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Eugene Field, A Study In Heredity And Contradictions by Slason Thompson

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The little song I sing to you,
The father Sun has strayed afar--
As baby's sire is straying, too,
And so the loving mother moon
Sings to the little star on high,
And as she sings, her gentle tune
Is borne to me, and thus I croon
To thee, my sweet, that lullaby
Of hushaby, oh, hushaby.

There is a little one asleep
That does not hear his mother's song,
But angel-watchers as I weep
Surround his grave the night-tide long;
And as I sing, my sweet, to you,
Oh, would the lullaby I sing--
The same sweet lullaby he knew
When slumbering on this bosom, too--
Were borne to him on angel wing!
So hushaby, oh, hushaby._

The second of these songs bears the same title as one of Field's
favorite tales, and is inscribed, "To Jessie Bartlett Davis on the
first anniversary of her little boy's birth, October 6th, 1884":


A Singer sang a glorious song
So grandly clear and subtly sweet,
That, with huzzas, the listening throng
Cast down their tributes at her feet.

The Singer heard their shouts the while,
But her serene and haughty face
Was lighted by no flattered smile
Provoked by homage in that place.

The Singer sang that night again
In mother tones, tender and deep,
Not to the public ear, but when
She rocked her little one to sleep.

The song we bless through all the years
As memory's holiest, sweetest thing,
Instinct with pathos and with tears--
The song that mothers always sing.

So tuneful was the lullaby
The mother sang, her little child
Cooed, oh! so sweetly in reply,
Stretched forth its dimpled hands and smiled.

The Singer crooning there above
The cradle where her darling lay
Snatched to her breast her smiling love
And sang his soul to dreams away.

Oh, mother-love, that knows no guile,
That's deaf to flatt'ry, blind to art,
A dimpled hand hath wooed thy smile--
A baby's cooing touched thy heart._


Lest my readers should conclude from these early specimens of Field's
fondness for lilting lullabies that the gentler sex and "mother love"
blinded him to the manly attractions and true worth of his own sex,
let the following never-to-be-forgotten ode to the waistcoat of the
papa of the hero of the two preceding songs bear witness. Mr. Davis
has been a manager of first-class theatres and theatrical companies
for a score of years, and there are thousands to testify that in the
rhymes that follow Field has done no more than justice to the amazing
"confections" in wearing apparel he affected in the days when we were
boys together:

_Of waistcoats there are divers kinds, from those severely chaste
To those with fiery colors dight or with fair figures traced:
Those that high as liver-pads and chest-protectors serve,
While others proudly sweep away in a substomachic curve,
But the grandest thing in waistcoats in the streets in this great
and wondrous west
Is that which folks are wont to call the Will J. Davis vest!

This paragon of comeliness is cut nor low nor high
But just enough of both to show a bright imported tie:
Bound neatly with the choicest silks its lappets wave-like roll,
While a watch-chain dangles sprucely from the proper buttonhole
And a certain sensuous languor is ineffably expressed
In the contour and the mise en scene of the Will J. Davis vest.

Its texture is of softest silk: Its colors, ah, how vain
The task to name the splendid hues that in that vest obtain!
Go, view the rainbow and recount the glories of the sight
And number all the radiances that in its glow unite,
And then, when they are counted, with pride be it confessed
They're nil beside the splendor of the Will J. Davis vest.

Sometimes the gorgeous pattern is a sportive pumpkin vine,
At other times the lily and the ivy intertwine:
And then again the ground is white with purple polka dots
Or else a dainty lavender with red congestive spots--
In short, there is no color, hue, or shade you could suggest
That doesn't in due time occur in a Will J. Davis vest.

Now William is not handsome--he's told he's just like me.
And in one respect I think he is, for he's as good as good can be!
Yet, while I find my chances with the girls are precious slim,
The women-folks go wildly galivanting after him:
And after serious study of the problem I have guessed
That the secret of this frenzy is the Will J. Davis vest.

I've stood in Colorado and looked on peaks of snow
While prisoned torrents made their moan two thousand feet below:
The Simplon pass and prodigies Vesuvian have I done,
And gazed in rock-bound Norway upon the midnight sun--
Yet at no time such wonderment, such transports filled my breast
As when I fixed my orbs upon a Will J. Davis vest.

All vainly have I hunted this worldly sphere around
For a waistcoat like that waistcoat, but that waistcoat can't be found!
The Frenchman shrugs his shoulders and the German answers "nein,"
When I try the haberdasheries on the Seine and on the Rhine,
And the truckling British tradesman having trotted out his best
Is forced to own he can't compete with the Will J. Davis vest.

But better yet, Dear William, than this garb of which I sing
Is a gift which God has given you, and that's a priceless thing.
What stuff we mortals spin and weave, though pleasing to the eye,
Doth presently corrupt, to be forgotten by and by.
One thing, and one alone, survives old time's remorseless test--
The valor of a heart like that which beats beneath that vest!_

Playgoers of these by-gone days will remember the name of Kate Claxton
with varying degrees of pleasure. She was an actress of what was then
known as the Union Square Theatre type--a type that preceded the
Augustin Daly school and was strong in emotional roles. With the late
Charles H. Thorne, Jr., at its head, it gave such plays as "The
Banker's Daughter," "The Two Orphans," "The Celebrated Case," and "The
Danicheffs," their great popular vogue. Miss Claxton was what is known
as the leading juvenile lady in the Union Square Company, and her
Louise, the blind sister, to Miss Sara Jewett's Henrietta in "The Two
Orphans," won for her a national reputation. She was endowed by nature
with a superb shock of dark red hair, over which a Titian might have
raved. This was very effective when flowing loose about the bare
shoulders of the blind orphan, but afterward, when Miss Claxton went
starring over the country and had the misfortune to have several
narrow escapes from fire, the newspaper wits of the day could not
resist the inclination to ascribe a certain incendiarism to her hair,
and also to her art. And Field, who was on terms of personal
friendship with Miss Claxton, led the cry with the following:


This famous conflagration broke out on May 3d, 1846, and has been
raging with more or less violence ever since. She comes of a famous
family, being a lineal descendant of the furnace mentioned in
scriptural history as having been heated seven times hotter than it
could be heated, in honor of the tripartite alliance of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abed-nego. One of her most illustrious ancestors
performed in Rome on the occasion of the Emperor Nero's famous violin
obligato, and subsequently appeared in London when a large part of
that large metropolis succumbed to the fiery element. This artist is
known and respected in every community where there is a fire
department, and the lurid flames of her genius, the burning eloquence
of her elocution, and the calorific glow of her consummate art have
acquired her fame, wherever the enterprising insurance agent has
penetrated. Mrs. O'Leary's cow vainly sought to rob her of much of
her glory, but through the fiery ordeal of jealousy, envy, and
persecution, has our heroine passed, till, from an incipient blaze,
she has swelled into the most magnificent holocaust the world has
ever known. And it is not alone in her profession that this gifted
adustion has amazed and benefited an incinerated public: to her the
world is indebted for the many fire-escapes, life-preservers,
salamander safes, improved pompier ladders, play-house exits,
standpipes, and Babcock extinguishers of modern times. In paying
ardent homage, therefore, to this incandescent crematory this week,
let us recognize her not only as the reigning queen of ignition,
diathermancy, and transcalency, but also as the promoter of many of
the ingenious and philanthropic boons the public now enjoys.

This was written in November, 1883, and is worthy of remark as an
illustration of how in that day Field began deliberately to multiply
words, each having a slight difference of meaning, as an exercise in
the use of English--a practice that eventually gave him a vocabulary
of almost unlimited range and marvellous accuracy.

The patience of the reader forbids that I should attempt an enumeration
of all Field's friendships with stage folk, or of the unending flow of
good-natured raillery and sympathetic comment that kept his favorites
among them ever before the public eye. When it came Field's time, all
untimely, to pay the debt we all must pay, it was left for Sir Henry
Irving, the dean of the English-speaking profession, to acknowledge in
a brief telegram his own and its debt to the departed poet and
paragrapher in these words:

The death of Eugene Field is a loss not only to his many friends, but
to the world at large. He was distinctly a man of genius, and he was
dowered with a nature whose sweetness endeared him to all who knew
him. To me he was a loved and honored friend, and the world seems
vastly the poorer without him.

Of what singular materials and contradictory natures was their
friendship compact. From the day Henry Irving first landed in New York
until Field's pen was laid aside forever the actor's physical
peculiarities and vocal idiosyncrasies were the constant theme of
diverting skits and life-like vocal mimicry. Field, however, always
managed to mingle his references to Mr. Irving's unmatched legs and
eccentric elocution with some genuine and unexpected tribute to his
personal character and histrionic genius. Nat Goodwin and Henry Dixey
were the two comedians whose imitations of Mr. Irving's peculiarities
of voice and manner were most widely accepted as lifelike, while
intensely amusing. But neither of them could approach Field in
catching the subtile inflection of Henry Irving's "Naw! Naw!" and
"Ah-h! Ah-h!" with which the great actor prefixed so many of his
lines. With a daring that would have been impertinent in another,
Field gave imitations of Mr. Irving in Louis XI and Hamlet in his
presence and to his intense enjoyment. It is a pity, however, that Sir
Henry could not have been behind the screen some night at Billy
Boyle's to hear Field and Dixey in a rivalry of imitations of himself
in his favorite roles. Dixey was the more amusing, because he did and
said things in the Irvingesque manner which the original would not
have dreamed of doing, whereas Field contented himself with mimicking
his voice and gesture to life.

When Irving reached Chicago, Field and I, with the connivance of Mr.
Stone, lured him into a newspaper controversy over his conception and
impersonation of Hamlet, which ended in an exchange of midnight
suppers and won for me the sobriquet of "Slaughter Thompson" from
Mistress Ellen Terry, who enjoyed the splintering of lances where all
acknowledged her the queen of the lists.

I have reserved for latest mention the one actor who throughout
Field's life was always dearest to his heart. Apart, they seemed
singularly alike; together, the similarities of Eugene Field and Sol
Smith Russell were overshadowed by their differences. There was a
certain resemblance of outline in the general lines of their faces and
figures. Both were clean-shaven men, with physiognomies that responded
to the passing thought of each, with this difference--Field's facial
muscles seemed to act in obedience to his will, while Russell's
appeared to break into whimsical lines involuntarily. Russell has a
smile that would win its way around the world. Field could contort his
face into a thunder-cloud which could send children almost into
convulsions of fear. There was one story which they both recited with
invariable success, that gave their friends a great chance to compare
their respective powers of facial expression. It was of a green New
England farmer who visited Boston, and of course climbed up four
flights of stairs to a skylight "studio" to have his "daguerotype
took." After the artist had succeeded in getting his subject in as
stiff and uncomfortable position as possible, after cautioning him not
to move, he disappeared into his ill-smelling cabinet to prepare the
plate. When this was ready he stepped airily out to the camera and
bade his victim "look pleasant." Failing to get the impossible
response the artist bade his sitter to smile. Then the old farmer with
a wrathful and torture-riven contortion of his mouth ejaculated, "I am

In rendering this, "I am smiling!" there was the misery of pent-up
mental woe and physical agony in Russell's voice and face. There was
something ludicrously hopeless about the attempt, as Russell's face
mingled the lines of mirth and despair in a querulous grin that seemed
to say, "For heaven's sake, man, don't you see that I am laughing
myself to death?" Field's "I am smiling!" was almost demoniacal in its
mixture of wrath, vindictiveness, and impatience. There was the snarl
of a big animal about the grin with which he exposed his teeth in the
mockery of mirth. His whole countenance glowered at the invisible
artist in lines of suppressed rage, that seemed to bid him cut short
the exposure or forfeit his life.

All Field's most successful bits of mimicry and stories were learned
from Sol Smith Russell, and very many of the latter's most successful
recitations were written for him by Field. They talked them over
together, compared their versions and methods, and stimulated each
other to fresh feats of mimicry and eccentric character delineation.
Many a night, and oft after midnight, in the rotunda of the Tremont
House, when John A. Rice of bibliomaniac fame, was its lessee, I was
the sole paying auditor of these seances, the balance of the audience
consisting of the head night clerk, night watchman, and "scrub

[Illustration: SOL SMITH RUSSELL.]

It may be recalled that Field's "Our Two Opinions" written in imitation
of James Whitcomb Riley's most successful manner, was dedicated to Sol
Smith Russell, and he for his part put into its recitation a subdued
dramatic force and pathos that won from Henry Irving the comment that
it was the greatest piece of American characterization he had ever

Whenever Russell came to town Field spent all the time he could spare,
when Russell was not acting or asleep, in his company. They exchanged
all sorts of stories, but delighted chiefly in relating anecdotes of
New England life and character. As Russell had for years travelled the
circuit of small eastern towns, he had an exhaustless repertory of
these, that smacked of salt codfish and chewing-gum, checkerberry
lozenges, and that shrewd, dry Yankee wit that is equal to any
situation. Between the two of them they perfected two stories that have
been heard in every town in the Union where Russell has played or Field
read, "The Teacher of Ettyket" and "The Old Deacon and the New Skule
House." These were originally Russell's property, and he was inimitable
in telling them. But having once caught Field's fancy, he proceeded to
elaborate them in a way to establish at least a joint ownership in

I wish I could remember the speech against the new school-house. It may
be in print for ought I know, but I have never run across it. He opened
with the declaration, "Fellow Citizens, I'm agin this yer new skule
house." Then he went on to say that "the little old red skule house was
good enuff fur them as cum afore us, it was good enuff fur us, an' I
reckon its good enuff fur them as cum arter us." Before proceeding he
would take a generous mouthful of loose tobacco. Next he told how he
had never been to school more than a few weeks "atween seasons, and yet
I reckon I kin mow my swarth with the best of them that's full of
book-larnin an' all them sort of jim-cracks." Then he proceeded to
illustrate the uselessness of "book-larnin" by referring to "Dan'l
Webster, good likely a boy ez wus raised in these parts, what's bekum
ov him? Got his head full of redin, ritin, cifern, and book-larnin.
What's bekum of him, I say? Went off to Boston and I never hearn tell
of him arterwards."

Russell's version of the story ended here with an emphatic declaration
that the old deacon voted "No!" Field, on the contrary, when the laugh
over Daniel Webster's disappearance subsided, and, seemingly as an
after-thought, before taking his seat mumbled out, "By the way, I did
hear somebody tell Dan'l had written a dictionary on a bridge, huh!"

Field's attentions to Russell did not end with their personal
association. Week after week and month after month he sent apocryphal
stories flying through the newspapers about wonderful things that never
happened to Sol and his family. At one time he had Russell on the high
road to a Presidential nomination on the Prohibition ticket. He
solemnly recorded generous donations that Russell was (not) constantly
making to philanthropic objects, with the result that the gentle
comedian was pestered with applications for money for all sorts of
institutions. In order to provide Russell with the means to bestow
unlimited largess, Field endowed him with the touch of Midas. He would
report that the matchless exponent of "Shabby Genteel" bought lead
mines, to be disappointed by finding tons of virgin gold in the quartz.
Like Bret Harte's hero of Downs Flat, when Russell dug for water his
luck was so contrary that he struck diamonds. When he ordered oysters
each half shell had its bed of pearls. One specimen will do to
illustrate the character of the gifts Field bestowed on Russell "as
from an exhaustless urn":

Sol Smith Russell's luck is almost as great as his art. Last week his
little son Bob was digging in the back yard of the family residence
in Minneapolis, and he developed a vein of coal big enough to supply
the whole state of Minnesota with fuel for the next ten years. Mr.
Russell was away from home at the time, but his wife (who has plenty
of what the Yankees call faculty) had presence of mind not to say
anything about the "Find" until, through her attorney, she had
secured an option on all the real estate in the locality.

They never had any differences of opinion like "me 'nd Jim."

_So after all it's soothin' to know
That here Sol stays 'nd yonder's Jim--
He havin' his opinyin uv Sol,
'Nd Sol havin' his opinyin uv him._



Before he came to Chicago, pretty much all that Eugene Field knew of
literature and books had been taken in at the pores, as Joey Laddle
would say, through association with lawyers, doctors, and actors. His
academic education, as we have seen, was of the most cursory and
intermittent nature. When he left the University of Missouri it was
without a diploma, without studious habits, and without pretensions to
scholarship. His trip to Europe dissipated his fortune, and his early
marriage rendered it imperative that he should stop study as well as
play and go to work. His father's library was safely stored in St.
Louis for the convenient season that was postponed from year to year,
until a score were numbered ere the nails were drawn from the precious
boxes. Every cent of the salary that might have been squandered(?) in
books was needed to feed and clothe the ravenous little brood that came
faster than their parents "could afford," as he has told us. What time
was not devoted to them and to the daily round of newspaper writing was
spent in conversing with his fellows, studying life first hand,
visiting theatres and enjoying himself in his own way generally. All
the advance that Field had made in journalism before the year 1883 was
due to native aptitude, an unfailing fund of humor and an inherited
turn for literary expression. Without ever having read that author, he
followed Pope's axiom that "the proper study of mankind is man." This
he construed to include women and children. The latter he had every
opportunity to study early and often in his own household, and most
thoroughly did he avail himself thereof. As for books, his acquaintance
with them for literary pleasure and uses seemed to have begun and ended
with the Bible and the New England Primer. They furnished the coach
that enabled his fancy "to take the air."

His knowledge of Shakespeare, so far as I could judge, had been
acquired through the theatre. The unacted plays were not familiar to
him. Few people realize what a person of alert intelligence and
retentive memory can learn of the best English literature through the
theatre-going habit. Measuring Field's opportunity by my own, during
the decade from 1873 to 1883, here is a list of Shakespearian plays he
could have taken in through eyes and ears without touching a book: "The
Tempest," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Measure for Measure," "The
Comedy of Errors," "Much Ado About Nothing," "A Midsummer Night's
Dream," "The Merchant of Venice," "As You Like It," "The Taming of the
Shrew," "Twelfth Night," "Richard II," "Richard III," "Henry IV,"
"Henry V," "Coriolanus," "Romeo and Juliet," "Julius Caesar," "Macbeth,"
"Hamlet," "King Lear," "Othello," "Antony and Cleopatra," and

This list, embracing two-thirds of all the plays Shakespeare wrote, and
practically all of his dramatic work worth knowing, covers what Field
might have seen and, with a few possible exceptions, unquestionably did
see, in the way calculated to give him the keenest pleasure and the
most lasting impressions. These plays, during that decade, were
presented by such famous actors and actresses as Edwin Booth, Lawrence
Barrett, John McCullough, Barry Sullivan, George Rignold, E.L.
Davenport, Ristori, Adelaide Neilson, Modjeska, Mary Anderson, Mrs.
D.P. Bowers, and Rose Eytinge in the leading roles. It is impossible to
overestimate the value of listening night after night to the great
thoughts and subtle philosophy of the master dramatist from the lips of
such interpreters, to say nothing of the daily association with the men
and women who lived and moved in the atmosphere of the drama and its
traditions. So, perhaps, it is only fair to include Shakespeare and the
contemporaneous drama with the Bible and the New England Primer as the
only staple foundations of Field's literary education when he came to
Chicago. If this could have been analyzed more closely, it would have
shown some traces of what was drilled into him by his old preceptor,
Dr. Tufts, and many odds and ends of the recitations from the standard
speaker of his elocutionary youth, but no solids either of Greek or
Latin lore and not a trace of his beloved Horace.

Now it so happened that all I had ever learned in school or college of
Greek and Latin had slid from me as easily as running water over a
smooth stone, leaving me as innocent of the classics in the original as
Field. But, unlike Field, when our fortunes threw us together, I had
kept up a close and continuous reading and study of English language
and literature. The early English period had always interested me, and
we had not been together for two months before Field was inoculated
with a ravenous taste for the English literature of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries. Its quaintness and the unintentional humor of its
simplicity cast a spell over him, which he neither sought nor wished to
escape. He began with the cycle of romances that treat of King Arthur
and his knights, and followed them through their prose and metrical
versions of the almost undecipherable Saxon English to the polished and
perfect measure of the late English laureate. For three years Mallory's
"History of King Arthur and of the Knights of the Round Table" was the
delight of his poetic soul and the text-book for his conversation and
letters, and its effect was traceable in almost every line of his
newspaper work. Knights, damosells, paynims, quests, jousts, and
tourneys, went "rasing and trasing" through his manuscript, until some
people thought he was possessed with an archaic humor from which he
would never recover.

But Sir Thomas Mallory was not his only diet at this time. He
discovered that the old-book corner of A.C. McClurg & Co.'s book-store
was a veritable mine of old British ballads, and he began sipping at
that spring which in a few years was to exercise such a potent
influence on his own verse. It was from this source that he learned the
power of simple words and thoughts, when wedded to rhyme, to reach the
human heart. His "Little Book of Western Verse" would never have
possessed its popular charm had not its author taken his cue from the
"Grand Old Masters." He caught his inspiration and faultless touch from
studying the construction and the purpose of the early ballads and
songs, illustrative of the history, traditions, and customs of the
knights and peasantry of England. Where others were content to judge of
these in such famous specimens as "Chevy Chase" and "The Nut Brown
Maid," Field delved for the true gold in the neglected pages of
Anglo-Saxon chronicle and song. He did not waste much time on the
unhealthy productions of the courtiers of the time of Queen Elizabeth,
but chose the ruder songs of the bards, whose hearts were pure even if
their thoughts were sometimes crude, their speech blunt, and their
metre queer. Who cannot find suggestions for a dozen of Field's poems
in this single stanza from "Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament":

_Balow, my babe, lye still and sleipe!
It grieves me sair to see thee weipe:
If thoust be silent Ise be glad,
Thy maining maks my heart ful sad.
Balow, my boy, thy mother's joy,
Thy father breides me great annoy.
Balow, my babe, ly still and sleipe,
It grieves me sair, to see thee weipe._

Or where could writer go to a better source for inspiration than to
ballads preserving in homely setting such gems as this, from "Bartham's

_They buried him at mirk midnight,
When the dew fell cold and still,
When the aspin gray forgot to play,
And the mist clung to the hill._

When you have mingled the simple, bald, and often beautiful pathos of
this old balladry with the fancies of fairy-land which Field invented,
or borrowed from Hans Andersen's tales, you have the key to much of the
best poetry and prose he ever wrote. The secret of his undying
attachment to Bohn's Standard Library was that therein he found almost
every book that introduced him to the masters of the kind of English
literature that most appealed to him. Here he unearthed the best of the
ancients in literal English garb, from AEschylus to Xenophon, to say
nothing of a dictionary of Latin and of Greek quotations done into
English with an index verborum. More to the purpose still, Bohn put
into his hands Smart's translation of Horace, "carefully revised by an
Oxonian." In the cheap, uniform green cloth of Bohn, he fell in with
Percy's "Reliques of Ancient English," Bell's "Ballads and Songs of the
Peasantry of England," Bede's "Ecclesiastical History," Marco Polo's
"Travels," Keightly's "Fairy Mythology," and renewed his acquaintance
with Andersen's "Danish Legends and Fairy Tales," and Grimm's "Fairy
Tales," and last, but not least, with one of the best editions of Isaac
Walton's "Complete Angler," wherein he did some of his best fishing.

It has been a common impression that Field was attracted to the
old-book corner of McClurg's store by the old and rare books displayed
there. These were not for him, as he had not then learned that
bibliomania could be made to put money in his purse or to wing his
shafts of irony with feathers from its favorite nest. He went to browse
among the dark green covers of Bohn and remained years after to prey
upon the dry husks of the bibliomaniacs.

Among the cherished relics of those days there lies before me as I
write "The Book of British Ballads," edited by S.C. Hall, inscribed on
the title page:

"_Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit._"

To Slason Thompson
Eugene Field.
Christmas, 1885.

This volume Field had picked up in some secondhand book-store for a
quarter or a dime. He had erased the pencilled name of the original
owner on the fly-leaf and had written mine and the date over it in ink.
Then turning to the inside of the back cover he had rubbed out the
price mark and ostentatiously scrawled "$2.50." This "doctoring" of
price marks was a favorite practice of Field's, perfectly understood
among his friends as a token of affectionate humor and never dreamed of
as an attempt at deception. By such means he added zest to the exchange
of those mementoes of friendship, which were never forgotten as
Christmas-tide rolled round, to the end of the chapter. The day has
indeed come when it is "a pleasure to remember these things."

The Latin motto on this particular copy of ballads reminds me, among
other pleasant memories, that during the year 1885 there came into
Field's life and mine an intimate friendship that was to exercise a
more potent influence on Field's literary bent than anything in his
experience. I have before me the following description of "The Frocked
Host of Watergrasshill":

Prout had seen much of mankind, and, in his deportment through life,
showed that he was well versed in all those varied arts of easy, but
still gradual, acquirement which singularly embellished the intercourse
of society: these were the results of his excellent continental

[Greek] Pollon d' anthropn idon astea, kai noon egno.

But at the head of his own festive board he particularly shone; for,
though in ministerial functions he was exemplary and admirable, ever
meek and unaffected at the altar of his rustic chapel, where

"_His looks adorned the venerable place,_"

still, surrounded by a few choice friends, the calibre of whose genius
was in unison with his own, with a bottle of his choice old claret
before him, he was truly a paragon.

Substitute a physician for the priest; change the scene from the
neighborhood of the Blarney stone to a basement chop and oyster house
in Chicago; instead of a continental education give him an American
experience as a surgeon in the Civil War, in the hospitals of
Cincinnati, and on the yellow fever commission that visited Memphis in
1867, and you have the Dr. Frank W. Reilly, to whom Field owed more
than to all the schools, colleges, and educational agencies through
which he had flitted from his youth up. When I first knew Dr. Reilly
he was Secretary of the Illinois State Board of Health, located at
Springfield, and an occasional correspondent of the Chicago Herald.
The State of Illinois owes to him its gradual rescue from a dangerous
laxity in the matter of granting medical licenses, until to-day the
requirements necessary to practise his profession in this state
compare favorably with those of any other state of the Union. Shortly
after I went from the Herald to the News, as related in a previous
chapter, Dr. Reilly changed his correspondence to the latter paper. In
1885 he resigned his position on the State Board of Health, and,
coming to Chicago, formed an editorial connection with the News that
continued until he was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Health for
Chicago. In this last position, which he occupies to-day, I do not
hesitate to say that he has done more to promote its health,
cleanliness, and consequent happiness, than any other single citizen
of Chicago. If the sanitary canal was not his child, it was pushed to
completion through the fostering hand of his adoption. The Lincoln
Park Sanitarium for poor children, and other similar agencies
exploited by the Daily News, were born of his suggestions and were
nurtured by his personal supervision. It is impossible, and would be
out of place here, to specify what Dr. Reilly has done for the
sanitation of Chicago as Chief Deputy in the Health Office.
Administrations may come and go. Would that he could sip the elixir of
life, that he might go on forever!

[Illustration: DR. FRANK W. REILLY.]

On his occasional visits to Chicago, before he came up here for good,
Dr. Reilly had become a welcome guest and sometimes host in our
midnight round-ups at the Boston Oyster House, and when he made his
home here he was taken into regular fellowship. The regulars then were
Field, Ballantyne, Reilly, and I--with Mr. Stone, Willis Hawkins, a
special writer on the News, Morgan Bates, Paul Hull, a sketch writer
who fancied he looked like Lincoln and told stories that would have
made Lincoln blush to own a faint resemblance, and Cowen when in town,
to say nothing of "visiting statesmen" and play-actors as occasional
visitors and contributors to the score. Some insight into the
characters of the four regulars may be gained from the statement that
Field invariably ordered coffee and apple pie, Ballantyne tea and
toast with oysters, Dr. Reilly oysters and claret, and I steak and
Bass's ale.

It was during these meetings that Field caught from Dr. Reilly's
frequent unctuous quotations his first real taste for Horace. To two
works the doctor was impartially devoted, the "Noetes Ambrosianae" and
"The Reliques of Father Prout."

He never wearied of communion with the classical father or of literary
companionship with Christopher North, Timothy Tickler, and the Ettrick
Shepherd. We never sat down to pie or oysters that his imagination did
not transform that Chicago oyster house into Ambrose's Tavern, the
scene of the feasts and festivities of table and conversation of the
immortal trio. But though the doctor enjoyed association with Kit
North and the voluble Shepherd, it was for the garrulous Father Prout,
steeped in the gossip and learning of the ancients, that he reserved
his warmest love and veneration. So saturated and infatuated was the
doctor with this fascinating creation of Francis Mahony's, that he
inoculated Field with his devotion, and before we knew it the author
of the Denver Tribune Primer stories was suffering from a literary
disease, to the intoxicating pleasure of which he yielded himself
without reservation.

To those who wish to understand the effect of this inspiration upon
the life and writings of Eugene Field, but who have not enjoyed
familiar acquaintance with the celebrated Prout papers, some
description of this work of Francis Mahony may not be amiss. He was a
Roman Catholic priest, educated at a Jesuit college at Amiens, who had
lived and held positions in France, Switzerland, and Ireland. It was
while officiating at the chapel of the Bavarian Legation in London
that he began contributing the Prout papers to Fraser's Magazine.
These consisted of fanciful narratives, each serving as a vehicle for
the display of his wonderful polyglot learning, and containing
translations of well-known English songs into Latin, Greek, French,
and Italian verse, which later he seriously represented as the true
originals from which the English authors had boldly plagiarized. He
also introduced into his stories the songs of France and Italy and
felicitous translations, none of which were better than those from
Horace. His command of the various languages into which he rendered
English verse was extraordinary, and his translations were so free and
spirited in thought and diction as to excite the admiration of the
best scholars. When it is said that his translations of French and
Latin odes preserved their poetical expression and sentiments with the
freedom of original composition almost unequalled in English
translations, the exceptional character of Father Prout's work will be
appreciated. Accompanying these English versions there was a running
commentary of semi-grave, but always humorous, criticism. Of Francis
Mahony's acknowledged poems, the "Bells of Shandon" is the best known.
In the Prout papers, while his genius finds its chief expression in
fantastic invention and sarcastic and cynical wit, it is everywhere
sweetened by gentle sentiments and an unfailing fund of human nature
and kindly humor.

"Prout's translations from Horace are too free and easy," solemnly
said the London Athenaeum, reviewing them as they came out more than
sixty years ago. And no wonder, for Prout invented Horatian odes that
he might translate them into such rollicking stanzas as Burns's "Green
Grow the Rashes, O!"

That Field, at the time of which I am writing (1885), had quite an
idea of following in the wake of Father Prout may be indicated by the
following Latin jingle written in honor of his friend, Morgan Bates,
who, with Elwin Barren, had written a play of western life entitled
"The Mountain Pink." It was described as a "moral crime," and had been
successfully staged in Chicago.


Mons! aliusque cum nobis,
Illicet tibi feratum,
Quid, ejusmodi hoec vobis,
Hunc aliquando erratum

Esse futurus fuisse,
Melior optimus vates?
Quamquam amo amavisse--
Bonum ad Barron et Bates!

Gloria, Mons! sempiturnus,
Jupiter, Pluvius, Juno,
Itur ad astra diurnus,
Omnes et ceteras uno!

Fratres! cum bibite vino,
Moralis, criminis fates,
Montem hic vita damfino--
Hic vita ad Barron et Bates._

A very slight knowledge of Latin verse is needed to detect that this
has no pretence to Latin composition such as Father Mahony's
scholarship caracoled in, but is merely English masquerading in
classical garb.

Father Prout also introduced Field to fellowship with Beranger, the
national song writer of France, to whom, next to the early English
balladists and Horace, he owes so much of that clear, simple,
sparkling style that has given his writings enduring value. Beranger's
description of himself might, with some modifications, be fitted to
Field: "I am a good little bit of a poet, clever in the craft, and a
conscientious worker, to whom old airs have brought some success."
Beranger chose to sing for the people of France, Field for the
children of the world. Field caught his fervor for Beranger from the
enthusiasm of Prout.

"I cannot for a moment longer," wrote he, "repress my enthusiastic
admiration for one who has arisen in our days to strike in France with
a master hand the lyre of the troubadour and to fling into the shade
all the triumphs of bygone minstrelsy. Need I designate Beranger, who
has created for himself a style of transcendent vigor and originality,
and who has sung of _war, love, and wine_, in strains far
excelling those of Blondel, Tyrtaeus, Pindar, and the Teian bard. He is
now the genuine representative of Gallic poesy in her convivial, her
amatory, her warlike and her philosophic mood; and the plenitude of
the inspiration that dwelt successively in the souls of all the
songsters of ancient France seems to have transmigrated into Beranger
and found a fit recipient in his capacious and liberal mind."

That Field caught the inspiration of Beranger more truly than Father
Prout, those who question can judge for themselves by a comparison of
their respective versions of "Le Violon Brise"--the broken fiddle. A
stanza by each must suffice to show the difference:


_Viens, mon chien! Viens, ma pauvre bete!
Mange, malgre, mon desespoir.
II me reste un gateau de fete--
Demain nous aurons du pain noir!_


_My poor dog! here! of yesterday's festival-cake
Eat the poor remains in sorrow;
For when next a repast you and I shall make,
It must be on brown bread, which, for charity's sake,
Your master must beg or borrow._


_There, there, poor dog, my faithful friend,
Pay you no heed unto my sorrow:
But feast to-day while yet we may,--
Who knows but we shall starve to-morrow!_

The credit for verbal literalness of translation is with Prout, but
the spirit of the fiddler of Beranger glows through the free rendition
of Field.

[Illustration: "FATHER PROUT."
_Francis Mahony._]

The reader of Eugene Field's works will find scant acknowledgment of
his indebtedness to Father Francis Mahony, but there are many
expressions of his love and admiration for the friend who introduced
him to the scholar, wit, and philosopher, by whose ways of life and
work his own were to be so shaped and tinged. Among these my
scrap-books afford three bits of verse which indicate in different
degrees the esteem in which "the genial dock" of our comradeship was
held by his associates as well as by Field. The first was written in
honor of the doctor's silver wedding:


If I were rich enough to buy
A case of wine (though I abhor it!)
I'd send a case of extra dry,
And willingly get trusted for it.
But, lack a day! you know that I'm
As poor as Job's historic turkey--
In lieu of Mumm, accept this rhyme,
An honest gift, though somewhat jerky.

This is your silver-wedding day--
You didn't mean to let me know it!
And yet your smiles and raiment gay
Beyond all peradventure show it!
By all you say and do it's clear
A birdling in your breast is singing,
And everywhere you go you hear
The old-time bridal bells a-ringing.

All, well, God grant that these dear chimes
May mind you of the sweetness only
Of those far-distant callow times
When you were bachelor and lonely--
And when an angel blessed your lot--
For angel is your helpmate, truly--
And when to share the joy she brought,
Came other little angels duly.

So here's a health to you and wife:
Long may you mock the reaper's warning,
And may the evening of your life
In rising Sons renew the morning;
May happiness and peace and love
Come with each morrow to caress ye;
And when you've done with earth, above--
God bless ye, dear old friend--God bless ye!_

The second is of a very different flavor and shows Field indulging in
that play of personal persiflage, in which he took a never-flagging
pleasure. It has no title and was written in pencil on two sheets of
rough brown paper:

_The Dock he is a genial friend,
He frequently has cash to lend;
He writes for Rauch, and on the pay
He sets 'em up three times a day.
Oh, how serenely I would mock
My creditors, if I were Dock.

The Cowen is a lusty lad
For whom the women-folks go mad;
He has a girl in every block--
Herein, methinks, he beats the Dock--
Yes, if the choice were left to me
A lusty Cowen I would be.

Yet were I Cowen, where, oh, where
Would be my Julia, plump and fair?
And where would be those children four
Which now I smilingly adore?
The thought induces such a shock,
I'd not be Cowen--I'd be Dock!

But were I Dock, with stores of gold,
How would I pine at being old--
How grieve to see in Cowen's eyes
That amorous fire which age denies--
Oh, no, I'd not be Dock forsooth,
I'd rather be the lusty youth.

Nor Dock, nor Cowen would I be,
But such as God hath fashioned me;
For I may now with maidens fair
Assume I'm Cowen debonnair,
Or, splurging on a borrowed stock,
I can imagine I'm the Dock._

The last tribute which I quote from Field to his school-master,
literary guide, and friend is credited to the "Wit of the Silurian
Age," and is accompanied by a drawing by the poet, who took a cut from
some weekly of the day and touched it up with black, red, and green ink
to represent the genial "Dock" seated in an arm-chair before a cheery
fire, with the inevitable claret bottle on a stand within easy reach
and a glass poised in his hand ready for the sip of a connoisseur,
while the devotee of Kit North and Father Prout beamed graciously at
you through his glasses:

_Said Field to Dr. Reilly, "You
Are like the moon, for you get brighter
When you get full, and it is true
Your heavy woes thereby grow lighter."

"And you" the Doctor answer made,
"Are like, the moon because you borrow
The capital on which you trade--
As I'm acquainted, to my sorrow!"

"'Tis true I'm like the moon, I know,"
Replied the poor but honest wight,
"For, journeying through this vale of woe,
I borrow oft, but always light!"_

But Field's acknowledgments of an ever-increasing debt of gratitude to
Dr. Reilly were not confined to privately circulated tokens of
affection and friendship, as the following stanzas, printed in his
column in the News, in February, 1889, testify:

_TO F.W.R. AT 6 P.M.

My friend, Maecenas and physician,
Is in so grumpy a condition
I really more than half suspicion
He nears his end;
Who then would lie on earth to shave me,
To feed me, coach me, and to save me
From tedious cares that would enslave me--
Without this friend?

Nay, fate forfend such wild disaster!
May I play Pollux to his Castor
Thro' years that bind our hearts the faster
With golden tether;
And every morbid fear releasing,
May our affection bide unceasing--
every salary raise increasing--
Then die together!_

Finally, Dr. Reilly is the Dr. O'Rell of "The Love Affairs of a
Bibliomaniac," whom Field playfully credits with prescribing one or the
other--the Noctes or the Reliques--to his patients, no matter what
disease they might be afflicted with. He prescribed them to both of us,
and Field took to his bed with the Reliques and did not get up until he
had "comprehended" the greater part of its five hundred and odd pages
of perennial literary stimulant.



Although Eugene Field was the most unconventional of writers, there
was a method in all his ways that made play of much of his work. No
greater mistake was ever made than in attributing his physical
break-down to exhaustion from his daily grind in a newspaper office.
No man ever made less of a grind than he in preparing copy for the
printer. He seldom arrived at the office before eleven o'clock and
never settled down to work before three o'clock. The interim was spent
in puttering over the exchanges, gossiping with visitors, of whom he
had a constant stream, quizzing every other member of the staff,
meddling here, chaffing there, and playing hob generally with the
orderly routine of affairs. He was a persistent, insistent,
irrepressible disturber of everything but the good-fellowship of the
office, to which he was the chief contributor. No interruption from
Field ever came or was taken amiss. From the hour he ambled
laboriously up the steep and narrow stairs, anathematizing them at
every step, in every tone of mockery and indignation, to the moment he
sat down to his daily column of "leaded agate, first line brevier," no
man among us knew what piece of fooling he would be up to next.

Something was wrong, Field was out of town, or some old crony from
Kansas City, St. Louis, or Denver was in Chicago, if about one o'clock
I was not interrupted by a summons from him that the hour for luncheon
had arrived. Although I was at work within sound of his voice, these
came nearly always in the form of a note, delivered with an unvarying
grin by the office-boy, who would drop any other errand, however
pressing, to do Field's antic bidding. These notes were generally
flung into the waste-paper basket, much to my present regret, for of
themselves they would have made a most remarkable exhibit. Sometimes
the summons would be in the form of a bar of music like this which I

[Illustration: A BAR OF MUSIC.
_Written by Eugene Field._]

But more often it was a note in the old English manner, which for
years was affected between us, like this one:


By my halidom it doth mind me to hold discourse with thee. Come thou
privily to my castle beyond the moat, an' thou wilt.

In all fealty, my liege,
Thy gentle vassal,

[Illustration: The mark of The Good Knight.]

Or, going down to the counting-room, he would summon a messenger to
mount the stairs with a formal invitation like this:


The Good but Impecunious Knight bides in the business office, and
there soothly will he tarry till you come anon. So speed thee, bearing
with thee ducats that in thy sweet company and by thy joyous courtesy
the Good Knight may be regaled with great and sumptuous cheer withal.


Then out we would sally to the German restaurant around the corner,
where the coffee was good, the sandwiches generous, and the pie
execrable. If there was a German cook in Chicago who could make good
pies we never had the good fortune to find him.

drawing and legend:
With great and sumptous cheer and with
Joyous discourse, the good knight
Slosson regaleth the good knight
Eugene sans peur et sans monie.
_From a drawing by Eugene Field._]

Having regaled ourselves with this sumptuous cheer to "repletion," we
would walk three blocks to McClurg's book-store and replenish our
stock of English, sacred and profane, defiled and undefiled. I am
writing now of the days before Field made the old-book department
famous throughout the country as the browsing ground of the
bibliomaniacs. After loitering there long enough to digest our lunches
and to nibble a little literature, we would retrace our steps to the
office, where Field resumed his predatory actions until he was ready
to go to work. Then peace settled on the establishment for about three
hours. If any noisy visitor or obstreperous reporter in the local room
did anything to disturb the "literary atmosphere" that brooded around
the office, Field would bang on the tin gong hanging over his desk
until all other noises sank into dismayed silence. Then he would
resume "sawing wood" for his "Sharps and Flats."

If Field had not quite worked off his surplus stock of horse-play on
his associates, he would vent it upon the compositor in some such
apostrophe as the following:

_By my troth, I'll now begin ter
Cut a literary caper
On this pretty tab of paper
For the horney-handed printer;
I expect to hear him swearing
That these inks are very wearing
On his oculary squinter._

Or this:

We desire to announce that Mademoiselle Rhea, the gifted Flanders
maid, who has the finest wardrobe on the stage, will play a season
of bad brogue and flash dresses in this city very soon. This
announcement, however, will never see the dawn of November 13th,
and we kiss it a fond farewell as we cheerfully submit it as a sop
to Cerberus.

Field had a theory that Ballantyne, the managing editor, would not
consider that he was earning his salary, and that Mr. Stone would not
think that he was exercising the full authority of editorship, unless
something in his column was sacrificed to the blue pencil of a
watchful censorship. Coupled with this was the more or less cunning
belief that it was good tactics to write one or two outrageously
unprintable paragraphs to draw the fire, so to speak, of the blue
pencil, and so to divert attention from something, about which there
might be question, which he particularly wished to have printed.
Ballantyne, as I have said, was a very much more exacting censor than
Stone, for the reason that the humor of a story or paragraph often
missed his Scotch literalness, while Stone never failed to let
anything pass on that score.

By six o'clock Field's writing for the day was done, and he generally
went home for dinner. But that this was not always the case the
following notes testify:


If so be ye pine and so hanker after me this night I pray you come
anon to the secret lair near the moat on the next floor, and there
you will eke descry me. There we will discourse on love and other
joyous matters, and until then I shall be, as I have ever been,

Your most courteous friend,


* * * * *

An' it please the good and gentle knight, Sir Slosson Thompson, his
friend in very sooth, the honest knight will arrive at his castle
this day at the 8th hour, being minded to partake of Sir Slosson's
cheer and regale him with the wealth of his joyous discourse.


Five nights out of the week Field spent some part of the evening at
one of the principal theatres of the town, of which at that time there
were five. He was generally accompanied by Mrs. Field and her sister,
Miss Comstock, who subsequently became Mrs. Ballantyne. When it was a
family party, Ballantyne and I would join it about the last act, and
there was invariably a late supper party, which broke up only in time
for the last north-bound car. When Field was a self-invited guest with
any of his intimates at dinner the party would adjourn for a round of
the theatres, ending at that one where the star or leading actor was
most likely to join in a symposium of steak and story at Billy Boyle's
English chop-house. This resort, on Calhoun Place, between Dearborn
and Clark Streets, was for many years the most famous all-night
eating-house in Chicago. For chops and steaks it had not its equal in
America, possibly not in the world. Long after we had ceased to
frequent Boyle's, so long that our patronage could not have been
charged with any share in the catastrophe, it went into the hands of
the sheriff. This afforded Field an opportunity to write the following
sympathetic and serio-whimsical reminiscence of a unique institution
in Chicago life:

It is unpleasant and it is hard to think of Billy Boyle's chop-house
as a thing of the past, for that resort has become so closely
identified with certain classes and with certain phases of life in
Chicago that it seems it must necessarily keep right on forever in
its delectable career. We much prefer to regard its troubles as
temporary, and to believe that presently its hospitable doors will be
thrown open again to the same hungry, appreciative patrons who for so
many years have partaken of its cheer.

When the sheriff asked Billy Boyle the other day where the key to the
door was, Billy seemed to feel hurt. What did Billy know about a key,
and what use had he ever found for one in that hospitable spot,
whither famished folk of every class gravitated naturally for the
flying succor of Billy's larder?

"The door never had a key," said Billy. "Only once in all the time I
have been here has the place been closed, and then it was but four

Down in New Orleans there is a famous old saloon called the Sazeraz.
For fifty-four years it stood open to the thirsty public. Then the
City Council passed a Sunday-closing ordinance, and with the
enforcement of this law came the discovery that through innocuous
desuetude the hinges of the doors to the Sazeraz had rusted off,
while the doors themselves had become so worm-eaten that they had to
be replaced by new ones. The sheriff who pounced down on Billy
Boyle's in his official capacity must have fancied he had struck a
second Sazeraz, for the lock upon the door was so rusty and rheumatic
through disuse that it absolutely refused to respond to the
persuasion of the keys produced for the performance of its functions.
We cannot help applauding the steadfastness with which this lock
resented the indignity which the official visit of the sheriff

If we were to attempt to make a roster of the names of those who have
made the old chop-house their Mecca in seasons of hunger and thirst,
we could easily fill a page. So, although you may have never visited
the place yourself, it is easy for you to understand that many are
the associations and reminiscences which attached to it. There was
never any attempt at style there; the rooms were unattractive, save
for the savory odors which hung about them; the floors were bare, and
the furniture was severe to the degree of rudeness. There was no
china in use upon the premises; crockery was good enough; men came
there to feed their stomachs, not their eyes.

Boyle's was a resort for politicians, journalists, artists, actors,
musicians, merchants, gamblers, professional men generally, and
sporting men specially. Boyle himself has always been a lover of the
horse and a patron of the turf; naturally, therefore, his restaurant
became the rendezvous of horsemen, so called. Upon the walls there
were colored prints, which confirmed any suspicion which a stranger
might have of the general character of the place, and the _mise en
scene_ differed in no essential feature from that presented in the
typical chop-house one meets in the narrow streets and by-ways of
"dear ol' Lunnon!"

It is likely that Boyle's has played in its quiet way a more
important part in the history of the town than you might suppose. It
was here that the lawyers consulted with their clients during the
noon luncheon hour; politicians came thither to confer one another
and to devise those schemes by which parties were to be humbugged. It
was here that the painter and the actor discussed their respective
arts; here, too, in the small hours of morning, the newspaper editor
and reporters gathered together to dismiss professional cares and
jealousies for the nonce, and to feed in the most amicable spirit
from the same trough. Jobs were put up, _coups_ planned,
reconciliations effected, schemes devised, combinations suggested,
news exploited and scandals disseminated, friendships strengthened,
acquaintances made--all this at Billy Boyle's--so you see it would
have been hard to find a better field in which to study human nature,
for hither came people of every class and kind with their ambitions,
hopes, purposes, and eccentricities.

The glory of the house of Boyle was the quality of viands served
there, and nowhere else in the world was it possible to find finer
steaks and chops. These substantials were served with a liberality
that would surely have astounded those who did not understand that
the patrons of Billy Boyle's were men blest with long appetites and
robust digestions. Spanish stew was one of the specialties; so were
baked potatoes, and so were Spanish roasted onions. It was the custom
to sit and smoke after the meal had been disposed of, and the quality
of the cigars sold in the place was the best; at night
particularly--say after the newspaper clans began to gather--Boyle's
wore the aspect of a smoke-talk in full blast. Harmony invariably
prevailed. If, perchance, any discordant note was sounded it was
speedily hushed. Charlie, the man behind the bar, had a way of his
own of preserving the peace. He was a gentleman of a few words, slow
to anger, but sure of wrath. Experience had taught him that the best
persuasive to respectful and reverential order was a spoke of a
wagon-wheel. One of these weapons lay within reach, and it never
failed to restore tranquillity when produced and wielded at the
proper moment by Charlie. The consequence was that Charlie inspired
all good men with respect and all evil men with terror, and the
result was harmony of the most enjoyable character. Perhaps if
Charlie had been on watch when that horrid sheriff arrived on his
meddlesome errand, Billy Boyle's might still be open to the rich and
the poor who now meet together in that historic alley and bemoan the
passing of their old point of rendezvous. Perhaps--but why indulge in
surmises? It is pleasanter to regard this whole disagreeable sheriff
business as an episode that is soon to pass away and to be forgotten,
if not forgiven.

Surely the clouds will roll by; surely you, Septimius, and you,
Tuliarchus mine, will presently gather with others of the old cronies
around the hospitable board of that genial host to renew once more
the delights of days and nights endeared to us in memory!

Billy Boyle's succumbed to his love for the race-track and the abuse
of his credit-check system. Field has mentioned gamblers as among the
patrons of the place. After midnight they were his most liberal
customers. Winning or losing, their appetites were always on edge and
their tastes epicurean. Nothing the house could afford was too good
for them, and, while Charlie was on deck, what the house could afford
was good enough for them, whether they thought so or not. During the
'80s Chicago was a gamblers' paradise. Everything was run "wide
open," as the saying is, under police regulation and protection, and
Billy Boyle's was in the very centre of the gambling district. If
Billy had been paid cash, and could have been kept away from the
race-tracks, he would have grown rich beyond the terrors of the
sheriff. While the gamblers were winning they supped like princes and
paid like goldsmiths. When they were losing their losses whetted
their appetites, they ate to keep their spirits up, and Billy's
spindles were not long enough to hold their waiters' checks. In flush
times a goodly percentage of these checks were redeemed, but the
reckoning of the bad ones at the bottom grew longer and dirtier and
more hopeless, until it brought the sheriff.

We of the Morning News--Field, Stone, Ballantyne, Reilly, and
I--frequented Boyle's until the war which the paper waged unceasingly
upon the league between the city administration and the gamblers
brought about a stricter surveillance of gaming, and we came to be
regarded by our fellow-guests as interlopers, if not spies, upon
their goings in and out. Neither Boyle nor the ever faithful Charlie
ever by word or sign intimated that we were _personae non gratae_, but
the atmosphere of the place became too chilly for the enjoyment of
late suppers.

I have devoted so much space to Billy Boyle's because for several
years Field found there the best opportunity of his life "to study
human nature" and observe the "ambitions, hopes, purposes, and
eccentricities" of his fellow-man.

After the "pernicious activity" of our newspaper work had "put the
shutters up" against us in Calhoun Place, we transferred our midnight
custom to the Boston Oyster House, on the corner of Clark and Madison
streets, which Field selected because of the suggestion of baked
beans, brown bread, and codfish in its name. Here we were assigned a
special table in the corner near the grill range, and here we were
welcomed along about twelve o'clock by the cheerful chirping of a
cricket in the chimney, which Field had a superstition was intended
solely for him. The Boston Oyster House had the advantage over Billy
Boyle's that here we could bring "our women folks" after the theatre
or concert. It was through a piece of doggerel, composed and recited
by Field with great gusto on one of these occasions, that we first
learned of the serious attentions of our managing editor to Mrs.
Field's youngest sister. One of these stanzas ran thus:

_A quart taken out of the ice-box,
A dozen broiled over the fire,
Then home from the show
With her long-legged beau,
What more can our sister desire?_

But the ladies were never invited to invade the cricket's corner,
where we were permitted to beguile the hours in gossip, song, and
story until the scrub-women had cleaned the rest of the big basement
and "the first low swash" of the suds and brush threatened the legs of
our chairs. Then, with a parting anathema on the business of slaves
that toiled when honest folk should be abed, we would ascend the
stairs and betake ourselves to our several homes. It was at the Boston
that Field varied his diet of pie and coffee with what he was pleased
to describe as "the staying qualities as well as the pleasing aspect
of a Welsh rabbit."

During the first years of his connection with the Morning News, Field
worked without intermission six days of the week, without a vacation
and, except when he transferred his scene of operations to the capitol
at Springfield, without leaving Chicago--with two noteworthy
exceptions. For some reason Field had taken what the Scotch call a
scunner to ex-President Hayes, whom he regarded as a political
Pecksniff. The refusal of Mr. Hayes while President to serve wine in
the White House Field regarded as a cheap affectation, and so when,
through his numerous sources of information, he learned that Mr. Hayes
derived a part of his income from saloon property in Omaha, nothing
would do Field but, accompanied by the staff artist, he must go to
Omaha and investigate himself the story for the News.

He went, found the facts were as represented, and returned with the
proofs and a photograph of himself sitting on a beer-keg in a saloon
owned by Rutherford B. Hayes. He also bought the keg, and out of its
staves had a frame made for the picture, which he presented to Mr.

His other notable absence from Chicago in those days was also
connected with ex-President Hayes. This time it involved a visit to
the latter's home at Fremont, O. In all his frequent references to Mr.
Hayes, Field had always spoken of Mrs. Hayes with sincere admiration
for her womanly qualities and convictions. So long as these were
confined to the ordering of her personal household he deemed them as
sacred as they were admirable. Nor did he blame her for attempting to
extend them to rule the actions of her husband in his public
relations. But it was for permitting this that Mr. Hayes earned the
scorn of Field. When President Hayes retired from the White House to
Fremont, instead of becoming another Cincinnatus at the plough he was
overshadowed by the stories of Mrs. Hayes's devotion to her
chicken-farm, and the incongruity of the occupation appealed so
strongly to Field's sense of the ridiculous that he prevailed on Mr.
Stone to let him go down to Fremont to take in its full absurdity with
his own eyes.

Before going to Omaha, Field had taken the precaution to write enough
"Sharps and Flats" to fill his column until he returned--a precaution
he omitted when he started for Fremont, on the understanding that his
associates on the editorial page would do his work for him. This was
our opportunity, and gladly we availed ourselves of it. The habit had
grown on Field of introducing his paragraphic skits with such "country
journalisms" as:

"We opine,"

"Anent the story,"

"We are free to admit,"

"We violate no confidence,"

"It is stated, though not authoritatively,"

"Our versatile friend,"

"We learn from a responsible source," and

"Our distinguished fellow-townsman."

This he accompanied with a lavish bestowal of titles that would have
done credit to the most courtly days of southern chivalry.

So when Field was safely off for Fremont we started to produce a
column that would be a travesty on his favorite expressions at the
expense of his titled friends. We opined and violated all the
confidences of which we were possessed in regard to Colonel Phocion
Howard, of the Batavia frog-farm, Major Moses P. Handy, the flaming
sword of the Philadelphia Press, Senator G. Frisbie Hoar, Major
Charles Hasbrook, Colonel William E. Curtis, Colonel John A. Joyce,
Colonel Fred W. Nye, Major E. Clarence Stedman, and Colonels Dana,
Watterson, and Halstead, and we exhausted the flowers of Field's
vocabulary in daring encomiums on Madame Modjeska, Lotta, Minnie
Maddern, and Marie Jansen. If any of Field's particular friends were
omitted from "favorable mention" in that column, it was because we
forgot or Mr. Stone's blue pencil came to the rescue of his absent
friend. Ballantyne was party to the conspiracy, because he had often
remonstrated against the rut of expression into which Field was in
danger of falling.

When Field returned that one column had driven all thoughts of Mrs.
Hayes's hens from his thoughts. There was a cold glitter in his pale
blue eyes and a hollow mock in the forced "ha, ha" with which he
greeted some of our "alleged efforts at wit." He said little, but a
few days later relieved his pent-up feelings by printing the

_MAY THE 26th, 1885

As when the bright, the ever-glorious sun
In eastern slopes lifts up his flaming head,
And sees the harm the envious night has done
While he, the solar orb, has been abed--
Sees here a yawl wrecked on the slushy sea,
Or there a chestnut from its roost blown down,
Or last year's birds' nests scattered on the lea,
Or some stale scandal rampant in the town--
Sees everywhere the petty work of night,
Of sneaking winds and cunning, coward rats,
Of hooting owls, of bugaboo and sprite,
Of roaches, wolves, and serenading cats--

Beholds and smiles that bagatelles so small
Should seek to devastate the slumbering earth--
Then smiling still he pours on one and all
The warmth and sunshine of his grateful mirth;
So he who rules in humor's vast domain,
Borne far away by some Ohio train,
Returns again, like some recurring sun,
And shining, God-like, on the furrowed plain
Repairs the ills that envious hands have done._

But the daring violation of Field's confidence effected its purpose.
Never again did he employ the type-worn expressions of country
journalism, except with set prepense and self-evident satire. He
shunned them as he did an English solecism, which he never committed,
save as a decoy to draw the fire of the ever-watchful and hopeless
grammatical purist.



In the last chapter I have told in general terms how Field employed
himself day by day, from which the reader may form the impression that
between eleven A.M. and midnight not over one-quarter of his time was
actually employed in work, the balance being frittered away in seeming
play. In one sense the reader would be right in such an inference.
Field worked harder and longer at his play than at what the world has
been pleased to accept as the work of a master workman, but out of
that play was born the best of all that he has left. His daily column
was a crystallization of the busy fancies that were running through
his head during all his hours of fooling and nights of light-hearted
pleasure. It reflected everything he read and heard and saw. It was a
"barren sea from which he made a dry haul"--a dreary and colorless
gathering that left him without material for his pen. He did not hunt
for this material with a brass band, but went for it with studied
persistence. Field never believed that he was sent into the world to
reform it. His aim was to amuse himself, and if in so doing he
entertained or gratified others, so much the better. "Reform away," he
was once reported as saying, "reform away, but as for me, the world is
good enough for me as it is. I am a thorough optimist. In temperament
I'm a little like old Horace--I want to get all the happiness out of
the world that's possible." And he got it, not intermittently and in
chunks, but day by day and every hour of the day.

His brother Roswell has said that the "curse of comedy was on Eugene,"
and "it was not until he threw off that yoke and gave expression to
the better and sweeter thoughts within him that, as with Bion, the
voice of song flowed freely from the heart."

I do not think it is quite fair to regard comedy as a curse or a yoke.
Certainly Eugene Field never suffered under the blight of the one nor
staggered under the burden of the other. If there is any curse in
comedy, unadulterated by lying, malice, or envy, he never knew it. He
knew--none better--that the author who would command the tears that
purify and sweeten life must move the laughter that lightens it. What
says our Shakespeare?--

_Jog on, jog, on the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a,
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a._

Eugene Field trod the footpath way to popularity and fame with a
buoyant and merry heart. If there was any abatement of his joyous
spirits I never knew it, and I do not think that his writings disclose
any sweeter strain, as his brother suggests, in the days when
ill-health checked the ardor of his boyish exuberance, but could not
dim the unextinguishable flame of his comedy. The two books that
contain what to the last he considered his choicest work--a judgment
confirmed by their continued popularity and sale, "A Little Book of
Western Verse" and "A Little Book of Profitable Tales"--were compiled
from the writings (1878-1887) that flowed from his pen when he
worshipped most assiduously at the shrine of the goddess of comedy and
social intercourse.

I have been tempted into this digression in order that the reader may
not be at a loss to reconcile the apparent frivolity of Field's life
and the mass of his writings at this period with the winnowed product
as it appeared in the two volumes just mentioned. Out of the comedy of
his nature came the sweetness of his work, and out of his association
with all conditions of his fellow-men came that insight into the
springs of human passion and action that leavens all that he wrote,
from "The Robin and the Violet" (1884) down to "The Love Affairs of a
Bibliomaniac" (1895).

The general character of Eugene Field's life and writing went through
a gradual process of evolution from the time of his arrival in Chicago
to the final chapters of "The Love Affairs," which were his last work.
But it can be safely divided into two periods of six years each, with
the turning point at the publication of his little books of verse and
tales in the year 1889. Nearly all that he wrote previous to that year
was marked by his association with his kind; that which he wrote
subsequently was saturated with his closer association with books.
About all the preparation he needed for his daily "wood-sawing" was a
hurried glance through the local papers and his favorite exchanges,
among which the New York Sun held first place, with the others
unplaced. He insisted that the exchange editor should send to his desk
daily a dozen or more small country sheets from the most out of the
way places--papers that recorded the painting of John Doe's front
fence or that Seth Smith laid an egg on the editor's table with a
breezy "come again, Seth, the Lord loveth a cheerful liar." When Field
had accumulated enough of these items to suit his humor, he would
paraphrase them, and, substituting the names of local or national
celebrities, as the incongruity tickled his fancy, he would print them
in his column under the heading of local, social, literary, or
industrial notes, as the case might be. He seldom changed the form of
these borrowed paragraphs materially, for he held most shrewdly that
no humorist could improve upon the unconscious humor of the truly
rural scribe. Field never outgrew the enjoyment and employment of this
distinctively American appreciation of humor. As late as October 29th,
1895, "The Love Affairs" had to wait while he regaled the readers of
the Chicago Record with his own brand of "Crop Reports from East
Minonk," of which the following will serve as specimens:

All are working to get in the corn crop as if they never expected to
raise another crop. The schools are almost deserted, and even the
schoolm'ams may yet be drafted in as huskers. As the season advances
the farmers begin to realize the immensity of the crop, and the
dangers and difficulties of handling it. Owing to its cumbersomeness
the old-fashioned way of handling it becomes obsolete, and new
methods will have to be adopted and hydraulic machinery procured.
Many new uses can be made of the corn-stalks, such as flag-poles for
school-houses, telegraph poles and sewer-pipes. By hollowing out a
corn-stalk it will make the very best of windmill towers, as the
plunger-rod can be placed inside, thus protecting it from the
weather, and if desired, an excellent fountain can be obtained by
perforating the joints with an awl.

A freight train on the Santa Fe railroad was delayed four hours last
Saturday by a corn-stalk in Jake Schlosser's field, which had been
undermined by hogs, falling across the track. It was removed with a
crane and considerable difficulty by the wrecking crew.

The town of Hegler, on the Kankakee, Minonk and Western railroad, is
invisible in a forest of corn. A search party under the direction of
the road commissioners are looking for it.

These solemnly exaggerated crop notes were strung out to the extent of
over half a column. Some will question the wit of such fantastic
extravagance, but Field had early learned the truth of Puck's
exclamation: "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" He knew that there
was absolutely no bounds to the gullibility of mankind, and he felt it
a part of his mission to cater to it to the top of its bent. One of
his most successful impositions was international in its scope. On
September 13th, 1886, the following paragraph, based on the current
European news of the day, appeared in his column:

We do not see that Prince Alexander, the deposed Bulgarian monarch,
is going to have very much difficulty in keeping the wolf away from
the door. In addition to the income from a $2,000,000 legacy, he has
a number of profitable investments in America which he can realize
upon at any time. He owns considerable real estate in Chicago, Kansas
City, Denver, and Omaha, and he is a part owner of one of the largest
ranches in New Mexico. His American property is held in the name of
Alexander Marie Wilhelm Ludwig Maraschkoff, and his interests in this
country are looked after by Colonel J.S. Norton, the well-known
attorney of this city. Colonel Norton tells us that he would not
be surprised if Prince Alexander were to come to this country to
live. In a letter to Colonel Norton last June the Prince said: "If
ever it is in divine pleasure to release us from the harassing
responsibilities which now rest upon us, it will be our choice to
find a home in that great country beyond the Atlantic, where, removed
from the intrigues of court and state, we may enjoy that quiet
employment and peaceful meditation for which we have always yearned."

Now it must be confessed that this bears a sufficient air of
verisimilitude to deceive the casual reader. It is as perfect a
specimen of the pure invention which Field delighted to deck out in
the form of truth with facts and the names of real personages as he
ever wrote. In that year not only Englishmen, but other foreigners,
were investing in American real estate. James S. Norton was indeed a
well-known attorney of Chicago, as he deserved to be for his wit and
professional ability. He was on such friendly terms with Field that
the latter thought nothing of taking any liberty he pleased with his
name whenever it served to lend credibility to an otherwise
unconvincing narrative. In subsequent paragraphs Field answered
fictitious inquiries as to Mr. Norton's reality by giving his actual
address, with the result that Mr. Norton was pestered with
correspondence from all over the union offering opportunities to
invest Prince Alexander's funds.

But the success of this hoax was not confined to the American side of
the Atlantic, as the following paragraph from London Truth shortly
after proves:

I gave some particulars a few weeks ago of the large amount of
property which had been extracted from Bulgaria by Prince Alexander,
who arrived at Sofia penniless, except for a sum of money which was
advanced to him by the late Emperor of Russia. It is now asserted by
the American papers that Prince Alexander has made considerable
purchases under an assumed name (Alexander Marie Wilhelm Ludwig
Maraschkoff) of real estate in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, and
Omaha, and that he is part owner of one of the largest sheep ranches
in New Mexico. The Prince's property in America is under the charge of
Colonel Norton, a well-known attorney of Chicago. Prince Alexander
must be possessed of a true Yankee cuteness if he managed to squeeze
the "pile" for these investments out of Bulgaria in addition to the
L70,000 to which I referred recently. The Russian papers have accused
him of dabbling in stock exchange speculations, and if disposed for
such business, his position must have given him some excellent
opportunities of making highly profitable bargains.

Thus was Prince Alexander convicted of having burglarized Bulgaria
upon an invention which should not have deceived Mr. Labouchere. How
that ostentatiously manufactured alias ever imposed on Truth passes
comprehension. Is it any wonder that at one of our numerous mid-day
lunches "Colonel" Norton fired the following rhyming retort at


Forgive, dear youth, the forwardness
Of her who blushing sends you this,
Because she must her love confess,
Alas! Alas! A lass she is.

Long, long, so long, her timid heart
Has held its joy in secrecy,
Being by nature's cunning art
So made, so made, so maidenly.

She knew you once, but as a pen
In humor dipt in wisdom's pool,
And gladly gave her homage then
To one, to one, too wonderful;

But having seen your face, so mild,
So pale, so full of animus,
She can but cry in accents wild,
Eugene! Eugene! You genius!_

The deep and abiding interest Field felt in the fortunes of Prince
Alexander may be inferred from his exclamation, "When Stofsky meets
Etrovitch, then comes the tug of Servo-Bulgarian war!"

He took no end of pleasure in starting discussions over the authorship
of verses and sayings by wilfully attributing them to persons whose
mere name in such connection conveyed the sense of humorous
impossibility, and he thoroughly enjoyed such suggestions being taken
seriously. Once having started the ball of doubt rolling he never let
it stop for want of some neat strokes of his cunning pen. Several
noteworthy instances of this form of literary diversion or perversion
occur to me. There never was any occasion to doubt the authorship of
"The Lost Sheep," which won for Sally Pratt McLean wide popular
recognition a decade and a half ago. Its first stanza will recall it
to the memory of all:

_De massa of de sheep fol'
Dat guard de sheep fol' bin,
Look out in de gloomerin' meadows
Whar de long night rain begin--
So he call to de hirelin' shepa'd,
"Is my sheep, is dey all come in?"
Oh, den says de hirelin' shepa'd,
"Dey's some, dey's black and thin,
And some, dey's po'ol' wedda's,
But de res' dey's all brung in--
But de res' dey's all brung in."_

The very notoriety of the authorship of these lines merely served as
an incentive for Field to print the following paragraph calling it in

Miss Sally McLean, author of "Cape Cod Folks," claims to have written
the dialect poem, "Massa of de Sheep Fold," which the New York Sun
pronounces a poetic masterpiece. We dislike to contradict Miss
McLean, but candor compels us to say that we have reason to believe
that she is not the author of the stanzas in question. According to
the best of our recollection, this poem was dashed off in the
wine-room of the Gault House, at Louisville, Ky., by Colonel John A.
Joyce, from ten to twenty years ago. Joyce was in the midst of a
party of convivial friends. After several cases of champagne had been
tossed down, a member of the party said to Colonel Joyce, "Come, old
fellow, give us an extempore poem." As Colonel Joyce had not utilized
his muse for at least twenty minutes, he cordially assented to the
proposition, and while the waiter was bringing a fresh supply of wine
Colonel Joyce dashed off the dialect poem so highly praised by the
New York Sun. We are amazed that he has laid no claim to its
authorship since its revival. Unfortunately, all the gentlemen who
were present at the time he dashed off the poem are dead, or there
would be no trouble in substantiating his claims to its authorship.
We distinctly remember he wrote it the same evening he dashed off the
pretty poem so violently claimed by, and so generally accredited to,
Mrs. Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

This was written in February, 1885, and though it failed of its
ostensible aim of discrediting Miss McLean's authorship of "The Lost
Sheep," it succeeded in rekindling throughout the exchanges the
smouldering fires of the dispute Field had himself started over that
of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's "Solitude," the relevant verse of which runs:

_Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone,
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has troubles enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air,
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care._

From the day "Solitude" appeared in Miss Wheeler's "Poems of Passion"
in 1883, and so long as Field lived, he never ceased to fan this
controversy into renewed life, more often than not by assuming a tone
of indignation that there should be any question over it, as in the
following recurrence to the subject in July, 1885:

It is reported that Mrs. Ella Wheeler Wilcox is anxious to institute
against Colonel John A. Joyce such legal proceedings as will
determine beyond all doubt that she, and not Colonel Joyce, was the
author of the poem entitled "Love and Laughter," and beginning:

_"Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone."_

Mrs. Wilcox is perhaps the most touchy person in American literature
at the present time. For a number of years she has been contributing
to the newspaper press of the country, and her verses have been
subjected to the harshest sort of criticism. The paragraphists of the
press have bastinadoed and gibbeted her in the most cruel manner; her
poems have been burlesqued, parodied, and travestied heartlessly--in
short, every variety of criticism has been heaped upon her work,
which, even the most prejudiced will admit, has evinced remarkable
boldness and an amazing facility of expression. Now we would suppose
that all this shower of criticism had tanned the fair author's
hide--we speak metaphorically--until it was impervious to every
unkindly influence. But so far from being bomb-proof, Mrs. Wilcox is
even more sensitive than when she bestrode her Pegasus for the first
time and soared into that dreamy realm where the lyric muse abides.
There is not a quip nor a quillet from the slangy pen of the daily
newspaper writers that she does not brood over and worry about as
heartily as if it were an overdue mortgage on her pianoforte. We
presume to say that the protests which she has made within the last
two years against the utterances of the press would fill a tome. Now
this Joyce affair is simply preposterous; we do not imagine that
there is in America at the present time an ordinarily intelligent
person who has ever believed for one moment that Colonel Joyce wrote
the poem in question--the poem entitled "Love and Laughter." Colonel
Joyce is an incorrigible practical joker, and his humor has been
marvellously tickled by the prodigious worry his jest has cost the
Wisconsin bard. The public understands the situation; there is no
good reason why Mrs. Wilcox should fume and fret and scurry around,
all on account of that poem, like a fidgety hen with one chicken. Her
claim is universally conceded; there is no shadow of doubt that she
wrote the poem in question, and by becoming involved in any further
complication on this subject she will simply make a laughing-stock of
herself; we would be sorry to see her do that.

And yet whenever his stock of subjects for comment or raillery ran low
he would write a letter to himself, asking the address of Colonel John
A. Joyce, the author of "Love and Laughter," and manage in his answer
to open up the whole controversy afresh. I suppose that to this day
there are thousands of good people in the United States whose
innocence has been abused by Field's superserviceable defence of Mrs.
Wilcox's title to "Laugh and the World Laughs with You." It was
delicious fooling to him and to those of us who were on the inside,
but I question if Mrs. Wilcox ever appreciated its humorous aspect.

Speaking of his practice of getting public attention for his own
compositions through a letter of his own "To the Editor," the following
affords a good example of his ingenious method, with his reply:

EVANSTON, ILL., Aug. 15, 1888.

_To the Editor_:

Several of us are very anxious to learn the authorship of the following
poem, which is to be found in so many scrap-books, and which ever and
anon appears as a newspaper waif:


I have a dear canary bird,
That every morning sings
The sweetest songs I ever heard,
And flaps his yellow wings.

I love to sit the whole day long
Beside the window-sill,
And listen to the joyous song
That warbler loves to trill.

My mother says that in a year
The bird that I've adored
Will maybe, lay some eggs and rear
A callow, cooing horde.

But father says it's quite absurd
To think that bird can lay,
For though it is a wondrous bird,
It isn't built that way.

Now whether mother tells me true
Or father, bothers me;
There's nothing else for me to do
But just to wait and see.

Whate'er befalls this bird of mine,
I am resolved 'twill please--
Far be it from me to repine
At what the Lord decrees._

Mr. Slason Thompson, compiler of "The Humbler Poets," could decide this
matter for us if he were here now, but unhappily he is out of town just
at present. We have a suspicion that the poem was originally written by
Isaac Watts, but that suspicion is impaired somewhat by another
suspicion that there were no such things as canary birds in Isaac
Watts's time.

Yours truly,


We have shown this letter to Evanston's most distinguished citizen, the
Hon. Andrew Shuman, and that sapient poet-critic tells us that as
nearly as he can recollect the poem was written, not by Dr. Watts, but
by an American girl. But whether that girl was Lucretia Davidson or
Miss Ada C. Sweet he cannot recall.

Mr. Francis F. Browne, of The Dial, thinks it is one of Miss Wheeler's
earlier poems, since it is imbued with that sweet innocence, that
childish simplicity, and that meek piety which have ever characterized
the work of the famous Wisconsin lyrist. But as we can learn nothing
positive as to the authorship of the poem, we shall have to call upon
the public at large to help us out.

It is needless to say that the public at large could throw no light on
the composition of this imitation of Dr. Watts with which Field was
not already possessed, since both poem and "Melissa Mayfield" were
creations of Field's fancy.

One of the most characteristic examples of the pains he would take to
palm off a composition of his own upon some innocent and unsuspecting
public man appeared in the Morning News on January 22d, 1887. It was
nothing short of an attempt to father upon the late Judge Thomas M.
Cooley the authorship of half a dozen bits of verse of varying styles
and degrees of excellence. He professed to have received from Jasper
Eastman, a prominent citizen of Adrian, Mich., twenty-eight poems
written by Judge Cooley, "the venerable and learned jurist, recently
appointed receiver of the Wabash Railroad." These were said to have
appeared in the Ann Arbor Daily News when it was conducted by the
judge's most intimate friend, between the years 1853 and 1861. Field
anticipated public incredulity by saying that "people who knew him to
be a severe moralist and a profound scholar will laugh you to scorn if
you try to make them believe Cooley ever condescended to express his
fancies in verse." Then he went on to describe the judge, at the time
of writing the verse, as "a long, awkward boy, with big features,
moony eyes, a shock of coarse hair, and the merest shadow of a
mustache," in proof of which description he presented a picture of the
young man, declared to be from a daguerrotype in the possession of Mr.
Eastman. The first "specimen gem" was said to be a paraphrase from
Theocritus, entitled "Mortality":

_O Nicias, not for us alone
Was laughing Eros born,
Nor shines for us alone the moon,
Nor burns the ruddy morn.
Alas! to-morrow lies not in the ken
Of us who are, O Nicias, mortal men._

Next followed a bit, "in lighter vein, from the Simonides of Amorgas,"
entitled "A Fickle Woman":

_Her nature is the sea's, that smiles to-night
A radiant maiden in the moon's soft light;
The unsuspecting seaman sets his sails,
Forgetful of the fury of her gales;
To-morrow, mad with storms, the ocean roars,
And o'er his hapless wreck her flood she pours._

Field then went on to describe Judge Cooley as equally felicitous in
Latin verse, presenting in proof thereof the following, "sung at the
junior class supper at Ann Arbor, May 14th, 1854":

_Nicyllam bellis oculis--
(Videre est amare),
Carminibus et poculis,
Tra la la, tra la la,
Me placet propinare:
Tra la la, tra la la,--
Me placet propinare!_

Beside such grotesque literary horse-play as this, with a gravity
startling in its unexpected daring, Field proceeded to attribute to
the venerable jurist one of the simplest and purest lullabies that
ever came from his own pen, opening with:

_I hear Thy voice, dear Lord;
I hear it by the stormy sea
When winter nights are bleak and wild,
And when, affright, I call to Thee;
It calms my fears and whispers me,
"Sleep well, my child."_

Then follows "The Vision of the Holy Grail," one of those exercises in
archaic English in which Field took infinite pains as well as delight,
and to which, as a production of Judge Cooley's, he paid the passing
tribute of saying that it was "a graceful imitation of old English."
As an example of the judge's humorous vein Field printed the
conclusion of his lines "To a Blue Jay":

_When I had shooed the bird away
And plucked the plums--a quart or more--
I noted that the saucy jay,
Albeit he had naught to say,
Appeared much bluer than before._

After crediting the judge with a purposely awful parody on "Dixie," in
which "banner" is made to rhyme with "Savannah," and "holy" with
"Pensacola," Field concluded the whimsical fabrication with the
serious comment: "It seems a pity that such poetic talent as Judge
Cooley evinced was not suffered to develop. His increasing
professional duties and his political employments put a quietus to
those finer intellectual indulgences with which his earlier years were

Having launched this piece of literary drollery, over which he had
studied and we had talked for a week or more, Field proceeded to
clinch the verse-making on Judge Cooley by a series of letters to
himself, one or two of which will indicate the fertile cleverness and
humor he employed to cram his bald fabrication down the public gullet.
The first appeared on January 24th, in the following letter "to the

I have read Judge Cooley's poems with a good deal of interest. I am
somewhat of a poet myself, having written sonnets and things now and
then for the last twenty years. My opinion is that Judge Cooley's
translations, paraphrases, and imitations, are much worthier than his
original work. I hold that no poet can be a true poet unless he is at
the same time somewhat of a naturalist. If Judge Cooley had been
anything of a naturalist he would never have made such a serious
blunder as he has made in his poem entitled "Lines to a Blue Jay." The
idea of putting a blue jay into a plum-tree is simply shocking! I don't
know when I've had anything grate so harshly upon my feelings as did
this mistake when I discovered it this morning. It is as awful as the
blunder made by one of the modern British poets (I forget his name) in
referring to the alligators paddling about in Lake Erie. The blue jay
_(Cyanurus cristatus)_ does not eat plums, and therefore does not
infest plum-trees.

Yours truly,


Upon which Field, in his editorial plurality, commented:

To Professor Bates's criticism we shall venture no reply. We think,
however, that allowance should be made for the youth of the poet
when he committed the offence which so grievously torments our
correspondent. It might be argued, too, that the jay of which the
poet treats is no ordinary bird, but is one of those omnivorous
creatures which greedily pounce upon everything coming within
their predatory reach.

And two days later he made bold to crush the judge's critics with
letters from the same versatile pen that never failed to aid in the
furtherance of its master's hoaxes:

To the Editor: Prof. Bates may be a good taxidermist, but he knows
little of ornithology. Never before he spoke was it denied that the
_Cyanurus cristatus_ (blue jay) fed upon plums. All the insect-eating
birds also eat of the small fruits. It is plain that the poet knew
this, even though the taxidermist didn't.

Yours truly,


To the Editor: Isn't Prof. Bates too severe in his claim that genius
like that of the poetic Judge Cooley should be bound down by the
prosaic facts of ornithology? Milton scorned fidelity to nature,
especially when it came to ornithological details, and poets, as a
class, have been singularly wayward in this respect. My impression is
that Judge Cooley has simply made use of a poetic license which any
fair-minded person should be willing to concede the votaries of the

Yours truly,


The echoes of Judge Cooley's youthful verse were never permitted to
die wholly out of Field's column, but were frequently given renewed
life by casual references. Even the publication of "The Divine
Lullaby" in his "Little Book of Western Verse" did not prevent Field
from speaking of Judge Cooley's poetical diversions.

On another occasion he spent his odd time for weeks in preparing a
humorous hoax upon the critics of Chicago. It consisted of a number of
close imitations of the typical verses of Dr. Watts, in which he was a
master. The fruits of his congenial labor on this occasion are
preserved in his collected works. But the purpose for which they were
prepared adds to their interest. They were incorporated in a prose
article which gave a plausible account of how they had been exhumed
from the correspondence of a sentimental friend of Watts. When the
last strokes had been put upon the story, whose tone of genuineness
was calculated to deceive the elect, it was mailed to Charles A. Dana,
who was thoroughly in sympathy with Field in all such enterprises, and
on the following Sunday it appeared in the New York Sun as an extract
from a London paper. As soon as the publication reached Chicago a
number of the cleverest reporters on the News staff were sent out to
interview the local literary authorities. They were all carefully
coached by Field what questions to ask and what points to avoid, and
their reports were all turned over to him to prepare for publication.
Next morning the better part of a page of the News was surrendered to
quotations from the fictitious article, with learned dissertations on
the value of the discovery, coupled with careful comparisons of the
style and sentiments of the verse with the acknowledged work of Watts.
In the whole city only one of those interviewed was saved, by a
sceptical analysis, from falling into the pit so adroitly prepared by

Loyal to Chicago, to a degree incomprehensible by those who judged his
sentiments by his unsparing comments on its crudities in social and
literary ways, he never ceased to get pleasure out of serio-comic
confounding of its business activities and artistic aspirations. Its
business men and enterprises were constantly referred to in his column
as equally strenuous in the pursuit of the almighty dollar and of the
higher intellectual life. In his view "Culture's Garland," from the
Chicago stand-point, was, indeed, a string of sausages. Of this spirit
the following, printed in December, 1890, is a good example:


The rivalry between the trade and the literary interests in Chicago
has been wondrously keen this year.

Prof. Potwins, the most eminent of our statisticians, figures that we
now have in the midst of us either a poet or an author to every
square yard within the corporate limits, and he estimates that in ten
years' time we shall have a literary output large enough to keep all
the rest of the world reading all the time.

Our trade has been increasing, too. Last September 382,098 cattle
were received, against 330,994 in September of 1889. So far this year
the increase over 1889 in the receipts of hogs is 2,000,000.

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