Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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O'BRIEN, Fitz James, author, born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1828" died in Cumberland, Maryland, 6 April, 1862. He was educated at the University of Dublin, and is believed to have been at one time a soldier in the British service. On leaving college he went to London, and in the course of two years spent his inheritance of £8,000, meanwhile editing a periodical in aid of the World's fair of 1851. About 1852 he came to the United States, and thenceforth he devoted his attention to literature While he was in college he had shown an aptitude for writing verse, and two of his poems--"Loch Ine" and "Irish Castles"--were published in "The Ballads of Ireland" (1856). His earliest writings in the United States were contributed to the "Lantern," which was then edited by John Brougham. Subsequently he wrote for the " Home Journal," the "New York Times," and the "American Whig Review." His first important literary connection was with " Harper's Magazine," and beginning in February, 1853, with "The Two Skulls," he contributed more than sixty articles in prose and verse to that periodical, he likewise wrote for the "New York Saturday Press," "Putnam's Magazine," "Vanity Fair," and the "Atlantic Monthly." To the latter he sent "The Diamond Lens" and "The Wonder Smith," which are unsurpassed as creations of the imagination, and are unique among short magazine stories. His pen was also employed in writing plays. For James W. Wallack he made " A Gentleman from Ireland," which still keeps the stage, and he also wrote and adapted other pieces for the theatres, but they had a shorter existence. In '1861 he joined the 7th regiment of the New York national guard, hoping to be sent to the front, and he was in Camp Cameron before Washington for six weeks. When his regiment returned to New York he received an appointment on the staff of General Frederick W. Lander. He was severely wounded in a skirmish on 26 February, 1862, and lingered until April, when he died. In New York he at once associated with the brilliant set of Bohemians of that day, among whom he was ranked as the most able. At the weekly dinners that were given by John Brougham, or at the nightly suppers at Pfaff's on Broadway, he was the soul of the entertainment. His friend, William Winter, collected "The Poems and Stories of Fitz James O'Brien," to which are added personal recollections of this gifted writer by those of his old associates that survived him (Boston, 1881).
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