Part 2 out of 5
June 28th, 1888:
Benjamin Harrison is a good, honest, patriotic man, and we like him.
But he never stole second base in all his life and he could not swat
Mickey Welch's down curves over the left-field fence. Therefore we
say again, as we have said many times before, that much as we revere
Benjamin Harrison's purity and amiability, we cannot but accord the
tribute of our sincerest admiration, to that paragon of American
manhood, Michael J. Kelly.
So when Kelly essayed to change the scene of his labors from the
diamond to the melodramatic stage in 1893 it is not surprising to find
that Field, in a semi-humorous and semi-serious vein, thus applauded
and approved his choice:
Surprise is expressed in certain quarters because Mike Kelly, the
base-ball virtuoso, has made a hit upon the dramatic stage. The
error into which many people have fallen is in supposing that Kelly
was simply a clever base-ball machine. He is very much more than
this: he is an unusually bright and intelligent man. As a class,
base-ball professionals are either dull brutes or ribald brutes;
ignorance as dense as Egyptian darkness has seemed to constitute one
of the essentials to successful base-ball playing, and the average
professional occupies an intellectual plane hardly above that of the
average stall-fed ox or the fat pig at a country fair. Mike Kelly
stands pre-eminent in his profession; no other base-ball player
approaches him. He is in every way qualified for a better career
than that which is bounded on one side by the bleaching boards, and
on the other by the bar-room. Of course he is a good actor. He is
too smart to attempt anything at which he does not excel.
But I have been diverted from telling of the sport in which Field was
an active participant by the recollection of his critical and literary
expertness in the great game in which he never took an active part.
Once when Melville Stone was asked what was his dearest wish at that
instant, he replied, "to beat Field and Thompson bowling." This was in
the days before bowling was the fashionable winter sport it has since
become. The alleys in Chicago in 1885 were neither numerous nor in
first-class condition; but after Field once discovered that he had a
special knack with the finger-balls we hunted them up and tested most
of them. After a while we settled down on the alleys under Slosson's
billiard-room on Monroe Street for our afternoon games and on the
Superior Alleys on North Clark Street on the evenings when it was my
turn to walk home with "Gene." Rolling together we were scarcely ever
overmatched, and he was the better man of the two. He rolled a slow,
insinuating ball. It appeared to amble aimlessly down the alley,
threatening to stop or to sidle off into the gutter for repose. But it
generally had enough momentum and direction to reach the centre pin
quartering, which thereupon, with its nine brothers, seemed suddenly
smitten with the panic so dear to the bowler's heart. I never knew
another bowler so quick to discover the tricks and peculiarities of an
alley or so crafty to master and profit by them. Whenever the hour was
ripe for a game Field would send the boy with some such taunt or
challenge as is shown in the accompanying fac-simile.
I shall never forget, nor would an elaborately colored score by Field
permit me, if I would, his chagrin over the result of one of these
matches. He and Willis Hawkins had challenged Cowen and me to a
tourney, as he called it, of five strings. His record of this "great
game of skittles," all figured out by frames, strikes and spares in
red, blue, yellow, and green ink, shows the following result:
Field 878 Thompson 866
Hawkins 697 Cowen 818
Only one of the three alleys was fit to roll on, and Field scored 231
and 223 in his turns upon it. The modern experts may be interested in
the following details of his high score:
| | | | | | | | | | |
| \ | \ | \ | X | X | X | X | \ | \ | X X |
| 18 | 37 | 57 | 87 | 117 | 144 | 164 | 182 | 202 | 231 |
It will be perceived that Field's score contained six strikes and five
spares, which was good rolling on a long and not too carefully planed
alley. His average was spoiled by the frames he was forced to roll on
the poorer alleys, where all his cunning could not insure a safe
passage of his slow delivery on their billowy surfaces. Field's
disgust over the result of this game lasted all summer, and Hawkins
was never permitted to forget the part he played in the defeat of "the
only Bowling King."
[Illustration: A BOWLING CHALLENGE FROM EUGENE FIELD.
Who is this graceful, agile king
In proud but modest garb revealed?
He is the only Bowling King,
And loud and long the people sing
The prowess of Old Field.
How slender yet how lithe is he
And when unto the fray he glides
So awful is his majesty
That Nompy fears his wrath to be
And straightway runs and hides.
May 4th, 1886.]
During the fall of 1886 I went to New Brunswick on my annual vacation,
and Field fairly out-did himself in keeping me informed of how "matters
and things" moved along at the office while I was gone. It pleased his
sense of humor to dispatch a letter to me every evening invariably
addressed "For Sir Slosson Thomson." As these letters ran the gamut of
the subjects uppermost in Field's life at this time, I give them in the
order of their receipt:
CHICAGO, September 10th (Friday night), 1886.
Dear Nomp: Hawkins, Cowen and I went out to the base-ball game
together to-day and saw the champions down the Detroits to the tune
of 14 to 8. It was a great slugging match all around. Conway pitched
for Detroit and McCormick for Chicago. As I say, there was terrific
batting; on the part of Chicago, Gore made 1 base hit, Kelly 3,
Anson 2, Pfeffer 3, Williamson 1, Burns 1 and Ryan 2; on the part of
Detroit. Richardson made 2, Brouthers 4, Thompson 1 and Dunlap 1.
The Chicagos played in excellent form, yet batting seemed to be
_the_ feature of the game. McCormick struck out 6 men and gave
2 men bases on called balls; Conway struck out 4 men and gave 4
bases on balls. Brouthers made 3 home runs, but there happened to be
no one on bases at the time. There was such a large crowd of
spectators that Hawkins, Cowen and I had to sit on the roof of the
grand-stand. The sun cast its rays on us, and it was hot! [Here
followed a detailed pen-and-ink sketch of the scene.]
Whilst I was drawing this _chef d'oeuvre_ (and, by the way, it
took an hour to do it) Ballantyne came in. "That's mighty good,"
said he; "are you making it for the paper?"
I understand that Stone has sailed out of town again, this time to
Kansas City. Poor man! his slavish devotion to the details of his
newspaper is simply grinding the life out of him.
Mrs. Billings [Field's sister-in-law] has arrived from Washington
and she will go down to St. Louis with Julia and Mrs. Ballantyne
next Monday morning. Later in the fall she will make us a visit.
Cowen pawned his watch to-day for $40 and bet $30 to $21 on the
Chicagos. This is the result by innings: [Here followed another
drawing as shown in the accompanying fac-simile.] The watch retained
its normal size for two innings, but in the third it shrank so sadly
as to become hardly visible to the mind's eye. In the fourth inning,
however, it began to pick up, and in the seventh it had resumed its
normal shape, and in the ninth it was as big as a dinner-plate and
we could hear it tick, although hung in Moses Levy's secluded
retreat on Dearborn Street, two and one-half miles distant. As we
were riding over to the base-ball grounds Cowen's eyes rested on a
vision of female loveliness--a girl he knew--standing on the corner
of Madison and Aberdeen Streets. It was all Hawkins and I could do
to hold him in the car. But I am determined to save this young and
interesting soul if I can. Peattie and his wife start for Colorado
next Monday. 'Tis now 11 o'clock. Where are you that you are not
here to walk with me? Tossing in the "upper ten" [another drawing]
and struggling for fresh air! Well, good-by and bless you, old boy.
[Illustration: A LETTER FROM EUGENE FIELD CONTAINING THREE DRAWINGS.]
If the reader is at all curious in such matters, a cursory inspection
of the illustrations of this letter will assure him that its composition
and embellishment must have cost its fanciful writer at least three
hours' work. But this was the kind of work that lightened the toil of
Field's daily grind.
(Written in gamboge ink) CHICAGO, Sunday night, September the 12th,
Dear Nomp:--You have been gone but forty-eight hours--it seems an
age. I have been thinking the matter over and I have come to the
appalling conclusion that I shall starve before you get back,
unless, perchance, in the meantime, Marie Matilda or some fair
unknown sends me truage that can be realized upon.
Dock has returned with an air of rusticity that makes me shiver when
I think of all he has got to go through with before you come to the
rescue. My wife goes to St. Louis to-morrow and I shall be on the
turf for one long week. Ballantyne, Cowen, Dennis and I went to the
base-ball game yesterday--10,000 people; enthusiasm; slugging game;
Chicago fielded beautifully; Chicagos 14, Detroits 4--that's all
I've got to say on that subject. I have sent a personal to each of
the Denver papers announcing that Mr. and Mrs. Peattie are there on
their bridal tour. I have given Peattie divers letters of
introduction to Denver folks: to Dr. Lemen, introducing him as an
invalid; to Judge Tall, as a client; to Fred Skiff, as a rich young
man anxious to invest in Colorado mines--etc., etc. The dear boy
will have a lovely time methinks. Hawkins has moved his desk up into
Dennis's room, and Dock sits here at your table close to me while
you are gone. If he can afford it I do not object. It is
Ballantyne's plan to keep Hawkins doing paragraphs for the morning
and evening papers, and to put Bates (who returned to-day) in the
local department as chief copy-reader. At the theatres this week:
"We, Us & Co." at Henderson's; "Alone in London" at Hooley's;
Redmund & Barry at McVicker's; "Zitka" at the Columbia, and Mayo at
the Grand. By the way, Dr. Reilly's wife's brother, Bruno Kennicoot,
has taken the management of the new Windsor Theatre on the North
Side; that makes another friend of mine among the managers of
Chicago. It is frightfully cold here; real winter weather. Good-by,
dear boy. Have a good time and make the home folks happy.
Yours as ever,
Post Scriptum:--Give my love to Miss Mary Matilda and to your
impetuous sister, Hel'n; also to the sceptical Bessie.
The announcement which Field caused to be made in the Denver
newspapers and the letters of introduction which he gave to Mr.
Peattie resulted, as Field contemplated, in his having a lively time.
As the conspirator also took the precaution to advise the addressees
of these letters and the manager of the hotel of his fell purpose, Mr.
and Mrs. Peattie found themselves the victims of insistent and
deliberate misapprehensions from the moment they were shown to the
bridal suite until they fled from the swarm of land speculators and
mining promoters which Field's ingenuity brought about them wherever
they moved in Colorado. That this was merely a sportive method of
showing his real friendship for both Mr. and Mrs. Peattie may be
judged from the following verses:
_MR. PEATTIE'S CAPE
Oh, pale is Mr. Peattie's face
And lank is Mr. Peattie's shape,
But with a dreamy, sensuous grace,
Beseeming Peattie's swinging pace,
Hangs Mr. Peattie's cape!
'Tis wrought of honest woollen stuff
And bound about with cotton tape--
When winter winds are chill and rough
There's one big heart that's warm enough
In Mr. Peattie's cape!
It fits him loose about the ribs,
But hugs his neck from throat to nape,
And, spite his envious neighbors' fibs,
A happy fellow is his nibs
In Mr. Peattie's cape.
So here's defiance to the storm,
And here's a pledge in amber grape
To him whose heart is always warm,
And who conceals a lissome form
In Mr. Peattie's cape._
The following verses present an example of what Field could or could
not do with the Scotch dialect, which he seldom attempted. It was
inspired by the fact that Peattie had been named after Scotland's
dearest poet and by his own fondness for Robert and Elia:
_THE RETURN OF THE HIGHLANDER
He touted low and veiled his bonnet
When that he kenned his blushing Elia--
"Gude faith" he cried, "my bonny bride,
I fashed mesell some wan wod steal ye!"
"My bonny loon," the gude wife answered,
"When nane anither wod befriend me,
Gainst mickle woes and muckle foes,
Braw Donald Field did aft farfend me!"
"Of all the bonnie heelon chiels
There's nane sae braw as this gude laddie--
Wi' sike an arm to shield fro' harm--
Wi' sike a heart beneath his plaidie!"
"Gin Sandy Knox or Sawney Dennis
Or Dougal Thompson take delight in
A-fashing we wi' gholish glee--
Braw Donald Field wod do my fightin'!"
Then Robert Peattie glowed wi' pleasure;
"I wod na do the deed o' Sunday,
But Donald Field shall be well mealed
To-morrow, which I ken is Monday!"
Then Robert took his gude wife hame
And spread a feast o' Finnan Haddie;
In language soft he praised her aft,
And aft she kiss her bonnie laddie.
October 23d, 1887._
Another bit of personal verse in my scrap-book is suggested by the
reference to Morgan Bates in the letter of September 12th in the form
of an acrostic to Clara Doty Bates, his wife. In the spring of 1886
Mr. and Mrs. Bates were occupying the home of Mrs. Coonley (now Mrs.
Lydia Coonley Ward) on LaSalle Avenue, and one day Morgan was boasting
in Field's presence of the palatial nature of their quarters. As the
anniversary of Mrs. Bates's birthday was at hand, Field immediately
proposed that the entire editorial staff of the News should invite
itself and its family to her hospitable board. Bates was taken into
the conspiracy of friendship, and on the evening of April 28th we
descended on Mrs. Coonley's North Side mansion and ransacked it from
cellar to garret. It was Field's humor that day to set every picture
in the house just enough awry to disturb Mrs. Bates's sensitive
vision. When she arrived on the scene she greeted us with the utmost
cordiality, as we did her. But no matter where she stood, her eye
would be annoyed by a picture-frame just out of plumb, and she would
be excused while she straightened it. Nearly every picture and
portrait on the lower floor had been adjusted before she understood
the motive of Field's solicitude to see every painting and engraving
in the house. Unlike the regulation surprise party of society, we had
not provided the refreshments for our own entertainment, and we had
Bates under bonds not to give Mrs. Bates an inkling of our visit. But
she was enough of a Martha to rise to the occasion. Several members of
the company were detailed on separate errands to Clark Street for
various raw meats and non-alcoholic liquid supplies, and Mrs. Bates
herself descended to the kitchen to oversee the preparation of the
bounteous feast which presently emerged from chaos. By way of grace,
Field read an impromptu poem written in dark blue ink on pale blue
paper with each line beginning with a capital in red:
_TO CLARA DOTY BATES
Circled around this fair and sumptuous board
(Like nymphs, dear ladies, you--like satyrs, we)
All to one purpose cheerfully agree--
Ruthless assault on Bates's savory hoard.
And since the skirmish duty falls on me--
Despite the wait, of hungry folk deplored--
One opening shot I claim, one modest toast
To her who makes life easy for our host.
You, madam, have achieved a noble fame,
Better by far than selfishness could earn--
A million grateful children bless your name--
To you we drink--then to the viands turn;
Easy, mayhap, it is to write a book--
Success to her whose muse will deign to cook!
Chicago, April 28, 1886._
CHICAGO, Tuesday night, September the 14th, 1886.
My Dear Child:--This man Reilly, who has thrust himself upon me
during your absence, is fast becoming a seven-year itch. He sprawls
about over this room of mine as if it were his own, he strews his
damned medical literature over my table, he has a constant stream of
idiot callers, and he refuses to give up when I demand truage of
him. I hope you will pack your gripsack and start home immediately
upon receipt of this. Ballantyne left for St. Louis a few moments
ago. In honor of the fact that he is supposed to be on deck
to-night, Stone has taken his family and gone to the Casino Theatre
for the evening.
Cowen spent the night at my house last night and to-day Pinny caught
twenty-five crickets for him to take to his room to make music for
him. While Cowen was riding down in the car a pretty girl got
aboard, and in trying to get a peep at her Cowen dropped the box
containing the crickets. For some moments it rained crickets. The
women climbed up on the seats of the car and there was general
alarm. I believe that Cowen recovered three of the crickets, but two
of these had but two legs between them.
The Chicagos won the game at St. Louis yesterday (1 to 0), but lost
to-day (4 to 5). Flynn pitched yesterday and your friend Clarkson
pitched to-day. It wouldn't surprise me if Chicago and Detroit were
to go East tied.
Ballantyne has made Hawkins move his desk back to the library and
Hawkins is passing wroth about it.
Here is what I bought Gussie for a wedding present to-day: 2 quires
of paper with envelopes, 1 curling iron, 2 papers of pins, 2 papers
of hairpins, 1 darning ball, 2 combs, 1 bottle Calder's tooth
powder, 1 bottle of vaseline, 1 bottle of shoe polish, 1 box of lip
salve, 1 button hook and 1 bottle of listerine.
It is quite wintry here. We are all well. Remember me to Marie
Matilde and to la belle Helene.
It must not be inferred from anything in these letters that Field's
relations with Dr. Reilly were ever anything but the most friendly
and grateful. It simply amused him to rail at and revile one of his
CHICAGO, Wednesday night, September the 15th, 1886.
My dear Nompy:--Presumably you are by this time sitting by the sad
sea waves in that dreary Canuck watering place, drawing sight drafts
on the banks of Newfoundland and letting the chill east wind blow
through your whiskers. We, too, are demoralized. That senile old
substitute of yours--the Dock--has been as growly-powly as a bear
to-day. As for me, I am growing desperate. You can see by the
enclosed picture how changed I am.
[Illustration: FIELD'S PORTRAIT OF HIMSELF.
"_As I would have looked but for the refining influence of Old
Well, Chicago beat St. Louis to-day and, the gods be glorified!
Kansas City beat Detroit! as for New York, Boston whipped her day
before yesterday and Washington shut her out to-day! now if Detroit
will only lose a game or two to St. Louis! I more than half suspect
that your home folk will think that you and I are base-ball mad.
Stone has bought Gussie a salad set for a wedding gift. I suggested
it in the hope that with two sets on hand Gussie might be disposed
to give us the old one....
Remember me in respectful phraseology to the belligerent Marie
Yours as ever,
CHICAGO, Thursday evening, September the 16th, 1886.
My dear Fellow:--It is presumed that Ballantyne and his bride
arrived in this city to-day at seven A.M., but up to this hour
(eight P.M.) the bridegroom has not put in an appearance at the
Cowen is threatening to write to you; it occurs to me that he ought
to do something to atone for the vile slanders he has uttered about
you since you went away. Stone kept Reilly busy at writing from two
o'clock yesterday afternoon until twelve last night. Your friend
Werner, advance agent of the McCaul Company, is in town. He inquired
for you to-day.
I have been reading the memoirs of Dolly Madison and am specially
delighted with the letter written by the old Quakeress, Mrs. Hobbs.
It is a beautiful letter, and you must read it at your first
Stone is very much pleased over the result of the County Democratic
Convention, the defeat of Dunphy giving him particular gratification.
Love to all. God bless you, dear boy.
Yours as ever,
Detroit, 0; St. Louis, 0; game called at end of fifth inning.
Chicago walloped Kansas City.
CHICAGO, Saturday, September the 18th, 1886.
This, sweet lad, is the dullest Saturday that has befallen me in
many a year. John and his bride are over at Hooley's Theatre
watching that lachrymose melodrama, "Alone in London." There is
nothing worth seeing at any other house. There is nobody for me to
visit with, so here I sit in this box trying to kill the time. I see
very little of Cowen. A disreputable looking friend of his from the
West is here dead-broke and hunting work; Cowen is feeding and
sleeping him _ad interim_, and I think the fellow has an evil
influence over our friend....
I am, as ever, your friend,
CHICAGO, Sunday, September 19th, 1886.
My dear Old Boy:--This man Reilly whom you have put upon me has just
played upon me the most shamefulest trick I ever heard tell of. He
invited me out to supper and told me he had only eighty cents. He
ordered twenty cents worth and made me scrimp along on sixty cents.
When he came to pay the check he produced a five-dollar bill! I
never felt so humiliated in all my life. I pine for the return of
the sweet friend who seeks not by guile to set limit to my appetite.
My children insisted upon going to bed last night with pieces of
Gussie's wedding cake under their pillows. Dady had the presence of
mind to wake up in the night and eat his piece. He told me this
morning that he dreamed that he was married to Mr. Cowen. Last
evening I wandered down town in a furious rainstorm and tried to
find somebody I knew. Failing in this, I meandered home and went to
bed without saying my prayers, conscious of having spent an ill day.
At the theatre this week: Columbia, "Pepita"; McVicker's, Lotta;
Grand, Kate Castleton; Hooley's, "Private Secretary." Dock is trying
to get me to go to the Columbia to-night, but your pale face looms
up in my mind's eye and warns me not to go, or, at least, not to sit
in a box if I do go.
The conclusion of this letter has been sacrificed to the importunity
of some autograph fiend from whose tribe I have had the greatest
difficulty in preserving its fellows.
CHICAGO, Monday, September the 20th, 1886.
The envious old Dock, who has never had an emotion, an ambition or a
hope beyond a quart bottle of Ike Cook's Imperial, said to me but
just now: "Why do you waste your time writing to that man Thompson?
He will never thank you for it; he will put up none the more
liberally when he returns." Then he added, with a bitter look: "You
never wrote to me while I was at Springfield!" Ah, how little he
knows of you, this peevish old glutton who cares for naught above
pandering to his dyspeptic maw! But my writing to you has caused a
great deal of scandal here in the office, and I fear I am seriously
compromised. Cowen has been threatening to denounce me to you, but I
have no fear that he will be able to grant you any time from his
numerous [_a_] hoydens, doxies, and beldames. He threatened me
for the mountenance of an hour this afternoon, but I bade him write
and it pleased him--passing well knew I that he could not missay me
I am delighted with the result of the game at Detroit to-day--7 to 3
in favor of Chicago! This, I think, insures us the championship.
Miller, our circulator, is very much disturbed because our country
circulation has dropped about 1,000 in less than a fortnight; he has
been hobnobbing with Ballantyne about it to-day. Mr. Stone is still
in Kansas City hunting wild geese.
"Pepita" is billed as the joint production of Thompson and Solomon,
and about twenty people have asked me if you were the Thompson
referred to and I have indignantly repudiated the libel, for, maugre
my head, "Pepita" is just a little the rottenest thing I ever saw or
I have not clapped my eyes on any of [_b_] your suburban
friends since you departed. At McVicker's the other evening I found
myself being scrutinized by a buxom country lass who looked as if
she might be the fair unknown from Evanston. Her rueful visage and
the sympathetic glance she bestowed on me seemed to assure me that
she, too, was pining for the grandest of old grands.
My wife has been away for a week, but not a line have I had from
her. It has comforted me a good deal, however, to hear John say that
she looked just about sixteen years of age at the wedding.
I took the Dock out to supper to-night and heaped coals of fire upon
his head. I let him have everything he wanted and I paid the bill
with a flourish that would have reflected credit upon a Roman
I wish you were going to be here day after to-morrow [_c_] to
go with us to the last base-ball game of the season--a postponed
game between the Chicagos and the St. Louis Club. I am to have a
private box on account of being a mascot.
The Dock has just informed me that he has just rung into one of his
editorials the expression "seismic phenomena," and he seems to be as
tickled as Jack Homer was when he pulled an alleged plum out of that
I don't know what you think about it, but this business of writing
with five different colors of ink is queering me at a terrible rate
and I am sure that I would die of softening of the brain if I were
to keep it up any length of time. But I presume to say that your
sceptical little Bessie will think this the most beautiful page she
ever saw. I am sorry, but not surprised, to hear that your passes
failed you on the Canadian Pacific. You should have applied for them
sooner. I have always [_d_] found railway officials the slowest
people in the world, and they are particularly slow when it comes to
the matter of passes. Of course you are having a charming time with
your home folk; well, you deserve it, and I hope you will make the
most of it. Give my love to them all. You see I regard myself as one
of the family. Let me hear from you whenever you feel like writing,
but don't bother about it.
Ever your friend,
Small wonder that even Field's patience revolted at the self-imposed
"business" of writing this letter in five different colors of ink. The
first page, which ran down to the letter "a" in the above, was written
in pale green ink; the second, running to "b," was in black; the third,
running to "c," was in red; and the fourth was a medley of these with
purple, gamboge, and mauve to make the six colors. The fifth page from
"d" was completed in plain black.
CHICAGO, Tuesday, September the 21st, 1886.
What you say in your letter, dear chuck, is quite true. The paper
has become fairly disreputable of late. The issue of last Saturday
was as base a specimen of daily journalism as ever was inflicted on
a civilized community. Stone (who has returned from Kansas City)
says he was disgusted with that Saturday issue, but I have heard him
suggest no scheme whereby the dawdling condition of affairs is to be
bettered. The whole staff is demoralized, and I believe that, so far
from getting better, matters and things are steadily going to worse.
The outlook is very discouraging. One sensible thing has been done
in hiring Reilly to do regular work. Under the new arrangement he is
to receive forty dollars a week, which Stone considers a big price
for an editorial writer, but which _I_ regard as too measley
for any use. Still Reilly is satisfied, for he will be able to do,
under the new arrangement, as much work for Rauch (of the State
Board of Health) as he has been doing in the past.
Not a word have I heard from my spouse since she went to St.
Louis--in fact, I have never been informed that she arrived in St.
Louis. I thought she might arrive to-night, and so I went down to
the station and sat around on the trucks and things like a colossal
male statue of Patience. The train was late, and, when it came, it
came without her, of course.
Getting back to the office, I find that Dock has had a de'il of a
time. He had to wait this evening to get some data from Yount for a
political editorial. Yount did not show up until half-past eight;
after he had disgorged the necessary information he left the Dock
cocked and primed for quick work. But the Dock had no sooner got
fairly started--in fact, had scarcely reached his first politico
medical phrase--when in came Roche (fresh from his bridal tour
through Colorado) with a thunder-gust of tedious experiences. The
Dock bore the infliction with Christian fortitude and thanked God
when Roche left. In a moment or two thereafter, however, a Kansas
City friend of mine called--very drunk, and not finding me, insisted
upon discussing me, my work, and my prospects, with the Dock. John
Thatcher dropped in subsequently, and so the Dock had quite a
matinee of it. By the time I got back to the office the old
gentleman was as vaporish as a hysterical old woman and he vented
his spleen on my unoffending head. God knows what a trial that man
is to me! Yet I try to be respectful and kind to him, for age is
entitled to that much tribute at least from youth. Since penning
these lines I have read them to the Dock and it would do your soul
good to see him squirm.
We are all well. When are you coming home? Paying postage on daily
letters to Canada is swiftly bankrupting me; then, too, it is a long
time since I had a square meal. But, japes, bourds, and mockages
aside, we miss you and will be glad to see you back. Salutations to
the home folk.
Yours in friendship,
The pen-picture in this letter of the delays, intrusions, and
interruptions that aroused Dr. Reilly's ire is a fair portrayal of
the difficulties under which the editorial staff worked in those days.
Field was the only one who could shut himself away from such annoyances
to do his own wood-sawing. But when released from this, he delighted
to add to the tribulations of his less erratic associates by his
never-ending "japes, bourds, and mockages."
CHICAGO, Wednesday, September 22d, 1886.
A second letter came from you to-day, dear boy, and I am glad to
hear that you are enjoying yourself, although I made mone passing
measure when I learned that the caitiff Brunswick knight had
forejusted you at tennis. I don't know why the revered Miss Mollie
Tillie deems me a capricious man and a fickle; nor can I imagine.
You should not suffer her to missay me so grievously. Where could
the skeptical damosell have found a person more faithful than I have
been in writing each day to her big brother? But if Miss Mollie
throws me overboard, so to speak, I shall look to her bustling
sister, Miss Nellie, for less capricious friendship. "_Varium et
mutabile semper foemina._"
Poor old Dock! He comes into the room and leaves his key sticking in
the door; to complicate matters still further, he leaves another key
sticking in the book-case. When I reproach him with these evidences
of a failing mind, he smiles and cries. I wish he were here that I
might read these lines to him. Then there is Cowen--but I will not
fill this letter with incoherent criminations. The enclosed sketch
will explain all.
It represents a scene in this office. I have stepped out to post a
letter to you. Coming back I peep in at the window and behold baby
Dock in his high-chair weeping lustily, whilst baby Cowen has crept
out of his chair, toddled to the wall and is reaching for his
_bottle_! Betwixt the hysterics of the one babe and the bottle
of t'other I am well-nigh exhausted. Come back and take care of your
[Illustration: A SCENE IN THE DAILY NEWS OFFICE.
_From a drawing by Eugene Field._]
I do not see that any effort is being made to get out a better
paper. The sheet has been simply rotten, and everybody says so--even
the dogs are barking about it. Meanwhile I am sawing wood. I am
reading a great deal. Read Mrs. Gordon's Life of Christopher North,
parts of Burns's poems, life of Dr. Faustus, and Morte D'Arthur
since you left, and hope to read Goethe's poems, Life of Bunyan,
Homer's works, Sartor Resartus and Rasselas before you get back. I
have about made up my mind to do little outside writing for four or
five months and to do a prodigious amount of reading instead.
My wife will be back to-morrow evening; as I am to meet her at the
station, I may not have time to write you your daily note. She
writes me that she has had a bad cold ever since she reached St.
Louis and is heartily glad that she is coming home. Dunlap, of the
McCaul Company, invites me to be his guest at the Southern Hotel
while the company sings in St. Louis, but that sort of thing is out
of the question. Do you intend to go to Indianapolis with me? E----
W---- has been very friendly of late. I suspect he is getting hard
up. B----'s latest fad is to organize a Friday night club to discuss
literature, art, science, etc. Hearing him talk about it to-day gave
the old Dock a violent attack of nausea. Speaking of nausea reminds
me that P---- has been seriously indisposed for two days as the
consequence of eating nine peaches, two apples, and a pound of
grapes! He is satisfied, however, that this variable fall weather is
very trying. Shackelford is off on his vacation, but I do not
complain, since I find Rogers, his substitute, a pleasant gentleman
to do Saturday business with....
An interesting point in this letter is its reference to his proposed
first appearance as a reader after coming to Chicago before the
convention of Western Association of Writers at Indianapolis. Previous
to this, during our acquaintance he had repeatedly declined requests to
appear upon the platform. But in this case he was persuaded by Richard
Lew Dawson, the secretary of the association, to make an exception in
its favor. In a letter to Mr. Dawson, under date of September 3d, 1886,
Field gives the following interesting estimate of some of his own work:
"Since reading your last letter, I have thought that it might be
wise for me to contribute to your programme the following pieces,
which exhibit pretty nearly all styles of my work:
1. Death and the Soldier Prose. 10 minutes.
2. The Humane Lad (new) Verse. 3 minutes
3. The Noontide Hymn (new) Verse. 3 minutes
4. The Merciful Lad (new) Verse. 2 minutes
5. The Divine Lullaby (new) Verse. 2 minutes.
"The reading of these pieces will require not more than twenty
minutes, and I would prefer to give them consecutively. Numbers 2
and 4 are humorous. I do not like 'Death and the Soldier' as much as
'The First Christmas Tree,' the 'Robin and the Violet,' or 'The
Mountain and the Sea'--I mean I do not like it so much as a piece of
fanciful literary work, but it may be more catchy. You know what
your audience will like, and I leave the matter in your hands."
Field closed his letter with a request that an invitation should be
extended to me, which I duly received. This accounts for the reference
to an approaching visit to Indianapolis in his letter of September 22d.
By the way, Field got more pleasure out of the various pronunciations
of Goethe's name than instruction from the perusal of his poems. He was
always starting or fostering discussions over it, as in the following
The valued New York Life asserts that Chicago used to rhyme "Goethe"
with "teeth" until the Renaissance set in, since which epoch it has
rhymed it with "ity." This is hardly fair. In a poem read recently
before the Hyde Park Toboggan Slide Lyceum the following couplet
_"Until at last John Wolfgang Goethe
Was gathered home, upward of eighty."_
To resume the Fredericton series of letters:
CHICAGO, Sunday the 26th, 1886.
Dear Boy:--Such a close, muggy night this is that I feel little like
writing to you or to anybody else. Yet I am not one to neglect or
shirk a duty. I have been with Kate Field all the evening, and we
have discussed everything from literature down to Sir Charles Dilke
and back again. A mighty smart woman is Kate! My wife returned from
St. Louis last Thursday, bringing about fifty of my books with her.
They were mostly of the Bohn's Library series, but among them was a
set of Boswell's Johnson, Routledge edition of 1859. I want you to
have an edition of this kind, and I have sent to New York to see if
it can be had (cheap). I am reading like a race-horse. The famous
history of Dr. Faustus has done me a power of good, and I have been
highly amused with a volume of Bohn which contains the old Ray
Isn't it about time for you to be getting back home? You have been
gone about sixteen days now, and we are growing more and more
lonesome. Peattie is looked for next Tuesday. Mr. Stone goes out of
town to-morrow--to Dakota, I believe--and is to be absent for a week
also. Shackelford will be back at work to-morrow. You alone are
delinquent. Not only am I lonesome--egad, I am starving! So if you
don't come _in propria persona_, at least _send_ something. The old
Dock has been as grumpy as a bear to-day and I have had a hard time
bearing with him. He announced to me to-day that he thought that I
was fickle--I tell you this so that you may repeat it to Miss Marie
Mathilde, who, I believe, invented that opinion. _Entre nous_:
Hawkins tells me that some of his friends are trying to buy the St.
Paul Dispatch for him. There was a fire in the Chicago Opera House
building to-night, but, unfortunately, no serious damage was done.
Stone is thinking of having the three of us--Dock, you and your
habit--write a department for the Saturday News after the fashion of
the Noctes. Think it all over whilst you are away. What are you
going to bring me for a present? Don't go to buying any foolish
trumpery; you have no money to waste on follies. What I need is a
"Noctes," and any other useful book you may get hold of in New York.
Love to the folks.
The proposed "Noctes," except the set for Field, never materialized.
CHICAGO, September 28th, 1886.
Dear Nomp:--I am just cunning enough to send this to the care of our
New York office, for I surmise that it will reach there in time to
intercept you. I do not intend that you shall get out of New York
without being reminded of that present you intend bringing me for
being so good as to write to you regularly whilst you were away. I
confidently expect to see you back here next Sunday. On Monday I go
to Indianapolis for two or three days, and I heartily wish you were
going with me to help bear the expense of the trip. In fact, I am so
anxious to have you along that I would cheerfully consent to letting
you pay everything. But at any rate I agree to take supper with you
at Mr. Pullman's godless hotel the night you return. The Dock
invited me out to supper to-night. We went to the Drum. Suspecting
that I was going to exceed his capability of payment, he handed me
over a dollar--all the money he had. I had the check charged to me
and kept the dollar. Whereat the Dock grieves passing sore.
I have begun to surmise that my remarks about Literary Life will
lead to Miss Cleveland's retirement from the editorship of that
delectable mush-bucket. The signs all point that way now. I enclose
you a letter to my friend Mitchell of the Sun. Tell him about the
Goethe poem. I promised to send him a copy of it when Literary Life
printed it. Scrutinize young Kingsbury's daily life carefully.
Heaven forefend all the temptations that compass him in the modern
Babylon. Give my love to Mr. Scribner.
Yours as ever,
Field's satirical comments on Literary Life, a weekly that sought to
make capital by engaging President Cleveland's sister, Miss Rose
Cleveland, as its editor, not only led to her early retirement from an
impossible position, but to the early collapse of the publication
itself. When Miss Cleveland first came to Chicago to assume the duties
of editorship Field welcomed her in verse:
Since the days of old Adam the welkin has rung
With the praises of sweet-scented posies,
And poets in rapturous phrases have sung
The paramount beauty of roses.
Wheresoever she 'bides, whether resting in lanes
Or gracing the proud urban bowers,
The red, royal rose her distinction maintains
As the one regnant queen among flowers.
How joyous are we of the West when we find
That Fate, with her gifts ever chary,
Has decreed that the rose who is queen of her kind
Shall bloom on our wild Western prairie.
Let us laugh at the East as an impotent thing
With envy and jealousy crazy,
While grateful Chicago is happy to sing
In praise of the rose, she's a daisy._
PUBLICATION OF HIS FIRST BOOKS
Although the bibliomaniac and collector will claim that "The Tribune
Primer," printed in Denver in 1882, was Eugene Field's first book, and
cite the fact that a copy of this rare pamphlet recently sold for $125
as proof that it is still his most valuable contribution to literature,
his first genuine entrance into the world of letters between covers
came with the publication of "Culture's Garland," by Ticknor & Company,
of Boston, in August, 1887. Whatever may be the truth as to the size of
the first edition of the "Primer," so few copies were printed and its
distribution was so limited that it scarcely amounted to a bona-fide
publication. Neither did the form of the "Primer," a little 18mo
pamphlet of forty-eight pages, bound in pink paper covers, nor its
ephemeral newspaper persiflage, rise to the dignity of a book.
"Culture's Garland," on the contrary, marks the first real essay of
Field as a maker of books. Field himself is the authority for the
statement that "Tom" Ticknor edited the book. "I simply sent on a lot
of stuff," wrote he, "and the folks at the other end picked out what
they wanted and ran it as they pleased." This is scarcely just to Mr.
Ticknor. Field himself, to my knowledge, selected the matter for
"Culture's Garland," and arranged it in the general form in which it
appeared. He then delegated to Mr. Ticknor authority to reject any and
all paragraphs in which the bite of satire or the broadness of the
humor transgressed too far the bounds of a reasonable discretion. The
true nature of this, to my mind the most entertaining of all Field's
books, is reflected in its title page, frontispiece, emblem,
tail-piece, and the advertisements with which it concludes. The full
Being Memoranada of
The Gradual Rise of Literature, Art, Music,
And Society in Chicago, and Other
With an Introduction by Julian Hawthorne.
The frontispiece is a pen-and-ink sketch of "the Author at the Age of
30 (A.D. 1880)," such as Field frequently drew of himself; the symbolic
emblem, which takes the place of a dedication, was a string of link
sausages "in the similitude of a laurel wreath," representing "A
Chicago Literary Circle," and the tail-piece was a gallows, to mark
Writing to a friend in Boston, in 1893, Field said that he thought "the
alleged advertisements at the end of the volume are its best feature."
These were introduced by a letter from one of Field's favorite
fictitious creations, "Felix Bosbyshell," to Messrs. Ticknor & Co.:
CHICAGO, June 26th, 1887.
Dear Sirs:--I am informed that one of the leading _litterateurs_
of this city is about to produce a book under your auspices.
Representing, as I do, the prominent advertising bureau of the West,
I desire to contribute one page of advertisements to this work, and
I am prepared to pay therefor cash rates. I enclose copy, and would
like to have the advertisements printed on the fly-leaf which will
face the _finis_ of the book in question.
Yours in the cause of literature,
FELIX J. BOSBYSHELL,
For Bosbyshell & Co.
This was accompanied by a Publisher's Note, which Field also supplied:
It is entirely foreign to our custom to accept advertisements for
our books; but we recognize the exceptional nature of the case
and the fine literary character and high tone of the Messrs.
Bosbyshells' offering, and we cheerfully give it place over leaf.
In his discriminating and felicitous introduction to his friend's
book, Julian Hawthorne said: "The present little volume comprises
mainly a bubbling forth of delightful badinage and mischievous
raillery, directed at some of the foibles and pretensions of his
enterprising fellow-townsmen, who, however, can by no means be allowed
to claim a monopoly of either the pretensions or the foibles herein
exploited. Laugh, but look to yourself: _mutato nomine, de te fabula
narratur_. It is a book which should, and doubtless will, attain a
national popularity; but admirable, and, indeed, irresistible though
it be in its way, it represents a very inconsiderable fraction of the
author's real capacity. We shall hear of Eugene Field in regions of
literature far above the aim and scope of these witty and waggish
sketches. But as the wise orator wins his audience at the outset of
his speech by the human sympathy of a smile, so does our author, in
these smiling pages, establish genial relations with us before
betaking himself to more ambitious flights."
[Illustration: PAGE OF ADVERTISEMENTS FROM "CULTURE'S GARLAND."
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While Mr. Hawthorne's analysis of the book was correct, his prophecy
as to its attaining a national popularity was never realized. The
literary critics, East as well as West, whose views and pretensions
Field had so often lampooned mercilessly, had their innings, and as
Field had not then conquered the popular heart with his "Little Boy
Blue," his matchless lullabies, and his fascinating fairy tales and
other stories, "Culture's Garland" was left to cumber the shelves of
the book-stores. Several of the articles and poems in this book have
been included in the collected edition of Field's works. In it will be
found Field's famous "Markessy di Pullman" papers, with these clever
_"Il bianco di cazerni della graze fio bella
Di teruca si mazzoni quel' antisla Somno della."
"He who conduces to a fellow's sleep
Should noble fame and goodly riches reap."
"Sleep mocks at death: when weary of the earth
We do not die--we take an upper berth."
There, too, are reprinted the verses he composed and credited to Judge
Cooley, to which allusion has already been made in these pages, and of
which Field wrote to his friend Cowen the week they were published: "I
think they will create somewhat of a sensation; I have put a good deal
of work upon them." All the pieces of verse read by Field at the
Indianapolis convention also appear in "Culture's Garland," three of
them being included in the article on "Mr. Isaac Watts, Tutor," of
which "The Merciful Lad" was one of Field's favorites:
_THE MERCIFUL LAD
Through all my life the poor shall find
In me a constant friend,
And on the weak of every kind
My mercy shall attend.
The dumb shall never call on me
In vain for kindly aid,
And in my hands the blind shall see
A bounteous alms display'd.
In all their walks the lame shall know
And feel my goodness near,
And on the deaf will I bestow
My gentlest words of cheer.
'Tis by such pious works as these--
Which I delight to do--
That men their fellow-creatures please,
And please their Maker, too._
Field was immensely tickled with the British gravity of one of his
critics, who ridiculed this imitation of Dr. Watts, because, forsooth,
he could not comprehend how the dumb could call, the blind see, or the
lame walk, while he wanted to know what gracious effect the gentlest
words could produce on the ears of the deaf.
Throughout "Culture's Garland" Field is the unsparing satirist of
contemporary humbug and pretence--social, political, and literary--and
that perhaps accounts for its failure to achieve an immediate popular
success. I, for one, am glad that so late as December, 1893, and after
he had tasted the sweets of popular applause, with its attendant
royalties, he had the courage to write of it to a friend in Boston, "I
am not ashamed of this little book, but, like the boy with the
measles, I am sorry for it in spots."
"Culture's Garland" really cleared the way for Field's subsequent
literary success. It taught him the lesson that his average daily
newspaper work had not body enough to fill out the covers of a book.
With grim determination he set himself the task to master the art of
telling stories in prose. He was absolutely confident of himself in
verse, but to his dying day he was never quite satisfied with anything
he wrote in prose. His poems went to the printer almost exactly as
they were originally composed. Nearly all of his tales were written
over and over again with fastidious pains before they were committed
to type. Every word and sentence of such stories as "The Robin and the
Violet," "The First Christmas Tree," "Margaret, a Pearl," and "The
Mountain and the Sea" was scrutinized and weighed by his keen literary
sense and discriminating ear before it was permitted to pass final
muster. In only one instance do I remember that this extreme care
failed to improve the original story. "The Werewolf" ("Second Book of
Tales") was a more powerful and moving fancy as first written than as
eventually printed. He consulted with me during four revisions of "The
Werewolf," and told me that he had written the whole thing over seven
times. I never knew him so finicky and beset with doubts as to the use
of words and phrases as he was in this instance. The result is a
marvellous piece of technicality perfect archaic old English mosaic,
with the soul--the fascinating shudder--refined, out of a weird and
But all the care, study, and exercise Field put upon his prose stories
bore fruit in the gradual improvement in tone and style of his daily
composition. His study of old English ballads started him about this
time on the production of a truly remarkable series of lullabies,
while his work began to show more and more the influence of Father
Prout. But the old Field continued to show itself in such occasional
quatrains as this:
_For there was Egypt in her eye--
The languor of the South--
Persia was in her perfumed sigh,
And Turkey in her mouth._
Along in January, 1889, began the frequent paraphrases from Horace.
"Wynken, Blynken and Nod," over which Field expended more than the
usual pains he bestowed on his verse, was printed in March of the same
year. One day in April, in 1889, Field surprised and delighted the
readers of the News with the publication of the following amazing
array of verse in one issue: "Our Two Opinions," Horace I, 4; Heine's
"Love Song," Horace I, 20; Hugo's "Pool in the Forest," Horace I, 5;
Beranger's "Broken Fiddle," Horace I, 28; "Chloe"; Uhland's "Three
Cavaliers," and Horace IV, 11.
It must not be imagined that this was the result of one day's or one
week's work. He had been preparing for it for months; and each piece
of versification was as perfect as he could make it. The amazement and
widely expressed admiration with which this broadside of verse was
received encouraged Field to a still greater _tour de force_, upon the
preparation of which he bent all his energies and spare time for more
than three months. What Field described in a letter to Cowen as "The
'Golden Week' in my newspaper career," consisted in "the paper running
a column of my (his) verse per diem--something never before attempted
in American journalism." The titles of the verse printed during the
"Golden Week" testify alike to his industry and versatility:
THE GOLDEN WEEK, JULY 15TH-20TH, 1889.
Monday, July 15, "Prof. Vere de Blaw."
Tuesday, "Horace to His Patron," "Poet and
King," "Alaskan Lullaby," "Lizzie," "Horace I,
Wednesday, "The Conversazzhyony."
Thursday, "Egyptian Folk Song," Beranger's
"To My Old Coat," "Horace's Sailor and Shade,"
"Uhland's Chapel," "Guess," "Alaskan Balladry."
Friday, "Marthy's Younkit," "Fairy and Child,"
"A Heine Love Song," "Jennie," "Horace I, 27."
Saturday, "The Happy Isles of Horace," Beranger's
"Ma Vocation," "Child and Mother," "The
Bibliomaniac's Bride," "Alaskan Balladry, No. 2,"
"Mediaeval Eventide Song."
Upon some of these now familiar poems Field had been at work for more
than a month. He read to me portions of "Marthy's Younkit" as early as
the spring of 1887. Among the letters which his guardian, Mr. Gray,
kindly placed at my disposal, I find the following bearing on "The
Golden Week." It is written from the Benedict Farm, Genoa Junction,
Wis., some sixty miles from Chicago, to which Field had retired to
recuperate after having provided enough poetry in advance to fill his
column during the week of his absence:
DEAR MR. GRAY: I send herewith copies of poems which have appeared
in the Daily News this week. I am proud to have been the first
newspaper man to have made the record of a column of original verse
every day for a week; I am greatly mistaken if this feeling of
pardonable pride is not shared by you. I regard some of the poems as
my best work so far, but I shall do better yet if my life is spared.
We are rusticating here by the side of a Wisconsin lake this summer.
Farm board seems to agree with us and we shall in all likelihood
remain here until September. I have been grievously afflicted with
nervous dyspepsia for a month, but am much better just now. The
paper gives me a three months' European vacation whensoever I wish
to go. At present I intend to go in the winter and shall take Julia
and Mary (Trotty) with me. I do wish that Mrs. Gray would write to
me; I want to know all about her home affairs and especially about
Mrs. Bacon--my grudge against her _in re_ mince pie has expired
under the statute of limitations. God bless you, dear friend--you
Although Field's body was rusticating on farm fare in Wisconsin, his
pen was furnishing its two thousand three hundred words a day to the
Daily News, as the "Sharps and Flats" column through the summer of
1889 shows. In a letter written from the Benedict Farm during the
Golden Week to Cowen, who was at this time in London working on the
English edition of the New York Herald, Field unfolds some of his
doings and plans:
The copies of the London Herald came to hand to-day; I am sure I am
very much indebted to you for the boom you are giving me; it is of
distinct value to me, and I appreciate it. I send you herewith a
number of my verses that have appeared this week in my column.
Having done my work ahead I am rusticating in great shape and have
become a veritable terror to the small fry in which the lakes of
this delectable locality abound. My books will be issued about the
first of August; they will be very pretty pieces of work; I shall
send you a set at once. My western verse seems to be catching on; I
notice that a good many others of the boys are striking out in the
same vein. Young McCarthy has made a translation from the Persian,
and I have half a notion to paraphrase parts of it. I want to dip
around in all sorts of versification, simply to show people that
determination and perseverance can accomplish much in this
direction. You know that I do not set much store by "genius."
The books to which Field refers as likely to be issued about the first
of August were his two "Little Books" of verse and tales, the copy for
which had not, when he wrote the foregoing, all gone to the printer.
His idea then was that a book could be got out with something like the
same lightning dispatch as a daily newspaper.
To tell the story of the publication of Field's two "Little Books,"
unique as it was in the making of books, requires that I say a few
words of the change that had come over our personal relations, though
not in our friendship. Two causes operated to make this change--my
marriage in the spring of 1887, which drew from Field "Ye Piteous
Appeal of a Forsooken Habbit" and the manuscript volumes of the best
of his verse prior to that event, and my retirement from the staff of
the Daily News, to assist in the foundation of the weekly political
and literary journal called America. It was through my persuasion that
we secured from Field his now famous "Little Boy Blue" for the initial
number of the new periodical. Many stories are extant as to how this
affecting bit of child verse was written, and many fac-similes of
copies of it in Field's handwriting have been printed as originals.
But the truth is, "Little Boy Blue" was written without any special
suggestion or personal experience attending its conception and
composition. It was an honest child, begotten of the freest and best
genius of Field's fancy--the genius of a master craftsman who had the
instinct to use only the simplest means to tell the significant story
of the little toy dog that is covered with dust and the little toy
soldier that is red with rust in so many a home.
Field handed his original copy of "Little Boy Blue" to me in the Daily
News office. We read it over carefully together, and there I, with his
consent, made the change in the seventh line of the last verse, that
may be noted in the fac-simile. With my interlineation the copy went
to the printer, who had orders to return it to me, which was
accordingly done, and it has been in my possession ever since.
Field made several other noteworthy contributions to the pages of
America, including such important verse or articles as "Apple Pie and
Cheese," "To Robin Goodfellow," "A Proper Trewe Idyll of Camelot,"
"The Shadwell Folio," "Poe, Patterson, and Oquawka," "The Holy Cross,"
and "The Three Kings." The most remarkable of these was undoubtedly
"The Shadwell Folio," which ran through two issues of America and
afforded a prose setting for the following proofs of Field's
versatility: "The Death of Robin Hood," "The Alliaunce," "Madge: Ye
Hoyden," "The Lost Schooner," "Ye Crewel Sassinger Mill," "The Texas
Steere," "A Vallentine," "Waly, Waly," "Ailsie, My Bairn," "Ye Morris
Daunce," "Ye Battaile Aux Dames," "How Trewe Love Won Ye Battel,"
"Lollaby" (old English).
The first section of the "Shadwell Folio" appeared in the issue of
America of October 25th, 1888. It was one of those conceits in which
Field took the greatest pleasure and in the preparation of which he
grudged no labor. It purported to be a parchment folio discovered in
an old hair trunk by Colonel John C. Shadwell, "a wealthy and
aristocratic contractor," while laying certain main and sewer pipes in
the cellar of a deserted frame house at 1423 Michigan Street, Chicago.
This number would have located the cellar well out in Lake Michigan.
Colonel Shadwell presented this incomparable folio to "The Ballad and
Broadside Society of Cook County, Illinois, for the Discovery of
Ancient Manuscripts and for the Dissemination of Culture (limited)."
On receipt of the folio, this society immediately adopted the
_Resolved_, That the ballads set forth in the parchment manuscript,
known as the Shadwell folio, are genuine old English ballads,
composed by English balladists, and illustrating most correctly life
in Chicago in Ancient Times, which is to say, before the fire.
_Resolved_, That the parchment cover of said folio is, in our
opinion, neither pigskin nor sheep, but genuine calf, and
undoubtedly the pelt of the original fatted calf celebrated in
Shakespeare's play of the "Prodigal Son."
_Resolved_, That we hail with pride these indisputable proofs that
our refinement and culture had an ancestry, and that our present
civilization did not spring, as ribald scoffers have alleged,
mushroom-like from the sties and wallows of the prairies.
_Resolved_, That we get these ballads printed in an edition of not
to exceed 500 copies, and at a cost of $50 per copy, or, at least,
at a price beyond the capability of the hoy polloi.
Field then proceeded to review the contents of the fictitious folio,
taking the precaution to premise his remarks and extracts with the
statement that "it must not be surmised that all the poems in this
Shadwell folio are purely local; quite a number treat of historical
subjects." Of the poems in the first half of "The Shadwell Folio" I am
able to give one of the most interesting in fac-simile, premising
that, although this did not see the light of print until October,
1888, it was written in an early month of 1887.
On pages 19 and 20 of the folio, according to Field, we get a
"pleasant glimpse of the rare old time" in the ballad entitled:
[Illustration: "THE ALLIAUNCE".
Come hither, gossip, let us sit
beneath this plaisaunt vine;
I fain wolde counsel thee a bit
whiles that we sip our wine.
The air is cool and we can hear
the voicing of the kine
come from the pasture lot anear
the styes where grunt the swine.
See how that Tom, my sone, doth fare
with posies in his hands--
Methinks he minds to mend him where
thy dochter waiting stands.
Boys will be boys and girls be girls
for Godde hath willed it soe;
Thy dochter Tib hath goodly curles--
my Toms none fole, I trom.
His evening chores ben all to-done,
and she hath fed the pigges,
and now the village green upon
they daunce and sing their jigges.
His squeaking crowd the fiddler plies,
And Tom and Tib can see
The babies in echoders eyes--
saye, neighbour, shall it bee?
Nould give Frank in goodly store--
that I; in sooth, ne can;
but I have steers and hoggs gillore--
and thats what makes the man!
Your family trees and blade be naught
In these progressive years--
The only blode that counts (goes?) for aught
Is blode of piggs and steeres!
So, gossip, let us found a line
On mouton, porke and beefe;
The which in coming years shall shine
In cultures world as chief.
Sic stout and braw a sone as mine
I lay youle never see,
and theres nae huskier wench than thine--
Saye, neighbor, shall it bee?]
On pages 123 and 124 of the folio Field discovered "this ballad of
Chicago's patient Grissel (erroneously pronounced 'Gristle' in leading
western circles), setting forth the miseries and the fate of a lass
who loved a sailor ":
_THE LOST SCHOONER
Hard by ye lake, beneath ye shade,
Upon a somer's daye,
There ben a faire Chicago maid
That greeting sore did saye:
I wonder where can Willie bee--
O waly, waly! woe is mee!
He fared him off on Aprille 4,
And now 'tis August 2,
I stood upon ye slimy shoore
And swere me to be trewe;
I sawe yt schippe bear out to sea--
O waly, waly! woe is mee!
"Ye schippe she ben as braw an hulk
As ever clave ye tides,
And in her hold she bore a bulk
Of new-mown pelts and hides--
Pelts ben they all of high degree--
O waly, waly! woe is mee!
"Ye schippes yt saile untill ye towne
Ffor mee no plaisaunce hath,
Syn most of them ben loded down
With schingle, slabs and lath;
That ither schipp--say, where is shee?
O waly, waly! woe is mee!
"Ye Mary Jane ben lode with logs,
Ye Fairy Belle with beer--
Ye Mackinack ben Ffull of hoggs
And ither carnal cheer;
But nony pelt nor hide I see--
O waly, waly! woe is mee!
"And ither schippes bring salt and ore,
And some bring hams and sides,
And some bring garden truck gillore--
But none brings pelt and hides!
Where can my Willie's schooner be--
O waly, waly! woe is mee!"
So wailed ye faire Chicago maide
Upon ye shady shore,
And swounded oft whiles yt she prayed
Her loon to come oncet more,
And crying, "Waly, woe is mee,"
That maiden's harte did brast in three._
The second half of "The Shadwell Folio," printed November 1st, 1888,
besides being memorable for the first publication of his well-known
"Ailsie, My Bairn," and the exquisite "Old English Lullaby," contained
"a homely little ballad," as Field described it, "which reminds one
somewhat of 'Winfreda,' and which in the volume before us is entitled
The "Winfreda" here referred to is one of the poems upon which Field
exhausted his ingenuity in composing with the verbal phraseology of
different periods of archaic English. The version which appears in his
"Songs and Other Verse" is his first attempt at versification "in pure
Anglo-Saxon," as he says in a note to one of the manuscript copies.
Field intended to render this finally into "current English," but, so
far as I know, he never got to it.
The publication of numerous poems and tales in the Daily News during
the years 1888 and 1889, together with those printed in America,
culminating in "The Golden Week," in July of the latter year, was but
the prelude to the issue of his two "Little Books," according to a
unique plan over which we spent much thought and consumed endless
luncheons of coffee and apple pie. As I have intimated, Field was
quite piqued over the cavalier reception of "Culture's Garland," and
was determined that his next venture in book form should be between
boards, a perfect specimen of book-making, and restricted, as far as
his judgment could decide, to the best in various styles which he had
written prior to the date of publication. He did not wish to entrust
this to any publisher, and finally hit upon the idea of publishing
privately, by subscription, which was carried out.
The circular, which was prepared and mailed to a selected list of my
friends, as well as his, will best explain the rather unusual method
of this venture:
CHICAGO, February 23d, 1889.
Dear Sir:--It is proposed to issue privately, and as soon as
possible, a limited edition of my work in verse and in prose.
Negotiations for the publication of two volumes are now in progress
with the University Press at Cambridge.
1. It is proposed to print one volume (200 pages) of my best verse,
and one volume (300 pages) of tales and sketches. These books will
be printed upon heavy uncut paper and in the best style known to the
2. The edition will be limited to 200 sets (each set of two
volumes), and none will be put upon sale.
3. It is proposed to pay for the publication by subscriptions. One
hundred (100) shares are offered to my personal friends at ten
dollars a share, each subscriber to receive two (2) sets of the
If you wish to subscribe to this enterprise, please fill out the
accompanying blank (next page) and send it before March 25th, with
money-order, draft, or check, to Mr. Slason Thompson, editor of
"America," who has consented to act as custodian of the funds
necessary to the accomplishment of the purpose specified.
Very sincerely yours,
The accompanying blank addressed to me read:
Find enclosed ------ for ------ ($ ) representing my subscription
for ------ share ------ in the two-volume publication of Eugene
Field's original work.
------ P.O. Address.
If Field had any doubts as to the estimation in which he was held by
his friends, they were dispelled by the ready response to this appeal,
while the generous words accompanying many of the orders were well
calculated to warm the cockles of a colder heart than beat within the
breast of "The Good Knight _sans peur et sans monnaie_." Many persons
to whom circulars had not been sent heard of the proposed publication
and wrote asking to be allowed to subscribe. The largest single
subscription was for five shares. There were three for two shares, and
all the rest were for one share each, many echoed the "Certainly! and
glad of the chance," which was Stuart Robson's response. F.J.V. Skiff,
Field's old associate on the Denver Tribune, added a postscript to his
order, saying, "And wish I could take it all," while Victor F. Lawson,
in a personal note to me accompanying his order, wrote, "If you run
short on this scheme I shall be glad to increase my subscription
whenever advised that it is needed." This spirit pervaded the replies
to our circular and gave Field keener pleasure than he ever
experienced through the publication of any of his other books.
Chicago, as was to be expected, took a majority of the shares; Denver
came next, and then Kansas City. Comparatively few shares were taken
in the East, for Field's fame had scarcely yet penetrated that region.
But the names of Charles A. Dana, of Whitelaw Reid, and of Field's
"Cousin Kate" were early among the subscribers. His friends among the
stage folk responded numerously, and so did journalists and railway
men. There were only some half dozen bibliomaniacs on the list, for
Field had not then become the poet, torment, and idol of the devotees
of rare and eccentric editions. To remind them of the unusual
opportunity they missed, let me recall the negotiations for the making
of this original _edition de luxe_, which was not published for
profit, but as an example of the excellence of simplicity and
clearness in printing. From the start Field insisted that everything
about the "Little Books" should be American, and the best procurable
of their kind. The letters from John Wilson & Son show the progress of
the negotiations for the printing of the two books, which were carried
on in full assurance that there would be no failure of funds to carry
out the enterprise. I quote their first reply to my request for an
estimate on the work:
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., February 5, 1889.
SLASON THOMPSON, ESQ.,
Dear Sir:--In your request for a rough estimate of two volumes of 200
pages each, on paper 5 x 8 and printed page 2-1/2 x 4-1/2 you forgot
to state the number of copies desired and the size of the type. We
enclose two samples of paper that we can find. We have doubts about
finding enough of the 5 x 8, but think we can that of the 5 x 7-1/2.
We prefer the former. If the edition is small--say 100 or 150--we
can, we think, scrape up enough of the 5 x 8. The size of your page
could not, we think, be improved on. We also enclose samples of long
primer, bourgeois and brevier sizes of type. [Here followed a detailed
estimate on 250 copies of bourgeois type of $668.70 for the two
We should be most happy to execute the work. Hoping to hear from you
We are respectfully yours,
JOHN WILSON & SON.
As soon as we had arrived at a clearer idea of our desires, and also
of our means, I again communicated with Messrs. Wilson & Son, and
received the following reply:
CAMBRIDGE, April 4th, 1889.
Dear Sir:--After much delay we have succeeded in finding a paper
manufacturer in Massachusetts (the only one in America) who has just
commenced making a paper similar to that used in "Riley's
Old-Fashioned Roses" (printed on English hand-made paper which I had
sent them). To-morrow we shall send you a specimen (printed), also a
specimen of another paper which we used some time ago on an _edition
de luxe_ of "Memorials of Canterbury" and of Westminster Abbey for
Randolph & Co., of New York. No. 1 is a hand-made paper 16 x 20/28, at
60c. a lb.; No. 2, a machine made 20 x 22/60 at 20c. a lb.
ESTIMATE No. 1.
For comp. and electro (say 500 pages in the
two vols.) about $400.00
For 8 boxes for plates, 75 cts. 6.00
For 250 copies presswork (2 vols.), 66 forms,
For Paper, 16 x 20/28, 20 reams, $16.80 336.00
For Binding 250 copies, 500 (2 vols.) 25c.
Parchment back and corners 125.00
For Dies, say 10.00
Alterations from copy, 50 cts. an hour. (The estimate on No. 2 paper
We return "Riley." Both of these papers have the rough, or deckle,
We are anxious to make this book in the _best style_, and of American
materials if possible.
JOHN WILSON & SON.
Three things in estimate No. 1 caught Field's fancy--yea, four; the
paper was to be hand made, deckle edge, of American manufacture, but,
above all, sixty cents a pound. As a contrast to the stiff bleached
Manila of "Culture's Garland," dear at a cent a pound, this sixty
cents a pound decided Field in favor of No. 1, though we had to
economize on everything else to get the job done within the $1,100 we
had in bank before we gave the order. The No. 2, having a softer
surface, would have given us a better printed page, and its cost would
have enabled us to embellish the edition with a steel-plate engraving
of Field, as had been our intention, but the thought of using the most
expensive American paper procurable for his "Little Books" outweighed
every other consideration, and we forwarded the copy of the two
volumes to John Wilson & Son, with orders to go ahead and push
It was well into the middle of the fall when I received the following
note from the printers, showing that the work had been completed:
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., October 19th, 1889.
SLASON THOMPSON, ESQ.
DEAR SIR: Herewith please find our bill for printing and binding
_Profitable Tales_ and _Western Verse_.
We shall send the two copies of each volume (unnumbered) to secure the
copyright, and when the certificate is received, will send it to you.
These copies are over and above the 250 copies sent to you.
Regretting the delay incident to the bringing out of two such volumes,
and hoping that the author and his friends may be gratified and
pleased with their mechanical execution, we are,
JOHN WILSON & SON.
It is needless to say that both the author and his friends were
gratified and pleased with the mechanical execution of the "Little
Books," while Field's admirers have never wearied in their admiration
of their contents. Every cent of the fund subscribed for these books
went to pay for their printing; and as Field started for Europe before
they were received from Cambridge, the task of numbering them, as well
as the cost of forwarding them to subscribers, fell to my lot.
These two books contained not only the best of what Field had written
up to that time, but their contents were selected with such care that
they continue to represent the best he ever wrote. Much that he
rejected at that time went to make up subsequent volumes of his works.
The popular editions from the subscription plates of "A Little Book
of Western Verse" and "A Little Book of Profitable Tales" had a
phenomenal sale, and made a handsome return in royalties to him who
sent them forth with the words:
_"Go, little book; and if any one would speak thee ill, let him
bethink him that thou art the child of one who loves thee well."_
HIS SECOND VISIT TO EUROPE
From 1889 Field's life was one long struggle with dyspepsia, an
inherited weakness which he persisted in aggravating by indulgence in
those twin enemies of health--pastry and reading in bed. During our
intimate association I had exercised a wholesome restraint on his pie
habit and reduced his hours of reading in bed to a minimum. As the
reader may remember, our pact concerned eating and walking. When we
ate, we talked, and while we walked, Field could not lie in bed
browsing amid his favorite books, burning illuminating gas and the
candle of life at the same time. So long as his study of life was
pursued among men he retained his health. As soon as he began to
retire more and more to the companionship of books and from the daily
activities and associations of the newspaper office his assimilation
of food failed to nourish his body as it did his brain. The buoyancy
went out of his step, but never out of his mind and heart.
As intimated in his letter to Mr. Gray, the publisher of the Daily
News grew so solicitous over Field's health that he proposed a three
months' European vacation, with pay, whenever he chose to take it. At
first it was not Field's intention to avail himself of this generous
offer until winter. But when his "Little Books" were safely under way
he changed his mind and decided to start as soon as he could arrange
his household affairs. In a letter to his friend Cowen, then in
London, under date of June 11th, 1889, Field wrote:
Trotty is delighted with the illustrated paper, and she is going to
write you a letter, I think. Melvin is on the Indiana farm again
this summer, and Pinny is visiting his Aunt Etta [Mrs. Roswell
Field] in Kansas City. The rest of us are boarding with Mr. and Mrs.
Reed, and the house is full of friends. We like our quarters very
much, but shall give them up on the first of November, as Julia,
Trotty, and I will go to Europe in December. The present plan is to
go first to London, where I wish to spend most of my time. We shall
want to put Trotty in a school near Paris, and her mother will have
to make the tour of Italy. Mary French (who reared me) will be with
us, and she will go with Julia on the Italian circuit. As for me, I
want to spend most of my time in England, with two weeks in Paris
and a few days in Holland. Wouldn't it be wise for me to live in one
of the suburbs of London? I want to get cheap but desirable
quarters--a pleasant place, not fashionable, and _not too far from
the old-book shops_. My intention is to be absent three months, but
I may deem it wise to stay six. Julia and Trotty can stay as long as
they please. I should like to have Trotty learn French.
Matters and things here in the office peg along about as usual--yes,
just the same. The new building in the alley will be ready for
occupancy by the first of September, but I suspect it will not be
much of an improvement upon the present quarters. Dr. Reilly is the
same old 2 x 4. He got $250.00 for extra work the other day, and we
have been tolerably prosperous ever since. [Here Field branched off
into personal gossip about pretty nearly every one of their mutual
friends in Denver and Chicago, having something to say about no less
than nineteen persons in fourteen lines of his diamond chirography.]
It is nearly time for Stone [who had sold out his interest in the
Daily News to Mr. Lawson] to reach Paris. I wish you'd tell him that
I propose to *%!&[see Note below] him at billiards under the shadow
of St. Paul's in London next Christmas time. Dear boy, I am
overjoyed at the prospect of seeing you so soon. We speak of you so
often, and always affectionately. You may look for a package from me
about the 1st of August; I shall send it to the care of the Herald
office in Paris. I have dedicated to you what I regard as my
tenderest bit of western dialect verse, and I will send you a copy
of the paper when it appears. Meanwhile I enclose a little bit,
which you may fancy. God bless you.
[Transcriber's Note: The *%!& stands for "expletive deleted" and is
"Marthy's Younkit" is the bit of western dialect verse which was
dedicated to Cowen, of which Field then and always thought so highly.
It contained, in his estimation, more of imagination, as distinct from
fancy, than any of his other verse. The poetic picture of the
mountain-side is perfect:
_Where the magpies on the sollum rocks strange
flutter'n shadders make,
An' the pines an' hemlocks wonder that the
sleeper doesn't wake:
That the mountain brook sings lonesome-like
an' loiters on its way.
Ez if it waited for a child to jine it in its
In another letter to Cowen about this time I find the first intimation
Field ever gave that he might have been tempted to leave his place on
the Daily News. He wrote, "The San Francisco Examiner is making a hot
play to get me out there. Why doesn't Mr. Bennett try to seduce me
into coming to London? How I should like to stir up the dry bones!"
Under date of Kansas City, June 28th, 1889, Field wrote with an
illuminated initial "M":
MY DEAR COWEN: Your cablegram reached me last night, having been
forwarded to me here, where I have been for a week. I send you
herewith "The Conversazzhyony," which is one of three mountain poems
I have recently written: it has never been in print. The others,
unpublished, are "Prof. Vere de Blaw" (the character who plays the
piano in Casey's restaurant) and "Marthy's Younkit" (pathetic,
recounting the death and burial of the first child born in the
camp). The latter is the best piece of work, but inasmuch as you
call for something humorous I send the enclosed.
This letter went on to discuss the possibility of getting a position
on the London Herald for his brother Roswell, who desired to get out
of the rut of his general newspaper work on the Kansas City Times, and
Field confided to Cowen that "there is no telling what might come of
having my brother in London"--the intimation being that he might be
induced to stay there. But nothing came of either suggestion.
[Illustration: ROSWELL FIELD.]
Field's health was so miserable during the summer of 1889 that it was
decided best that he should begin his vacation in October instead of
waiting for December. On the eve of his departure he wrote to his old
friend Melvin L. Gray:
DEAR MR. GRAY: Had I not been so grievously afflicted with
dyspepsia, I should certainly have visited St. Louis before starting
for Europe. The attack of indigestion with which I am suffering
began last June, resulting from irregularity in hours of eating and
sleeping and from too severe application to work. The contemplated
voyage will do me good, I think, and I hope to gather much valuable
material while I am abroad. I shall seek to acquaint myself with
such local legends as may seem to be capable of treatment in verse.
Most of my time will be spent in London, in Paris, and in Holland. I
expect to find among the Dutch much to inspire me. I carry numerous
letters of introduction--all kinds of letters, except letters of
credit. I regret that the potent name of Rothschild will not figure
in the list of my trans-Atlantic acquaintances. I am exceedingly
sorry that Roswell is not to go with us: with me he would have had
advantages at his command which he cannot have when he goes alone. I
am looking daily for my books; I rather regret now that I did not
print a larger edition, for a great many demands are coming in from
outsiders. I should like to publish a volume of my paraphrases of
Horace while I am in London, and maybe I shall do so. Do give my
love to Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Bacon. I think of you all very often, and
nothing would give me greater delight than to pop in upon you and
have a two hours' chat in that old familiar second-story back room.
It may be, Mr. Gray, that you and I shall never take one another by
the hand again, but I wish you to know that I shall always think of
you with feelings of gratitude, of affection, and of reverence. And
I feel a particular pleasure in saying these words to you upon the
eve of my departure upon a journey which is to separate me at least
temporarily from the home, the people, and the associations which
must always be foremost in my affections. God bless you.
As ever, yours,
EUGENE FIELD. Chicago, September the 30th, 1889.
When Field arrived in London Cowen was away on the Continent, much to
the disappointment of all concerned--especially the three boys, who at
the last moment had been brought along. On October 24th Field wrote:
MY DEAR COWEN: Knowing that you will be anxious to know how we are
getting along. I drop you this line to tell you that we have taken
lodgings at No. 20 Alfred Place, Bedford Square, and we are quite
contented. I have written to Moffett asking him whether we ought to
locate the children in Paris or in Germany. You know that my means
are very limited, and my desire to do the right thing is necessarily
hampered. I met Colonel John C. Reid for the first time to-night
[Mr. Reid was Mr. Bennett's manager]. He is in favor of Paris, but
of course he does not understand how really d----d poor I am.
The children have done Tussaud's and the Zoo, and will next make a
descent on the Crystal Palace. They sincerely lament your absence
from the city. When we were in Liverpool, Pinny was joshing Daisy
because he had no money, and Daisy said: "I'll be all right when I
see Mr. Cowen." It has pained all three boys because you fled from
Five days later, having secured a sheet of deckle-edged, water-marked
Wilmot linen letter-paper and colored inks, Field proceeded to write
an elaborately decorated note to his friend:
20 ALFRED PLACE, BEDFORD SQ., LONDON, W.C.
MY DEAR COWEN: We have waited a week to hear from Moffett, whom I
addressed in care of the Herald office in Paris, but in lieu of any
answer we are going to start the children off for Hanover in a few
days. Mrs. Field is going to take them over, and I am to remain in
London, since travel disagrees with me so severely. I don't like the
idea of separation, but this seems to be a sacrifice which I ought
to make. I doubt very much whether I visit any other European city
except Paris; I am greatly pleased with London, every sight
awakening such a flood of reminiscence. If I were not so
disgracefully poor. I could pick up a host of charming knick-knacks
here; as it is, I have to shut my eyes and groan, and pass by on the
I have just finished "Yvytot," the first purely fanciful ballad I
ever wrote. I have been at work on it for two months, and I think it
is the best piece of literary work I have done, although it is
somewhat above the class of work that is popular. You will like it
for its rhythmical smoothness and for its weirdness. But Mrs. Field
prefers "Krinken," "Marthy's Younkit," _et id omne genus_. My next
verse will be "John Smith, U.S.A.," a poem suggested by seeing this
autograph at Gilley's. In it I shall use the Yankee, the Hoosier,
the southern and the western dialect, wondering whether this Smith
is the Smith I knew in Massachusetts, or the Smith from Louisville,
or the Smith from Terry Hut, or (last of all) the Smith from the Red
Hoss Mountain district. I wish you were here to help me throw my
ideas into shape. How do you like this handsome paper?
Tuesday, October 29th, 1889.
Field may have thought that he spent only two months on "Yvytot," but
as a matter of fact he had been mulling it over for twice that many
years; and he had hoped to finish it in time for his "Little Book of
Western Verse." But it was one of those bits of verse upon which he
loved to putter, and he was loath to put it into type beyond the reach
of occasional revision. When the "Little Book of Western Verse" was
issued in popular form "Yvytot" was included in it in the place of the
list of subscribers and John Wilson & Son's colophon. Speaking of the
Hoosier dialect, Field was fond of telling the following story on his
friend James Whitcomb Riley:
James Whitcomb Riley went to Europe last summer. On the return
voyage an incident happened which is well worth telling of. To
beguile the tediousness of the voyage it was proposed to give a
concert in the saloon of the ship--an entertainment to which all
capable of amusing their fellow-voyagers should contribute. Mr.
Riley was asked to recite some of his original poems, and of course
he cheerfully agreed to do so. Among the number present at this
mid-ocean entertainment, over which the Rev. Myron Reed presided,
were two Scotchmen, very worthy gentlemen, _en route_ from the land
o' cakes to the land of biscuits upon a tour of investigation. These
twain shared the enthusiasm with which the auditors applauded Mr.
Riley's charming recitations. They marvelled that so versatile a
genius could have lived in a land reputed for uncouthness and
"Is it no wonderfu', Donal'," remarked one of these Scots, "that a
tradesman suld be sic a bonnie poet?"
"And is he indeed a tradesman?" asked the other.
"Indeed he is," answered the other. "Did ye no hear the dominie
intryjuce him as the hoosier poet? Just think of it, mon!--just
think of sic a gude poet dividing his time at making hoosiery?"
There is more of the old spirit of the genuine Eugene Field in the
next letter, written from London, November 13th, 1889, than in any of
his other correspondence after 1888:
MY DEAR COWEN: I am now (so to speak) in God's hands. Getting the
four children fitted out for school and paying a quarter's tuition
in advance has reduced me to a condition of financial weakness which
fills me with the gloomiest apprehension. You of fertile resource
must tell me what I am to do. I will not steal; to beg I am ashamed.
My bank account shows L15. Verily, I am in hell's hole.
Had I received your letter in time I should have gone to Paris with
the children. Not a word have I heard from Moffett, and your letter
reached me after my return from Germany. Instinct all along has told
me "Paris," but reason has counselled "Germany." I have yielded to
reason, and the children are in Hanover--Trotty at the school of
Fraulein Gensen, Allee Strasse, No. 1, and the three boys with
Professor C. Ruehle (prophetic name!), Heinrich Strasse, 26 A.
Parting from them was like plucking my heart from me; but they are
contented. The night before they went to live with the professor,
Pinny and Daisy were plotting to "do" that worthy man, but I do not
fear for him, as he is a very husky gentleman. It seems the smart
thing now to keep the children at Hanover for six months; then, if a
change be deemed advisable, I shall take them to Paris.
My health appears to be better. I have written five poems, which are
highly commended. My books are out, and, though I have not clapped
eyes on them yet, they are being highly praised by the American
press. I shall see that you get copies. So far, we have been about
but very little. Our finances are too cramped to admit of our doing
or seeing much. But we may be happy yet. Julia joins me in
Ever sincerely yours,
Of a different tone, and yet giving very much the same impression of
how Field was spending his time in London, is the following letter to
his quondam guardian, Mr. Gray, beginning with an illuminated initial
V, of date London, January 9th, 1890:
Very many times during the last three months, dear Mr. Gray, have I
thought of you and yours, and upon several occasions have I been at
the point of sitting down and writing to you. There is perhaps no
one to whom letter-writing is as a practice--I had almost said
habit--more of a horror than it is to me. The conventional letter
seems to me to be a dreadful thing--twice dreadful (as Portia's
quality of mercy was twice blessed)--an affliction to the sender and
equally an affliction to the recipient. But you and I seldom write
letters of this kind. I do not think I ever before received a letter
that moved me so deeply as did the letter you sent me just before I
left Chicago. I am not ashamed to admit that I like to know that I
have your regard, but the whole tone of this letter was that of a
kindly affection which was very comforting to me, and for which I
shall always feel deeply grateful to you. My health has improved