Archive for the ‘Fitz-James O’Brien’ Category

Clan Honor Monday
continues with this little story from 1858. Fitz presents us with a
young doctor, a mysterious woman who begs him to make a house call, and
a tiny ingot of gold.

“The Golden Ingot”


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A bitter poem about a tenement house and its rich landlord. Includes some very vivid description of a New York tragedy.

“The Tenement House”

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Of course a man named O’Brien would have written something Irish for a March 1861 issue of Harper’s. And of course it’s going to be pulling on your heartstrings. It’s Irish! As Chesterton pointed out, “All their wars are merry, And all their songs are sad.” And their poems, too.

“Ballad of the Shamrock”



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I really like this one. Yes, it’s slathered in sentiment; but it’s self-aware of that and uses it to its advantage. It’s an interesting comment, coming from a guy who was in the Army and wounded, or about to be wounded, himself.

“A Soldier’s Letter”


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The conclusion of “The Diamond Lens”. One man’s dream of the perfect microscope leads him to cruel deeds and a strange fate.

Part 2, “The Diamond Lens”


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“The Diamond Lens” was one of Fitz-James O’Brien’s most acclaimed stories. You won’t really know why until I post Part 2. (Sorry about that.) Still, the setup section is pretty interesting and bizarre in itself. (Although I can’t figure out if he was gullible about spiritualism, or he liked writing about how it would work if it really were real.)

Part 1, “The Diamond Lens”


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A tale of a warm heart barricaded with ice — and a snowy night.

“Captain Alicant”


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“Minot’s Ledge” is not just a poem; it’s a notoriously dangerous shelf of rocks outside Boston Harbor. The lighthouse built there almost always had its feet wet. Here’s a pretty spooky webpage about the lighthouse and its history.

“Minot’s Ledge”


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It’s almost time for the Winter Olympics. Here’s a poem about pairs skating that’s even more suspenseful than watching the competition!

And yeah, I know the direct link for manual download doesn’t seem to be working real well. I wish I knew what to do about it.

“The Skaters”

2 minutes, 43 seconds

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I actually managed to get a little podcasting done! So here’s another New Year’s story from Fitz-James O’Brien, because back in his day in New York, Santa and Kriss Kringle came at New Year’s. (Apparently back in his day, midnight was quiet except for bells, too.)

This one is about two street children who are still awake at midnight, waiting for Kriss Kringle to come. Yes, this is O’Brien. Yes, it’s gonna be sad. Hankie alert!

Please note that archive.org’s audio pages have changed. The only streaming link is over to the left side, and so are all the file-playing ones. You can still access individual soundfiles by going to the “individual files” or “http” links on the page. This will produce a pop-up window. I am going to keep providing links from here, which should also still work. (They’ve also changed their editor for file information, so I may actually be able to fix some problems that have been bugging me.)

“Three of a Trade”
15 min.

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“Our Christmas Tree” is a poor but proud man’s comparison of his Christmas tree to a millionaire’s.

“The Prisoner of War”, which O’Brien wrote in December 1861, is about a Union soldier whose best friend is imprisoned down South.

“Our Christmas Tree”
2 min.

“The Prisoner of War”
4 min.

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The creepy Christmas story becomes a creepy New Year’s Eve, as the Wondersmith’s evil plans move into their final phase. Beware the Wondersmith!

Btw, I knew I’d heard that phrase before. I have a fairy tale book about the Gobhan Saor called The Wonder Smith and His Son. (It came out in 1927.) Wayland, Mimir and Regin are also called “wonder smith”, so the term may come from Norse kennings. Wherever it comes from, it’s a good title, ne?

Section 4: “The Manikin and the Minos”
Section 5: “Tied Up”
Section 6: “The Poisoning of the Swords”
Section 7: “Let Loose”
46 min.

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This week, the honor of the name demands that I begin to read Fitz’s creepy Christmas chronicle of bloody Romany revolution on the sidewalks of New York — by magic!

I’m torn about this story. On the one hand, there’s no denying that it’s a very clever and scary little urban fantasy. It deals with contemporary issues (nationalist revolution), and uses traditional figures of legend alongside unused ones, like organ grinders and American birds. Furthermore, it weaves in real Romany legends and beliefs very cleverly. On the other hand, it also makes use of European stereotypes, including those against the Romany. And that whole rant against “Christians” doesn’t make sense, for example. Rom who live in Europe and America are usually Christians, though they also hold their own beliefs. (Against gaje (non-Romany), you maybe could see the rant. I suspect editorial interference, myself.) Still, it’s a good story as long as you bear the truth in mind, and includes a very unusual romance.

So don’t give this one to the kids, okay?


Section 1: “Golosh Street and Its People”
Section 2: “A Bottleful of Souls”
Section 3: “Solon”
45 min.

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First, my strep throat slowed me down. Then going back to work slowed me down. And now hundreds of people rushing to upload before Thanksgiving have slowed archive.org down. (Surtees is up; check my catalog link to archive.org if it doesn’t get up in time for the morning.) But all the same, Clan Honor must be served.

“An Arabian Nightmare” is a cute little story about a medieval Arab merchant who travels on business to Russia, stays the winter, and ends up having an interesting encounter with beings straight out of the Arabian Nights.

For those who are keeping score, the latent moral of the story is perfectly appropriate to those of us Christians about to celebrate Thanksgiving. (Heh!)

“An Arabian Nightmare”
18 min.

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I promised I’d try to lighten up this place a bit. Also, I realized that last week I may have bit off more than I can chew in terms of looooong works. So instead of a story, today clan honor will be satisfied with a couple of Fitz-James’ less dark poems.

“The Enchanted Titan” brings a touch of Greek myth and a touch of the Arabian Nights.

“The Sewing Bird” is fantasy with a political and labor bite. It’s a plea for New York stores aimed at women to actually employ women as something other than seamstresses working their fingers to the bone for no money. Not as dark as his big social justice poem, “The Tenement House”. Probably his rationale of “where women should be” versus “where men should be” is not very attractive to modern sensibilities, but at the time, advocating shopgirls was a very decent act. Btw, if you’re wondering what a sewing bird is, it’s a sort of fabric clamp. Here are some fancy ones for better-off women.

“The Enchanted Titan”

“The Sewing Bird”

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