James T. Fields. O'Reilly presided, and delivered the eloquent address which is published among his speeches in the present volume.
O'Reilly was never so winsome as when making an offhand speech at his club, giving free rein to the fun which found such infrequent expression in his written work, and piling hyperbole upon exaggeration, until the orator himself would break down in a merry laugh at the work of his own fancy. A typical utterance of this kind was his answer to somebody who had challenged some startling assertion of his, saying, "That is not right,—that is Irish." "Sir," replied O'Reilly, assuming an air of Johnsonian dogmatism, "it is better to be Irish than right!"
In half fanciful, half serious mood he glorified the newspaper profession, in his presidential address, at the dinner of the Boston Press Club, in Young's Hotel, on November 8, 1879:
To-night we occupy a unique and consoling position. We alone are the unreported. We speak as we feel, and we don't tremble for to-morrow. Throughout the year we set down the words and deeds of the public, but on this day of our own meeting we shut out the public. We are,—and I say it after due consideration,—we are a privileged class.
We are reminded by meetings like this that there is no profession so complete and rounded as ours, and none so far-reaching in its scope. We have no hangers-on that do not come into the general circulation. He who has no relation to type, except to read what he buys, is indeed a hopeless outsider, belonging wholly to the unregenerate. From the smallest printer's devil up to Horace Greeley, the chain is unbroken. The rawest youth who pens a police report is one end of a line which extends, still vibrating, until it becomes radiant in the editorial room of the Atlantic Monthly; and which goes beyond, still growing finer, uniting such essences as Whittier, Holmes, and Longfellow, and vanishing into utter sublimation in the neighborhood of Concord.All who teach are ours. The priests of all future dispensations shall be members of the press. Ours is the newest and greatest of the pro-