellow writer Aldrich. He died of tetanus resulting from a bad shoulder wound, in Cumberland, Maryland, on April 6, 1862.
For those of us keeping score… I have no idea whether he was Catholic or Anglican or what. If he wasn’t lying about it, he went to the University of Dublin (ie, Trinity College) in the days when Catholics weren’t allowed to go; so that’s some kind of evidence. Personally, I suspect his religion was “sleeping in Sunday morning”, as he did his best to sleep in every day until one PM or so, and then stayed up late. (As one person on the Web pointed out, this is probably because he used his dreams as part of the writing process.) Either way, I think the abominable medical care of his last wound and months of suffering must have been purgatory enough for most purposes, and I fervently pray he is living the good life with God.
Books I need to look for:
Fitz-James O’Brien: Selected Literary Journalism 1852-1860, edited by Wayne R. Kime. A dive through ancient periodicals. Be sure to read the informative Q & A with Kime.
MANUAL DOWNLOAD HERE:
Part 1: “The Chapter of the Miraculous Dragon Fang”
Part 2: “The Chapter of the Shadow of the Duck” and “The Chapter of ‘All Is Over’”