In March, 1873, the Catholic Union of Boston was founded, with Theodore Metcalf as President, and John Boyle O'Reilly as Recording Secretary. He remained a member of the organization until his death.
Two interesting events marked this year in the poet's life. The first, a pleasant one, was the appearance of his book of poems, "Songs of the Southern Seas," published by Roberts Bros., of Boston. The second, a sad one, was the death of the man to whom that book was gratefully dedicated. Captain David R. Gifford died on board his ship, off Mahe, Seychelle Islands, on August 26, without having seen the tribute paid him by the Irish exile whom he had befriended.
The "Songs" were favorably received by American readers. Most of them had appeared in the weekly or monthly publications of the country. Two had first seen the light in the Dark Blue Magazine, of Oxford, England, where the new contributor was welcomed, until his political status became known, when the magazine, like a loyal Conservative, declined to accept further contributions from the rebel poet. The press and scholars of America, having no such scruples, took his work at its just value, and their verdict was indorsed in due time by the best critics of England. The modesty of the young poet, and the spontaneous and unconventional spirit of his verse, won immediate appreciation and praise. Edwin P. Whipple, profound scholar and judicious critic, commended the "Occasional Poems" in the book as "very tender, fanciful, earnest, individual, and manly, claiming nothing which they do not win by their inherent force, grace, melody, and 'sweet reasonableness,' or, it may be at times, their passionate unreasonableness. Nobody can read the volume without being drawn to its author. He is so thoroughly honest and sincere that he insists that his imaginations are but memories." The versatility of his work invited comparisons, which were seldom aught but favorable, with many older and more distinguished poets. "There is the flow of Scott in his narrative power, and the fire of Macaulay in