Part 3 out of 5
much since I last wrote to you. I am now feeling quite as I felt
when I was in my original condition--perhaps I should say my normal
condition of original sin. For a week past I have been confined to
the house with a catarrhal cold, but aside from this temporary local
ailment my health is vastly better. I should be in the mood to
return home at once were it not for a sense that being here I should
further improve the opportunity to gather material that may be of
value to me in my work when I get back into the rut again.
I have a very great desire to go to Norway and the Orkney Islands
for a month in order to see those countries and their people, for I
am much interested in North of Europe romance, and I am ambitious to
write tales about the folk of those particular points. I think it
possible that I shall find a way to gratify this urgent desire
before returning to America, although with the children at school I
am hardly prepared just now to say what further sacrifice I shall be
able to make in order to achieve my project.
The children are in school at Hanover. Trotty is at the girls'
school of a Miss Julia Gensen, No. 1 Allee Strasse, and the three
boys are with Prof. C. Ruehle, No. 26 Heinrich Strasse. I give the
exact localities, for the reason that Mrs. Gray may kindly take the
notion one of these days to write to the little exiles. The children
are healthy and happy; we have not seen them for nine weeks, but we
hear from them every week, and we are assured that they are making
desirable progress. In her last letter Trotty says, with a _naivete_
that is simply electric: "Nobody would guess that the boys were your
boys--they are so gentlemanly!" Prof. Ruehle is an old instructor of
boys, and for several years he was a professor at Woolwich
Academy.... Pinny is acquiring the German so rapidly that he is
accounted quite a marvel by his instructor and his associates.
Melvin and Trotty are not so quick; they progress slowly, but Daisy
seems to be doing admirably. Hanover is a lovely city; I enjoyed my
week there, and upon our way back to London Julia and I sojourned
four days in Holland, to our great delight.
Here in London our life has been exceedingly quiet, but useful. I
have met a number of excellent people, and have received some social
attention. I have done considerable work, mostly in the way of
verse. I wish you would write to John F. Ballantyne, asking him to
send you copies of the paper containing my work since I came here. I
am anxious to have you see it, particularly my poem in the Christmas
Daily News, and my tale in the Christmas number of the Chicago
America. I am just now at work on a Folklore tale of the Orkney
Islands, and I am enjoying it very much. I hope to get it off to the
paper this week. I am hoping that my two books pleased you; they are
the beginning only, for if I live I shall publish many beautiful
books. Yesterday I got a letter from a New York friend volunteering
to put up the money for publishing a new volume of verse at $20 a
copy, the number of copies to be limited to fifty. Of course I can't
accede to the proposition. But I am thinking of publishing a volume
of verse in some such elaborate style, for my verse accumulates
fast, and I love to get out lovely books! The climate here in London
is simply atrocious--either rain or fog all the time. Yet I should
not complain, for it seems to do me good. Julia is well, and she
joins me in wishing you and yours the best of God's blessings.
May you and I meet again, dear venerated friend, this side of the
Ever affectionately yours,
London, January 9th, 1890.
Do give my best love to Mrs. Bacon, and tell her that, being a
confirmed dyspeptic now, I forgive her that mince-pie. My permanent
address is care New York Herald Office, 110 Strand, W.C., London.
Speaking of the number of excellent people met in London, Field on his
return told with great gusto his experience at a dinner-party there at
which he was seated between the wife of a member of Parliament and
Mrs. Humphry Ward. The conversation turned upon P.T. Barnum, who was
then in London with his "greatest show on earth." One of the ladies
inquired of Field if he was acquainted with the famous showman, to
which Field said he replied, with the utmost gravity and earnestness:
"From my earliest infancy. Do you know, madame, that I owe
everything I am and hope to be to that great, good man? When he
first discovered me I was living in a tree in the wilds of Missouri,
clothed in skins and feeding on nuts and wild berries. Yes, madam.
Phineas T. Barnum took me from my mother, clothed me in the
bifurcated raiment of civilization, sent me to school, where I began
to lisp in numbers before I had mastered the multiplication table,
and I have been lisping ever since." Field had a peculiar hesitation
in his speech, almost amounting to the pause of an embarrassed
stutterer; and if he related this experience to the British matrons
as he rehearsed it to his friends afterward, it was small wonder
that they swallowed it with many a "Really!" "How curious!" "Isn't
This dinner occurred at the time when the trial of several members
of the Clan-na-gael for the murder of Dr. Cronin was in progress in
Chicago. The case was followed with as much interest in England as
in America. When Mrs. Ward learned that Field hailed from that city,
she said to him, "I am so glad to meet somebody from Chicago, for I
am greatly interested in the town. Do tell me, did you know Dr.
Cronin or any of those horrid Clan-na-gaels?"
"I had the satisfaction of telling her," said Field, "that Martin
Bourke (one of the suspects) and I had been very intimate friends,
and that Dan Coughlin (another) and I belonged to the same hunting
club, and had often shot buffaloes and cougars on the prairie a few
miles west of Chicago. As for Sullivan, the ice-man, I assured her
that if that man was convicted it would be a severe blow to the best
circles of the city." "Still more satisfaction had I," Field added,
"in the conviction that my auditor believed every one of the
preposterous yarns I told her."
"The new volume" referred to in Field's letter to Mr. Gray was that
which subsequently took the form of "Echoes from the Sabine Farm,"
published by his friend and fellow-bibliomaniac, Francis Wilson. The
story of how it came to be issued in that particular form is told by
Mr. Wilson in his introduction to the subscription edition. It was
originally Field's intention that I should take charge of this
publication, although I had never been consulted about it. Therefore I
was somewhat surprised on receiving the following note:
PHILADELPHIA, December 20th, 1889.
MR. SLASON THOMPSON--
Enclosed find my check for $20 (Twenty Dollars) for No. 1 copy Mr.
Eugene Field's proposed book of "Horace"--printed on Japanese proof
and pasted on Whatman's hand-made paper, with etched vignettes,
initial and tail-pieces, rubricated throughout.
In acknowledging the receipt of Mr. Wilson's check I ventured to
question whether Field's paraphrases of Horace up to that time
warranted the elaborate setting proposed, to which I received the
following semi-indignant and semi-jocose rejoinder:
PHILADELPHIA, December 27th, 1889.
MR. SLASON THOMPSON--
It is Mr. Field's intention to produce a Horace at $20 a copy, the
edition limited to fifty; printed on Japanese proof and pasted on
Whatman hand-made paper; rubricated throughout, with etched vignettes
and tail-pieces, and I want copy No. 1. Sometimes even the swift
citizens of Chicago must get their information from slow-going
Philadelphia. I do not know whether it is Mr. F.'s intention to have
you get out his affectionate effort, but I should hope not--being
guided, of course, by your expressed doubt and wonderment in the
matter. However, I promise not to say anything about this to Mr.
Field. I sent you the $20 so as to be in time for the copy I wish, and
I know you'll not object to holding it until Mr. Field's return, which
ought to be not later than May--as he writes. I shall also send you
other subscriptions, which you may turn over to Mr. Hobart Taylor in
the event of your discovering that gentleman has fewer qualms of
conscience than yourself in the matter. If he has not, you _must_ keep
the money as a punishment for the uncomplimentary allusion you have
made to Field's Horace.
With the suspicious fervor of your hopeless collector of first
editions, Mr. Wilson finally decided to publish Field's renditions
from Horace himself, so as to be sure of having copy No. 1. And yet he
had the almost unheard-of magnanimity to send that cherished copy to
Field, who returned it with a prettily worded note, in which he
acknowledged his obligation to Mr. Wilson and expressed the hope that
the latter would live forever, provided he, Field, could "live one day
longer to write his epitaph." Not until I came across the foregoing
letter have I understood why Wilson thwarted all Field's efforts to
present me with a copy of the precious edition of "The Sabine Farm."
They profited by my advice, however, and postponed publication for two
years, Field and his brother Roswell in the meantime working
assiduously in making new paraphrases of Horace and in polishing the
The mutations of journalism which had sent Cowen scurrying over Europe
when Field had counted on having his companionship in London carried
the former back to Washington, where he joined with some other equally
sanguine writers in the attempt to float a literary and political
periodical named The Critic. On February 15th, 1890, Field wrote to
his friend from No. 20 Alfred Square:
MY DEAR COWEN: The improvement which you boys have made in the
Critic is very marked. If you can hold out long enough, you will
win--you are bound to. You have youth, experience, and ambition upon
your side, and they are potent factors. Of course you know that my
earnest sympathies are, and will be, with you.
I am feeling quite well now. I have secured the Gladstone axe, with
documents from the grand old man proving its identity. I also have
Charles Kean's Hamlet chair, but I can't prove it. Meanwhile I
bankrupt myself buying books, letters, and play-bills. Oh, for $200!
How rich I should feel. Did you give Hawkins his two night-shirts
and the tie? And did you send the sleeping-socks to Mrs. Ballantyne?
I must send some little souvenir to Buskett. Do tell him to write to
me and tell me how he happened to leave the mountains. By the way, I
wish you would secure for me from the Postmaster-General or his
assistant a set of proofs of government stamps. I have begun making
a collection, and he will provide that much, if properly approached.
The children are well. The boys dun me regularly. Pinny is more
artful about it than the rest. He makes all sorts of promises, calls
me "dearest papa," and sends me arithmetical problems he has solved
and German stories he has pilfered from his reader. Still, I am very
proud of those children; at any rate, I want to go first. Give my
love to Hawkins and his wife and to Buskett; Julia joins me in
affectionate remembrances to you all. God bless you, my beloved
There was no shadow in this letter of the sorrow which was then
hovering over his home and family. Out of a cheerful heart he wrote,
"I am feeling quite well now," although the mists and fogs of London
were chilling him to the marrow, while the social attentions were
tempting him to dietetic destruction. A few months after he wrote the
words, "The children are well" and "At any rate, I want to go first,"
he was returning to America with the body of his eldest son, who died
suddenly in Holland, and facing bravely the fact that his own vitality
had been fatally impaired. "What exceeding folly," he wrote to a
friend, "was it that tempted me to cross the sea in search of what I
do not seem able to find here--a righteous stomach? I have been
wallowing in the slough of despond for a week and my digestive
apparatus has gone wrong again. I have suffered tortures that would
have done credit to the inventive genius of a Dante, and the natural
consequence is that I am as blue as a whetstone."
The death of his son made a deep impression on Eugene Field. Melvin
was the serious, unobtrusive member of the family circle. As Field has
just intimated, Pinny was a shrewd and mischievous youngster, who
attracted more attention and was permitted more license than his
brothers. Daisy was his mother's special pet, and Trotty had many of
the characteristics of her father. Besides, she was the only girl in
the family of boys. Thus Melvin in temperament and disposition seemed
always just outside the inner circle of the household. This came home
to Field, and he regretted it deeply before he wrote the concluding
lines of his dedication of "With Trumpet and Drum":
_So come; though I see not his dear little face,
And hear not his voice in this jubilant place,
I know he were happy to bid me enshrine
His memory deep in my heart with your play.
Ah me! but a love that is sweeter than mine
Holdeth my boy in its keeping to-day!
And my heart it is lonely--so, little folk, come,
March in and make merry with trumpet and drum!_
Upon his return, Field secured for his family a large and comfortable
house on Fullerton Avenue, about four miles from the office, and,
though he was encouraged to think that his health was improved, it was
noticed by his friends that most of his work was done at home and they
saw less of him down town. Naturally the death of Melvin brought him
many letters of condolence, and, among others, one from his old friend
William C. Buskett, to whom he made immediate reply:
MY DEAR BUSKETT: I was delighted to get your letter. I had been at a
loss to account for your long silence. I feared that you might think
the rumors of your business reverses had abated my regard for you,
and this suspicion made me miserable. I have for so long a time been
the victim of poverty that I have come to regard poverty as a sort
of trade-mark of virtue, and I hail to the ranks of the elect every
friend whom misfortune has impoverished.
I have a great deal to say to you; I cannot write it--much is of
Melvin and his last moments, painful details, yet not without
reconciling features, for he met death calmly and bravely. It will
gratify you to know that my own health is steadily improving; the
others are very hearty. The second edition of my books, issued by
Scribner's Sons, is selling like hot-cakes. Four thousand sets have
already been disposed of. I intend to publish a new volume of poems
Ever sincerely yours,
December 17th, 1890.
With what diligence and enthusiasm Field threw himself into the work
of preparing other books for publication may be gleaned from a letter
to Mr. Gray, dated June 7th, 1891:
DEAR MR. GRAY: Your kind and interesting letter should have been
answered before this but for many professional duties which have led
me to neglect very many of the civilities of life. I have been
preparing my translations of the Odes of Horace for publication in
book form, and this has required time and care. Roswell has joined
me in the task, and will contribute about forty per cent. of the
translations. The odes we have treated number about fifty, and they
are to be published in fine style by the Cambridge printers. The
first edition will be an exceedingly small one; the scheme at
present is to print fifty copies only, but a cheap popular edition
will soon follow. The expensive publication is undertaken by my
friend Francis Wilson, the actor, and he is to give me the plates
from which to print the popular edition. It will interest, and we
are hoping that it will please, you to know that we shall dedicate
this volume to you as a slight, though none the less sincere, token
of our regard and affection to you as the friend of our father and
as a friend to us. Were our father living, it would please him, we
think, to see his sons collaborating as versifiers of the Pagan
lyrist whose songs he admired; it would please him, too, we are
equally certain, to see us dedicating the result of our enthusiastic
toil to so good a man and to so good a friend as you. The lyrics
which we have treated are in the majority of cases of a sportive
character, those appealing most directly to us and, we think, to the
hearts of people of these times. Yet the more serious songs are
those which please me best, for in them I find a certain touch which
softens my feelings, giving me gentler thoughts and a broader
charity. It is my intention to pursue the versification of Horace
still further, but whether my plan shall be fulfilled is so very
dubious that I set no store by it. I am wanting to print a volume of
my miscellaneous poems next fall, dedicating them to Julia, but I
have not yet begun to collect the material.
On Thursday, the 28th ultimo, we laid Melvin's remains to rest
finally in Graceland Cemetery. The lot I selected and bought is in a
pretty, accessible spot, sheltered by two oak trees, just such spot
as the boy himself, with his love for nature, would have chosen. The
interment was very private, none being present but the family.
Others were in the cemetery making preparations for the observance
of Decoration Day. Of this number were many Germans, and these,
attracted by the appearance of the pretentious German casket in
which our boy's body lay, gathered around wonderingly. They were
curious to know the story of that casket, for they had not seen one
like it for many years. But the ceremony, however painful, was
beautiful--beautiful in the caressing glory of the sunlight that was
all around, in the fragrant, velvety verdure that composed the bed
to which we consigned the ashes of the beloved one, in the gentle
music of the birds that nested hard by and knew no fear, and in the
love which we bore him and always shall.
You must tell Mrs. Gray that we shall not abandon our purpose to
induce her to visit us. We have every facility for keeping warm,
although if this atrocious weather continues we shall have to lay in
more coal. She would find us comfortably located, and the warmth of
our welcome and the cordiality of our attentions would perhaps
compensate for the absence of many of her home luxuries, which we
cannot of course supply. You should come, too. While I am too wise
to undertake to outwalk, outfish, or outrun you, I will venture to
contract to keep you entertained diligently and discreetly during
your sojourn with us.
I have had two very interesting letters from one Mrs. Temperance
Moon, of Farmington, Utah, who was nurse-girl in our family in
1852-3. She inquired after the Pomeroy girls and Miss Arabella Reed!
She was one of a family of English Mormons who were stranded in St.
Louis. My mother taught her to read. She saw my name in a newspaper,
and wrote me. We are now as thick as three in a bed. Her husband is
a Mormon farmer. They have ten children, and are otherwise
prosperous. We all unite in affectionate regards to Mrs. Gray and
yourself, and we wish you the choicest of God's blessings.
As ever, sincerely yours,
420 Fullerton Ave., Chicago.
Writing on June 28th, Field enclosed the dedication of the "Echoes
from the Sabine Farm" to Mr. Gray, asking him to make any alterations
therein which his taste or judgment might suggest. "I have made this
introductory poem rather playful," he wrote, "with but one touch of
sentiment--the reference to your friend, our father." Field took more
pride in the form in which the "Echoes" was got out than in the
quality of its contents. He was gratified and flattered by the
sumptuous manner in which it was being published by Mr. Wilson. "Of
the edition of one hundred copies," he wrote to Mr. Gray, "thirty will
be printed on Japanese vellum, each copy to contain an original
drawing by Garrett and an autograph verse by Roswell and myself; the
seventy others will be printed on white hand-made paper, and will have
no unique feature. All the copies will be handsomely illustrated in
vignette by Garrett; the sum of $2,500 has been expended for
illustrations alone. The book will be, I think, the handsomest of the
kind ever printed in America." After the special edition had been
printed, the plates of this book were most generously transferred to
Field by Mr. Wilson.
The fact that Field was far from being a healthy man crops out in all
his correspondence about this time. Writing to Mr. Gray under date of
December 12th, 1891, I find him saying:
Just at present I am quite overwhelmed with work in the throes of a
Christmas story for the Daily News, my only story this year,
although I have had many applications for verse and prose. I have
promised a story to the Christian Union next Christmas. I have
delayed answering the letter you wrote to me some time ago, in the
hope that I should see my way clear to accepting your invitation.
Alas! I think it will be some time yet before I can visit St. Louis.
I am not well yet, and I actually dread going from home whilst
feeling ill. I improve in health, but the improvement is slow. I am
trying to abandon the tobacco habit. I find it a hard, hard
By the time this letter was written, Field's Christmas stories
commanded almost any price in reason he was inclined to ask for
them--a condition far different from that which provoked his wrath and
scorn in the winter of 1886. That year his Christmas contribution to
the Morning News was "The Symbol and the Saint"--a story upon which he
expended a good month's spare time. In the same issue were
contributions from every member of the staff, excepting myself. In the
course of time each story-writer received the munificent sum of $15,
the author of the "Symbol and the Saint" the same as the reporter, who
turned in the thinnest, flimsiest sort of a sketch. It was a case of
levelling all down to a common standard, which Field did not relish.
He felt keenly the injustice of estimating the carefully finished
product of his month's labor at the same rate as the hurried and rough
journeyman work of a local hand, which had not cost more than an hour,
all told, in its conception and composition. "I think," he wrote
privately to Cowen, under date of January the 9th, 1887, "that things
have come to a sweet pass when my work, over which I have toiled for
more than three weeks, is to be estimated at the same rate as the
local hands." He registered no complaint to headquarters at the time,
but consoled himself with executing the following touching sketeh and
[Illustration: SKETCH AND EPITAPH.
_From a drawing by Eugene Field._
Here lies a mass of mouldering clay
Who sought in youth a path to glory,
But dies of age--without his pay
For writing of a Christmas story
IN THE SAINTS' AND SINNERS' CORNER
To those of us who were closely associated with Eugene Field personally
or in his work, it was evident during the years from 1887 until after
his return from Europe that a radical change was taking place in his
methods of life and thought. His friend Cowen has ascribed this change
to settling down "in the must and rust of bibliomania"; but I fancy
that that settling down was more than half the result of the failing
health which warned him that he must conserve his powers. He felt the
shadows creeping up the mountain, and realized he had much to do while
yet it was day.
In Eugene Field's case it would be difficult to distinguish the line
where his bibliomania, that was an inherited infatuation for
collecting, ended, and the carefully cultivated affectation of the
craze for literary uses began. He was unquestionably a victim of the
disease about which he wrote so roguishly and withal so charmingly. But
though it was in his blood, it never blinded his sense of literary
values or restrained his sallies at the expense of his demented
fellows. He had too keen a sense of the ridiculous to go clean daft on
the subject. He yielded to the fascinating pursuit of rare and curious
editions, of old prints of celebrities, and of personal belongings of
distinguished individuals; but how far these impulses were irresistible
and how much he was mad only in craft, like Hamlet, it is impossible to
say. The bibliomaniacs claim him for their scribe and poet, the
defender of their faith, the high-priest of their craft. The scoffers
find a grimace in everything he ever wrote upon the subject, from "The
Bibliomaniac's Prayer," with its palpable reflection of Watts and its
ill-concealed raillery, down to the gentle, yet none the less
discernible, mockery of the "Love Affairs." It would be a bootless
task to follow the gradual evolution from the frequent authorship of
such quatrains as--
_In Cupid's artful toils I roll
And thrice ten thousand pangs I feel,
For Susie's eyes have ground my soul
Beneath their iron heel._
_O thou, who at the age of three
Grew faint and weak and ill,
O'ertaken by the bitter pill
Of cold adversity!_
which frolic through his column as late as June, 1888; to such bits
_Oh, for a booke and a shady nooke
Eyther in doore or out,
With the greene leaves whispering overhead,
Or the streete cryes all about;
Where I maie read all at my ease
Both of the newe and old,
For a jollie goode booke whereon to looke
Is better to me than golde!_
But about September, 1888, his column began to reflect the effects of
his mania for and about collecting. For a short time he showed little
preference between both "the newe and old" books; but ere 1889 was
three months gone, "newe" books, however, "jollie goode" were almost
banished from his vocabulary and column. "The Bibliomaniac's Prayer"
(January, 1889) was one of the early symptoms of the transformation
that was impending and the paraphrases from Horace which began to
appear frequently in the same month indicated that he had entered upon
another study that was to exert such a marked influence upon his later
style and writings.
As has been indicated in an earlier chapter, Field began to frequent
the southwest corner of McClurg's book-store shortly after he came to
Chicago. That section of this "emporium of literature" was presided
over by George M. Millard, and contained as fine and, truth to tell, as
expensive an assortment of rare and choice books as was to be found
outside of the great collections of the land. Mr. Millard made annual
or biennial pilgrimages to London in the interests of his house; and
when he did not go, General McClurg, who was himself a book fancier of
rare good taste and eke business judgment, devoted part of his European
vacations to the bookshelves, book-shops, and binderies of Field's
"dear old London." On the occasion of the former's return from one of
his book-buying excursions, with the spoils of Europe for the
spoliation of Chicago's book-maniacs, Field announced the fact in the
following somewhat equivocal but wholly clever lines:
_GEORGE MILLARD IS HOME!
Come, ye maniacs, as of yore
From your musty, dusty hidings,
And in answer to the tidings
Crowd the corner full once more,
Lo, from distant England's shore,
Laden down with spoil galore
Such as bibliopoles adore--
Books and prints in endless store,
Treasures singly or in set
(Labelled "j.k.t." and "net"),
All who have the means to buy
Things that glad the heart and eye.
Ye who seek some rare old tome--
Maniacs shrewd or imbecilic,
Urban, pastoral, or idyllic,
Richly clad or dishabillic,
Heed the summons bibliophilic--
"George Millard is home!"_
Field was not first attracted to Millard's department by its treasures
of rare books, sacred and profane, but by its comprehensive stock of
early English balladry and a complete line of Bohn's Library. In these
he revelled until he had pretty thoroughly comprehended, as he would
say, their contents. But during our almost daily visit to McClurg's he
formed the acquaintance of a number of such chronic book collectors as
Ben. T. Cable, George A. Armour, Charles J. Barnes, James W. Ellsworth,
Rev. Frank W. Gunsaulus, the Rev. Frank M. Bristol, the Rev. M. Woolsey
Stryker, and others, some with ample wealth to indulge their
extravagant tastes, but the majority with lean purses coupled with
bookish tastes beyond the resources of a Philadelphia mint. Out of
these daily meetings and mousings among books and prints was evolved in
Field's fancy what he dubbed the "Saints' and Sinners' Corner." The
"Saints" may be easily identified by their titles, while the "Sinners"
included all those who had neither title nor pretence to holiness, but
were simply engaged in breaking the command against coveting their
neighbors' possessions. There was no formal organization, no club, no
stated meetings, no roll of members, and no gatherings such as after a
time were constantly reported in the "Sharps and Flats" column. All the
meetings and discussions in the Saints' and Sinners' Corner were held
in Field's fertile brain, and only occasionally were the subjects of
these meetings suggested by anything that happened at McClurg's.
The earliest reference I have found to this figment of Field's fancy
is a casual paragraph in April, 1889, where he speaks of a number of
bibliomaniacs having congregated in the Saints' and Sinners' Corner at
McClurg's. But the phrase was current among us long before that. It
was not until nearly two years had elapsed that Field gravely
announced "a sale of pews in the Saints' and Sinners' corner at
McClurg's immediately after the regular noontime service next
Wednesday" (December 31st, 1890). It is perhaps worthy of a remark
that General McClurg for a long time regarded Field's frequent jests
and squibs at the expense of the frequenters of his old-book
department with anything but an approving eye. He looked upon Field
for many years as a ribald mocker of the conventionalities not only of
literature but of life. "Culture's Garland" was an offence to his
social instincts and literary tastes. Among all the men with whom
Field came in frequent converse, the late lamented General Alexander
C. McClurg was the last to succumb to the engaging tormentor. Field's
lack of reverence for all earthly things, except womankind, was the
barrier between these two.
Thus it came about that Field made the Saints' and Sinners' Corner at
McClurg's famous throughout the book world against its owner's will,
but not against his fortune. For more than six years he advertised its
wares and bargains as no book-store had ever been advertised before.
All the general and his lieutenant had to do was to provide the books
collectors were after, and Field did the rest. He played upon the
strings of bibliomaniac acquisitiveness as a skilled musician upon the
violin; and whether the music they gave forth was grave or gay, it gave
a mocking pleasure to the man who rejoiced that there was so much power
in the "subtile" scratching of his pen.
Among the earliest friends Field made at McClurg's was the late William
F. Poole, for many years in charge of the Chicago Public Library, and
subsequently of the Newberry Library. Dr. Poole came from Salem, Mass.,
and his son at one time was catcher for the Yale base-ball nine. Field
took advantage of these facts, which appealed to his enjoyment of
contradictions to print all manner of odd conceits about Professor
Poole's relations to witches, base-ball, and libraries. The doctor
could not make a move in public that it did not inspire Field to some
new quidity involving his alleged belief in witches, his envy and
admiration of his son's prowess at base-ball, and his real and
extensive familiarity with libraries and literature. Some idea of the
good-natured liberties Field took with the name of Dr. Poole is given
in this paragraph of October 8th, 1889:
Dr. William F. Poole, the veteran bibliophile, is now in San
Francisco attending the meeting of the National Librarians'
Association. While the train bearing the excursionists was _en
route_ through Arizona, a stop of twenty minutes was made one
evening for supper at a rude eating-house, and here Dr. Poole had an
exciting experience with a tarantula. The venomous reptile attacked
the kindly old gentleman with singular voracity, and but for the
high-topped boots which Mr. Poole wore, serious injuries would have
been inflicted upon our friend's person. Mr. Fred Hild, our Public
Librarian, hearing Dr. Poole's cries for help, ran to the rescue,
and with his cane and umbrella succeeded in keeping the tarantula
at bay until the keeper of the restaurant fetched his gun and
dispatched the malignant monster. The tarantula weighed six pounds.
Dr. Poole took the skin to San Francisco and will have it tanned so
he can utilize it for the binding of one of his favorite books.
I have introduced Dr. Poole into this narrative because he was really
the dean of the interesting group of men who figured in Field's Saints'
and Sinners' Corner. Both Field and the venerable doctor had a slight
impediment in speech at the beginning of a sentence or in addressing
anyone. When they met after such a paragraph as the above had been
printed, Dr. Poole would blurt out in the most friendly way, "O-o-o-oh
Field! w-w-where did you get that lie from?" To which Field would
reply, "L-i-i-ie, d-doctor! W-w-why, F-f-fred Hild [Poole's successor
in the public library] g-g-gave me that!" Then the doctor would
ejaculate "Nonsense!" and the conversation would drift into some
discussion about books, in which all impediments of speech disappeared.
When McClurg's book-store was gutted by a fire some years ago, in which
the precious contents of the Saints' and Sinners' Corner were ruined
beyond restoration and the many associations that lingered around them
went up in smoke or were drowned out by water, the newspapers were
filled with all manner of stories about the Saints' and Sinners' Club
that had held its meetings there. The Rev. Dr. Gunsaulus, one of the
most widely known Saints, spoke of it as an association "without rules
of order or times of meeting." "It consisted," said he, in a published
interview, "of the most interesting group of liars ever assembled. For
ten years that Saints' and Sinners' Corner was a place where congenial
fellows met. We simply feasted our eyes on beautiful books or old
manuscripts and chatted with each other after the usual fashion of
book-lovers. The stories told were sometimes more amusing than
profitable." He also told how Field, on one occasion, saved a book
which he greatly coveted by writing on the fly-leaf:
_Swete friend, for Jesus's sake forbeare
To buy ye lake thou findest here,
For that when I do get ye pelf,
I meane to buy ye boke my selfe.
But the clergymen, doctors and merchants, actors and newspaper-men who
met by chance and the one common instinct of book-loving at McClurg's,
albeit "the greatest aggregation of liars" one of them had ever "met up
with," were a simple, ingenuous, and aimless lot compared to the group
which Field assembled in his corner in the "Sharps and Flats" column.
Only quotations from some of his reports of their imaginary meetings
can do justice to these children of his brain. These I should preface
with the explanation that Field always sought to preserve in his
fiction some general and distinguishing characteristics of his Saints
and Sinners, who were all real persons bearing their real names. His
many inventions stopped at bestowing fictitious names upon either his
Saints or his Sinners. I have selected "corners" which have not been
published between boards. It is, perhaps, needless to say that I am
always made to figure as a Philistine in these gatherings, as a penalty
for my lack of sympathy with the whole theory of valuing books by their
dates, editions, and bindings rather than their "eternal internals."
SOUVENIRS FROM EGYPT
At a meeting of the bibliomaniacs in the Saints and Sinners Corner
yesterday, Mr. E.G. Mason announced that he was about to start for
Africa. It was his intention to leave Chicago on the morrow, and
sail from New York on Saturday.
Mr. G.M. Millard: "Do you go in the interests of the Newberry
Library, or as the agent of Mr. Charles F. Gunther?"
Mr. Mason: "I go for pleasure, but during my absence I shall cast
around now and then for relics which I know my good friend, Mr.
Poole, desires to possess. For example, I am informed that the
Newberry Library is in need of a stock of papyrus, and if I can
secure a mummy or two I shall certainly do so. Indeed, I hope to
bring back a valise full of relics."
The Rev. Mr. Bristol: "Maybe the gentleman would like to borrow a
In the course of further parley it transpired that Mr. Mason
contemplated extending his tour to Syria, and he answered in the
affirmative Mr. Slason Thompson's inquiry whether he carried with
him from his venerable friend from Evanston (Dr. Poole) a letter of
introduction to the Pooles of Siloam and Bethesda. Mr. Mason only
agreed to fill the commissions involving procurement of the
following precious souvenirs:
An autograph letter of Rameses I, for the Rev. Mr. Bristol.
A quart of chestnuts from the groves of Lebanon, for Colonel J.S.
One of Cleopatra's needles, for Mrs. F.S. Peabody.
The original Pipe of Pan, for Mr. Cox's collection of Tobacco-ana.
A genuine hieroglyphical epitaph, for Dr. Charles Gilman Smith.
A live unicorn for Mr. W.F. Poole; also the favorite broom-stick of
the witch of Endor.
A letter was read from Mr. Francis Wilson, the comedian, announcing
that the iniquitous operations of the McKinley act had practically
paralyzed the trade in Napoleona. A similar condition obtained in
the autograph market, the native mills engaged in manufacturing
autographs having doubled their prices since the enforcement of the
tariff discriminating against autographs made in foreign factories.
A committee, consisting of Messrs. R.M. Dornan, F.H. Head, and R.M.
Whipple, was authorized to investigate the alarming rumor that the
Rev. Dr. Gunsaulus had publicly offered to donate to one Roberts a
certain sum of money that clearly ought to be expended for first
editions and Cromwelliana.
Mr. Harry L. Hamlin announced that he had a daughter. (Applause.)
Mr. W.H. Wells: "Give title and date, please."
Mr. Hamlin: "She is entitled Dorothy (first edition), Chicago, 1890,
16mo, handsome frontispiece and beautiful type; I have had her
handsomely bound, and I regard her as a priceless specimen of
Various suggestions were offered as to the character of the gift
which the Saints and Sinners should formally present to this first
babe that had accrued to a member of the organization. Finally, it
was determined to present a large silver spoon in behalf of the
Saints and Sinners collectively, and Dr. Poole was requested to
draft a presentation address.
Mr. Hamlin feelingly thanked his friends; he should guard the token
of their friendship jealously and affectionately.
The Rev. Mr. Bristol: "It won't be safe unless you keep it in a
trunk--better get a trunk, brother, ere it be too late--better get a
The meeting adjourned after singing the beautiful hymn, collected,
adapted, and arranged by the Rev. Dr. Stryker, beginning:
_"Though some, benight in sin, delight
To glut their vandal cravings,
These hands of mine shall not incline
To tear out old engravings."
January 22d, 1891._
PROPOSED CURE FOR BIBLIOMANIA
A smile of exceeding satisfaction illuminated General McClurg's
features as he walked into the corner yesterday noon and found that
historic spot crowded with Saints and Sinners. Said he to Mr.
Millard: "George, you are a famous angler!"
Mr. Millard assumed a self-deprecatory expression. "I make no
pretentions at all," answered he, modestly. "My only claim is that I
am not upon earth for my health."
"I see our handsome friend, Guy Magee, here to-day," observed
General McClurg. "I thought he had opened out a book-shop of his
"So he has," replied Mr. Millard, "at 24 North Clark Street, and a
mighty good book-shop it is, too. I visited the place last week, and
was surprised to see a number of beautiful books in stock."
"Let's see," said General McClurg, "24 North Clark Street is the
other side of the bridge, isn't it?"
"Yes, just the other side--five minutes' walk from the Court House.
Magee proposed to cater to the higher class of purchasers only, and
with this end in view he has selected a choice line of books; in
splendid bindings and in illustrated books he has a particularly
large stock. Meanwhile he remains an active member of the noble
fraternity that has made this corner famous. On Thanksgiving day we
are going in a body to look at his fine things, and to hold what our
Saints call a praise-service in the snug, warm, cozy shop."
"That being the case, I will go, too," said General McClurg.
The Saints and Sinners were full of the Christmas spirit yesterday,
and they were telling one another what they meant to buy for
Christmas gifts. Dr. W.F. Poole said he had designs upon a set of
Grose's "Antiquities," bound in turkey-red morocco. In answer to Mr.
F.M. Larned's inquiry as to whom he intended to give this splendid
present, Dr. Poole said: "To myself, of course! Christmas comes but
once a year, and at that time of all times are we justified in
gratifying the lusts of the spirit. (Applause.) Nobody can scold us
if we choose to be good to ourselves at Christmas."
"I think we all have reason to felicitate Brother Poole," said Mr.
Charles J. Barnes. "Happening to visit the nord seit the other day,
I saw that work was progressing on the Newberry Library. I should
like to know when the corner-stone of that splendid edifice is to be
"The date has not yet been fixed," answered Dr. Poole, "but when it
is laid it will be with the most elaborate public ceremonies. The
corner-stone will be hollowed out, and into this cavity will be
placed a number of priceless and curious relics."
Mr. Millard: "The Saints and Sinners should be represented at those
ceremonies and in that hollow corner-stone."
Mr. Poole: "Of course. As for myself, I shall contribute the stuffed
tarantula which I brought back with me from Arizona."
Dr. F.M. Bristol: "Another interesting relic that should go into
that corner-stone is the stump of the cigar which the Rev. Dr.
Gunsaulus smoked at camp-meeting."
Dr. Gunsaulus: "I will cheerfully contribute that relic if upon his
part Brother Bristol will contribute his portrait of Eliphalet W.
Blatchford disguised as Falstaff." (Cheers.)
The Rev. Dr. Stryker: "I have a completed uncut set of 'Monk and
Knight,' which I will be happy to devote to the same cause."
Dr. Gunsaulus: "The contributions will be hardly complete without a
box of those matches with which Brother Stryker wanted to kindle a
bonfire which was to consume the body of the heretical Briggs. But
speaking of that novel of mine ('Monk and Knight') reminds me that I
wrote a poem on the railway the other day, and I will read it now if
there be no objection." (Cries of 'Read it,' 'Go ahead.') "The poem,
humble as it is, was suggested by seeing a fellow-passenger fall
asleep over his volume of Bion and Moschus. This is the way it goes:
_Wake, wake him not; the book lies in his hands--
Bion and Moschus smile within his sleep;
Tired of our world, he lives in other lands--
Wanders in Greece, where fauns and satyrs leap.
Dull, even sweet, the rumble of the train--
'Tis Circe singing near her golden loom;
No garish lamps afflicted his charmed brain--
Demeter's poppies brighten o'er her tomb.
But half-awake he looks on starlit trees--
Sees but the huntress in her eager chase;
Wake, wake him not upon the fragrant breeze,
Let horn and hound announce her rapid pace.
Blithe shepherds pipe within the Dorian vales,
Hellenic airs blow through their sun-bright hair,
To him alone the wooers whisper tales--
Bloomed kind Calypso's islet ne'er so fair.
Unbanished gods roam o'er the thymy hills,
Calm shadows slumber on the purple grapes,
Hid are the dryads near the star-gemmed rills,
Far through the moonlight wander love-lorn shapes.
Gray olives shade the dancing-naiads' smile,
Flutes loose their raptures in the murmuring stream,
These, these are visions modern cares beguil--
Echoes of the old Greek's dream._"
Mr. Stryker: "That is good poetry, Brother Gunsaulus. If you would
tone it down a little, and contrive to work in a touch of piety here
and there, I would be glad to print it in my next volume of hymns."
Mr. H.B. Smith: "I did not suppose that our reverend Brother
Gunsaulus ever attempted poetry. His verses have that grace and lilt
that are the prime essentials to successful comic-opera libretto
writing. When I want a collaborateur, I shall know whom to apply
Mr. Bristol: "The brother's poem indicates the influence of the
Homer school. Can it be possible that our Plymouth Church friend has
fallen into the snare spread for him by the designing members of the
South Side Hellenic organization?"
Dr. Gunsaulus: "Since Brother Bristol seems so anxious to know, I
will admit that I have recently joined the Armour Commandery of the
South Side Sons of Homer."
Mr. Slason Thompson, heading off the discussion threatened by Mr.
Gunsaulus's declaration, arose and informed the company that he was
prepared to confer an inestimable boon upon his brother Saints and
brother Sinners. "You are all," said he, "victims to an exacting and
fierce mania--a madness that is unremitting in the despotism
directing every thought and practice in your waking hours, and
filling your brains with gilded fancies during your nocturnal
periods of repose. (Applause.) Many of you are so advanced in this
mania that the mania itself has become seemingly your very
existence--(cheers)--and the feet of others are fast taking hold
upon that path which leads down into the hopeless depths of this
insanity. (Prolonged applause.) Hitherto bibliomania has been
regarded as incurable; humanity has looked upon it as the one malady
whose tortures neither salve, elixir, plaster, poultice, nor pill,
can ever alleviate; it has been pronounced immedicable, immitigable,
"For a long time," continued Mr. Thompson. "I have searched for an
antidote against this subtle and terrific poison of bibliomania. At
last, heaven be praised! I have found the cure! (Great sensation.)
Yes, a certain remedy for this madness is had in Keeley's bichloride
of gold bibliomania bolus, a packet of which I now hold in my hand!
Through the purging and regenerating influences of this magic
antidote, it is possible for every one of you to shake off the evil
with which you are cursed, and to restore that manhood which you
have lost in your insane pursuit of wretched book fancies. The
treatment requires only three weeks' time. You take one of these
boluses just before each meal and one before going to bed. In about
three days you become aware that your olfactories are losing that
keenness of function which has enabled you to nose out old books and
to determine the age thereof merely by sniffing at the binding. In a
week distaste for book-hunting is exhibited, and this increases
until at the end of a fortnight you are ready to burn every volume
you can lay hands on. No man can take this remedy for three weeks
without being wholly and permanently cured of bibliomania. I have
also another gold preparation warranted to cure the mania for old
prints, old china, old silver, and old furniture."
Mr. Thompson had no sooner ended his remarks when a score of Saints
and Sinners sprang up to protest against this ribald quackery. The
utmost confusion prevailed for several moments. Finally the
venerable Dr. Poole was accorded the floor. "Far be it from me,"
said he, solemnly, "to lend my approval to any enterprise that
contemplates bibliomania as a disease instead of a crime.
(Applause.) I live in Evanston, the home of that saintly woman Miss
Willard, and under her teachings I have become convinced that
bibliomania is a sin which must be eradicated by piety and not by
pills. Rather than be cured by heretical means, I prefer not to be
cured at all." (Great cheering.)
Remarks in a similar vein were made by Messrs. Ballantyne, Larned,
Hamlin, Smith, Barnes, Cole, Magee, Taylor, and Carpenter. Dr.
Gunsaulus seemed rather inclined to try the cure, but he doubted
whether he could stick to it for three weeks. Finally, a compromise
was effected by the adoption of the following resolutions submitted
by the Rev. Dr. Bristol:
"Resolved, that we, Saints and Sinners, individually and
collectively, defer, postpone, suspend, and delay all experiment and
essay with the bichloride bibliomania bolus until after the
approaching holiday season, and furthermore,
"Resolved, that at the expiration of this specified interdicted
season we will see about it."
Suspecting treachery, Dr. Gunsaulus secured the adoption of another
resolution forbidding any member of the organization to secure or
apply for an option on the said boluses before formal action with
reference to the vaunted cure had been taken by the Saints and
Sinners in regular meeting.
However, Field did not confine all his attentions to what he called the
"book-bandits" to his reports on the proceedings in the Saints' and
Sinners' Corner. Scattered throughout his writings from 1887 onward
were paragraphs, ballads, and jests, praising, berating, and "joshing"
the maniac crew who held that "binding's the surest test," and who
bought books, as some would-be connoisseurs do wine, by the label. With
all his professions of sympathy with the maniacs, he never missed an
opportunity to make merry over what he regarded as their rivalries and
disappointments, and he never wearied of egging them on to imitate his
own besetting disposition to buy the curio you covet and "settle when
you can," as indicated in the beautiful hymn that concludes the
Francis Wilson, the comedian, is the possessor of the chair which
Sir Walter Scott used in his library at Abbotsford. A beautiful bit
of furniture it is, and well worth, aside from all sentimental
consideration, the large price paid by the enterprising and
discriminating curio. As we understand it, Bouton, the New York
dealer, had this chair on exhibition for several months. Mr. Wilson
happened along one day, having just returned from a professional
tour in the West. Mr. William Winter, dramatic critic of the
Tribune, was looking at the chair; he had been after it for some
time, but had been waiting for the price to abate somewhat.
"The Players' Club should have that chair," said he to Bouton, "and
if you'll give better terms I'll get a number of the members to chip
in together and buy it."
To this appeal Bouton sturdily remained deaf. After Mr. Winter had
left the place, Wilson said to Bouton, "Send the chair up to my
house; here is a check for the money."
There are rumors to the effect that when Mr. Winter heard of this
transaction he rent his garments and gnashed his teeth, and wildly
implored somebody to hang a millstone about his neck and cast him
into outer darkness.
Horace Greeley used to say that the best way to resume was to
resume; so, in the science of collecting, it behooves the collector
never to put off till to-morrow what he can pick up to-day. This
theory has been most succinctly and beautifully set forth in one of
the hymns recently compiled by the Archbishop of the North Side
_How foolish of a man to wait
When once his chance is nigh:
To-morrow it may be too late--
Some other man may buy.
Nay, brother, comprehend the boon
That's offered in a trice,
Or else some other all too soon
Will pay the needful price.
Should some fair book engage your eye,
Or print invite your glance,
Oh, trifle not with faith, but buy
While yet you have the chance!
Else, glad to do thee grievous wrong,
Some wolf in human guise--
Some bibliophil shall snoop along
And nip that lovely prize!
No gem of purest ray serene
Gleams in the depthless sea,
There is no flower that blooms unseen
Upon the distant lea,
But the same snooping child of sin,
With fad or mania curst,
Will find it out and take it in
Unless you get there first.
Though undue haste may be a crime,
Now--now is the accepted time
To eviscerate your purse!
So buy what finds you find to-day--
That is the safest plan;
And if you find you cannot pay,
Why, settle when you can._
As I have said, there was no such organization as a Saints' and
Sinners' Club, no roll of membership, and no such meetings as were
exploited with such engaging verity by Field. The only formal gathering
of any considerable number of the habitues of the Saints' and Sinners'
Corner that ever took place was never reported by him. It occurred on
New Year's Eve, 1890, and everything appertaining to it, down to the
fragrant whiskey punch, was concocted by Field, who explained that his
poverty, not his will, consented to the substitution of the wine of
America for that of France in the huge iron-stone bowl that answered
all the demands of the occasion. About a week before the date all the
members whose names had been used without their consent in the Corner
in "Sharps and Flats" received a card, on which was written:
Saints' and Sinners' Corner,
December 31, 1890.
Be there 10.30 P.M. Sharp.
The Sinners turned out in full force. The Saints, I suppose, had
watch-night services of their own, for they were conspicuous by their
absence. Lawyers, doctors, actors, newspaper men, and book-lovers of
divers callings and degrees of iniquity were on hand at half-past ten
o'clock, or continued to drop in toward midnight. But if there was a
doctor of divinity in that hilarious gathering, I fail to recall his
presence. If one was present, he failed to exercise a restraining
influence on the gaiety of the Sinners. And yet without such presence
there was a subtle influence pervading the strange scene, that forbade
any approach to boisterousness. Out in the main body of the deserted
store all was dark and still. The curtains of the show-windows were
drawn down, shutting out the intrusive light of the street-lamps.
Field's guests--for we all, even George Millard, acknowledged him as
host and high priest of the evening--were assembled in the corner
devoted to old books and prints. The congregation, as he styled the
meeting, was seated on such chairs, stools, and boxes as the place
could afford. The darkness was made visible by a few sickly gas-jets
and some half dozen candles in appropriate black glass candlesticks
that looked suspiciously like bottles. Field was as busy as a shuttle
in a sewing-machine. He announced that Elder Melville E. Stone would
"preside over the meetin' and line out the hymns," which Mr. Stone,
though no singer, proceeded to do, calling on the mendacious Sinners
for brief confessions of their manifold transgressions during the dying
year. The tide of experiences was at its height when, on the first
stroke of midnight, every light was doused. So suddenly and
unexpectedly did darkness swallow us from each other's ken that there
was a gasp, and then for a moment a hushed silence. Before this was
broken by any other sound out from the impenetrable gloom came a deep
sepulchral voice, chanting:
_"From Canaan's beatific coast
I've come to visit thee,
For I am Frognall Dibdin's ghost,"
Says Dibdin's ghost to me.
I bade him welcome, and we twain
Discussed with buoyant hearts
The various things that appertain
To bibliomaniac arts.
"Since you are fresh from t'other side,
Pray, tell me of that host
That treasured books before they died,"
Says I to Dibdin's ghost.
"They've entered into perfect rest:
For in the life they've won,
There are no auctions to molest,
No creditors to dun.
"Their heavenly rapture has no bounds
Beside that jasper sea;
It is a joy unknown to Lowndes,"
Says Dibdin's ghost to me._
You could have heard the proverbial pin drop as Field's organ-like
voice, which all quickly recognized, rolled out the now familiar lines
of "Dibdin's Ghost," then heard for the first time by everyone in that
historic Corner. No point was missed in that weird recitation. I shall
never forget the graveyard unction with which he propounded the
question and answer of the poem:
_"But what of those who scold at us
When we would read in bed?
Or, wanting victuals, make a fuss
If we buy books instead?
And what of those who've dusted not
Our motley pride and boast,--
Shall they profane that sacred spot?"
Says I to Dibdin's ghost.
"Oh, no! they tread that other path
Which leads where torments roll,
And worms--yes, bookworms--vent their wrath
Upon the guilty soul,
Untouched of bibliomaniac grace,
That saveth such as we,
They wallow in that dreadful place,"
Says Dibdin's ghost to me._
Into these lines Field managed to throw all the exulting fanaticism of
the hopeless bibliomaniac without suppressing one jot of the chuckle of
the profane scoffer. And then the gas and candles were relit and the
punch and sandwiches and apple pie and cheese were served, and with
song and story we passed such a night as sinners mark with red letters
for saints to envy. If the reader should ever come across Paul du
Chaillu, who contributed to the varied pleasures of the occasion, let
him inquire of the veracious Paul whether, in all his travels and
experiences, he ever knew one man so capable of entertaining a host of
wits as Eugene Field proved himself on the eve of New Year, 1891.
It is due to the numberless friends and acquaintances Field made among
the politicians of three states particularly and of the nation
generally that this study of his life should take some account of his
political writings, if not of his political principles. Those not
familiar with political events during the past twenty years may skip
this chapter, as it pleases them.
Field was a Republican by inheritance, and a Missouri Republican at
that, which means a Republican who may die but never compromises. The
Vermont views and prejudices which he inherited from his father were
not weakened, we may be sure, under the tutelage of the women folks at
Amherst, or of Dr. Tufts, at Monson. But rock-ribbed as he was in his
adherence to the Republican party, he never took the trouble to make
a study of its principles, nor did he care to discuss any of the
political issues of his day. It was enough that the Democratic party
embodied in his mind his twin aversions, slavery and rebellion, against
the Union. He was a thorough-going believer in the doctrine, "To the
victors belong the spoils," and as he credited the Republican party
with the preservation of the Union, he saw no reason why its adherents
should not use or abuse its government without let or hindrance from
men who had sought to destroy it. This view he has set forth in a
scornful bit of verse, which I copy from his rough draft:
What means this pewter teapot storm,
This incoherent yell--
This boisterous blubber for "reform"
When everything goes well?
Why should the good old party cease
To rule our prosperous land?
Is not our country blessed with peace
And wealth on every hand?
The Democrats desired reform
Two dozen years ago,
But with our life-blood, red and warm,
We gave the answer "No."
We see the same old foe to-day
We saw in Sixty-one--
"Deeds of reform," they whining say,
Must for our land be done!
"Deeds of reform?" And these the men
Who, in the warful years,
Starved soldiers in a prison-pen,
And mocked their dying tears!
By these our mother's heart was broke--
By these our father fell--
These bold "reformers" once awoke
Our land with rebel yell!
These quondam rebels come to-day
In penitential form,
And hypocritically say
The country needs "reform!"
Out on reformers such as these!
By Freedom's sacred pow'rs
We'll run the country as we please--
We saved it, and it's ours!_
From this as the rock of all his political prejudices, Field was
immovable. But happily, for the pleasure of his friends and the
entertainment of his readers, he took politics no more seriously than
he did many of the other responsibilities of life. As early as 1873,
in a letter already published, he announced that he had "given over
all hope of rescuing my torn and bleeding country from Grant and his
minions," and from that time on he devoted his study of politics to
the development of satirical and humorous paragraphs at the expense
of the two classes of prominent and practical politicians.
[Illustration: OFF TO SPRINGFIELD.
_From a drawing by Eugene Field._]
For more than a decade, and until he became enamoured of books and
bibliomania, Field was the most widely quoted political paragrapher in
America. It was not in vain that he mingled with the "statesmen"
frequenting the capitals of Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois, attended
state and national conventions, and spent many weeks in the lobby of
the capitol, and of the lobbies of the hotels in Washington. It was
the comprehension of men, and not of measures, he was after, and he
got what he sought. In St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver his
sketches, notes, and Primer stories attracted more attention and
caused more talk among politicians than all the serious reports and
discussions of the issues of the times. He had the gift of putting
distorted statements in the form of innocent facts so artfully
developed that his victims had difficulty in disputing the often
compromising inferences of his paragraphs.
Many a time and oft have I known every one of the paragraphs in
Field's column in the News, sometimes numbering as high as sixty, to
relate to something of a political nature, and most of them containing
a personal pin-prick. With the assistance of the printer, let me
reconstruct here in the type and narrow measure of the Morning News a
column of specimens of Field's political paragraphs. The reader must
allow for the lapse of time. Only those referring to persons or
matters of national note are, for obvious reasons, preserved. The
first one has the peculiar interest of being the initial paragraph in
"Sharps and Flats." In point of time they ran all the way from 1883 to
1895, thus covering the entire period of Field's work on the News and
SHARPS AND FLATS
Senator Dawes has been out among the Sioux Indians too. They call
him Ne-Ha-Wo-Ne-To--which, according to our office dictionary, is
the Indian for Go-To-Sleep-Standing-Up.
Sol Smith Russell, the comedian, is reported to have contributed
$5,000 to the National Prohibition campaign fund.
The suspicion is still rife that when the Democratic party wakes up
on Christmas morning it will find S.J. Tilden in its stocking.
[Illustration: Drawing of a flower sitting on a barrel.]
See the Flower. It is sitting on its Barrel derisively Mocking the
Eager hands that strive to Pluck it. Oh, beautiful but cruel Flower.
If the mild weather continues Secretary Chandler will be able to get
the American Navy out of its winter quarters and on to roller skates
by the first of April.
Mr. Charles A. Dana has appeared as the third witch in "Macbeth." He
says Roosevelt cannot be Mayor, but may go to Congress, to the
Senate, or be elected President.
It is believed that a horizontal reduction in the Democratic
statesmen of the time would leave nothing of the Hon. William R.
Morrison but a pair of spindle legs, three bunions, and seven corns.
Russia, always a menace to civilization, is prepared to aid China in
her resistance against modern progress, and will not hesitate to fly
to the succor of the unspeakable Turk when the opportune moment
We do not entirely believe the story that El Mahdi is dead. On the
contrary, we confidently expect that this enterprising false prophet
will turn up in a reconstructed condition at Washington after the
4th of next March, howling for a post-office.
BLUE CUT, TENN., May 2, 1885.--The second section of the train
bearing the Illinois legislature to New Orleans was stopped near
this station by bandits last night. After relieving the bandits of
their watches and money, the excursionists proceeded on their
journey with increased enthusiasm.
Hamlin Garland has finally crawled out of the populist party and has
reappeared in Chicago fiercer than ever for the predominance of
realism in literature and art. He regrets to find that during his
absence Franklin H. Head has relapsed into romanticism and that the
verist's fences generally in these parts are in bad condition.
The national Carl Schurz committee will meet in New York on the 1st
of April to fix a date and place for the national Carl Schurz
convention. As Chicago will make no attempt to secure this
convention, we do not mind telling St. Louis, Philadelphia and
Cincinnati that the biggeet inducement which can be held out to the
Carl Schurz party is a diet of oatmeal and skim milk and piano--rent
"You are looking tough, O Diogenes," quoth Socrates. "Now, by the
dog, what have you been doing?" "I have been searching for an honest
man in the Chicago City Council," replied the grim philosopher
mournfully, "With what result?" inquired the other. "Well, you see,"
said Diogenes sarcastically, "my pockets are cleaned out and my
lantern is gone! I praise Zeus that they left me my girdle!"
Major McKinley is being highly commended because he would not allow
the Ohio delegation to betray John Sherman in the Republican
convention. Other men from other States were perhaps just as loyal,
but it is so seldom that an Ohio politician does the decent thing
that when one honorable Ohio politician is found he excites quite as
much surprise and admiration as a double-headed calf or any other
natural curiosity would.
Oh, what a beautiful Hill. How it looms up in the Misty Horizon. See
the Indians on the hill. They are Tammany braves. The Hill belongs
to the Indians. Why are the Indians on the Hill? They are hunting
for the flower which they Fondly hope Blooms on the Hill. Not this
year--some other Year, but not this year. The Flower is Roosting
high. It has resigned. Are the Indians resigned? They are not as
Resigned as they Would be if they could Find the Flower. Alas that
there should be More Sorrows than Flowers in this World.
The Hon. Thomas B. Reed, of Maine, is to be the leader of the
Republican minority in Congress this winter. He is a smart, fat,
brilliant, lazy man, with a Shakespearian head and face and
clean-cut record. He is a great improvement on the Hon. J. Warren
Keifer, of Ohio, who was the Republican leader (so-called) last
winter. It would be hard to imagine a more imbecile leader than
Keifer was, and it would be hard to find an abler leader than Reed
will be, provided his natural physical indolence does not get the
better of his splendid intellectual vigor.
Marcus A. Hanna has just been elected a delegate to the National
Republican Convention in the Tenth Ohio district. He has also just
been appointed to a government position by President Cleveland. The
National Republican Convention ought to determine, immediately upon
assembling, whether its platform and its nominations shall be
dictated, even remotely, by a beneficiary of a Democratic
administration. Hanna was in 1884 a loudmouthed Blaine follower. He
has a happy faculty of always lighting on his feet--after the
fashion of the singed cat.
President Cleveland--Rose, are you sure the window-screens are in
Miss Cleveland--Quite sure.
President Cleveland--And are you using that flypaper according to
President Cleveland--And you sprinkle the furniture with insect
powder every day?
Miss Cleveland--Certainly; why do you ask? Are the mosquitoes
President Cleveland--No, not the mosquitoes; but that Second
District Congressman from Illinois seems to be just as thick as
We've come from Indiany, five hundred miles or more,
Supposin' we wuz goin' to git the nominashin shore;
For Colonel New assured us (in that noospaper o' his)
That we cud hev the airth, if we'd only tend to biz.
But here we've been slavin' more like hosees than like men
To diskiver that the people do not hanker after Ben;
It is for Jeemes G. Blaine an' not for Harrison they shout
And the gobble-uns 'el git us
"As for me, Daniel, I declined the tickets on the ground that, as
President of this great nation, it was beneath my dignity to accept
free passes to a show." "You did quite right, Grover; I, too,
declined the passes in my capacity as a cabinet officer." "Good,
good!" "But I accepted them in my capacity as editor of the Albany
Argus. I owe it to my profession, Grover, not to surrender any of
its rights to a strained sense of the dignity of an employment which
is only temporary." "Ah, yes; I see." "There must be a dividing line
between the Honorable Daniel Manning, cabinet minister, and plain
Dan Manning, editor. I draw that line at free show-tickets."
Another instance of the liberality of the Hon. William H. English,
of Indiana, has just come to light. It seems that that gentleman's
venerable father, Deacon Elisha English, lives in Scott County,
Ind., where he is a highly esteemed citizen and a bright light in
the Methodist church. Not long ago the church people concluded they
ought to have some improvements upon their modest temple of worship,
and consequently a subscription paper was circulating among the
members of the congregation. Deacon English readily signified his
willingness to do his share toward the proposed improvements, and he
led off the subscription list with the line:
Elisha English $50.00
The congregation were so much pleased with this that they determined
to apply to William H. English, the son, for a donation, and they
believed that the liberality of the father would serve as an
inducement to the son to display at least a moderate generosity.
Accordingly the subscription list was forwarded to Indianapolis, and
a prominent Methodist of that city took it around to Mr. English's
office. The ex-vice-president hemmed and hawed and fumbled the paper
over for quite a while, and finally, with a profound sigh, sat down
at his desk and scribbled a few words on the subscription sheet. The
triumphant smile on the visiting churchman's face relaxed into an
expression of combined amazement and dismay when, upon regaining the
paper, he learned that Mr. English had reconstructed the first line,
so that it read:
Elisha English and Son $50.00
This column will serve two purposes--to illustrate the truly American
spirit of levity in which Eugene Field regarded politics and
politicians, and also the extent and general character of his daily
"wood sawing" for nearly twelve years. Although these selections cover
a period of many years, they fairly represent the character of his
political paragraphs on any one day except in the matter of subjects.
These, of course, varied from day to day, from the President of the
United States down to the Chicago bridge-tender. What delighted him
most was some matter-of-fact announcement such as that which credited
Herman H. Kohlsaat, then editor of the Chicago Inter-Ocean and a
delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1892, with saying
that he had no particular choice for Vice-President, but he favored the
nomination of some colored Republican as a fitting recognition of the
loyalty of the colored voters to the memory and party of Lincoln. The
cunningly foreseen consequence was that what Mr. Kohlsaat gained in
popularity with the colored brethren he lost in the estimation of those
serious-minded souls who swallowed the hoax. Among the latter were many
fire-eating editors in the South who seized upon Field's self-evident
absurdity to denounce Mr. Kohlsaat as a violent demagogue who sought to
curry favor with black Republicans at the expense of the South. It was
also accepted as fairly representing the Northern disposition to flout
and trample on the most sensitive sensibilities of the South. In the
meantime Mr. Kohlsaat's office was besieged by the friends of colored
aspirants to the vice-presidency, and Field chuckled in his chair and
took every opportunity to add fuel to his confrere's embarrassment and
to the flame of Southern indignation. All the while he would meet Mr.
Kohlsaat, who was one of his intimate friends, and express to him
astonishment that he should feel any annoyance over such a palpable,
Although there is one bit of verse in the foregoing sample column of
Field's political paragraphs, it does scant justice to his most
effective weapon. His political jingles were the delight or vexation of
partisans as they happened to ridicule or scarify this side or that. He
was on terms of personal friendship with General John A. Logan, whose
admiration for General Grant he shared to the fullest degree. But this
never restrained Field from taking all sorts of waggish liberties with
General Logan's well-known fondness for mixed metaphors and other
perversions of the Queen's English. The general, on one occasion, in a
burst of eloquence, had spoken of "the day when the bloody hand of
rebellion stalked through the land"; and for a year thereafter that
"bloody hand" "stalked" through Field's column. He enjoyed attributing
to General Logan all sorts of literary undertakings. Among others, was
the writing of a play, to which reference is made in the following
Senator John A. Logan's play, "The Spy," is in great demand, a
number of theatrical speculators having entered the lists for it,
the managers for the Madison Square and Union Square theatres being
specially eager to get hold of it. A gentleman who is in the
author's confidence assures us he has read the play, and can testify
to its high dramatic merits. "It will have to be rewritten," said
he, "for Logan has thrown it together with characteristic looseness;
but it is full of lively dialogue and exciting situations. In the
hands of a thorough playwright it would become a splendid
melodrama." The play treats upon certain incidents of the late Civil
War, and the romantic experiences of a certain Major Algernon
Bellville, U.S.A., who is beloved by Maud Glynne, daughter of a
Confederate general. The plot turns upon the young lady's
unsuccessful effort to convey intelligence of a proposed sortie to
her lover in the Union ranks. She is slain while masking in male
attire by Reginald De Courcey, a rejected lover, who is serving as
her father's aide-de-camp. This melancholy tragedy is enacted at a
spot appointed by the lovers as a rendezvous. Major Bellville rushes
in to find his fair idol a corpse. He is wild with grief. The
melodrama concludes thus:
De Bell--Aha! Who done this deed?
Lieutenant Smythe--Yonder Reginald De Courcey done it, for I seen
him when he done it.
Reginald--'Sdeath! 'Tis a lie upon my honor. I didn't do no such
De Bell--Thou must die. (Draws his sword.) Prepare to meet thy
Maker. (Stabs him.)
Reginald (falling)--I see angels. (Dies.)
De Bell--Now, leave me, good Smythe; I fain would rest. (Exit
Smythe.) O Maud, Maud, my spotless pearl, what craven hand has
snatched thee from our midst? But I will follow thee. Aha, what have
we here? A phial of poison secreted in the stump of this gnarled
oak! I thank thee, auspicious heaven, for this sweet boon! (Drinks
poison.) Farewell, my native land, I die for thee. (Falls and
writhes.) Oh, horror! what if the poison be drugged--no, no--it must
not be--I must die--O Maud--O flag--O my sweet country! I reel, I
cannot see--my heart is bursting--Oh! (Dies.) (Enter troops.)
General Glynne--Aha! My daughter! And Bellville, too! Both dead! How
sad--how mortifying. Convey them to yonder cemetery, and bury them
side by side under the weeping-willow. They were separated in
life--in death let them be united. (Slow curtain.)
During the preliminary campaign of 1884 Field had no end of fun with
what he called the "Logan Lyrics," after this manner:
We never speak as we pass by--
Me to Jim Blaine nor him to I;
'Twixt us there floats a cloud of gloom
Since I have found he's got a boom.
We never speak as we pass by,
We simply nod and drop our eye;
Yet I can tell by his strange look
The reason why he writ that book.
We never speak as we pass by;
No more we're bound by friendly tie.
The cause of this is very plain--
He's not for me; he's for Jim Blaine._
As a sequel to the preceding verse, the following touching reminiscence
may be read with interest by those familiar with what befell in the
fall of 1884:
_BAR HARBOR: A REMINISCENCE
Upon the sandy, rock-ribb'd shore
One year ago sat you and I,
And heard the sullen breakers roar,
And saw the stately ships go by;
And wanton ocean breezes fanned
Your cheeks into a ruddy glow,
And I--I pressed your fevered hand--
One year ago.
The ocean rose, the mountains fell--
And those fair castles we had reared
Were blighted by the breath of hell,
And every prospect disappeared;
Revenge incarnate overthrew
And wrapped in eternal woe
The mutual, pleasing hopes we knew
One year ago!
I sit to-night in sorrow, and
I watch the stately ships go by--
The hand I hold is not your hand--
Alas! 'tis but a ten-spot high!
This is the hardest deal of all--
Oh! why should fate pursue me so,
To mind me of that cruel fall--
One year ago!_
In the senatorial campaign at Springfield, in the winter of 1885, when
General Logan's return to the Senate was threatened by a deadlock in
the Legislature, in which the balance of power was held by three
greenbackers, Field made ample amends for all his jibes and jeers over
Logan's assaults on his mother-tongue. His "Sharps and Flats" column
was a daily fusilade, or, rather, _feu de joie_, upon or at the expense
of the Democrats and three legislators, by whose assistance they hoped
to defeat and humiliate Logan. Congressman Morrison, he of horizontal
fame, was the caucus choice of the Democrats. But as the struggle was
prolonged from day to day, it was thought that someone with a barrel,
or "soap," as it had been termed by General Arthur in a preceding
campaign, was needed to bring the Greenbackers into camp. In the
emergency, Judge Lambert Tree, since then our Minister to Belgium, was
drafted into the service, and for several days it looked as if the
Democrats had struck the hot trail to General Logan's seat. The
situation fired Field's Republican soul with righteous indignation, and
his column fairly blazed with sizzling paragraphs. He seized upon Judge
Tree's name and made it the target of his shafts of wit and satire. One
day it was:
Here we have a tree. How Green the Tree is! Can you See the
Lightning? Oh, how red and Vivid the Lightning is! Will the
Lightning Strike the Tree? Children, that is a Conundrum; we answer
conundrums in our Weekly Edition, but not in our daily.
The next day it was:
The Lightning did not strike the Green Tree. But the Springfield
Politicians did. This is Why the Tree is Green.
And then there came what I regard as one of the most telling pieces of
political satirical humor ever put into English verse, its literary
merit alone justifying its preservation, Field himself considering it
worth copying in the presentation volume of his verse written prior to
_THE LAMBERT TREE
Oh, tell me not of the budding bay,
Nor the yew by the new-made grave,
And waft me not in spirit away,
Where the sorrowing willows wave;
Let the shag-bark walnut blend its shade
With the elm on the verdant lea--
But let us his to the distant glade,
Where blossoms the Lambert tree.
The maple reeks with a toothsome sap
That flavors the brown buckwheat,
And the oak drops down into earth's green lap,
Her fruit for the swine to eat;
But the Lambert tree has a grander scope
In its home on the distant wold,
For the sap of the Lambert tree is soap,
And its beautiful fruit is gold.
So sing no song of the futile fir--
No song of the tranquil teak,
Nor the chestnut tree, with its bristling burr,
Or the paw-paw of Posey creek;
But fill my soul with a heavenly calm,
And bring sweet dreams to me
By singing a psalm of the itching palm
And the blossoming Lambert tree._
Public sentiment within the Democratic party prevented the consummation
of the deal to supplant Morrison with Tree, the death of a Democratic
assemblyman enabled the Republicans to steal a march on their opponents
in a by-election, and the deadlock was finally broken by Logan securing
the bare 103 votes necessary to election. How Field rejoiced over this
outcome, to which he contributed so powerfully, may be inferred from
the pictorial and poetic outburst shown on the opposite page:
| | |-|
| | |-|
| | |-|
| | |-|
_There came a burst of thunder sound,
The jedge--oh, where was he?
His twigs were strewn for miles around--
He was a blasted tree._
Field was never in sympathy with the independent lines upon which the
Morning News was edited. As I have said, he was a thorough-going
partisan Republican, and he preferred a straight-out Democrat to an
independent--or Mugwump, as the independents have been styled since
1884, when they bolted Blaine. To his mind the entire Mugwump movement
revolved around Grover Cleveland and opposition to the election of Mr.
Blaine. The former was not only the idol, but the Declaration of
Independence, the Constitution, and the decalogue to many of Field's
Mugwump friends whom he cherished personally, but detested and
lampooned politically. It pleased him to represent the Mugwump party of
Chicago as consisting of General McClurg, John W. Ela, now president of
the Chicago Civil Service Commission; Melville E. Stone, Franklin
MacVeagh, and myself; and as late as 1892 he took delight in reporting
its meetings after this fashion:
When the Mugump party of Chicago met in General McClurg's office
yesterday, considerable agitation was caused by Mr. Slason
Thompson's suggestion that a committee be appointed to investigate
the report that John W. Ela was soliciting funds in the East for the
purpose of electing the Democratic ticket in Illinois.
General McClurg thought that a serious mistake had been made. As he
understood, Colonel Ela was soliciting subscriptions, but not to
promote Democratic success. What funds Colonel Ela secured would be
used toward the election of the great white-souled Cleveland, and
that would be all right. (Applause.) The use of money elsewise would
be offensive partisanship; devoted to the holy cause of Cleveland
and Reform, it would be simply a patriotic, not to say a religious,
Mr. Thompson said he was glad to hear this explanation. It was
eminently satisfactory, and he hoped to have it disseminated through
On motion of Mr. M.E. Stone, Colonel Ela was instructed to deposit
all campaign funds he might collect in the Globe National Bank.
Mr. Thompson then introduced Mr. Franklin H. Head, who, he said, was
"Are you a Mugwump?" asked General McClurg.
Mr. Head: "I am, and I wish to join the party in Chicago."
General McClurg: "Do you declare your unalterable belief in the
Mugwump doctrine of free-will and election?"
Mr. Head: "As I understand it, I do."
General McClurg: "The Mugwump doctrine of free-will argues that
every voter may vote as he chooses, irrespective of party, so long
as his vote involves the election of Grover Cleveland."
Mr. Head: "I am a Mugwump to the extent of voting as I choose, and
irrespective of party, but I draw the line at Grover Cleveland this
time." (Great sensation.)
Mr. Stone: "I guess you've got into the wrong 'bus, my friend, and
I'm rather glad of it, for one vice-president of a bank is all the
Mugwump party can stand."
Mr. Thompson: "I supposed he was all right, or I wouldn't have
brought him in."
General McClurg: "No, he is far from the truth. Upon the vital, the
essential point, he is fatally weak. Go back, erring brother--go
back into the outer darkness; it is not for you to sit with the
Mr. Stone invited the party to a grand gala picnic which he proposed
to give in August in Melville Park, Glencoe. He would order a basket
of chicken sandwiches, a gallon of iced tea, and three pink
umbrellas, and they would have a royal time of it.
Mr. Thompson moved, out of respect to the Greatest of Modern
Fishermen, to strike out "chicken" and insert "sardine." Mr. Stone
accepted the suggestion, and thus amended, the invitation was
After adopting a resolution instructing Mr. Stone to buy the
sardines and tea at Brother Franklin MacVeagh's, the party adjourned
for one week.
Field was very fond of describing himself as a martyr to the Mugwump
vapors and megrims that prevailed in the editorial rooms of the Daily
News. He would say that the imperishable crowns won by the heroes of
Fox's "Book of Martyrs" were nothing to what he, a stanch Republican
partisan, earned by enduring and associating daily with the piping,
puling independents who infested that "ranch." He said that he
expected a place high up in the dictionary of latter-day saints and in
the encyclopedia of nineteenth-century tribulations, because of the
Christian fortitude with which he endured and forgave the stings and
jibes of his puny tormentors.
There was a great scene in the reporters' room of the Morning News the
day after Cleveland's first election. The News had been one of the
first of the independent newspapers of the country to bolt the
nomination of Mr. Blaine. It had favored the renomination of President
Arthur, and had convincing evidence of a shameful deal by which
certain members of the Illinois delegation, elected as Arthur men,
were seduced into the Blaine camp. But this alone would not have
decided the course of the paper--that was dictated by the widespread
mistrust felt throughout the country as to Mr. Blaine's entire
impeccability in the matter of the Little Rock bonds. Field,
throughout the campaign, stood by Blaine and Logan and defied the
Mugwumps to do their worst. So on the morning after the election he
was in a thoroughly disgusted mood. He scoffed at the idea of becoming
a Mugwump, but declared himself ready to renounce his Republicanism
and become a Democrat. To that end he prepared a formal renunciation.
It consisted of a flamboyant denunciation of the past glories and
present virtues of the Republican party and an enthusiastic eulogy of
the crimes, blunders, and base methods of the Democratic party. Field
announced that he preferred to be enrolled as a Democrat, and to
accept his share in all the obloquy which he laid at the Democratic
door rather than affiliate with the Mugwump bolters. He said that he
would rather be classed as a thoroughbred donkey than be feared as a
mule without pride of pedigree or hope of posterity, whose only virtue
lay in its heels. Then he swathed himself in a shroud of newspapers
and laid himself out in the centre of the floor in the role of a
martyred Republican. He bade the rest of us form a procession and walk
over him, taking care not to step on the corpse. After the ceremony
was carried out he rose up, a Jacksonian Democrat in name, but a bluer
Republican than ever.
There was a sequel to this scene, for which it will serve as an
introduction. In May, 1888, Mr. Stone sold out his interest in the
Morning and Daily News and retired from the editorship of the former.
Under Mr. Lawson, who succeeded him in sole control, both papers
retained their independence, but became less aggressive in the
maintenance of their views. Mr. Lawson sought to make them impartial
purveyors of unbiased news to all parties. Hardly had the blue pencil
of supervision dropped from Mr. Stone's fingers before Field made an
opportunity to unburden his soul upon the subject of his martyrdom in
the following extraordinary and highly entertaining screed:
The second letter which Mr. Blaine has written saying that he will,
under no circumstances, become a candidate for the presidency
refreshes a sad, yet a glorious, memory.
Just about five years ago five members of the editorial staff of
this paper were gathered together in the library. Blaine had just
been nominated for the presidency by the National Republican
Convention. For months the Daily News had advocated the renomination
of Arthur, but now within an hour it beheld its teachings go for
naught, its ambitions swept ruthlessly away, and its hopes cruelly,
irrevivably crushed; Mr. Stone was then editor of the paper; he was
in the convention hall when Blaine's nomination was secured. His
editorial associates waited with serious agitation his return, and
his instructions as to the course which the paper would pursue in
the emergency which had been presented. There were different
opinions as to what Mr. Stone would be likely to do, but there was a
general feeling that he would be likely to antagonize Blaine. One of
the editorial writers, a Canadian, who had just taken out his last
naturalization papers, expressed determination that the paper must
fight Blaine. He hated Blaine, and he had reason to; for Blaine had,
during his short career as prime minister, evinced a strong
disposition to clutch all Canadians who were caught fishing for
tomcod in American waters. Therefore, Carthage _delenda est_.
The debate ran high, yet every word was spoken softly, for the most
violent excitement always precipitates a hush. Even the newsboys in
the alley caught the awful infection; they stole in and out
noiselessly and with less violence than usual, as if, in sooth, the
dumb wheels reverenced the dismal sanctity of the hour. The elevator
crept silently down with the five o'clock forms, so decently and so
composedly as scarcely to jar the bottle of green ink on the Austin
landholder's table. All at once the door opened and in stalked M.E.
Stone, silent, pallid, protentous. His wan eye comprehended the
scene instantaneously, but no twitch or tremor in his lavender lips
betrayed the emotions (whatever they might have been) that surged
beneath the clothes he wore.
Cervantes tells how that Don Quixote, in the course of one of his
memorable adventures, was shown a talking head--a head set upon a
table and capable of uttering human speech, but in so hollow and
tube-like a tone as to give one the impression that the voice came
from far away. A somewhat similar device is now exhibited in our
museums, where, upon payment of a trifling fee, you may hear the
head discourse in a voice which sounds as though it might emanate
from the tomb and from the very time of the first Pharaoh.
Mr. Stone looked and Mr. Stone spoke like a "talking head" when he
came in upon us that awful day. His face had the inhuman pallor, his
eyes the lack-lustre expression, and his tones the distant, hollow,
metallic cadence of the inexplicable machine that astounds the
patrons of dime-museums. He seemed to take in the situation at once;
knew as surely as though he had been told what we were talking about
and how terribly we were wrought up. His right arm moved
mechanically through some such gesture as Canute is supposed to have
made when he bade the ocean retire before him, and from his
bloodless lips came the memorable words--hollow, metallic, but
memorable words--"Gentlemen, be calm! be calm!"
The calmness of this man in that supreme moment was simply awful.
He had been betrayed by one who should have been bound to him by
every tie of gratitude. He had seen his political idol overthrown.
He had witnessed the defeat and humiliation of what he believed to
be the pure and patriotic spirit of American manhood. His highest
ambition had been foiled, his sweetest hopes frustrated. Yet he was
calm. Ever and anon the sky that arches the Neapolitan landscape
reaches down its lips, they say, and kisses the bald summit of
Vesuvius; as if it recognized the grand impressiveness of this
scene, the Mediterranean at such times hushes its voice and lies
tranquil as a slumbering child; all nature stands silent before the
communion of the clouds and the Titans. But this ineffable peace,
this majestic repose, is protentous. To rest succeeds activity;
after calm comes tempest; out of placid dream bursts reality.
Mr. Stone's calmness, like the whittler's stick, tapered up instead
down. He who had, at five o'clock on that never-to-be-forgotten day,
come upon us with the insinuating placidity of hunyadi janos--he who
had addressed us in the tone of prehistoric centuries--he who bade
us be calm, and at the same time gave us the finest tableau of human
calmness human eye ever contemplated--he it was whom we found at
eleven o'clock that very night, frothing at the mouth, biting chunks
out of the hard-wood furniture, and tearing the bowels out of
everything that came his way.
This singular madness has raged, unabated, for four years. It was so
infectious that his associates caught it--all but three. The men
about the Daily News office who clung to the Republican party
through thick and thin, who endured, therefore, every scoff, jibe,
and taunt which sin could devise, and who, preferring honorable
death to the rewards of treachery, proudly cast their votes for the
nominees of the grand old party,--these three men are entitled to
places in the foremost rank of Christian martyrs. Two of them were
Joe Bingham and Morgan Bates. Bingham is dead now; peace to his
dust. He never was his old hearty self after the defeat of Blaine;
and when, upon the heels of this calamity, he moved to Indianapolis,
Ind., he could stand it no longer and yielded up his life. He was a
stanch soldier in a holy cause; and there is consolation in the fact
that he is now at last enjoying the eternal rewards that are
prepared for all true Republicans.
As for Morgan Bates, he got somewhat even with his malicious
persecutors by writing and producing plays; but retaliation is never
satisfactory to a man of noble impulses, and Bates would not pursue
it long. He preferred to go into voluntary exile at Des Moines,
Iowa; and in that glorious Republican harvest-field he accomplished
a great and good work, which being done, symmetrized and
concinnated, he returned to this Gomorrah of Mugwumpery and
identified himself with that sterling trade journal, the Hide and
Next November the two surviving members of the old guard of three
will march, arm in arm, to the polls, and will then and there cast
their individual votes for the nominees of the Republican party--it
matters not whether they be statesmen or tobacco-signs, so long as
they be nominees.
As the blasts do but root a tree more firmly in mother earth, so
have the trials to which we Republicans of the Daily News have been
subjected for the four years riveted us all the more securely to the
faith. We have been forced in the line of professional duty to turn
humorous paragraphs upon the alleged insincerity of our beloved
political leader, but every paragraph so turned shall eventually
come home d.v. (and we hope d.q.) to roost, like an Ossa, upon the
Pelion of Infamy, which shall surely mark the grave of Mugwumpery.
Every poem which we persecuted defenders of the faith have been
bulldozed into weaving for the regalement of our persecutors shall
be sung again when the other shore is reached, and when the horse
and the rider are thrown into the sea. Never for a moment during the
trials of these four years have we doubted (and when we say "we,"
Bates is included)--never have we doubted that there was a promised
land, and that we should get there in due time. What we have needed
was a Moses; to be candid, we still need a Moses; and we need him
badly. We care naught where he comes from--it matters not whither,
from the New York Central or from the Western Reserve or from
Dubuque, so long as he be a Moses, and that kind of an improved
Moses, too, that will not fall just this side of the line.
O brother Republican, what rewards, what joys, what delights are in
store for us twain! Lift up your eyes and see in the East the dawn
of the new day. Its warmth and its splendor will soon be over and
about us. And, mindful of our martyrdom and contemplating its
rewards, with great force comes to us just now the lines of the
inspired Watts, wherein he portrays the eventual felicity of such as
_What bliss will thrill the ransomed souls
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls
In quenchless flames of hell._
Never did a cheerful sinner extract such entertaining enjoyment for
himself and his friends from a fictitious martyrdom as Field did from
these political tribulations. That he never lost his waggish or
satirical interest in politics is evidenced by the following parody on
his own "Jest 'fore Christmas," written in December, 1894, being at
the expense of the then mayor of Chicago:
_JEST 'FORE ELECTION