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Title: Eugene Field, a Study in Heredity and Contradictions — Volume 1
Author: Thompson, Slason, 1849-1935
Language: English
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[Illustration: Portrait of Eugene Field in 1885.]



EUGENE FIELD

A STUDY IN HEREDITY AND CONTRADICTIONS


By SLASON THOMPSON


With Portraits, Views and Fac-Simile Illustrations


VOLUME I


Published, December, 1901
Charles Scribner's Sons
New York

1901



BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION


Not as other memoirs are written would Eugene Field, were he alive,
have this study of his life. He would think more of making it reflect
the odd personality of the man than rehearse the birth, development,
daily life, and works of the author. If he had undertaken to write his
own life, as was once his intention, it would probably have been the
most remarkable work of fiction by an American author that ever
masqueraded in the quaker garments of fact. From title-page to
colophon--on which he would have insisted--the book would have been
one studied effort to quiz and queer (a favorite word of his) the
innocent and willing-to-be-deluded reader. "Tell your sister for me,"
I recall his saying, "what a kind, good, and deserving man I am. How I
love little children and [with a dry chuckle] elderly spinsters.
Relate how I was born of rich yet honest parents, was reared in the
'nurture and admonition of the Lord,' and, according to the bent of a
froward youth, have stumbled along to become the cynosure of a ribald
age."

Field's idea of a perfect memoir was that it should contain no facts
that might interfere with its being novel and interesting reading both
to the public and its subject. He set little store by genius, as he
tells us in one of his letters, and less by "that nonsense called
useful knowledge." His peculiar notions as to the field of biography
were once illustrated in one he furnished to a New York firm, which
proposed a series of biographies of well-known newspaper writers. It
was arranged that Field and William E. Curtis, the noted Washington
correspondent, should write each the other's biography for the series.
Mr. Curtis executed his sketch of Field in good faith; Field's sketch
of Mr. Curtis was a marvel of waggish invention. Through an actor of
the same name who some years before made quite a reputation as Samuel
of Posen, he traced Mr. Curtis's birth back to Bohemia, and carried
him at an early age to Jerusalem, where Curtis was said to have laid
the foundations of his fame and fortune peddling suspenders. Later he
sold newspapers on the streets, and, by practicing the shrewd and
self-denying habits of his race, quickly became the owner of the paper
for which he worked, which was called the New Jerusalem Messenger, the
recognized organ of the New Jerusalem Church.

Mr. Curtis's progressive tendencies, according to Field, quickly
involved him in trouble with the government; his paper was suppressed,
and he was banished from Jerusalem. When the special firmin of the
Sultan expelling Mr. Curtis from Turkish dominions was published, it
caused a great sensation in Chicago, where the Church of the New
Jerusalem was very strong, and created an immediate rivalry between
William Penn Nixon, editor of the Inter Ocean, and Melville E. Stone,
editor of the Morning News, to secure his services. Mr. Nixon sent him
a cablegram in Hebrew which was written by a Hebrew gentleman to whom
his father, the Rev. Mr. Stone, and was expressed in scriptural
phraseology which was not understood in Jerusalem as well as it was at
Galesburg, where Mr. Stone was then professor of the Hebrew language
and literature. Curtis accepted the offer couched in the language of
the Hebrew vender of old clothes and became a member of the editorial
staff of the Inter Ocean. His first effective work on that newspaper
was to convert Jonathan Young Scammon, then its owner, to the New
Jerusalem faith (Mr. Scammon, whose real name was John, was the most
prominent Swedenborgian in Chicago). Mr. Scammon was so grateful for
his conversion from infidelity that in a moment of religious
exaltation he raised Mr. Curtis's salary from $18 to $20.

And thus the biography of Mr. Curtis proceeded along lines that gave
the truth a wide berth, for Field held, with the old English jurists,
that the greater the truth the greater the libel.

At one time in our association Field, as seriously as he could,
entertained the thought of furnishing me with materials for an
extended sketch of his life, and I still have several envelopes on
which the inscription "For My Memoirs" bears witness to that purpose.
But after serving as a source of eccentric and roguish humor for
several months, the idea was suffered to lapse, only to be revived in
suggestive references as he consigned some bit of manuscript to my
care or criticism. Any study of Field's life and character based on
such materials as he thus furnished would have been absolutely
misleading. It would have eliminated fact entirely and substituted the
most fantastic fiction in its stead. It would have built up a
grotesque caricature of a staid, church-going, circumspect citizen and
author instead of the ever-fascinating bundle of contradictions and
irresponsibility Field was to his legion of associates and friends.

There were two Fields--the author and the man--and it is the purpose
of this study to reproduce the latter as he appeared to those who knew
and loved him for what he was personally for the benefit of those who
have only known him through the medium of his writings. In doing this
it is far from my intention and farther from my friendship to disturb
any of the preconceptions that have been formed from the perusal of
his works. These are the creations of something entirely apart from
the man whose genius produced them. His fame as an author rests on his
printed books, and will endure as surely as the basis of his art was
true, his methods severely simple, and his spirit gentle and pure. In
his daily work the dominant note was that of fun and conviviality. It
was free from the acrimony of controversy. He abominated speech-makers
and lampooned political oracles. He was the unsparing satirist of
contemporary pretense, which in itself was sufficient to account for
the failure of the passing generation of literary critics to accord to
him the recognition which he finally won in their despite from the
reading public. Neither a sinner nor a saint was the man who went into
an old book-store in Chicago and bewildered the matter-of-fact dealer
in old editions with the inquiry, "Have you an unexpurgated copy of
Hannah More's 'Letters to a Village Maiden'?"

Everything Field wrote in prose or verse reflects his contempt for
earth's mighty and his sympathy for earth's million mites. His art,
like that of his favorite author and prototype, Father Prout, was "to
magnify what is little and fling a dash of the sublime into a
two-penny post communication." Sense of earthly grandeur he had little
or none. Sense of the minor sympathies of life--those minor sympathies
that are common to all and finally swell into the major song of
life--of this sense he was compact. It was the meat and marrow of his
life and mind, of his song and story. With unerring instinct Field, in
his study of humanity, went to the one school where the emotions,
wishes, and passions of mankind are to be seen unobscured by the veil
of consciousness. He was forever scanning whatever lies hidden within
the folds of the heart of childhood. He knew children through and
through because he studied them from themselves and not from books. He
associated with them on terms of the most intimate comradeship and
wormed his way into their confidence with assiduous sympathy. Thus he
became possessed of the inmost secrets of their childish joys and
griefs and so became a literary philosopher of childhood.

"In wit a man, in simplicity a child," nothing gloomy, narrow, or
pharisaical entered into the composition of Eugene Field. Like Jack
Montesquieu Bellew, the editor of the Cork Chronicle, "his finances,
alas! were always miserably low." This followed from his learning how
to spend money freely before he was forced to earn it laboriously. He
scattered his patrimony gaily and then when the last inherited cent
was gone, turned with, equal gayety to earning, not only enough to
support himself, but the wife and family that, with the royal and
reckless prodigality of genius, he provided himself with at the very
outset of his career.

If he set "no store by genius," he at least had that faith in his own
ability which "compels the elements and wrings a human music from the
indifferent air." From the time he applied himself to the ill-requited
work of journalism he never wavered or turned aside in his purpose to
make it the ladder to literary recognition. He was over thirty before
he realized that in three universities he had slighted the opportunity
to acquire a thorough equipment for literary work. But he was
undismayed, for did he not read in his beloved "Reliques of Father
Prout" how "Loyola, the founder of the most learned and by far the
most distinguished literary corporation that ever arose in the world,
was an old soldier who took up his 'Latin Grammar' when past the age
of thirty"?

It is the contrast and apparent contradiction between the individual
and the author that makes the character of Eugene Field interesting to
the student. If the man were simply any prosaic person possessed of
the gift of telling tales, writing stories, and singing lullabies,
this study of his life would have been left unwritten. Many authors
have I known who put all there was of them into their work, who were
personally a disappointment to the intellect and a trial to the flesh.
With Eugene Field the man was always a bundle of delightful surprises,
an ever unconventional personality of which only the merest suggestion
is given in his works.

In the study I have made of the life of Eugene Field in the following
pages I have received assistance from many sources, but none has been
of so great value as that from his father's friend, Melvin L. Gray, in
whose home Field found the counsel of a father and the loving sympathy
of a mother. The letters Mr. Gray placed at my disposal, whether
quoted herein or not, have been invaluable in filling in the portrait
of his beloved ward.

To Edward D. Cowen, whose intimate friendship with Field covered a
period of nearly fifteen years in three cities and under varying
circumstances, these pages owe very much. From his brother, Roswell
Field, I have had the best sort of sympathetic aid and counsel in
filling out biographical detail without in any way committing himself
to the views or statements of this study.

Dr. Frank W. Reilly, to whom Field not only owed his vitalized
familiarity with Horace, "Prout," and "Kit North," but that
superficial knowledge of medical terms of which he made such constant
and effective use throughout his writings, has also placed me under
many obligations for data and advice.

To these and the others whose names are freely sprinkled through this
study I wish to make fitting acknowledgment of my many obligations,
and I trust the reader will share my grateful sentiments wherever the
faithful quotation marks remind him that such is their due.

SLASON THOMPSON.

CHICAGO, September 30th, 1901.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

   I. PEDIGREE                                            1
  II. HIS FATHER'S FIRST LOVE-AFFAIR                     13
 III. THE DRED SCOTT CASE                                36
  IV. BIRTH AND EARLY YOUTH                              49
   V. EDUCATION                                          73
  VI. CHOICE OF A PROFESSION                             91
 VII. MARRIAGE AND EARLY DOMESTIC LIFE                  103
VIII. EARLY EXPERIENCES IN JOURNALISM                   126
  IX. IN DENVER, 1881-1883                              143
   X. ANECDOTES OF LIFE IN DENVER                       158
  XI. COMING TO CHICAGO                                 183
 XII. PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS                          206
XIII. RELATIONS WITH STAGE FOLK                         224
 XIV. BEGINNING OF HIS LITERARY EDUCATION               271
  XV. METHOD OF WORK                                    294
 XVI. NATURE OF HIS DAILY WORK                          314



ILLUSTRATIONS


PORTRAIT OF EUGENE FIELD IN 1885              _Frontispiece_
  _Photogravure._

DRAWINGS AND FAC-SIMILES                               PAGE

  "THE PEAR" IN FIELD'S GREEK TEXT                      140

  DAILY NEWS EDITORIAL COUNCIL OF WAR                   213
    _From a drawing by Eugene Field._

  COMMODORE CRANE                                       236
    _From a drawing by Eugene Field._

  FIELD WITNESSING MODJESKA AS CAMILLE                  244
    _From a drawing by Eugene Field._

  TWO PROFILES OF EUGENE FIELD                          247
    _The upper one drawn in pencil by Field himself;
    the lower one drawn by Modjeska. Reproduced from
    a flyleaf of Mrs. Thompson's volume of autograph
    verse._

  A BAR OF MUSIC                                        295
    _Written by Eugene Field._

  TWO GOOD KNIGHTS AT FEAST                             297
    _From a drawing by Eugene Field._


HALF-TONE PLATES                                 FACING PAGE

  GENERAL MARTIN FIELD                                    6
    _Eugene Field's Grandfather._

  ESTHER S. FIELD                                        10
    _Eugene Field's Grandmother._

  ROSWELL MARTIN FIELD                                   18
    _Eugene Field's Father._

  CHARLES KELLOGG FIELD                                  46

  EUGENE FIELD'S MOTHER                                  50
    _From a Daguerreotype taken a year or two before
    his birth._

  EUGENE FIELD'S COUSINS, MARY FIELD FRENCH
  AND HER YOUNGER HALF-SISTER, AUGUSTA JONES             54
    _From a Daguerreotype taken before Eugene and
    Roswell became members of Miss French's family
    in Amherst, on the death of their mother._

  THE FIELD HOMESTEAD AT NEWFANE, VT.                    56

  THE HOMESTEAD AT AMHERST, MASS.                        60
    _Now owned by Mr. Hiram Eaton, of New York._

  A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF MONSON, MASS.                     74

  THE REV. JAMES TUFTS                                   78

  WILLIAMS COLLEGE BUILDINGS, WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.        82

  THE OLD KNOX COLLEGE BUILDINGS, GALESBURG, ILL.        86

  STATE UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS AT COLUMBIA, MO.            88

  EARLY PORTRAITS OF EUGENE FIELD                        92

  MELVIN L. GRAY                                         96

  MRS. MELVIN L. GRAY                                   100

  MRS. EUGENE FIELD                                     110

  ROBSON AND CRANE IN "SHARPS AND FLATS"                204

  FIELD AT WORK                                         218
    _The caricature from a drawing by Sclanders._

  FRANCIS WILSON                                        228

  WILLIAM J. FLORENCE                                   234

  MODJESKA                                              242

  JESSIE BARTLETT DAVIS                                 256

  SOL SMITH RUSSELL                                     266

  DR. FRANK W. REILLY                                   280

  "FATHER PROUT"                                        288
    _Francis Mahony._



EUGENE FIELD



CHAPTER I

PEDIGREE


"Sir John Maundeville, Kt.," was his prototype, and Father Prout was
his patron saint. The one introduced him to the study of British
balladry, the other led him to the classic groves of Horace.

"I am a Yankee by pedigree and education," wrote Eugene Field to Alice
Morse Earle, the author of "The Sabbath in Puritan New England," and
other books of the same flavor, "but I was born in that ineffably
uninteresting city, St. Louis."

How so devoted a child of all that is queer and contradictory in New
England character came to be born in "Poor old Mizzoorah," as he so
often wrote it, is in itself a rare romance, which I propose to tell
as the key to the life and works of Eugene Field. Part of it is told
in the reports of the Supreme Court of Vermont, part in the most
remarkable special pleas ever permitted in a chancery suit in America,
and the best part still lingers in the memory of the good people of
Newfane and Brattleboro, Vt., where "them Field boys" are still
referred to as unaccountable creatures, full of odd conceits, "an'
dredful sot when once they took a notion."

"Them Field boys" were not Eugene and his brother Roswell Martin
Field, the joint authors of translations from Horace, known as "Echoes
from the Sabine Farm," but their father, Roswell Martin, and their
uncle, Charles Kellogg, Field of Newfane aforesaid.

These two Fields were the sons of General Martin Field, who was born
in Leverett, Mass., February 12th, 1773, and of his wife, Esther Smith
Kellogg, who was the grandmother celebrated in more than one of Eugene
Field's stories and poems. Through both sides of the houses of Field
and Kellogg the pedigree of Eugene can be traced back to the first
settlers of New England. But there is no need to go back of the second
generation to find and identify the seed whence sprang the strangely
interesting subject of this study.

At the opening of the nineteenth century, as now, Newfane, then
Fayetteville, was a typical county seat. This pretty New England
village, which celebrated the centennial of its organization as a town
in 1874, is situated on the West River, some twelve miles from
Brattleboro, at which point that noisy stream joins the more sedate
Connecticut River. It nestles under the hills upon which, at a
distance of two miles, was the site of the original town of
Newfane--not a vestige of which remains to remind the traveller that
up to 1825 the shire town of Windham County overlooked as grand a
panorama as ever opened up before the eye of man. The reason for
abandoning the exposed location on the hills for the sheltered nook by
the river may be inferred from the descriptive adjectives. The present
town of Newfane clusters about a village square, that would have
delighted the heart of Oliver Goldsmith. The county highway bisects
it. The Windham County Hotel, with the windows of its northern end
grated to prevent the escape of inmates--signifying that its keeper is
half boniface and half county jailer--bounds it on the east, the Court
House and Town Hall, separate buildings, flank it on the west. The
Newfane Hotel rambles along half of its northern side, and the Field
mansion, with its front garden stretching to the road, does the same
for the southern half. In the rear, and facing the opening between the
Court House and the Town Hall, stands the Congregational Church, where
Eugene Field crunched caraway-seed biscuits when on a visit to his
grandmother, and back of this stands another church, spotless in the
white paint of Puritan New England meeting-houses, but deserted by its
congregation of Baptists, which had dwindled to the vanishing point.
In the centre of the village green is a grove of noble elms under
whose grateful shade, on the day of my visit to Newfane, I saw a
quartette of gray-headed attorneys, playing quoits with horse-shoes.
They had come up from Brattleboro to try a case, which had suffered
the usual "law's delay" of a continuance, and were whiling away the
hours in the bucolic sport of their ancestors, while the idle
villagers enjoyed their unpractised awkwardness. They all boasted how
they could ring the peg when they were boys.

Hither General Martin Field brought the young, and, as surviving
portraits testify, beautiful Mistress Kellogg to be his wife. Here to
them were born "them Field boys," Charles K. (April 24th, 1803) and
Roswell M. (February 22d, 1807), destined to be thorns in their
father's flesh throughout their school-days, his opponents in every
justice's court where they could volunteer to match their wits against
his, and, in the person of Roswell Martin, to be the distraction and
despair of the courts of Windsor County and Vermont, until a decision
of the Supreme Court so outraged that son's sense of the sacredness of
the marriage vow, that he shook the granite dust of Vermont from his
feet, and turned his face to the west, where he became the original
counsel in the Dred Scott case, married and had sons of his own.

[Illustration: GENERAL MARTIN FIELD.
_Eugene Field's Grandfather._]

But before taking up the thread of Roswell Martin Field's strange and
unique story, let me give a letter written by his father to his
sister, Miss Mary Field, then at the school of Miss Emma Willard in
Troy, N.Y., as exhibit number one, that Eugene Field came by his
peculiarities, literary and otherwise, by direct lineal descent.
Roswell was a phenomenal scholar, as his own eldest son was not. At
the age of eleven he was ready for college, and entered Middlebury
with his brother Charles, his senior by four years. How they conducted
themselves there may be judged from this letter to their sister:

  Newfane, March 31st, 1822.

  Dear Mary:

  I sit down to write you my last letter while you remain at Troy.
  Yours by Mr. Read was received, in which I find you allude to the
  "severe and satyrical language" of mine in a former letter. That
  letter was written upon the conduct of my children, which is an
  important subject to me. If children are disobedient, a parent has a
  right to be severe with them. If I recollect right I expressed to
  you that your two oldest brothers' conduct was very reprehensible,
  and I there predicted their ruin. But I then little thought that I
  should soon witness the sad consequences of their ill-conduct. I
  received a letter from President Bates about two weeks since and
  another from Charles the same day, that Charles had been turned away
  and forever dismissed from the college for his misconduct; Roswell
  must suffer a public admonition and perhaps more punishment for his
  evil deeds. Charles was turned out of college the 7th of March, and
  I wrote on the week after to have him come directly home, but we
  have heard nothing from him since. Where he is we can form no
  conjecture. But probably he is five hundred miles distant without
  money and without friends. I leave you to conjecture the rest.
  Roswell is left alone at the age of fifteen to get along, if he is
  permitted to stay through college.

  These, Mary, are the consequences of dissipation and bad conduct.
  And seeing as I do the temper and disposition of my children, that
  they "are inclined to evil and that continually," can you wonder
  that I write with severity to them? Our hopes are blasted as relates
  to Charles and Roswell, and you cannot conceive the trouble which
  they have given us. Your mother is almost crazy about them; nor are
  we without fears as to you. I say now, as I said in my former
  letter, that I wish my children were all at home at work. I am
  convinced that an education will only prove injurious to them. If I
  had as many sons as had the patriarch Jacob not one should ever
  again go nigh a college. It is not a good calculation to educate
  children for destruction. The boys' conduct has already brought a
  disgrace upon our family which we can never outgrow. They
  undoubtedly possess respectable talents and genius, but what are
  talents worth when wholly employed in mischief?

  I have expended almost two thousand dollars in educating the boys,
  and now just at the close they are sent off in disgrace and infamy.
  The money is nothing in comparison to the disgrace and ruin that
  must succeed. Mary, think of these things often, and especially when
  you feel inclined to be gay and airy. Let your brother's fate be a
  striking lesson to you. For you may well suppose that you possess
  something of the same disposition that he does, but I hope that you
  will exercise more prudence than he has. You must now return home
  with a fixed resolution to become a steady, sober, and industrious
  girl. Give up literary pursuits and quietly and patiently follow
  that calling which I am convinced is most proper for my children.

  It does appear to me that if children would consider how much
  anxiety their parents have for them they would conduct themselves
  properly, if it was only to gratify their parents. But it is not so.
  Many of them seem determined not only to wound the feelings of the
  parents in the most cruel manner but also to ruin themselves.

  Remember us respectfully to Dr. and Mrs. Willard, and I am your
  affectionate father

  MARTIN FIELD.

That Mary did return home to be the mediator between her incensed and
stern father and his wayward and mischievous, but not incorrigible
sons, is part of the sequel to this letter. What her daughter, Mary
Field French, afterwards became to the sons of the younger of the
reprehensible pair of youthful collegians will appear later on in this
narrative. It is beautifully acknowledged in the dedication of Eugene
Field's "Little Book of Western Verse," which I had the honor of
publishing for the subscribers in 1889, more than three score years
after the date of the foregoing letter. In that dedication, with the
characteristic license of a true artist, Field credited the choice of
Miss French for the care of his youthful years to his mother:

  _A dying mother gave to you
    Her child a many years ago;
  How in your gracious love he grew,
    You know dear, patient heart, you know._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _To you I dedicate this book,
    And, as you read it line by line.
  Upon its faults as kindly look
    As you have always looked on mine._

In truth, however, it was the living bereaved father who turned in the
bewilderment of his grief to the "dear patient heart" of his sister,
to find a second mother for his two motherless boys. To Martin Field,
Mary was a guardian daughter, to Charles K. and Roswell M. 1st, she
was a loyal and mediating sister, and to Eugene and Roswell M. 2d, she
was a loving aunt, as her daughter Mary was an indulgent mother and
unfailing friend. The last name survived "the love and gratitude" of
Eugene's dedication ten years.

As may have been surmised the parental forebodings of the grieved and
satirical General Field were not realized in the eternal perdition of
his two sons. Education did not prove their destruction. With more
than respectable talents Charles was reinstated at Middlebury, and
four months later graduated with high honors, while Roswell took his
degree when only fifteen years old, the plague and admiration of his
preceptors, and, we may well suppose, the pride and joy of the
agonized parents, who welcomed the graduates to Newfane with all the
profusion of a prodigal father and the love of a distracted but doting
mother. They never had any reason to doubt the nature of sister Mary's
reception.

Charles and Roswell studied law with their father in the quaint little
office detached from the Field homestead at Newfane. The word edifice
might fittingly be applied to this building which, though only one
room square and one story high, has a front on the public square,
with miniature Greek columns to distinguish it from the ordinary
outbuildings that are such characteristic appendages of New England
houses. The troubles of General Field with his two sons were not to
end when he got them away from the temptations of college life, for
they were prone to mischief, "and that continually," even under his
severe and watchful eye. This took one particular form which is the
talk of Windham County even yet. By reason of their presence in
General Field's office they were early apprised of actions at law
which he was retained to institute; whereupon they sought out the
defendant and offered their services to represent him gratis. Thus
the elder counsellor frequently found himself pitted in the justice's
courts against his keen-witted and graceless sons, who availed
themselves of every obsolete technicality, quirk, and precedent of
the law to obstruct justice and worry their dignified parent, whom
they addressed as "our learned but erring brother in the law." Not
infrequently these youthful practitioners triumphed in these legal
tilts, to the mortification of their father, who, in his indignation,
could not conceal his admiration for the ingenuity of their
misdirected professional zeal.

[Illustration: ESTHER S. FIELD.
_Eugene Field's Grandmother._]

Two years after his graduation, and when only seventeen years of age,
Eugene Field's father was sufficiently learned in the law to be
admitted to the bar of Vermont. They wasted no time in those good old
days. Before he was thirty, Roswell M. Field had represented his
native town in the General Assembly, had been elected several times
State's Attorney, and in every way seemed destined to play a notable
part in the affairs of Vermont, if not on a broader field. He was not
only a lawyer of full and exact learning, an ingenious pleader, and
a powerful advocate, but an exceptionally accomplished scholar. His
knowledge of Greek, Latin, French, and German rendered their
literature a perennial source upon which to draw for the illumination
and embellishment of the pure and virile English of which he was
master. It was from him that Eugene inherited his delight in queer and
rare objects of vertu and that "rich, strong, musical and sympathetic
voice" which would have been invaluable on the stage, and of which he
made such captivating use among his friends. Would that he had also
inherited that "strong and athletic" frame which, according to his
aged preceptor, enabled Roswell M. Field to graduate at the age of
fifteen. It is not, however, for his learning and accomplishments of
mind and person that we are interested in Roswell Martin Field, but
for the strange incident in his life that uprooted him from the
congenial environments of New England and the career opening so
temptingly before him, to transplant him to Missouri, there to become
the father of a youth, who, by all laws of heredity and by the
peculiar tang of his genius, should have been born and nurtured amid
the stern scenes and fixed customs of Puritan New England. That story
must be told in another chapter.



CHAPTER II

HIS FATHER'S FIRST LOVE-AFFAIR


Many a time and oft in our walks and talks has Eugene Field told me the
story I am about to relate, but never with the particularity of detail
and the authority of absolute data with which I have "comprehended it,"
as he would say, in the following pages. It was his wish that it should
be told, and I follow his injunction the more readily, as in its
relation I am able to demonstrate how clearly the son inherited his
peculiar literary mode from the father.

It may be said further that, had the remarkable situation which grew
out of Roswell M. Field's first marriage occurred one hundred years
earlier, or had it occurred in our own day in a state like Kentucky, it
would have provoked a feud that could only have been settled by blood,
while it might readily have imbrued whole counties. Even in Vermont it
stirred up animosities which occupied the attention of the courts for
years, and which the lapse of nearly two generations has not wholly
eradicated from the memory of old inhabitants. In the opening remarks
of the opinion of the Supreme Court, in one of several cases growing
out of it, I find the following statement: "It would be inexpedient to
recapitulate the testimony in a transaction which was calculated to
call up exasperated feelings, which has apparently taxed ingenuity and
genius to criminate and recriminate, where a deep sense of injury is
evidently felt and expressed by the parties to the controversy, and
where this state of feeling has extended, as it was to be expected, to
all the immediate friends of the parties, who from their situation were
necessarily compelled to become witnesses and to testify in the case."

In the relation of this story I shall substitute Christian names for
the surnames of the parties outside of the Field family, although all
have become public property and the principals are dead. The scene is
laid in the adjoining counties of Windham and Windsor in the Green
Mountain State, and this is how it happened:

There lived at Windsor, in the county of the same name, a widow named
Susanna, and she was well-to-do according to the modest standard of the
times. She was blest with a goodly family of sons and daughters, among
whom was Mary Almira, a maiden fair to look upon and impressionable
withal. Now it befell that Mary Almira, while still very young, was
sent to school at the Academy in Leicester, Mass., where she met, and,
in the language of the law, formed "a natural and virtuous attachment"
with a student named Jeremiah, sent thither by his guardian from
Oxbridge in the state last before mentioned. They met, vowed eternal
devotion and parted, as many school-children have done before and will
do again.

After her return to Windsor, Jeremiah seemingly faded from the thoughts
of Mary Almira, so that when she subsequently accompanied her mother on
a visit to Montreal, she felt free to experience "a sincere and lively
affection" for a Canadian youth named Elder. So lively was this
affection that when Jeremiah next saw Mary Almira it had completely
effaced him from her memory. Nothing daunted, however, being then of
the mature age of eighteen years and eight months, and two years Mary's
senior, he resumed the siege of her heart, and in short order their
engagement was duly "promulgated and even notorious."

Before Mary succumbed to the second suit of Jeremiah, she waited for a
pledge of affection from young Mister Elder in the shape of an album in
which he was to have forwarded a communication, and it was "in the
bitterness of her disappointment at not receiving a letter, message, or
remembrance from Mister Elder that she formed the engagement with
Jeremiah, in order that she might gratify her resentment by sending the
news of the same to Mister Elder." This she did with a peremptory
request for the return of her album without the leaves on which he had
written. What was her chagrin and unavailing remorse on receiving the
album to find that every leaf was cut out but one, a mute witness to
her "infidelity to her early lover." Small wonder that "her tenderness
revived," and "she cursed the hour in which she had formed the
precipitate engagement with Jeremiah, and oftentimes she shed over that
album tears of heartfelt sorrow and regret." At least so we are told in
the pleadings, from which authentic source I draw my quotations.

Now Mary was nothing if not precipitate, for all this came to pass in
the spring or summer of 1831, when she was not quite sweet seventeen.
It also happened without the knowledge or concern of Roswell Martin
Field, who was a young and handsome bachelor of quick wit and engaging
manners, living at Fayetteville in the neighboring county, "knowing
nothing at that time of the said Mary Almira, her lovers, suitors,
promises, engagements, intimacies, visits or movements whatsoever." He
was soon to know.

In the summer of 1832 it happened that Mary Almira was on a visit to
Mrs. Jonathan, her cousin german, the wife of Justice Jonathan of
Brattleboro, Vt. And now fate began to take a swift and inexplicable
interest in the affairs of Mary and Roswell. On August 30th, 1832, in
company with Mrs. Jonathan and Mrs. French (the Mary Field of the first
chapter of this book), Miss Mary Almira visited Fayetteville, and, we
are told, "when the chaise containing the said ladies arrived Roswell
advanced to hand them out, and then for the first time saw and was
introduced to said Mary Almira, who received him with a nod and a broad
good-humored laugh." She remained over night, the guest of Mrs. French,
and Roswell saw her only for a few moments in his sister's
sitting-room. What occurred is naïvely told under oath in the following
extract from the pleadings:

"Some conversation of a general nature passed between them, and as the
said Mary Almira was a young lady of very pleasing face and form and
agreeable manners, it is by no means improbable that he (Roswell)
manifested to said Mary Almira that in those matters he was not wholly
devoid of sensibility and discernment." The next morning Mary returned
to Brattleboro with Mrs. Jonathan, and Roswell "did not then expect
ever to see her more."

But it was otherwise decreed, for after the lapse of eleven days
Justice Jonathan had professional business in Fayetteville, and, lo!
Mary Almira attended him. It was Tuesday, September 11th, when for a
second time she dawned on the discerning view of Roswell. For eight
days she lingered as a guest of Mrs. French, whose brother began to
show signs of awakening sensibility, although at this time informed of
the unbroken pact between Mary Almira and Jeremiah. How young love took
its natural course is told in the pleadings by Roswell with protests
"against the manifest breach of delicacy and decorum of calling him
into this Honorable Court to render an account of his attentions to a
lady," and "more especially when that lady is his lawful wedded wife."

When Mary had been in Fayetteville four days it happened that Justice
Jonathan was called to Westminster. When asked if she was inclined to
accompany him, Mary turned to Roswell and "inquired with a smile if it
was not likely to rain?" and Roswell confesses "that he told her that
it would be very imprudent for her to set out."

[Illustration: ROSWELL MARTIN FIELD.
_Eugene Field's Father._]

Still protesting against the manifest indelicacy of the revelation,
Roswell has told for us the story of his first advances upon the
citadel of Mary's affections in words as cunningly chosen as were ever
the best passages in the writings of his son Eugene. It was on the
evening of September 13th that these advances first passed the outworks
of formal civility. "When bidding the said Mary Almira good-night in
the sitting-room of Mrs. French, as he was about to retire into his
lodgings, Roswell plucked a leaf from the rosebush in the room, kissed
it, and presented it to her; on the next day when he saw the said Mary
Almira she took from her bosom a paper, unfolded it, and showed Roswell
a leaf (the same, he supposes, that was presented the evening before),
neatly stitched on the paper, and which she again carefully folded and
replaced in her bosom."

Another evening they played at chess, and with her permission Roswell
named the queen Miss Almira, and he bent all his energies to the
capture of that particular piece. He sacrificed every point of the game
to that object, and when it was triumphantly achieved, "took note of
the pleasure and delight manifested by said Mary Almira at the ardor
with which he pursued his object and kissed his prize." On still
another occasion "Jeremiah was introduced into the game as a black
bishop, but very soon was exchanged for a pawn."

On the day when Roswell advised Mary that it would be imprudent for her
to accompany Justice Jonathan to Westminster, she was "graciously
pleased to make, with her own fair hand, a pocket pin-cushion of blue
silk and to put the same into Roswell's hands, at the same time
remarking that blue was the emblem of love and constancy," and Roswell
"confesses that he received the same with a profound bow."

They were now in the rapids, with Jeremiah forgotten on the bank.

Roswell complimented "the beauty of said Almira's hair, whereupon she
graciously consented to present him with a lock of the same, and he
humbly confesses that he accepted, kissed, and pressed it to his
heart."

Next morning, as they stood side by side, with Roswell holding her hand
"and carelessly turning over the leaves of a Bible," his eye
accidentally rested on this passage of the book of Jeremiah: "As for
me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto
you." And "thereupon he pointed out such text to said Mary Almira, and
she responded to the same with a blush and a smile." Roswell further
confessed, "that with the kind permission of said Mary Almira he did at
various times press the hand of said Mary Almira, and with her like
gracious permission did kiss her hand, her cheek, and her lips." Who,
with such kind and gracious permission, would have confined himself to
remarks about the weather?

Such were the only "artifices and persuasions, ways and means" by which
Roswell came between Mary Almira and the promise she had made to the
absent Jeremiah--the same ways and means that have been employed from
the days of Adam, and which will be successful while woman is fair and
man is bold. It was Roswell's belief that "his attentions and addresses
were from the first agreeable to Mary's feelings and welcome to her
heart," and he swore "that they were always permitted and received with
great kindness and sweetness of manner."

When Mary left Fayetteville, on Wednesday, September 19th, it was
"appointed" that he should call on her at Brattleboro on the following
Wednesday, and like a true knight he kept his tryst. That his reception
was not frigid may be inferred from the record of the calls that
followed in rapid succession, to-wit: Thursday afternoon; Monday,
October 2d, evening; Tuesday afternoon and evening; Wednesday afternoon
and evening; Wednesday (October 9th) afternoon and evening; Friday
evening; Saturday evening, and Sunday forenoon and evening.

No wonder the report of the bombardment reached the ears of widow
Susanna at Windsor, fifty miles away, and Justice and Mrs. Jonathan
"expostulated with Mary Almira upon the impropriety, as they called it,
of her receiving the attentions of Roswell without informing her
mother."

Space forbids the recital of the uninterrupted, undisturbed, and
agreeable conversations between the young twain that are to be found in
the pleadings in this case. They were brought to a sharp conclusion by
the receipt of a letter from Susanna ordering her daughter to return to
Windsor forthwith. Justice Jonathan remarked that Mrs. Susanna was
"undoubtedly right, for this young lady ought not to be receiving the
gallantries from one young gentleman when she was under engagement to
another."

The mother's letter was received Saturday evening, October 12th, and
produced consternation in the breasts of the young lovers, Mary
clinging around Roswell's neck "with all the ardor of youthful,
passionate love." They resolved to wed without the knowledge, consent,
or blessing of Mrs. Susanna or Jeremiah, and on the morning of October
15th, 1832, Roswell went to the house of Justice Jonathan by
appointment "to be joined in marriage unto said Mary Almira according
to law." Justice and Mrs. Jonathan expostulated against such a marriage
without Mrs. Susanna being first consulted, and after a long conference
Justice Jonathan flatly declined to tie the civil knot. It was finally
decided that the marriage should take place at Putney, a small town of
Windham County, some twelve miles on the Post-road to Windsor. Justice
Jonathan proceeded with the young lady in his carriage, and in due
course arrived at Putney. There he was surprised to find the ardent and
impatient Roswell, who, although behind at the start, had passed him on
the way, and had already made the necessary preparations with Justice
of the Peace Asa to perform the statutory ceremony. This followed "in a
solemn, serious, and impressive manner in the front room of the public
house, the said Jonathan alone being present besides the parties and
the magistrate."

The relations of Roswell and Mary Almira as man and wife began and
ended before Justice Asa in that public house in Putney. In the
language of the pleadings: "Immediately, within a few minutes after
said marriage ceremony, said Mary Almira went with Justice Jonathan
toward Windsor, and Roswell in a short time returned to his residence
at Fayetteville."

There were deeper consequences involved in that simple parting than
could have been imagined by any of the parties or than are concealed in
the musty and voluminous court records of Windsor County and the state
of Vermont.

Eugene Field had an entirely different conception of the nature of this
marriage from that revealed by the record. According to his version,
there was an old blue law in Vermont which rendered it necessary, in
order to exonerate the groom in a runaway match from any other motive
than love and affection, that the bride should be divested of all her
earthly goods. So when Mary Almira arrived at Putney he thought that
she retired to a closet, removed her clothing, and, thrusting her arm
through a hole in the door, was joined in holy wedlock to Roswell, who,
with the Justice and the witnesses, remained in the outer room.

Eugene Field undoubtedly derived this version of his father's marriage
from the tradition of one that actually took place in the Field mansion
on Newfane Hill in 1789. That was the marriage of Major Moses Joy of
Putney to Mrs. Hannah Wood of Newfane, and the unique nature of the
proceedings followed legal advice in order to avoid any responsibility
for the debts of Mrs. Ward's former husband, who had died insolvent.
The story which I find in the Centennial history of Newfane is as
follows:

"Mrs. Ward placed herself in a closet with a tire-woman, who stripped
her of all clothing, and while in a perfectly nude state she thrust her
fair round arm through a diamond hole in the door of the closet, and
the gallant Major clasped the hand of the nude and buxom widow, and was
married in due form by the jolliest parson in Vermont. At the close of
the ceremony the tire-woman dressed the bride in a complete wardrobe
which the Major had provided and caused to be deposited in the closet
at the commencement of the ceremony. She came out elegantly dressed in
silk, satin, and lace, and there was kissing all around."

To resume our story. On leaving Putney, accompanied by Justice
Jonathan, Mary Almira returned to her mother's residence at Windsor.
Nothing was communicated to Mrs. Susanna or to the relatives of the
young bride in regard to the ceremony at Putney. But they, being aware
of the engagement to Jeremiah, and having heard rumors of the
attentions of Roswell, thought propriety demanded an early fulfilment
of the prior engagement. On the day of her arrival home, and on October
21st and 31st, Mary wrote to Roswell letters, from which we have the
assurance of the Supreme Court of Vermont: "It would appear that she
entertained a strong affection for him and probably viewed him as the
husband with whom she should thereafter live, although the last letter
does not breathe the same affection as the former ones."

But the plot was thickening. On the day after her return home Mary also
wrote to Jeremiah in Boston, and a fortnight had not elapsed before she
wrote again, "a very pressing letter, urging him to come immediately to
Windsor." Roswell learned from Mary's letters that her friends were
opposed to her forming any connection, except with Jeremiah, and he
made the mistake of replying by letter instead of appearing in person,
urging his claims and carrying off his bride.

Some time before the 1st of November the family of Mary had heard of
the ceremony at Putney, for on Jeremiah's arrival, in lover-like
compliance with her urgent message, he was informed of the situation.
After a hurried council of war, and under legal advice, the following
letter was drafted and forwarded to Roswell by the hands of Judge
Bikens, the family lawyer:

  To Mr. Roswell Field:

  _Sir_: Moments of deep consideration and much reflection have at
  length caused me to see in its proper light the whole of my late
  visit to Brattleboro. That I have been led by you and others to a
  course of conduct which my own feelings, reason, and sense entirely
  disapprove, is now very clear to me. I therefore write this to
  inform you that I am not willing on any account to see you again.
  Neither will I by any course you can adopt be prevailed upon to view
  the matter in a different light from what I now do. I leave you the
  alternative of forever preventing the public avowal of a disgraceful
  transaction, of which you yourself said you were ashamed.

  Mary A.

This veiled repudiation of the marriage at Putney was placed in
Roswell's hands by Judge Bikens and was instantly "pronounced an
impudent forgery." Being in the dark as to how far Mary's family had
been informed of their marriage, Roswell avoided any expression that
might reveal it to Judge Bikens, and refused to accept the letter as a
true expression of his wife's feelings and wishes. He at once wrote to
her, urging that their marriage should be made public and that thus an
end should be put to the suit of Jeremiah. To this Mary made reply that
the above letter "contained her real sentiments." Before this note
reached Fayetteville Roswell had started for Windsor. On the way he
halted his horse at Putney, where he learned that Mary's family was
fully informed of the marriage as performed by Justice Asa.

A very embarrassing interview followed between Roswell and the family
of his recalcitrant bride. On entering the room he advanced to Mary,
and, extending his hand, "asked her how she did." But she looked at her
mother and rejected his hand. A similar advance to Mrs. Susanna met
with a like rebuff. Being considerately left alone in the room with
Mary Almira by her mother and brother, who, with a sister, stood at the
door listening, Roswell had what he was not disposed to regard as a
private audience with his legal wife. In answer to his natural inquiry
as to what it all meant, Mary said that since she had come home and
thought it all over she found that she _did_ love Jeremiah; that
Jeremiah had been very kind to her, and she thought she ought to marry
Jeremiah.

Roswell inquired how she could do that, as she was already married.

"Why," said the fickle Mary, "you can give up the certificate; let it
all go and nobody will know anything about it." After some natural
remonstrances, Mary continued: "Come, now, you've got the certificate
in your pocket, and you can give it up just as well as not and let me
marry Jeremiah," at the same time holding out her hand as if for the
document.

The startling effrontery of the proposal provoked Roswell, and he told
her that so far as a separation from himself was concerned she should
be gratified to her heart's content, and that while she remained as she
was he would not divulge the marriage, but he warned her that if she
should attempt marriage with another he would publish the marriage at
Putney in every parish church and newspaper in New England.

At this point the private interview was interrupted by the hasty
entrance of Mistress Susanna, who advanced in great agitation, as the
pleadings inform us, and said to Roswell:

"Mister Field, why can't you give up that stiffiket" (meaning, as he
supposed, certificate) "and let things be as if they had never been?"

Thereupon "Mister Field" proceeded to point out to the entire family of
Mary Almira, which had assembled from the doors and keyholes where they
had been eavesdropping, "the wickedness and folly of Mistress Susanna's
request." One of Mary's brothers admitted that Roswell's refusal "to
connive to the dishonor of his wife" was correct and honorable, and
that he should not be asked to make any such arrangement.

Roswell was greatly shocked and disgusted at the appearance, language,
and manner of Mary Almira, and he was borne out in his impression of
her character by the admission of one brother that she was "a giddy,
inconsistent, unprincipled girl," and by that of another that "she was
a volatile coquette, who did not know her own mind from day to day."

Roswell remained in Windsor three days, but did not again see Mary
Almira; whereupon, feeling that nothing was to be gained by exposing
"himself to renewed insults, he returned home for a few days."

It appears that all this time Jeremiah was lurking in the vicinity,
holding secret interviews with Mary and her family, and "devising ways
and means" for the bigamous marriage which, according to the belief of
Roswell, was performed between Jeremiah and Mary Almira somewhere in
New Hampshire between the 14th and 27th of November. Roswell M. Field
never recognized the legality of any such ceremony or that Mary and
Jeremiah had the lawful right to intermarry while the marriage at
Putney remained in full force and effect. He had reason to be thankful
for his escape from a union for life with a woman of such frivolous
nature and easy indifference to the most sacred obligations of human
and divine law. But he would not permit himself to become a silent
copartner in what, to his strict notion of the inviolability of the
marriage contract, was one of the most heinous crimes against society
and morals. He, therefore, took every means in his power to bring
obloquy and punishment upon the guilty parties. He instituted various
proceedings at law to test the validity of the marriage at Putney. He,
among other measures, filed a petition in the Probate Court to secure
an accounting from Mistress Susanna as guardian of the estate of his
wife Mary Almira. But Susanna avoided the issue by a technical plea.

He brought an action of ejectment in the name of himself and Mary
Almira to recover possession of a tenement in Windsor of which she was
the owner, and secured judgment without any defence being offered.

He secured the indictment of one of her brothers in the United States
District Court for having opened one of his letters to his wife.

He presented a statement of the facts of the abduction and bigamous
marriage of Mary Almira to the Grand Jury of Windsor County, and
procured an indictment against her two brothers and Mary Almira and
Jeremiah "for conspiracy to carry her without the state of Vermont" to
become the bigamous wife of Jeremiah.

He followed Jeremiah and Mary to Boston in July, 1833, and laid the
matter before the Grand Jury there, but before any action could be
taken Jeremiah and Mary Almira "withdrew from the city of Boston, left
New England, took passage at the city of New York in an outward bound
vessel, and retired to the other side of the Atlantic."

Out of one of the actions instituted in the name of Roswell Field and
Mary Almira, his wife, grew a libel suit, brought by Mistress Susanna
against him, in which the special pleas drawn and filed by Roswell
Field were pronounced by Justice Story "to be masterpieces of special
pleading." Through all these proceedings Mr. Field disclaimed all
intention or wish "to visit legal pains and penalties" upon his wife,
whom he regarded "as the victim and scapegoat of a wicked conspiracy."

Finally, and after the birth of a child, Jeremiah and Mary Almira were
forced to bring a suit for the nullification of the Putney marriage.
Field met the complaint with a plea that set out all the facts. He
contended that, as the Putney marriage was between persons of legal
discretion and consent, there could be no condition that would render
it voidable at the election of either. Every law and precedent was in
favor of the inviolability of the Putney marriage, and yet so powerful
were the family influences and so distressing would have been the
results of a finding in his favor, that the lower court preferred to
disregard precedents and law rather than illegitimatize the innocent
children of Jeremiah and Mary. The same view was taken by the higher
court, which absolved Mary of "being fully acquainted with the legal
consequences of a solemnization of marriage." The court itself was
forced to regard the ceremony as "a promise or engagement to marry,"
rather than a completed and sacred contract. The opinion as rendered is
one long apology for declaring the Putney marriage invalid, in order to
save Mary Almira from the crime of bigamy and her children from being
the offspring of an illicit union.

The conclusion of the opinion reflects the spirit in which it was
rendered. "It may be proper to add," said the court, "that we are not
disposed to animadvert on the conduct of the parties or of their
respective friends and connections, nor to pronounce any opinion
further than is required to show the grounds of our determination. The
immediate parties may find some excuse or palliation in the
thoughtlessness of youth, the strength of affection, the pangs of
disappointment and blighted hopes, in versatility of feeling to which
all are subject, and in constitutional temperament. The conduct of the
friends of either is not to be judged of nor censured in consequence of
the unfortunate results which have attended this truly unfortunate
case. In judging of the past transactions of others, which have
terminated either favorably or unfavorably, we are apt to say that a
different course was required and would have produced a different
effect. But who can say what would have been the inevitable
consequences of a different line of conduct by the friends of either
party? The infatuation and the determination of the parties to pursue
that course which was most agreeable to their own feelings and views,
placed their friends and acquaintances in a very unpleasant situation,
and it would be wrong for us now to say that they were not actuated by
good motives, and did not pursue that line of conduct which they
thought at the time duty dictated. We inquire not as to the conduct of
others, we censure them not, nor do we say anything as to the parties
before us, except what has been thought necessary in deciding the
case."

The decree of nullification was affirmed in July, 1839, and before the
close of the year Roswell M. Field had shaken the dust of Vermont from
his feet and taken up his residence in St. Louis. Thus Vermont lost the
most brilliant young advocate of his day, and Missouri gained the
lawyer who was to adorn its bar and institute the proceedings for the
manumission of Dred Scott, the slave, whose case defined the issues of
our Civil War.



CHAPTER III

THE DRED SCOTT CASE


Vermont's loss was Missouri's gain. The young lawyer, who had been
admitted to the bar of his native state at the age of eighteen, was
fully equipped to match his learning, wit, and persuasive manners
against such men as Benton, Gamble, and Bates, who were the leaders of
the Missouri bar when, in 1839, Roswell Field took up his residence in
St. Louis. Now it was that his familiarity and facility with French,
German, and Spanish stood him in good stead and, combined with his
solid legal attainments, speedily won for him the rank of the ablest
lawyer in his adopted state.

But Roswell Field brought from Vermont something more than an
exceptional legal equipment and the familiarity with the languages that
is necessary to a mastery of the intricate old Spanish and French
claims which were plastered over Missouri in those early days. He had
inherited through his mother, from her grim old Puritan ancestors, the
positive opinions and unquenchable sense of duty that constitute the
far-famed New England conscience. He was born with a repugnance to
slavery, whether of the will or of the body, and grew to manhood in the
days when the question of the extension of negro slavery to the states
and territories was the subject of fierce debate throughout the union.
He had fixed convictions on the subject when he left Newfane, and he
carried them with him to the farther bank of the Mississippi.

It is to the uncompromising New England conscience of Roswell Field
that his countrymen owe the institution of the proceedings that finally
developed into the Dred Scott case, in which the question of the legal
status of a negro was passed upon by the Supreme Court of the United
States. This is very properly regarded as the most celebrated of the
many important cases adjudicated by our highest tribunal, for not only
did it settle the status of Dred Scott temporarily, but the decision
handed down by Chief Justice Taney is the great classic of a great
bench. It denied the legal existence of the African race as persons in
American society and in constitutional law, and also denied the
supremacy of Congress over the territories and the constitutionality of
the "Missouri Compromise." Four years of civil war were necessary to
overrule this sweeping opinion of Chief Justice Taney's, which is still
referred to with awe and veneration by a large minority, if not by a
majority, of the legal profession.

To Roswell Field belongs the honor of instituting the original action
for Dred Scott, without fee or expectation of compensation. The details
of this celebrated case, after it got into the United States courts,
are a part of the history of our country. What I am about to relate is
scarcely known outside of the old Court House and Hall of Records in
St. Louis.

Dred Scott was a negro slave of Dr. Emerson, a surgeon in the United
States Army, then stationed in Missouri. Dr. Emerson took Scott with
him when, in 1834, he moved to Illinois, a free state, and subsequently
to Fort Snelling, Wis. This territory, being north of 36 degrees and 30
minutes, was free soil under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. At Fort
Snelling, Scott married a colored woman who had also been taken as a
slave from Missouri. When Dr. Emerson returned to Missouri he brought
Dred Scott, his wife, and child with him. The case came to the
attention of Roswell Field, and at once enlisted all his human sympathy
and great legal ability. His first petition to the Circuit Court for
the County of St. Louis is too important and unique a human document
not to be preserved in full. It reads:

  Your petitioner, a man of color, respectfully represents that
  sometime in the year 1835 your petitioner was purchased as a slave
  by one John Emerson, since deceased, who afterwards, to wit, about
  the year 1836 or 1839, conveyed your petitioner from the State of
  Missouri to Fort Snelling, a fort then occupied by the troops of the
  United States, and under the jurisdiction of the United States,
  situated in the territory ceded by France to the United States under
  the name of Louisiana, lying North of 36 degrees and 30 minutes
  North latitude, not included within the limits of the State of
  Missouri; and resided and continued to reside at said Fort Snelling
  for upwards of one year, and holding your petitioner in slavery at
  said Fort during all that time; in violation of the act of Congress
  of March 6th, 1820, entitled "An act to authorize the people of
  Missouri Territory to form a constitution and State government and
  for the admission of such state into the Union on an equal footing
  with the original states and to prohibit slavery in certain
  territories."

  Your petitioner avers that said Emerson has since departed this
  life, leaving a widow, Irene Emerson, and an infant child whose name
  is unknown to your petitioner, and that one Alexander Sandford has
  administered upon the estate of said Emerson and that your
  petitioner is now unlawfully held by said Sandford as said
  Administrator and said Irene Emerson who claims your petitioner as
  part of the estate of said Emerson and by one said Samuel Russell.

  Your petitioner therefore prays your Honorable Court to grant him
  leave to sue as a free person in order to establish his right to
  freedom and that the necessary orders may be made in the premises.

  (Signed) DRED SCOTT.

  his DRED X SCOTT mark

  Sworn to and subscribed before me this 1st day July, 1847,
  PETER W. JOHNSTONE, J.P.

  Upon reading the above petition this day, it being the opinion of
  the Judge of the Circuit Court that the said petition contains
  sufficient matter to authorize the commencement of a suit for his
  freedom, it is hereby ordered that the said petitioner, Dred Scott,
  be allowed to sue, on giving security satisfactory to the Clerk of
  the Circuit Court for all costs that may be adjudged against him,
  and that he have reasonable liberty to attend his counsel and the
  Court as occasion may require, and that he be not subjected to any
  severity on account of this application for his freedom and that he
  be not removed out of the jurisdiction of the Court.

  A. HAMILTON,
  _Judge of the St. Louis Circuit Court, 8th Judicial Circuit, Mo._
  July 2d, 1847.

Having obtained the desired leave to sue from Judge Alexander Hamilton,
Roswell Field procured Joseph Charless, one of the leading citizens of
St. Louis, to execute the necessary bond for costs. Then he lost no
time in filing the following complaint, which I have no doubt Eugene
Field would have mortgaged many weeks' salary to number among his most
precious possessions. He would have cherished it above the Gladstone
axe, for, while that felled mighty oaks, this brief document laid the
axe at the root of a deadly upas-tree which threatened the destruction
of a free republic. I offer no apology for its insertion here:

  STATE OF MISSOURI, ) COUNTY OF ST. LOUIS) ss.

  CIRCUIT COURT OF ST. LOUIS, ST. LOUIS COUNTY. November Term, 1847.

  Dred Scott, a man of color, by his attorneys, plaintiff in this
  suit, complains of Alexander Sandford as administrator of the estate
  of John Emerson deceased, Irene Emerson and Samuel Russell,
  defendants of a plea of trespass. For that the said defendants
  heretofore, to wit on the 1st day of July in the year 1846 at to wit
  the County of St. Louis aforesaid with force and arms assaulted the
  said plaintiff and then and there, beat, bruised, and ill-treated
  him and then and there imprisoned and kept and detained him in
  prison there without any reasonable or probable cause whatsoever,
  for a long time, to wit for the space of one year, then next
  following, contrary to law and against the will of the said
  plaintiff; and the said plaintiff avers that before and at the time
  of the committing of the grievances aforesaid, he the said plaintiff
  was then and there and still is a free person, and that the said
  defendants held and still hold him in slavery, and other wrongs to
  the said plaintiff then and there did against the peace of the State
  of Missouri to the damage of the said plaintiff in the sum of ($300)
  Three Hundred Dollars, and therefore he sues.

  FIELD & HALL, _Attys. for Plff._

With this brief and bald complaint for trespass to the person and false
imprisonment was begun a long and stubbornly fought litigation,
extending over ten years, and which was destined to end in Chief
Justice Taney declaring:

  They [negroes] had for more than a century before [the Declaration
  of Independence] been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and
  altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social
  or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights
  which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might
  justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was
  bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise
  and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it.

From the beginning of his connection with this case Roswell Field
contended for the broad principle enunciated by Lord Mansfield that
"Slavery is so odious that nothing can be suffered to support it but
positive law." He consented to a discontinuance of the original action
because of the variance of the complaint from the subsequently
discovered facts. In the second suit Dred Scott and his family were
declared free by the local court, but the judgment was reversed on
appeal to the Supreme Court of the state. Judge Gamble, in dissenting
from the opinion of the majority of the Court, held that "In Missouri
it has been recognized from the beginning of the Government as a
correct position in law that a master who takes his slave to reside in
a state or territory where slavery is prohibited thereby emancipates
his slave."

The subsequent sale of Dred Scott to a citizen of New York named
Sandford afforded Roswell Field the opportunity to renew the fight for
Scott's freedom in the United States Circuit Court at St. Louis. The
case was tried in May, 1854, and it was again declared that Scott and
his family "were negro slaves, the lawful property of Sandford."
Roswell Field immediately appealed by writ of error to the Supreme
Court of the United States, where the appeal was first argued early in
1856, and a second time in December of the same year. Mr. Field's
connection with the case ended when he prepared the papers on appeal
and sent his brief to Montgomery Blair, with whom was associated for
Scott on the second hearing George Ticknor Curtis. Both of these
eminent lawyers emulated the example of Eugene Field's father, who for
nearly nine years had devoted a large share of his time and energy to
the fight of a penniless negro slave for liberty.

Looking back now it is almost impossible to realize how the issue in
this case stirred the nation to its depth. It was first argued while
the country was in the throes of the fierce Fremont-Buchanan campaign,
and it was believed that the second hearing was ordered by a
pro-slavery court after Buchanan's election, to permit more time in
which to formulate the extraordinary decision at which the majority of
the court arrived. The decision was political rather than judicial, and
challenged the attention of the people beyond any act of the Supreme
Court before or since.

The Civil War was virtually an appeal from the judgment of Chief
Justice Taney and his associates to the God of Battles.

It must not be thought that a single case, although the most celebrated
in the annals of American jurisprudence, was Roswell Field's sole claim
to the title of leader of the Missouri bar during his lifetime. The
records of the Superior Court of that state bear interesting and
convincing testimony to the exceptional brilliancy of Eugene Field's
father, while the tributes to his memory, by his brothers at the bar
and the judges before whom he appeared, prove that in all the relations
of life he fulfilled the promise of ability and genius given in his
graduation from college at an age when most boys are entering a
preparatory school.

Before dismissing Roswell Field to take up the story of his son's
career, I wish to quote a few passages from a brief memoir which is
preserved in the history of Newfane, as throwing direct hereditary
light on the peculiar character, fascinating personality, and
entertaining genius of his son.

As I may hereafter have occasion to refer to Eugene Field's political
convictions, let us begin these quotations with one as to his father's
politics:

"In the dark days of the Rebellion, during the years 1861 and 1862,
when the friends of the Union in St. Louis and Missouri felt that they
were in imminent danger of being drawn from their homes and of having
their estates confiscated by rebels and traitors, General Lyon, General
Blair, and R.M. Field were among the calm, loyal, and patriotic men who
influenced public action and saved the city and state."

Those of my readers who knew the son will recognize much that
captivated them in this description of the father:

"In his social relations he was a genial and entertaining companion,
unsurpassed in conversational powers, delighting in witty and sarcastic
observations and epigrammatic sentences. He was elegant in his manners
and bland and refined in his deportment. He was a skilful musician and
passionately fond of children, and it was his wont in early life to
gather them in groups about him and beguile them by the hour with the
music of the flute or violin. He was actually devoid of all ambition
for power and place, and uniformly declined all offers of advancement
to the highest judicial honors of the state."

From the lips of Samuel Knox, of the St. Louis bar, we have this
testimony as to the remarkable extent and versatility of Roswell M.
Field's talents:

"Uniting great industry and acquirements with the most brilliant wit
and genius, well and accurately informed on all subjects, both in
science and art; endowed with a memory that retained whatever it
received, with quick and clear perceptions, the choicest, most
felicitous, and forcible language in which to clothe his thoughts, no
one could doubt his meaning or withhold the tribute of wonder at his
power."

[Illustration: CHARLES KELLOGG FIELD.]

To clinch the evidence as to the source from which Eugene Field derived
pretty nearly everything that won for him such meed of fame as fell to
his lot, let me quote from an interview with Melvin L. Gray, his
guardian and foster-father, printed in the Helena Independent,
September 6th, 1895, shortly before his idol's death:

"If I had never believed in the influence of heredity before, I would
now, after having known Eugene Field and his father before him. The
father was a lawyer of wonderful ability, but he was particularly
distinguished by his keen wit, his intense appreciation of the humorous
side of life, and his fondness for rare first editions of literary
works. He was a profound student, and found much time to cultivate the
fairer qualities that some lawyers neglect in the busy round of their
profession. Eugene is not a lawyer, but he has his father's tastes, his
father's keen wit, and much of the same fineness of character and
literary ability."

"Another point of similarity is found in Eugene's neglect of financial
matters. In his youth the father was equally negligent, although he did
subsequently grow more thrifty, and when he died left the boys a little
patrimony. As executor I apportioned the money as directed. Both the
boys spent it freely while it lasted."

I find no trace in the father of what, all through life, was the
pre-eminent characteristic of Eugene, the inveterate painstaking,
mirth-compelling practical-joker. But in Brattleboro, Newfane, and
throughout Vermont everybody says, "That's jest like his uncle Charles
Kellogg. There was never such another for jest foolin'. He'd rather
play a hoax on the parson that would embarrass him in the face of his
congregation than eat." When they were boys, it was Charles that led
Roswell into all kinds of mischief. "Uncle Charles Kellogg"--they
always give him the benefit of the second name in Brattleboro--had a
reputation for wit and never-ending badinage throughout the
neighborhood that still survives and leaves no room to question whence
Eugene inherited his unquenchable passion "for jest foolin'."



CHAPTER IV

BIRTH AND EARLY YOUTH


For nine years after moving to St. Louis his profession was the sole
mistress of Roswell Field's "laborious days" and bachelor nights.
Almost coincident with his becoming interested in the case of the
slave, Dred Scott, he met, and more to the purpose of this narrative,
became interested in Miss Frances Reed, then of St. Louis, but whose
parents hailed from Windham County, Vermont. Whether their common
nativity, or the fact that her father was a professional musician,
first brought them together, the memory of St. Louis does not disclose.
Miss Reed was a young woman of unusual personal charm. All accounts
agree that she was quiet and refined in her ways and yet possessed that
firmness of mind that is the salt of a quiet nature. They were married
in May, 1848, and in the love and domestic happiness of his mature
manhood, Roswell Field found the sweet balm for the bitterness that
followed from his youthful romance and the nullification of the Putney
marriage.

Of this union six children were born in the eight years of Mrs. Field's
wedded life, only two of whom, Eugene, the second, and Roswell,
survived babyhood. There is some uncertainty as to the exact date and
location of Eugene's birth. When his father was married he took his
bride home to a house on Collins Street, which, under Time's
transmuting and ironical fingers, has since become a noisy boiler-shop.
There their first child was born. Subsequently they moved to the house,
No. 634 South Fifth Street (now Broadway), which is one in the middle
of a block of houses pointed out in St. Louis as the birthplace of
Eugene Field. Although Eugene himself went with the photographer and
pointed out the house, his brother Roswell strenuously maintains that
Eugene was born before the family moved to the Walsh row, so-called,
and that to the boiler-shop belongs the honor of having heard the first
lullabies that greeted the ears of their greatest master.

[Illustration: EUGENE FIELD'S MOTHER.
_From a daguerreotype taken a year or two before his birth._]

Roswell's view receives negative corroboration from the testimony of
Mrs. Temperance Moon, of Farmington, Utah, who for a time lived in
their father's family. Under date of February 25th, 1901, Mrs. Moon
wrote to me:

"I can give you very little information in regard to Mr. Field's place
of birth. It was on Third Street. I do not remember the names of the
cross streets, I think Cherry was one. Eugene was four months old when
I went to live with them. I stayed until the family went east for the
summer. Mrs. Field's sister was living with them. Her name was Miss
Arabella Reed. When they came back Roswell was a few months old. They
went to live on Fifth Street in a three-story house. Mrs. Field sent
word for me to come and take care of Eugene. I was twelve years old.
She gave me full charge of him. I was very proud of the charge. He was
a noble child. I loved him as a dear brother. He took great delight in
hearing me read any kind of children's stories and fairy tales. His
mother was a lovely woman. I have a book and a picture Eugene sent to
me. The picture is of him and his mother when he was only six months
old."

Equal and illusive doubt hangs over the date of Eugene Field's birth.
Was it September 2d or 3d, 1850? In his "Auto-Analysis," of which we
shall hear more further along, Field himself gives preference to the
latter figure. But as his preference more than half the time went by
the rule of contraries, that would be prima-facie evidence that he was
born on the earlier date. There again the testimony of the younger
brother is to the effect that in their youth the anniversary of Eugene's
birth was held to be September 2d. Their father said he could not
reconcile his mind to the thought that one of his children was born
on so memorable an anniversary as September 3d, the day of Cromwell's
death. I have little doubt that Field himself fostered the irrepressible
conflict of dates, on the theory that two birthdays a year afforded a
double opportunity to playfully remind his friends of the pleasing
duty of an interchange of tokens on such anniversaries. If they forgot
September 2d, he could jog their memories that Cromwell's death on
September 3d, two centuries before, was no excuse for ignoring his
birth on September 3d, 1850.

Whether born on the anniversary of Cromwell's death or in the
boiler-shop, no stories of the youthful precocity of Eugene Field
survive to entertain us or to suggest that he gave early indication of
the possession either of unusual talent or of that unique personality
that were to distinguish him from the thousands born every day.

But Eugene and Roswell, Jr., were not long to know the watchful
tenderness and ambitious solicitude of that "mother love" of which the
elder has so sweetly sung. In November, 1856, when Eugene was six
years old, their mother died and their father's thoughts instinctively
turned to his sister, hoping to find with her, amid scenes familiar to
his own youth, a home and affectionate care for his motherless boys.
How the early loss of his mother affected the life of Eugene Field it
is impossible to tell. Not until the boy of six whom she left had
become a man of forty did he attempt to pay a tribute of filial love
to her memory. The following lines, under the simple title, "To My
Mother," first appeared in his "Sharps and Flats" column, October
25th, 1890. It was reprinted in his "Second Book of Verse." The
opening lines summon up a tender picture of a "grace that is dead":

  _How fair you are, my mother!
  Ah, though 'tis many a year
  Since you were here,
  Still do I see your beauteous face
  And with the glow
  Of your dark eyes cometh a grace
  Of long ago._

The Mistress French of our earlier acquaintance, who was a widow when
we last knew her in Newfane, had married again and, as Mistress Thomas
Jones, had moved with her daughter, Mary Field French, to Amherst,
Mass. To the home of Mrs. Jones and the loving care of Miss French,
Eugene and Roswell, Jr., were entrusted. Miss French was at this time a
young woman, a spinster--Eugene delighted to call her--of about thirty
years. His old Munson tutor thus describes her:

"Mary Field French, a daughter of Mrs. Jones by her first husband, was
a lady of strong mind, and much culture, with a sound judgment and
decision of character and very gracious manners. She was always
sociable and agreeable and so admirably adapted to the charge of the
two brothers." They retained through manhood the warmest affection for
this cousin-mother, and never wearied in showing toward her the
grateful devotion of loyal sons.

"Here," continues Dr. Tufts, "in this charming home, under the best of
New England influences and religious instruction, with nothing harsh or
repulsive, the boys could not have found a more congenial home. Indeed,
few mothers are able or even capable of doing so much for their own
children as Miss French did for these two brothers, watching over them
incessantly, yet not spoiling them by weak indulgence or repelling them
by harsh discipline."

[Illustration: EUGENE FIELD'S COUSINS, MARY FIELD FRENCH AND HER
YOUNGER HALF SISTER, AUGUSTA JONES.
_From a daguerreotype taken before Eugene and Roswell became members
of Miss French's family in Amherst, on the death of their mother._]

Here it was that Eugene was brought up in the "nurture and admonition
of the Lord," as he would often declare with a mock severity of tone,
that left a mixed impression as to the beneficence of the nurture and
the abiding quality of the admonition. Here he spent his school days,
not in acquiring a broad or deep basis for future scholarship, but in
studying the ways and whims of womankind, in practising the subtile
arts whereby the boy of from six to fifteen attains a tyrannous mastery
over the hearts of a feminine household, and in securing the leadership
among the daring spirits of his own age and sex, for whom he was early
able to furnish a continuous programme of entertainment, adventure, and
mischief.

Of this period of Eugene Field's life we get the truest glimpse through
the eyes of his brother, who has written appreciatively of their
boyhood spent in Amherst. "His boyhood," writes Roswell, "was similar
to that of other boys brought up with the best surroundings in a
Massachusetts village, where the college atmosphere prevailed. He had
his boyish pleasures and his trials, his share of that queer mixture of
nineteenth century worldliness and almost austere Puritanism, which is
yet characteristic of many New England families."

If the reader wishes to know more of the New England atmosphere, in
which Eugene Field was permitted to have pretty much his own sweet way
by his cousin and aunt, let him have recourse to Mrs. Earle's "The
Sabbath in Puritan New England," which I find in my library commended
to my perusal, "with Eugene Field's love, December 25th, 1891"--and to
other books by the same author. In a letter to Mrs. Earle, from which I
quoted in the opening paragraph of this narrative, I find the following
reference to the period of his life which we are now considering:

"Fourteen years of my life were spent in Newfane, Vt., and Amherst,
Mass. My lovely old grandmother was one of the very elect. How many
times have I carried her footstove for her and filled it in the
vestry-room. I have frozen in the old pew while grandma kept nice and
warm and nibbled lozenges and cassia cakes during meeting. I remember
the old sounding-board. There was no melodeon in that meeting-house;
and the leader of the choir pitched the tune with a tuning-fork. As a
boy I used to play hi-spy in the horse-shed. But I am not so very
old--no, a man is still a boy at forty, isn't he?"

[Illustration: THE FIELD HOMESTEAD AT NEWFANE, VT.]

Eugene Field would have been a boy at fifty and at eighty had he lived,
and he was very much of a boy at the period of which he wrote to Mrs.
Earle. I have no doubt that he was a very circumspect lad while under
the loving yet stern glance of that dear old grandmother, in whose
kindly yet dignified presence three generations of Fields moved with
varying emotions of love and circumspection. "Her husband" (General
Martin Field of our acquaintance), wrote "Uncle Charles Kellogg," "was
genial and social, full of humor and mirth, oftentimes filling the
house with his jocund laugh." She, however, "true to her refined
womanly instinct, her sense of propriety, rarely disturbed by his merry
and harmless jests, with great discretion pursued 'the even tenor of
her way.' Patiently and with unfaltering devotion to the higher and
nobler purposes of life, she always maintained her self-possession,
strenuously avoided all levity and frivolity, rarely relaxed the
gravity of her deportment, and never failed in the end of controlling
both husband and household."

Eugene's own picture of his grandmother is contained in the following
passage in an article contributed by him to the Ladies' Home Journal:

  "Grandma was a pillar in the Congregational Church. At the decline
  and disintegration of the Universalist society, she rejoiced
  cordially as if a temple of Baal or an idol of Ashtaroth had been
  overturned. Yes, grandma was Puritanical--not to the extent of
  persecution, but a Puritan in the severity of her faith and in the
  exacting nicety of her interpretation of her duties to God and
  mankind. Grandma's Sunday began at six o'clock Saturday evening; by
  that hour her house was swept and garnished, and her lamps trimmed,
  every preparation made for a quiet, reverential observance of the
  Sabbath Day. There was no cooking on Sunday. At noon Mrs. Deacon
  Ranney and other old ladies used to come from church with grandma to
  eat luncheon and discuss the sermon and suggest deeds of piety for
  the ensuing week. I remember Mrs. Deacon Ranney and her frigid
  companions very distinctly. They never smiled and they wore austere
  bombazines that rustled and squeaked dolorously. Mrs. Deacon Ranney
  seldom noticed me further than to regard me with a look that seemed
  to stigmatize me as an incipient vessel of wrath that was not to be
  approved of, and I never liked Mrs. Deacon Ranney after I heard her
  reminding grandma one day that Solomon had truly said, 'spare the
  rod and spoil the child.' I still think ill of Mrs. Deacon Ranney
  for having sought to corrupt dear old grandma's gentle nature with
  any such incendiary suggestions. The meeting-house was cold and
  draughty, and the seats, with their straight backs, were oh, so
  hard. Grandma's pew was near the pulpit. I remember now how ashamed
  I used to be to carry her footstove all the way up that long aisle
  for her--I was such a foolish little boy then--and now, ah me, how
  ready and glad and proud I should be to do that service for dear old
  grandma!

  "When grandma went to meeting she carried a lovely big black velvet
  bag; it had a bouquet wrought in beads of subdued color upon it, and
  it hung by two sombre silk puckering ribbons over grandma's arm. In
  the bag grandma carried a supply of crackers and peppermint
  lozenges, and upon these she would nibble in meeting whenever she
  felt that feeling of goneness in the pit of her stomach, which I was
  told old ladies sometimes suffer with. It was proper enough, I was
  assured, for old ladies to nibble at crackers and peppermint
  lozenges in meeting, but that such a proceeding would be very wicked
  for a little boy."

From which it might appear that the atmosphere of Newfane, under the
grave and serious deportment of his grandmother, must have been a
change from the freedom Eugene and his brother enjoyed under the fond
rule of Miss French at Amherst. But when I was in Newfane in 1899 I was
informed by a dear old lady in bombazine, who remembered their visits
distinctly, that "Eugene and Roswell were wild boys. Not bad, but just
tew full of old Nick for anything."

[Illustration: THE HOMESTEAD AT AMHERST, MASS.
_Now owned by Mr. Hiram Eaton of New York._]

It was in Amherst, however, and not in Newfane, from Cousin Mary, and
not from his dear Grandmother Esther, that Eugene got the New England
"bent" in his Missouri mind. It is hard to separate the fact from the
fancy in his story of "My Grandmother." His youth from 1856 to 1865 was
lived in Amherst. His only visit to the Field homestead in Newfane was
when he was nine years old. And of this he has written, "we stayed
there seven months and the old lady got all the grandsons she wanted.
She did not invite us to repeat the visit." He also confessed that all
his love for nature dated from that visit. As a boy he would never have
been permitted to indulge the fondness for animal pets under "the dark
penetrating eyes" of his grandmother, that was tolerated and became a
life-habit by the "gracious love" of Mary Field French. Of this
fondness for pets, Roswell has written that it amounted to a passion.
"But unlike other boys he seemed to carry his pets into a higher sphere
and to give them personality. For each pet, whether dog, cat, bird,
goat, or squirrel--he had the family distrust of a horse--he not only
had a name, but it was his delight to fancy that each possessed a
peculiar dialect of human speech, and each he addressed in the humorous
manner conceived. When in childhood he was conducting a poultry annex
to the homestead, each chicken was properly instructed to respond to a
peculiar call, and Finniken, Minniken, Winniken, Dump, Poog, Boog
seemed to recognize immediately the queer intonations of their master
with an intelligence that is not usually accorded to chickens."

I cannot forbear to introduce here a characteristic bit of evidence
from Eugene Field's own pen of the survival of the passion for pets to
which his brother testifies:

  "It is only under stress," said he in his allotted column in the
  Chicago Record of January 9th, 1892, "nay, under distress, that the
  mysterious veil of the editorial-room may properly be thrown aside
  and the secret thereof disclosed. It is under a certain grievous
  distress that we make this statement now:

  "For a number of months the silent partner in the construction of
  this sporadic column of 'Sharps and Flats' has been a little fox
  terrier given to the writer hereof by his friend, Mr. Will J. Davis.
  We named our little companion Jessie, and our attachment to her was
  wholly reciprocated by Jessie herself, although (and we make this
  confession very shamefacedly) our enthusiasm for Jessie was by no
  means shared by the prudent housewife in charge of the writer's
  domestic affairs. Jessie contributed to and participated in our work
  in this wise: She would sit and admiringly watch the writer at his
  work, wagging her abridged tail cordially whenever he bestowed a
  casual glance upon her, threatening violence to every intruder,
  warning her master of the approach of every garrulous visitor, and
  oftentimes, when she felt lonely, insisted on climbing up into her
  master's lap and slumbering there while he wrote and wrote away. We
  have tried our poems on Jessie, and she always liked them; leastwise
  she always wagged her tail approvingly and smiled her flatteries as
  only a very intelligent little dog can. Some folk think that our
  poetry drove Jessie away from home, but we know better; Jessie
  herself would deny that malicious imputation were she here now and
  could she speak.

  "To this little companion we became strongly, perhaps foolishly,
  attached. She walked with us by day, hunting rats and playing
  famously every variety of intelligent antics. Whither we went she
  went, and at night she shared our couch with us. Though only nine
  months old Jessie stole into this life of ours so very far that
  years seemed hardly to compass the period and honesty of our
  friendship.

  "Well, last Tuesday night Jessie disappeared--vanished as
  mysteriously as if the earth had opened up and swallowed her. She
  had been playing with a discreet dog friend in Fullerton Avenue, and
  that was the last seen of her! Where can she have gone? It is very
  lonesome without Jessie. Moreover there are poems to be read for her
  approval before they can be printed; the great cause of literature
  waits upon Jessie. She must be found and restored to her proper
  sphere.

  "Jessie perhaps was not beautiful, yet she was fair to her master's
  eyes. She was white with yellow ears and a brownish blaze over her
  left eye and warty cheek. She weighed perhaps twenty pounds (for
  Jessie never had dyspepsia), and one mark you surely could tell her
  by was the absence of a nail from her left forepaw, the honorable
  penalty of an encounter with an enraged setting hen in our barn last
  month.

  "Jessie's master is not rich, for the poetry that fox terriers
  approve is not remunerative; but that master has accumulated (by
  means of industrious application to his work and his friends) the
  sum of $20, which he will cheerfully pay to the man, woman, or child
  who will bring Jessie back again. For he is a weak human creature,
  is Jessie's master, in his loneliness, without his faithful,
  admiring little dumb friend."

Two days later Field printed the following letter and his answer
thereto, both written by the same hand in his column:

  CHICAGO, January 10th.

  _To the Editor_: I am very sorry for the gentleman who writes your
  Sharps and Flats, for I know what it is to lose a little dog. I had
  one once and some boy I guess took it off and never brought it back
  again. I have got a maltese cat and four beautiful kittens, and
  should like to send the gentleman one of the kittens if he wants
  one. Maybe he would get to like the kitten as much as he did the
  little dog. Respectfully, your little friend,

  EDITH LONG.

  "Many thanks to our charming little correspondent; she has a gentle
  heart, we know. What havoc one of those mischievous creatures would
  make! In the first place it would accomplish the destruction of
  these little canaries of ours which now flit about this lovely
  disordered room, perching confidently upon folios and bric-a-brac
  and hopping blithely over the manuscripts and papers on the table.
  In the basement against the furnace, three beautiful fleecy little
  chickens have just hatched out. How long do you suppose it would be
  before that wicked little kitten discovered and compassed the
  demolition of those innocent baby fowls? Then again there are
  rabbits in the stable and very tame pigeons and the tiniest of
  bantams. It would be very dreadful to introduce a truculent kitten
  (and all felines are naturally truculent) into such society. And our
  blood fairly congeals when we think that perhaps (oh, fearful
  possibility) that kitten might nose out and wantonly destroy the too
  lovely butterflies stored away in yonder closet, which we have
  appropriately named the cage of gloom.

  "Miss Edith must keep her kitten and may she have the pleasure of
  its pretty antics. However, she must bear this in mind, that sooner
  or later our pets come to grief.

  "Very, very many years ago, we read and cried over a little book
  written by Grace Greenwood and entitled 'The History of My Pets.'
  Even as a child we wondered why it was that evil invariably befell
  the pets of youth.

  "We all know that most little folks are tender-hearted, yet there
  are some who seem indifferent to pets, to have little sympathy with
  the pathos of dumb animals. And we have so often wondered whether
  after all these latter did not get more of pleasure or should we say
  less of pain out of life than the others. The tender heart seldom
  hardens; in maturer years its comprehensions and sympathies broaden,
  and this of course involves pain. Are the delights of sympathy a
  fair offset to the pains thereof?"

The boy at Amherst was the father of the man at forty-two. It was to
the prototype of "The Bench-Legged Fyce," known in Miss French's
household as "Dooley," that the boy Eugene attributed his first verse,
a parody on the well-known lines, "Oh, had I the wings of a dove!"
Dooley's song ran:

  _Oh, had I wings like a dove I would fly
    Away from this world of fleas;
  I'd fly all round Miss Emerson's yard
    And light on Miss Emerson's trees._

It was rank disloyalty to the memory of "Dooley" to rename the
bench-legged fyce "Sooner" and locate the scene of his "chronic repose"
in St. Jo rather than under the flea-proof tree of Mrs. Emerson in
Amherst. But who regrets the poetic license as he reads:

  _We all hev our choice, an' you like the rest,
  Allow that dorg which you've got is the best;
  I wouldn't give much for the boy 'at grows up
  With no friendship subsistin' 'tween him and a pup;
  When a fellow gits old--I tell you it's nice
  To think of his youth and his bench-legged fyce!_

Although Eugene Field never forgot or forgave the terrors of the New
England Sabbath, its strict observance, its bad singing, doleful
prayers and interminable sermons, the impress of those all-day sessions
in church and Sunday-school was never eradicated from his life and
writings. Nothing else influenced his work or affected his style as
much as the morals and the literature of the Bible and the sacred songs
that were lined out week after week from the pulpit under which he
literally and figuratively sat when a youth. "If," he has said, "I
could be grateful to New England for nothing else I should bless her
forevermore for pounding me with the Bible and the Spelling-Book."

There is in the possession of the family the "Notes of a Sermon by E.P.
Field," said to have been written by Eugene at the age of nine, when he
affected the middle initial of P in honor of Wendell Phillips. It was
more probably written when he was twelve or fourteen, as he showed at
nine none of the signs of precocity which such a composition indicates.
The youthful Channing took for his text the fifteenth verse of the
thirteenth chapter of Proverbs: "Good understanding giveth favor: but
the way of transgressors is hard." Upon this he expounded as follows:

  "The life of a Christian is often compared to a race that is hard
  and to a battle in which a man must fight hard to win, these
  comparisons have prevented many from becoming Christians.

  "But the Bible does not compare the Christian's path as one of hard
  labor. But Solomon says wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness and
  her paths are peace. Under the word transgressor are included all
  those that disobey their maker, or, in shorter words, the ungodly.
  Every person looking around him will see many who are transgressors
  and whose lot is very hard.

  "I remark secondly that conscience makes the way of transgressors
  hard; for every act of pleasure, every act of guilt his conscience
  smites him. The last of his stay on earth will appear horrible to
  the beholder. Sometimes, however, he will be stayed in his guilt. A
  death in a family of some favorite object, or be attacked by some
  disease himself, is brought to the portals of the grave. Then for a
  little time, perhaps, he is stayed in his wickedness, but before
  long he returns to his worldly lusts. Oh, it is indeed hard for a
  sinner to go down into perhaps perdition over all the obstacles
  which God has placed in his path. But many, I am afraid, do go down
  into perdition, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that
  leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in after it.

  "Suppose now there was a fearful precipice and to allure you there
  your enemies should scatter flowers on its dreadful edge, would you
  if you knew that while you were strolling about on that awful rock
  that night would settle down on you and that you would fall from
  that giddy, giddy height, would you, I say, go near that dreadful
  rock? Just so with the transgressor, he falls from that height just
  because he wishes to appear good in the sight of the world. But what
  will a man gain if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul."

Whenever this was written it shows on its face that it is more an
effort of memory or the effect of one of the fearful sermons of fifty
years ago on the impressionable mind of youth, than the original
production of a precocious boy struggling with the insoluble problem of
life and judgment to come. Mark how the stock words of the pulpiteer,
"transgressor," "worldly lusts," "dreadful," "awful," "perdition" stalk
fiercely through the sermon of the youthful saint or sinner!

Roswell Field says that his brother without instruction early acquired
the habit of drawing amusing pictures of his playmates and his pets,
and that later in life he gave it as his honest opinion that he would
have been much more successful as a caricaturist than as a writer. But
Eugene's drawings at all periods were never more than grotesque or
fanciful illustrations of the whimsical ideas he harbored respecting
everything that came to his attention.

In after life Eugene Field gave frequent proof that he cherished
contradictory sentiments toward Vermont and New England. One view was
tinged, I think, with the recollection of the wrong his father suffered
at the hands of the Green Mountain courts, and reflects the general
tenor of his comment whenever Vermont men or affairs came under
discussion in the public press. It is illustrated in the following
paragraph:

  The Vermont papers agreed that Colonel Aldace Walker is the very
  best man in Vermont for the Inter-State Commerce Commission. This
  may be true. At the same time, however, we fail to see what interest
  Vermont can possibly take in inter-state commerce. She has no
  commerce of her own, and she probably never will have. There is a
  bobbin factory at Williamsville, and a melodeon factory at
  Brattleboro, but the commerce resulting from them is not worthy of
  mention. There is talk about the maple-sugar that Vermont exports,
  but we have noticed that all the "genuine Vermont maple-sugar" in
  the Western market comes from the South, and is about as succulent
  as the heel of a gum-boot. In all the State of Vermont there is but
  one railroad, the Vermont Central; it begins at Grout's Corner,
  Mass., and runs in a bee-line north until it reaches the southern
  end of the Montreal bridge. This remarkable road has a so-called
  branch operating once per week between White River Junction and
  Montpelier, and a triweekly branch extending to Burlington.
  Montpelier is the home of Hiram Atkins, the famous "Nestor uv
  Checkerberry Journalism," and White River Junction is the whistling
  station and water-tank from which our country gets its election
  returns every four years. Burlington is located on Lake Champlain,
  and contains the summer residence of that grand old survivor of the
  glacial period, George F. Edmunds. Thus in a brief paragraph have we
  compressed all that can be said of the commerce and the railways of
  Vermont.

The other view is softened with the haze that hangs over the scenes of
childhood in the minds of all men of feeling when interpreted by an
artist in expressing the thought "that unbidden rises and passes in a
tear." It is from Field's little-known memorial to Mrs. Melvin L. Gray,
written while he was in Southern California:

  The quiet beauty of these scenes recalls a time which, in my life,
  is so long ago that I feel strangely reverential when I speak of it.
  I find myself thinking of my boyhood, and of the hills and valleys
  and trees and flowers and birds I knew when the morning of my life
  was fresh and full of exuberance. Those years were spent among the
  Pelham hills, very, very far from here; but memory o'erleaps the
  mountain ranges, the leagues upon leagues of prairie, the mighty
  rivers, the forest, the farming lands, o'erleaps them all; and
  to-day, by that same sweet magic that instantaneously undoes the
  years and space, I seem to be among the Pelham hills again. The
  yonder glimpse of the Pacific becomes the silver thread of the
  Connecticut, seen, not over miles of orange-groves, but over broad
  acres of Indian corn; and instead of the pepper and eucalyptus, the
  lemon and the palm, I see (or I seem to see) the maple once more,
  and the elm and the chestnut trees, the shagbark walnut, the
  hickory, and the birch. In those days, these rugged mountains of
  this south land were unknown to me; and the Pelham hills were full
  of marvel and delight, with their tangled pathways and hidden stores
  of wintergreen and wild strawberries. Furtive brooks led the little
  boy hither and thither in his quest for trout and dace, while to the
  gentler-minded the modest flowers of the wild-wood appealed with
  singular directness. A partridge rose now and then from the thicket
  and whirred away, and with startled eyes the brown thrush peered out
  from the bushes. I see these pleasant scenes again, and I hear again
  the beloved sounds of old; and so with reverence and with welcoming
  I take up my task, for it was among these same Pelham hills that the
  dear lady of whom I am to speak was born and spent her childhood.



CHAPTER V

EDUCATION


There was more truth than epigrammatic novelty in Eugene Field's
declaration that his education began when he fancied he had left it off
for the serious business of life. Throughout his boyhood he was far
from a hardy youth. He always gave the impression of having overgrown
his strength, so that delicate health, and not indisposition to study,
has been assigned as the excuse for his backwardness in "book larnin'"
when it was decided to send him away from the congenial distractions of
Amherst to the care of the Rev. James Tufts of Monson.

Monson is a very prettily situated Massachusetts town, about fifteen
miles, as the crow flies, east of Springfield, and not more than
twenty-five miles south by east of Amherst. It boasted then and still
boasts one of the best equipped boys' academies in New England. It was
not to the tender mercies of this academy, however, that Eugene was
entrusted, but to the private tutorship of Mr. Tufts, whose life and
character justify the tribute of Roswell Field that he is "one of those
noble instructors of the blessed old school who are passing away from
the arena of education in America." He is now, in 1901, in his
ninetieth year, and is always spoken of among his neighbors as the
"grand old man of Monson." From his own lips, accompanied by the lively
comments of Mrs. Tufts, and from a loving communication written by him
to the Springfield Republican shortly after Eugene Field's death I have
gleaned the general facts of Eugene Field's school-days at Monson.

[Illustration: A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF MONSON, MASS.]

It was in the Fall of 1865 that Eugene became one of a class of six
boys in the private school of Mr. Tufts. This school was chosen because
Mr. Tufts had known the boy's parents and grandparents and felt a real
interest in the lad. He would not have received the proper care at a
large school, where "he would be likely to get into trouble with his
love of fun and mischief." The house in which Eugene became as one of
the family is situated about a mile from the village and faces the post
road, on the farther side of which is a mill-pond, where both Eugene
and Roswell came near making the writing of this memoir unnecessary by
going over the dam in a rude boat of their own construction. Happily
the experience resulted in nothing more serious than a thorough fright
and a still more thorough ducking.

Back of the Tufts homestead rise some beautifully wooded hills, where
Field and his schoolmates sought refuge from the gentle wrath of Mr.
Tufts over their not infrequent delinquencies. The story is told in
Monson that the boys, under the leadership of Field, built a "moated
castle" of tree-trunks and brushwood in a well-nigh inaccessible part
of these woods. Thence they sallied forth on their imaginary forays and
thither they retired when in disgrace with Mr. Tufts. Around this
retreat they dug a deep trench, which they covered artfully with boughs
and dead leaves. Then they beguiled their reverend preceptor into
chasing them to their "mountain fastness." Lightly they skipped across
the concealed moat on the only firm ground they had purposely left,
leaving him in the moment of exultant success to plunge neck deep into
a tangled mass of brushwood and mud. In such playful ways as these
Field endeared himself to the frequent forgiveness of Mr. Tufts. "It
was impossible," said Mr. Tufts to me, "to cherish anger against a
pupil whose contrition was as profuse and whimsical as his
transgressions were frequent. The boys were boys."

Of Eugene's education when he came to Monson Mr. Tufts testifies: "In
his studies he was about fitted for an ordinary high school, except in
arithmetic. He had read a little Latin--enough to commence Cæsar. I
found him about an average boy in his lessons, not dull, but not a
quick and ready scholar like his father, who graduated from Middlebury
College at the age of fifteen, strong and athletic. He did not seem to
care much for his books or his lessons anyway, but was inclined to get
along as easily as he could, partly on account of his delicate health,
which made close study irksome, and partly because his mind was very
juvenile and undeveloped. His health improved gradually, while his
interest in his studies increased slowly but steadily. Judge Forbes, of
Westboro, for a time his room-mate and a remarkable scholar, remarked
on reading his journal that his chum occasionally took up his book for
study when his teacher came around, though he was not always particular
which side up his book was. And so it was through life."

But Eugene did improve in his scholarship, and during the last six
months before leaving to enter Williams College, in 1868, Mr. Tufts
says he did seem "to catch something of the spirit of Cicero and Virgil
and Homer [where was Horace?], and to catch a little ambition for an
education." His gentle preceptor thus summed up the characteristics of
the youth he was trying to fit for college:

"Eugene gave little if any indications of becoming a poet, or such
a poet as he was, or even a superior writer, in his youth. He was
always, however bright and lively in conversation, abounding in wit,
self-possessed, and never laughing at his own jokes, showing, too, some
of that exhaustless fountain of humor in which he afterward excelled.
But he did not like confinement or close application, nor did he have
patience to correct and improve what he wrote, as he afterward did when
his taste was more cultivated. In declamation Eugene always excelled,
reciting with marked effect 'Spartacus,' 'The Soldier of the Legion,'
and 'The Dream of Clarence' from Shakespeare. He inherited from his
father a rich, strong, musical, and sympathetic voice, which made him a
pleasant speaker and afterward a successful public reader. He very
naturally excelled in conversation at table and in getting up little
comic almanacs, satirizing the boys, but always in good-humor, never
descending to anything bitter or vulgar. Indeed, in all his fun, he
showed ever a certain purity and nobility of character."

On one occasion, Eugene wearied of the persistent efforts of Mr. Tufts
to place his feet on the first rung of the ladder to learning, and
started off afoot for his home in Amherst. He followed the railway
track, counting the ties for twenty-five miles, and arrived, thoroughly
exhausted, full of contrition, and ready to take the first train back
to school. This was probably the most severe physical effort of Eugene
Field's life.

Mr. Tufts says that Field was "by nature and by his training, too,
respectful toward religion and religious people, being at one time here
[Monson] considerably moved and interested personally in a religious
awakening, and speaking earnestly in meeting and urging the young to a
religious life. Great credit for the remarkable success of Eugene is
due to his Aunt Jones, Miss Mary French, and his guardian, Professor
John Burgess, who were a continual and living influence about him until
he arrived at maturity."

In 1868, at the age when his father was admitted to the bar of Vermont,
Eugene Field, according to Mr. Tufts, was barely able to pass the
examination for entrance at Williams "with some conditions." The only
evidence preserved in the books of the college that he passed at all is
the following entry:

  Eugene Field, aged 18, September 5, 1868, son of R.M. Field,
  St. Louis.

[Illustration: THE REV. JAMES TUFTS.]

Among the professors and residents of Williamstown there is scarcely a
tradition or trace of his presence. He did not fit into the treadmill
of daily lessons and lectures. He was impatient of routine and
discipline. There is a story extant, which is a self-evident
fabrication, that President Mark Hopkins, meeting him on the street one
day, asked him how he was getting along with his studies. Field replied
that he was doing very well. Thereupon President Hopkins, in kindly
humor, remarked: "I am glad to hear it, for, remember, you have the
reputation of three universities to maintain." This apocryphal story is
greatly relished in Williamstown, where, among the professors, there
seems to linger a strange feeling of resentment that Field was not
recognized as possessing the budding promise that is better worth
cultivating than the mediocrity of the ninety-and-nine orderly youths
who pursue the uneventful tenor of college life to a diploma--and are
never heard of afterward. There is a bare possibility, however, that
President Hopkins might have referred to the fact that Eugene's
grandfather held an A.B. from Williams and the honorary degree of A.M.
from Dartmouth, while his father was an alumnus of Middlebury. It is
more probably an after--and a merry--thought built upon Field's own
unfinished career at Williams, Knox, and the University of Missouri.

From personal inquiry at Williamstown I find that none of the
professors at Williams saw an encouraging gleam of aptitude for
anything in the big-eyed, shambling youth whom Mr. Tufts had
assiduously coached to meet the requirements of matriculation. There is
a shadowy tradition that he did fairly well in his Latin themes when
the subject suited his fancy, but his fancy more often led him to a
sporting resort, kept by an ex-pugilist named Pettit, where he took a
hand in billiards and made awkward essays with the boxing-gloves. Of
course there is the inevitable yarn of a college town that he became so
conceited over his skill in the manly art that he ventured to "stand
up" before Pettit, to the bloody disfigurement of his countenance and
the humiliation of his pride. If this is true, the lesson lasted him
all his life, for a less combative adult than Eugene Field never
graduated from an American college. He had a physical as well as a
moral antipathy to personal participation in anything involving bodily
danger or violence.

Even then Field possessed the wit and the plentiful lack of reverence
for the conventionalities of life that must have rendered him both
intolerable and incomprehensible to a body of serious-minded and
necessarily conventional professors. The very traits that subsequently
made him the most entertaining comrade in the world provoked only
consternation and uneasiness at Williams. This eventually led President
Hopkins to inform Mr. Tufts privately that it might be well for his
pupil, as certainly it would conduce to the orderly life of
Williamstown, if he would run up from Monson and persuade Eugene to
return home with him. There was no dismissal, rustication, or official
reprimand of Eugene Field by the ever-honored President Hopkins. Field
simply faded out of the annals and class of 1872, as if he had never
been entered at Williams.

Memories of Eugene Field are not as thick at Williamstown as
blackberries on the Pelham hills. President Carter does not cherish
them kindly because, perhaps, on the occasion of his appointment, Field
gravely discussed his qualifications for the chair once occupied by
Mark Hopkins as resting upon his contribution of "a small but active
pellet" to the pharmaceutical equipment of his countrymen, famed for
its efficacy to cure all disorders of mind and body "while you sleep."

"Hy." Walden, much in demand as an expressman, remembers Field as a
somewhat reckless fellow and "dare-devil," and is authority for the
story of Field's discomfiture in the boxing bout with the redoubtable
Pettit.

Old Tom McMahon, who has been a familiar character to the students of
Williams for nearly two generations, has a hazy recollection of the
eccentric Eugene who flitted across the college campus a third of a
century ago. He says that, if he "remembers right, Mr. Field was not
one of the gentlemen who cared much for his clothes," but he "guessed
he was made careless like, and in some ways he was a fine young man."

[Illustration: WILLIAMS COLLEGE BUILDINGS, WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.]

The most valuable glimpse of Field at Williams is contained in the
following letter written by Solomon B. Griffin, the managing editor of
the Springfield Republican for many years, with whom I have had some
correspondence in respect to the matter referred to therein. He not
only knew Field at Williamstown, but was one of his life-long friends
and warmest admirers. After a few introductory words, under date of
Springfield, February 4th, 1901, Mr. Griffin wrote:

  Yes, I was of the class of 1872, but Field flitted before I became
  connected with it. But Williamstown was my birthplace and home and
  I struck up an acquaintance with him at Smith's college bookstore
  and the post-office. Field was raw and not a bit deferential to
  established customs, and so the secret-society men were not attracted
  to him. The "trotting" or preliminary attentions to freshmen
  constitute a great and revered feature of college life. When I saw
  Field "trotting" a lank and gawky freshman for the "Mills Theological
  Society," the humor of it appealed to one soaked in the traditions of
  a college town, and we "became acquainted." Field left the class
  about as I came in.

  It is not remarkable that Tom McMahon has no clear recollection of
  Field, who was in college only about six months and was not a
  fraternity man. There are so many coming and going! Nor that the
  faculty should be mindful of the lawless, irresponsible boy, and
  not of the genius that developed on its own lines and was never
  conventionalized but always remained a sinner however brilliant, and
  a flayer of good men unblessed with a saving sense of humor. If there
  is any kind thought for me in my old home it is because I did what
  Field couldn't do, paid outward respect to the environment. It was
  possible for me to see his point of view and theirs--to them
  irreconcilable, and to him also.

  Sincerely yours,

  S.B. GRIFFIN.

Mr. Tufts's memorandum-book shows that Eugene returned to Monson April
27th, 1889, so his experience, if not his education, at Williams
covered almost eight months of an impressionable period of his life. It
is interesting to record the comment of Mrs. Tufts on the return of the
wanderer to her indulgent care. "He was too smart for the professors at
Williams," said she; "because they did not understand him, they could
not pardon his eccentricities." That she did understand her husband's
favorite pupil is evidenced in the following brief description, given
off-hand to the writer: "Eugene was not much of a student, but very
much of an irrepressible boy. There was no malice in his pranks, only
the inherited disposition to tease somebody and everybody."

On July 5th, 1869, Eugene was summoned to St. Louis by the serious
illness of his father, who died July 12th.

Thus ended his education, so far as it was to be affected by the
environments and instructors of New England. Thenceforth he was
destined to be a western man, with an ineradicable tang of Puritan
prejudices and convictions cropping out unexpectedly and incongruously
in all he thought and wrote.

In the autumn of 1869 Eugene entered the sophomore class at Knox
College, Galesburg, Ill., where Professor John William Burgess, who
had been chosen as his guardian, held the chair of logic, rhetoric,
English literature, and political science. But his career at Knox was
practically a repetition of that at Williams. He chafed under the
restraint of set rules and the requirement of attention to studies
in which he took no interest. If he had been allowed to choose, he
would have devoted his time to reading the Latin classics and
declaiming--that is, as much time as he could spare from plaguing
the professors and interrupting the studies of his companions by
every device of a festive and fertile imagination.

One year of this was enough for the faculty of Knox and for the
restless scholar, so in the autumn of 1870 Eugene joined his brother
Roswell in the junior class at the University of Missouri. Here Eugene
Field ended, without graduating, such education as the school and the
university was ever to give him, for in the spring of 1871 he left
Columbia for St. Louis, never to return--a student at three
universities and a graduate from none.

Of Eugene Field's life in Columbia many stories abound there and
throughout Missouri. From the aged and honored historian of the
university I have the following testimony as to the relations of the
two brothers with that institution, premising it with the fact that all
the official records of students were consumed in the fire that visited
the university in 1892:

Roswell M. Field attended the university as a freshman in 1868-69, as a
sophomore in 1869-70, and as a junior in 1870-71. He was a student of
the institution these three sessions only. His brother Eugene Field was
a student of the junior class, session 1870-71, and never before or
since.

I knew both of them well. Eugene was an inattentive, indifferent
student, making poor progress in the studies of the course--a genial,
sportive, song-singing, fun-making companion. Nevertheless he was
bright, sparkling, entertaining and a leader among "the boys." In truth
he was in intellect above his fellows and a genius along his favorite
lines. He was prolific of harmless pranks and his school life was a big
joke.

[Illustration: THE OLD KNOX COLLEGE BUILDINGS, GALESBURG. ILL.]

There has been preserved the following specimen of the "rigs" Eugene
was in the habit of grinding out at the expense of the faculty--this
being aimed at President Daniel Reed (1868-77). The poem is entitled:

  _BUCEPHALUS: A TAIL.

  Twelve by the clock and all is well--
  That is, I think so, but who can tell?
  So quiet and still the city seems
  That even old Luna's brightest beams
  Cannot a single soul discover
  Upon the streets the whole town over.

  The Marshal smiles a genial smile
  And retires to snooze for a little while,
  To dream of billies and dirks and slings,
  The calaboose and such pleasant things.
  The college dig now digs for bed
  With bunged-up eyes and aching head,
  Conning his lesson o'er and o'er,
  Till an audible melodious snore
  Tells that he's going the kingdom through
  Where Greek's at a discount and Latin, too.

  The Doctor, robed in his snowy white,
  Gazes out from his window height,
  And he bends to the breezes his noble form,
  Like a stately oak in a thunderstorm,
  And watches his sleek and well-fed cows
  At the expense of the college browse.
  His prayers are said; out goes the light;
  Good-night; O learned pres, good-night.

  Half-past five by Ficklin's time
  When I again renew my rhyme;
  Old Sol is up and the college dig
  Resumes his musty, classic gig,
  "Cæsar venit celere jam."
  With here and there an auxiliary--
  The Marshal awakes and stalks around
  With an air importantly profound,
  And seizing on a luckless wight
  Who quietly stayed at home all night
  On a charge of not preserving order,
  Drags him before the just Recorder.

  In vain the hapless youth denies it;
  A barroom loafer testifies it.
  "Fine him," the court-house rabble shout
  (This is the latest jury out).
  So when his pocketbook is eased
  Most righteous justice is appeased.

  The Doctor lay in his little bed,
  His night-cap 'round his God-like head,
  With a blanket thick and snowy sheet
  Enveloped his l---- pshaw! and classical feet,
  And he cleared his throat and began: "My dear,
  As well in Indiana as here--
  I always took a morning ride,
  With you, my helpmeet, by my side.

  "This morning is so clear and cool,
  We'll ride before it's time for school.
  Holloa, there John! you lazy cuss!
  Bring forth my horse, Bucephalus!"
  So spake the man of letters. Straight
  Black John went through the stable gate,
  But soon returned with hair on end,
  While terror wings his speed did lend,
  And out he sent his piteous wail:
  "O boss! Old Bucky's lost his tail!"

  Down went the night-cap on the ground,
  Hats, boots and clothing flying round;
  In vain his helpmeet cried "Hold on!"
  He went right through that sable John.
  Sing, sing, O Muse, what deeds were done
  This morn by God-like Peleus' son;
  Descend, O fickle Goddess, urge
  My lyre to his bombastic splurge.

  Boots and the man I sing, who first
  Those Argive machinations cursed;
  His swimming eyes did Daniel raise
  To that sad tail of other days,
  And cried "Alas! what ornery cuss
  Has shaved you, my Bucephalus?"
  Then turning round he gently sighed,
  "We will postpone our morning ride."

  In wrath I smite my quivering lyre,
  Come once again, fair Muse, inspire
  My song to more heroic acts
  Than these poor simple, truthful facts.
  Cursed be the man who hatched the plot!
  Let dire misfortune be his lot!
  Palsied the hand that struck the blow!
  Blind be the eyes that saw the show!
  Hated the wretch who ruthless bled
  This innocent old quadruped.

  Subpreps, a word of caution, please;
  Better prepare your A, B, C's
  Than prowl around at dead of night.
  Don't rouse the beast in Daniel's breast;
  Perhaps you'll come out second best.

  Dear, gentle reader, pardon, pray,
  I'm thinking now I hear you say,
  "Oh, nonsense! what a foolish fuss
  About a horse, Bucephalus."_

This is no better verse, and possibly no worse, than much of the
adolescent doggerel that is so often preserved by fond parents to
prove that their child early gave signs of poetic and literary genius.

[Illustration: STATE UNIVERSITY BUILDINGS AT COLUMBIA, MO.]



CHAPTER VI

CHOICE OF A PROFESSION


Eugene Field was in his twenty-first year when he turned his back upon
the colleges and faced life. Roswell M. Field, Sr., had been dead two
years, and the moderate fortune which he had left, consisting mostly of
realty valued at about $60,000, had not yet been distributed among the
legatees, Eugene and Roswell M. Field and Mary French Field. To the
last named one-fifth had been willed in recognition of the loving care
she had bestowed upon the testator's two motherless sons, each of whom
was to receive two-fifths of the father's estate. Eugene therefore
looked forward to the possession of property worth something like
$25,000. In St. Louis, in 1871, this was regarded as quite a large
fortune. It would have been ample to start any young man, with
prudence, regular habits, and a small modicum of business sense, well
along in any profession or occupation he might adopt. But it was and
would have been a bagatelle to Eugene though ten times the amount,
unless surrounded with conditions as impenetrable as chilled steel to a
pewter chisel to resist the seductive ingenuity of his spendthrift
nature.

On first going to St. Louis to live, Eugene Field was peculiarly
fortunate in being taken into the home and enduring friendship of
Melvin L. Gray, the executor of his father's estate, and of Mrs. Gray.
To the memory of the latter, on her death several years since, Eugene
contributed a memorial from which I have already quoted and which in
some respects is the most sincerely beautiful piece of prose he ever
wrote. In that he refers to his first coming to St. Louis in the
following terms:

  My acquaintance with Mrs. Gray began in 1871. I was at that time just
  coming of age, and there were many reasons why I was attracted to the
  home over which this admirable lady presided. In the first-place Mrs.
  Gray's household was a counterpart of the households to which my
  boyhood life in New England had attracted me. Again both Mr. and Mrs.
  Gray were old friends of my parents; and upon Mr. Gray's accepting
  the executorship of my father's estate, Mrs. Gray felt, I am pleased
  to believe, somewhat more than a friendly interest in the two boys,
  who, coming from rural New England life into the great, strange,
  fascinating city, stood in need of disinterested friendship and
  prudent counsel. I speak for my brother and myself when I say that
  for the period of twenty years we found in Mrs. Gray a friend as
  indulgent, as forbearing, as sympathetic, as kindly suggestive and as
  disinterested as a mother, and in her home a refuge from temptation,
  care and vexation.

[Illustration: EARLY PORTRAITS OF EUGENE FIELD.]

In the subscription edition of "A Little Book of Western Verse," of
which I had all the labor and none of the fleeting fame of publisher,
Field dedicated his paraphrase of the Twenty-third Psalm to Mr. Gray,
and it was to this constant friend of his youth and manhood, who still
survives (1901), that Field indited the beautiful dedication of "The
Sabine Farm":

  _Come dear old friend! and with us twain
    To calm Digentian groves repair;
  The turtle coos his sweet refrain
    And posies are a-blooming there,
  And there the romping Sabine girls
  With myrtle braid their lustrous curls._

I have followed the original copy Field sent to Mr. Gray, which has
several variations in punctuation from the version as printed in "The
Sabine Farm," where the eighth line reads:

  _Bind myrtle in their lustrous curls,_

which the reader can compare with the original as printed above. In
that same dedication Field referred to Mr. Gray as one

  _Who lov'st us for our father's sake._

In announcing to Mr. Gray by letter, June 28th, 1891, his intention to
make this dedication, Field wrote:

  It will interest, and we [Roswell was a joint contributor to "The
  Sabine Farm"] 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 the 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 a result of our
  enthusiastic toil to so good a man and to so good a friend as you.

These quotations are interesting as indicating the character of the
surroundings of Eugene Field's early life in St. Louis.

It was the hope of their father that one, if not both, of his sons
would adopt the profession of the law, in which he and his brother
Charles and their father before them had attained both distinction and
something more than a competence. But neither Eugene nor his brother
Roswell had the slightest predilection for the law. By nature and by a
certain inconsequence of fancy they were peculiarly unfitted for the
practice of a profession which requires drudgery to attain a mastery
of its subtle requirements and a preternatural gravity in the
application of its stilted jargon to the simplest forms of justice.

The stage, on the other hand, possessed a fascination for Eugene. He
was a mimic by inheritance, a comedian by instinct and unrestrained
habit. Everything appealed to his sense of the queer, the fanciful,
and the utterly ridiculous. He was a student of the whimsicalities of
character and nature, and delighted in their portrayal by voice or
pen. Strange to relate, however, his first thought of adopting the
histrionic profession contemplated tragedy as his forte. He had
inherited a wondrous voice, deep, sweet, and resonant, from his
father, and had a face so plastic that it could be moulded at will to
all the expressions of terror, malignity, and devotion, or anon into
the most grotesque and mirth-provoking lines of comedy. His early love
for reciting passages from "Spartacus," referred to by the Rev. Mr.
Tufts, showed the bent of his mind, and when he became master of his
own affairs he sought out Edwin Forrest and confided to him his
ambition to go on the boards. Would that I could reproduce Field's
version of that interview! He approached the great tragedian with a
sinking heart, for Forrest had a reputation for brusque roughness
never exceeded on or off the stage. But Eugene managed to prefer his
request for advice and an opening in Forrest's company. The
dark-browed Othello looked his visitor over from head to foot, and, in
a voice that rolled through the flies of the stage where this little
scene was enacted, exclaimed:

"Boy, return to your friends and bid them apprentice you to a
wood-sawyer, rather than waste your life on a precarious profession
whose successes are few and whose rewards are bankruptcy and
ingratitude. Go! study and learn of Coriolanus."

This I repeat from memory, preserving the sense and the three words
"boy," "wood-sawyer," and "Coriolanus," which always recurred in
Field's various versions of "Why I did not go on the stage." Eugene
returned to St. Louis and quietly disposed of the costumes he had
prepared for such characters as Hamlet, Lear, and Spartacus.

[Illustration: MELVIN L. GRAY.]

Francis Wilson, in his "The Eugene Field I Knew," preserves the
following story of Eugene's further venture in search of a profession:

He organized a company of his own in conjunction with his friend,
Marvin Eddy, who tells of a comedy Field wrote in which the heroines
were impersonated by Field himself to the heroes of the only other
acting member of the cast--Mr. Eddy. A Madame Saunders was the
orchestra, or rather the pianist, and Monsieur Saunders painted
the posters which announced the coming of the "great and only"
entertainment. Rehearsals were held in the hotel dining-rooms. While
a darky carried a placard of announcement, the result of Saunders's
artistic handiwork, the local band, specially engaged, played in
front of the principal places in town. Mr. Eddy recalls that Field
had a sweet bass voice which he used with much effect both in songs
and recitations.

The season, confined to such towns in Missouri as Carrollton, Richmond,
etc., lasted about two weeks and was what the papers would call a
_succès d'estime_.

Which, being interpreted into the vernacular of the author of "Sharps
and Flats," spelled a popular "frost" and a financial failure. And
thus Missouri closed the door of comedy against Field, as Forrest had
shut the gates of tragedy in his pale and intellectual face.

There was still one profession open to him in which he had made a few
halting and tentative steps--that of journalism, with its broad
entrance and narrowing perspective into the fair field of letters.
While a sophomore at Knox he had exercised his irrepressible
inclination "to shoot folly as it flies" by contributions to the local
paper of Galesburg, which had the piquant flavor of personal comment.
His youthful dash at the door of the stage had brought him into the
comradeship of Stanley Waterloo and several other young journalists in
St. Louis, and he was easily persuaded to try his 'prentice hand as a
reporter, under the tutelage of Stanley Huntley, of the "Spoopendyke
Papers" fame.

But Eugene Field was yet without the stern incentive of necessity that
is the seed of journalism. Circumstances, however, were ripening that
would soon leave him no excuse on that score for not buckling down to
"sawing wood," as for twenty-three years he was wont to consider his
daily work. When he reached his majority he was entitled to his share
in the first distribution of his father's estate. Before this could be
made, Mr. Gray had to dispose of a part of the land which he held as
executor of Roswell M. Field. It was accordingly offered for sale at
auction, and enough to realize $20,000 was sold. Under the will,
Eugene's share of this was $8,000, and he immediately placed himself
in the way of investing it where it would be the least incumbrance to
him. While at Columbia he had met Edgar V. Comstock, the brother of
his future wife, through whom it was that he made her acquaintance.
Upon the first touch of the cash payment on his share of the
executor's sale, Eugene at once proposed to young Comstock that they
visit Europe in company, he bearing the expenses of the expedition.
His friend did not need much persuasion to embark on what promised to
be such a lark. And so, in the fall of 1872, the two, against the
prudent counsels of Mr. Gray, set out to see the world, and they saw
it just as far as Eugene's cash and the balance of that $8,000 would
go.

In his "Auto-Analysis," Field says: "In 1872 I visited Europe,
spending six months and my patrimony in France, Italy, Ireland, and
England." This is as near the sober truth as anything Field ever wrote
about himself. The youthful spendthrift and his companion landed in
Ireland, and by slow, but extravagant, stages reached Italy, taking
the principal cities and sights of England and France en route. About
the only letters that reached America from Field during this European
trip (always excepting those that went by every mail-steamer to a
young lady in St. Jo) were those addressed with business-like brevity
to Mr. Gray, calling for more and still more funds to carry the
travellers onward. Before they had reached Italy the mails were too
slow to convey Field's importunity, and he had recourse to the cable
to impress Mr. Gray with the dire immediateness of his impecuniosity.
In order to relieve this Mr. Gray was forced to discount the notes for
the deferred payments on the sale of the Field land, and when Eugene
and his brother-in-law-to-be reached Naples their soulful appeals for
more currency with which to continue their golden girdle of the earth
were met with the chilling notice "No funds available." Happily, in
their meteoric transit across Europe, they had invested in many
articles of vertu and convertible souvenirs of the places they had
visited. By the sale, or sometimes by the pledge, of these accumulated
impedimenta of travel, Eugene made good his retreat to America, where
he landed with empty pockets and an inexhaustible fund of mirthful
stories and invaluable experience.

On arriving in New York, Field had to seek the Western Union Telegraph
office to secure funds for the necessary transportation to St. Louis.
These Mr. Gray furnished so liberally that Eugene promptly invested
the surplus in a French poodle, which he carried in triumph back to
Missouri as a memento of his sojourn in Paris. This costly pet, the
sole exhibit of his foreign travel, he named McSweeny, in memory, I
suppose, of the pleasant days he had spent in Ireland.

[Illustration: MRS. MELVIN L. GRAY.]

Years afterward I remember to have been with Field when he opened a
package containing a watch, which for more than a decade had been an
unredeemed witness to his triumphant entry into and impecunious exit
from Naples or Florence--I forget which.

Mrs. Below, Field's sister-in-law, in her little brochure, "Eugene
Field in His Home," preserves a letter written by him from Rome to a
friend in Ireland, in which may be traced the bent of his mind to take
a whimsical view of all things coming within the range of his
observation. In this he bids farewell to political discussion:

  For since the collapse of the Greeley and Brown movement I have given
  over all hope of rescuing my torn and bleeding country from Grant and
  his minions, and have resolved to have nothing more to do with
  politics. Methinks, my country will groan to hear this declaration!

And there is the following description of how he was enjoying himself
in Italy, with the last remittances of his patrimony growing fewer and
painfully less:

  We have been two months in Nice and a month or so travelling in
  Italy. Two weeks we passed in Naples, and a most delightful place we
  found it. Its natural situation is simply charming, though the
  climate is said to be very unhealthy. I climbed Vesuvius and peered
  cautiously into the crater. It was a glorious sight--nothing else
  like it in the world! Such a glorious smell of brimstone! Such
  enlivening whiffs of hot steam and sulphuric fumes! Then too the
  grand veil of impenetrable white smoke that hung over the yawning
  abyss! No wonder people rave about this crater and no wonder poor
  Pliny lost his life coming too near the fascinating monster. The
  ascent of Vesuvius is no mean undertaking, and I advise all American
  parents to train their children especially for it by drilling them
  daily upon their backyard ash-heaps.

His descent of Vesuvius was made "upon a dead run," and he "astonished
the natives by my [his] celerity and recklessness."

This letter was written on Washington's birthday, 1873, and in later
years the omission of any reference to the anniversary would have
thrown suspicion on its genuineness; but Field had not yet begun to
reckon life by anniversaries. Neither is there in it a shadow of the
impending crisis in his finances nor a suggestion of another reason
that robbed his return voyage of all distressing thoughts of retreat.



CHAPTER VII

MARRIAGE AND EARLY DOMESTIC LIFE


And now I come to that event in the life of Eugene Field which has
naturally attracted the widest interest among all who have delighted
in his written tributes to womankind and mother love. In his memorial
to Mrs. Gray, Field has given expression to his special reverence for
the love between parent and child. "For my dear mother," he wrote,
"went from me so many years ago that when I come to speak of the
blessedness of a mother's love, I hardly know whereof I speak, it is
all so far, so very far away, and withal so precious, so sacred a
thing." This note recurs constantly through his writings, and it is
not to be wondered at that the love of a man for a woman should have
come early to a youth whose heart had always felt the yearning for
something more tender and personal than the utmost kindness of those
upon whose affections others had equal or greater claims.

Through his boyhood and school days, Field's affection for the
petticoated sex had been tempered by an irresistible impulse to tease
all the daughters of Eve. It is doubtful if his affections were ever
more seriously engaged by the girls of Amherst or the young ladies of
Williams and Knox than was his attention by the regular studies of
school or college. He came to both in his own way and time; with the
difference that when he once felt the touch of the inevitable maiden's
hand in his, he responded with an immediate ardor far different from
the slow and eccentric manner in which he wooed the love of
scholarship and letters.

It was while a junior at the University of Missouri that Eugene Field
made the acquaintance of Edgar V. Comstock, the sharer of the European
trip and experiences. Now Edgar's parents lived at St. Joseph, and
with them five sisters, the Misses Ida, Carrie, Georgia, Julia
Sutherland, and Gussie Comstock, and the fairest of them all was
Julia, albeit, at the time her brother was in college, she was still
in short dresses. What more natural than that Edgar's elder sisters
should visit him during his college term and there meet and be
attracted by the gaunt, yet already unique and striking, figure of
Eugene Field, the most unscholarly student and most incorrigible wag
in Columbia? Julia was too young at this time, in the estimation of
her sisters, to travel so far from St. Jo. Besides, what interest
would a little girl in short skirts take in the grave and intellectual
life of the brother and his undergraduate friends?

Out of the friendship of Eugene and Edgar and the visit of Edgar's
sisters to Columbia, fate was weaving a web for the unsuspecting
subject of this narrative which was not to be denied or altered by
leaving little Julia to rusticate at home like another pretty little
Cinderella. But this is not a fairy tale. It has no prince or glass
slippers or pumpkin coaches, with which Field's fancy could have
invested it. When the two friends separated on Commencement Day, after
Field had delivered an oration that impressed Miss Ida (Mrs. Below),
because of "his pale face and deep voice," a promise had been extorted
that he would visit the Comstocks in their home in St. Joseph.

In the usual course of human events nothing further of concern to us
would have come from the exchange of these common civilities of
student life. Edgar would have returned to his home and forgotten
Eugene, and Eugene would have gone his way and never known that Edgar
had a younger sister Julia sitting at the gate awaiting the coming of
her prince. But shortly after returning to St. Louis, Field was
inspired by his natural roving restlessness--the French call it
Fate--to run clear across the state of Missouri, some three hundred
miles, to see what kind of a town St. Joseph was and incidentally to
visit his college friend. Nearly twenty years later, in the gathering
gloom of a rented apartment in London, the still-constant lover wrote
of what happened when he first saw "Saint Jo, Buchanan County," in the
early seventies. There he first met "the brown-eyed maiden" of his
song, the Julia of numberless valentines that ran the gamut of grave
and gay through the intervening years, the heroine of frequent drives
which they "snailed along," as their proper horse went slow,

  _In those leafy aisles, where Cupid smiles
    In Lover's Lane, Saint Jo._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Ah! sweet the hours of springtime
    When the heart inclines to woo,
  And it's deemed all right for the callow wight
    To do what he wants to do._

In his "Auto-Analysis" Field says, "I favor early marriage." Even if
Edgar Comstock's elder sisters had known this, it is doubtful whether
the thought would have crossed their minds that their brother's chum
of twenty-one would overlook their more mature charms (they were all
fair to look upon), to be more than gracious to their fourteen-year-old
sister. Time out of mind sophisticated sisters of sixteen and eighteen
have regarded younger sisters as altogether out of the sphere of those
attentions which find their echo in wedding bells, only to awake some
bright morning to find the child a woman and the attentive friend an
accepted lover.

So it happened in this case. While her sisters were thinking how good
it was of Field to take so much interest in a mere child, their long
afternoon drives together down "Lovers' Lane, Saint Jo," had come to
that happy turn that ignores all immaturities of age and lays the life
of a man at the feet of the maid--albeit, the feet are still strangers
to the French heels and have not yet known the witchery that goes with
long dresses. Once sure of himself, Field lost no time in making his
wishes known not only to Mistress Julia, but to her astonished family.
She listened and was lost and won. Her parents expostulated that she
was but a child. Field had no difficulty in convincing them that she
would outgrow that. He pleaded for an immediate marriage, but her
father firmly insisted that though Julia might not be too young to
love and be loved, she was "o'er young to marry yet." Field was forced
to accept the sensible decree against the early realization of his
hopes and returned to St. Louis with the understanding that he should
establish himself in business and wait until Miss Comstock was
eighteen.

Whether this had anything to do with Field's going to Europe or not I
cannot say. It had nothing to do with his return, for his term of
waiting for his modern Rachel had still two years to run when he got
back from Europe. There is a pretty story told that after all
arrangements were made for his European trip and he and Edgar
Comstock, accompanied by Miss Ida, had reached New York, she and her
brother were amazed to receive a note by mail saying, "Important
business has called me back to St. Joseph; I hope you will pardon my
sudden leave-taking." They knew the nature of his important business
and had to wait with what patience they could command while he posted
fifteen hundred miles and returned with barely time, if all
connections served, to catch the steamer.

Field never dreamed of fulfilling that condition of his probation
which required him to become established in business. If he had done
so the date of his marriage would have been indefinitely postponed. He
returned from Europe, as we have seen, sans the better part of his
patrimony, in the spring of 1873, and instead of attempting to
establish himself in business, immediately set himself to secure an
abridgment of his term of waiting. The years between fourteen and
eighteen run slow. To every true lover Time moves with leaden feet. As
Rosalind tells us, "Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the
contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized: if the interim
be but a se'nnight, Time's pace is so hard that it seems the length of
seven year." What wonder then if the four years they were pledged to
wait seemed an eternity, and that both set themselves to abridge it by
all the arts and persuasion of young lovers. They pleaded and
contrived so cunningly and successfully that the obdurate parents
finally acceded to their wishes, and Eugene Field and Julia Sutherland
Comstock were married at St. Joseph on October 16th, 1873. The bride
"at that time was a girl of sixteen," is the laconic and only comment
of the "Auto-Analysis." This he supplemented with the further
information, "we have had eight children--three daughters and five
sons."

[Illustration: MRS. EUGENE FIELD.]

But this is jumping from Saint Jo into the future more than a score of
years in advance of our story. The young couple spent their honeymoon
in the East. Field took especial delight in showing his bride of
sixteen the wonders of New York and in playing practical jokes upon
her unsophisticated nature, thereby keeping her in a perpetual state
of amazement or of terror as to what he would do next. He sought to
make her at home at Delmonico's by ordering "boiled pig's feet à la
Saint Jo," with a gravity of countenance that tested the solemnity of
the waiters and provoked the protest, "Oh, Eugene!" that was to be the
feminine accompaniment to his boyish humor throughout their married
life. No matter how often Field played his antics before or on his
wife, they always seemed to take her by surprise and evoked a
remonstrance in which pride over his mirthfulness mollified all
displeasure.

By the time Field returned to St. Louis his ready funds were exhausted
and he had to appeal to Mr. Gray to raise more by mortgaging the
balance of his interest in his father's property. This is as good a
place as any to take leave of the patrimony that came to Field at the
death of his father, for he was never to see any more dividends from
that source. When the loans fell due there were no funds to pay them,
nor equity in the land to justify their renewal. So the land was sold
and bid in by Mr. Gray, who holds it yet and would gladly dispose of
it for what he paid out of his pocket and the goodness of his heart.

Roswell Field tells an interesting story of how their father's land
speculation went out of sight in the queer mutations that befall real
estate. In the year before Roswell the elder died, he took his younger
son for a drive in the country south of St. Louis, where the property
lies unimproved to this day. "Rosy," said the father, "hold on to your
Carondelet property. In fifteen years it will be worth half a million
dollars, and, very likely, a million and a half." That was
thirty-three years ago when the Carondelet iron furnaces were in full
blast and the city seemed stretching southward. In 1869 the property
was appraised at $125,000. The panic came on and St. Louis changed its
mind and headed toward the west, where the best part of the city now
rears its mansions and wonders how it ever dreamed of going south.
There Carondelet still bakes in the sun, on the far side of a slough
which has diverted a fortune from the sons of the sanguine Roswell M.
Field, the elder.

More provident than his brother, Roswell lived comfortably on his
share for nearly seven years, only in the end to envy the superior
shrewdness of Eugene, who, putting his portion into cash, realized
more from it, and spent it like a lord while it lasted. I must confess
that I share Roswell's views, for the investment which Eugene Field
made in the two years after coming of age in spending $20,000 on
experience, returned to him many fold in the profession he was finally
driven to adopt, not as a pastime, but to earn a livelihood for
himself and his growing family.

Having shot his bolt, Field went to work as a reporter on the St.
Louis Evening Journal. He was not much of a success as a reporter for
the simple reason that his fancy was more active than his legs and he
was irresistibly disposed to save the latter at the expense of the
former.

The best pen picture I have been able to secure of Field at this
period of his career is from his life-long friend, William C. Buskett,
the hero of "Penn Yan Bill," to whom Field dedicated "Casey's Table
d'Hôte," the first poem in "A Little Book of Western Verse."

"My association with Eugene Field," says Mr. Buskett, "began in St.
Louis, Mo., in 1872. We had a little circle of friends that was surely
to be envied in that we were fond of each other and our enjoyment was
pure and genuine. In 1875 we formed what was known as the 'Arion
Quartette,' composed of Thomas L. Crawford, now clerk in the United
States Circuit Court in St. Louis, Thomas C. Baker (deceased), Roswell
Martin Field, a brother of Eugene, and myself. 'Gene (as he was always
called by his intimates) did not sing in the quartette, though he had
a good voice. We frequently gave entertainments, at which Eugene was
always the centre of attraction. The 'Old Sexton' was his favorite
song. He was a great mimic and tease, and was always bubbling over
with fun. At that time he was living on Adams Street, and many of
these entertainments were given at his house. His household then
consisted of himself, wife, and baby 'Trotty,' the pet name given his
eldest daughter, Mary French Field, and with them Mrs. Comstock,
mother of Mrs. Field, Edgar V. and Misses Carrie, Georgia, and Gussie
Comstock, a delightful family.

"There was a genuine bond of friendship among us all then, for we were
comparatively oblivious to care and trouble. We were all poor, you may
say, earning reasonable salaries, but that never seemed to worry us
much. If one had a dollar we would always divide and the crowd was
never a cent ahead, but we defied misfortune.

"Among the pranks that Eugene used to play upon his wife in those days
was that of appearing at some of our rehearsals on a warm evening in a
costume that never failed to tease her. He would walk into the parlor
and say: 'Well, boys, let us take off our coats and take it easy; it's
too hot.' We would all proceed to do so. When Eugene would remove his
coat he would display a red flannel undershirt, having pinned his
cuffs to his coat sleeves and his necktie and collar to his shirt. He
placed no limit on his humor."

Who of those at all intimate with Field will forget the enjoyment he
took in trolling forth, in a quaint, quavering, cracked, but tuneful
recitative, one stanza of "Ossian's Serenade":

  _I'll chase the antelope over the plain
  The tiger's cub I'll bind with a chain,
  The wild gazelle with its silvery feet
  I'll give to thee as a playmate sweet.
  Then come with me in my light canoe,
  While the sea is calm and the sky is blue,
  For I'll not linger another day
  For storms may rise and love decay._

Well, this was a snatch that lingered in his memory from the old days
in Adams Street, St. Louis, where he first caught it from the lips of
Mr. Buskett, in whose family it was an heirloom. Field finally traced
it to its source through persistent letters written to himself in his
"Sharps and Flats" column in the Chicago Record.

The glad wild days of which Mr. Buskett testifies were passed in St.
Louis after Field's return from a brief experience as city editor of
the St. Joseph Gazette in 1875-76. The time is fixed by the presence
of "Trotty" in the gypsy circle, who was the best bit of news he
"managed to acquire" in the days whereof he wrote:

  _Oh, many a peck of apples and of peaches did I get
  When I helped 'em run the local on the "St. Jo Gazette."_

Judge Henry W. Burke, of St. Joseph, is authority for this story of
the time when he was associated with Field on the Gazette: Burke had
been sent out to report a "swell society event" in the eastern part of
the city. Nearly all the prominent people of St. Joseph were present
and the names of all were published. Burke's story of the affair was a
column long, and after it was written Field got hold of the copy and
at the end of the list of those present added, "and last but not least
the handsome and talented society editor of the Gazette, H.W. Burke."
The feelings of the young reporter and embryo judge may be imagined.

But a few months of "whooping up locals on the St. Jo Gazette" were
enough for Eugene, who pined for the broader field and more congenial
associations of St. Louis. Thither he returned in the spring of 1876,
and the Evening Journal, being by this time consolidated with the
Times, he became an editorial writer and paragrapher on the hyphenated
publication. He also resumed the eccentric semi-bohemian life which
Mr. Buskett has rather suggested than described. He had little or no
business ability, had no use for money except to spend it, and
therefore early adopted the plan of leaving to Mrs. Field the
management of their household expenditures. To her, then, as
throughout his life, was paid his weekly stipend--often depleted by
the drafts for the "usual V" or the "necessary X" which he was wont to
draw in advance from the cashier almost every week.

Before the newspaper cashier had risen as a life-saving station on the
horizon of Eugene Field's constant impecuniosity, his father's
executor, Mr. Gray, had been the object of his intermittent appeals
for funds to meet pressing needs. The means he invented to wheedle the
generous, but methodical, executor out of these appropriations
afforded Field more genuine pleasure than the success that attended
them. The coin they yielded passed through his fingers like water
through a sieve, but the enjoyment of his happy schemes abided in his
memory and also in that of his constant friend always. One of Field's
most effective methods of securing an advance from Mr. Gray was the
threat of going on the stage under the assumed name of Melvin L. Gray.
On one occasion Field approached him for money for living expenses,
and being met with what appeared to be an unrelenting negative, coolly
said: "Very well, if you cannot advance it to me out of the estate I
shall be compelled to go on the stage. But as I cannot keep my own
name I have decided to assume yours, and shall have lithographs struck
off at once. They will read, 'To-night, M.L. Gray, Banjo and Specialty
Artist.'" It is needless to say that the much-needed funds were found.
But whether they went to the payment of living expenses, to the
importunity of some threatening creditor, or were divided between the
joys of the bibliomaniac and the bon vivant, Field in his most
confiding humor never disclosed to me.

But this I know, that one of these always respectful, if apparently
threatening, appeals to Mr. Gray, was the basis for one of the few
newspaper attacks on Eugene Field that he resented deeply. Some time
after he had left St. Louis and was engaged on the Denver Tribune, the
Spectator, a weekly paper of the former city, contained the following
gossip regarding him which was written in a thoughtless rather than an
intentionally inimical spirit:

One of the cleverest young journalists of this city, a few years ago,
was Mr. Eugene Field, whose charming short poems and witty paragraphs
still occasionally find their way into our paper from Denver, where he
is now located. Mr. Field was the happy possessor of one of those
sunny dispositions which is thoroughly antagonistic to trouble of
every description; he absolutely refused to entertain the black demon
under any pretext whatever, and after spending a small fortune with
the easy grace of a prince, he settled down to doing without one with
equal grace and nonchalance, in a manner more creditable to himself
than satisfying to his creditors. Did his hatter or tailor present an
untimely bill, the gay debonnaire Eugene would scribble on the back
thereof an impromptu rhyme expressive of his deep regret at not being
able to offer the cash instead, and return the same with an airy grace
that the renowned orator, J. Wilkins Micawber, himself might have
envied.

While the intellectual prominences upon the cranium of our friend and
fellow-citizen had been well looked to, Dame Nature totally neglected
to develop his bump of veneration; age possessed no qualities, wealth
and position no prerogatives, which this singularly constituted young
man felt bound to respect. When his father's executor, an able and
exceedingly dignified member of the St. Louis bar, would refuse to
respond to his frequent demands for moneyed advances, the young
reprobate would coolly elevate his heels to a point in dangerous
proximity to the old gentleman's nose, and threaten to go upon the
stage, taking his guardian's honored name as a stage pseudonym and
representing himself to be his son. This threat generally sufficed to
bring the elder gentleman to terms, as he knew his charge's ability to
execute as well as to threaten.

He was an inveterate joker, and his tendency to break out without
regard to fitness of time or place into some mad prank made him almost
a terror to his friends. On one occasion he informed a young lady
friend that he did not think he would be able to come to her wedding
because he had such a terrible toothache. "Then why not have your
tooth pulled out?" said the young lady. "I never thought of that,"
quoth Eugene gravely; "I guess I will." When the wedding day arrived,
among the other bridal gifts came a small box bearing Mr. Field's
card, and reposing on a velvet cushion inside was the identical tooth
which the bride had advised him to have extracted, and in the cavity
where had once throbbed the agonizing nerve was neatly stuffed a
fifty-dollar bill.

The recollection of the many amusing traits and freaks of this
versatile genius affords amusement to the innumerable friends of his
to this day. But time which sobers us all has doubtless taken some of
the foam and sparkle from this rare spirit, although it would be hard
to convince his friends that he will ever be anything but the gay and
debonnaire Eugene.

Mr. Gray, who vouches for the general accuracy of the story of the
strange wedding present, with its costly filling, preserves among his
most cherished mementoes of his foster son-in-law, if I may be allowed
the expression, Field's prompt repudiation of that paragraph in the
above which charged him with lack of respect for one from whom he had
received every evidence of affection:

  DENVER, June 25, 1883.

  DEAR MR. GRAY,

  A copy of last Saturday's St. Louis Spectator has just arrived and I
  am equally surprised, pained and indignant to find in it a personal
  article about myself which represents me in the untruthful light of
  having been disrespectful and impudent to you. I believe you will
  bear me out when I say that my conduct towards you has upon all
  occasions been respectful and gentlemanly. I may not have been able
  to repay you the many obligations you have placed me under, but I
  have always regarded you with feelings of affectionate gratitude and
  I am deeply distressed lest the article referred to may create a
  widely different impression. Of course it makes no difference to you,
  but as gratitude is about all I have in this world to bestow on those
  who are good and kind to me, it is not right that I should be
  advertised--even in a joking way--as an ingrate.

  Yours sincerely,

  EUGENE FIELD.

This letter is valuable in more ways than the one which it was so
unnecessarily written to serve. It is a negative admission of the
general faithfulness of the impression left by Field upon those
familiar with his life in St. Louis, and the reference to gratitude as
all he had to bestow upon his true friends will be recognized as
genuine by all who ever came near enough to his inner life to
appreciate its sweetness as well as its lightness. As for his airy
method of disposing of insistent creditors I have no doubt that the
rhymes on the backs of their bills more often than not were more to
them than the dollars and cents on their faces.

During the second period of his life in St. Louis two sons were born
to Field and his wife, Melvin G., named after the "Dear Mr. Gray," of
the foregoing letter, and Eugene, Jr., who, being born when the
Pinafore craze was at its height, received the nickname of "Pinny,"
which has adhered to him to the present time. The fact that Melvin of
all the children of Eugene Field was never called by any other name by
a father prone to giving pet names, more or less fanciful, to every
person and thing with which he came in contact, is, I take it, an even
more sincere tribute to the high respect and love, if not reverence,
in which he held Melvin's godfather.

The third son and last child born to Field during the time of which I
am now writing appeared upon the scene, with his two eyes of wondrous
blue, very like his father's, at Kansas City, whither the family had
moved in the year 1880. Although he was duly christened Frederick,
this newcomer was promptly nicknamed "Daisy," because, forsooth,
Field one day happened to fancy that his two eyes looked like daisies
peeping up at him from the grass. The similitude was far fetched, but
the name stuck.

In Kansas City, where Field went from St. Louis to assume at thirty
years of age the managing editorship of the Times of that town, the
family lived in a rented house which was made the rendezvous for all
the light-hearted members of the newspaper and theatrical professions.
Perhaps I cannot give a more faithful picture of Field's life through
all this period than is contained in the following unpublished lines,
to the original manuscript of which I supplied the title, "The Good
Knight and His Lady." Perhaps I should explain that it was written at
a time when Field was infatuated with the stories and style of the
early English narratives of knights and ladies:

  _THE GOOD KNIGHT AND HIS LADY

  Soothly there was no lady faire
  In all the province could compare
        With Lady Julia Field,
  The noble knight's most beauteous wife
  For whom at any time his life
        He would righte gladly yield.

  'Twas at a tourney in St. Joe
  The good knight met her first, I trow,
        And was enamoured, straight;
  And in less time than you could say
  A pater noster he did pray
        Her to become his mate.

  And from the time she won his heart,
  She sweetly played her wifely part--
        Contented with her lot!
  And tho' the little knightly horde
  Came faster than they could afford
        The good wife grumbled not.

  But when arrived a prattling son,
  She simply said, "God's will be done--
        This babe shall give us joy!"
  And when a little girl appeared,
  The good wife quoth: "'Tis well--I feared
        'Twould be another boy!"

  She leased her castle by the year--
  Her tables groaned with sumptuous cheer,
        As epicures all say;
  She paid her bills on Tuesdays, when
  On Monday nights that best of men--
        Her husband--drew his pay.

  And often, when the good knight craved
  A dime wherewith he might get shaved,
        She doled him out the same;
  For these and other generous deeds
  The good and honest knight must needs
        Have loved the kindly dame.

  At all events, he never strayed
  From those hymeneal vows he made
        When their two loves combined;
  A matron more discreet than she
  Or husband more devote than he
        It would be hard to find.

  July 4th, 1885._

And so in very sooth it would have been. Under what circumstances and
with what purpose Field wrote this I cannot now recall, if I ever
knew. Nothing like it exists among my many manuscripts of his. It is
written in pencil on what appears to be a sheet from a pad of ledger
paper, watermarked "1879," a fact I mention for the benefit of his
bibliomaniac admirers. And, what is most peculiar, it is written on
both sides of the sheet--something most unusual with Field, except in
correspondence--where the economy of the old half ounce three-cent
postage and his New England training prevailed over his disposition to
be lavish with paper if not with ink. Anyway, Field's "Good Knight and
His Lady" gives a clearer insight into his home relations than any
other thing that has been preserved respecting them. That it was
prepared with care is witnessed by several interlineations in ink,
sealed by a blot of his favorite red ink on the corner, which for a
wonder does not bear the marks of the deliberate blemishes with which
he frequently embellished his neatest manuscripts.



CHAPTER VIII

EARLY EXPERIENCES IN JOURNALISM


Although Eugene Field made his first essay in journalism as a reporter,
there is not the shadow of a tradition that he made any more progress
along the line of news-gathering and descriptive writing than he did as
a student at Williams. He had too many grotesque fancies dancing
through his whimsical brain to make account or "copy" of the plain
ordinary facts that for the most part make up the sum of the news of
the average reporter's day. What he wrote for the St. Louis Journal or
Times-Journal, therefore, had little relation to the happening he was
sent out to report, but from the outset it possessed the quality that
attracted readers. The peculiarities and not the conventions of life
appealed to him and he devoted himself to them with an assiduity that
lasted while he lived. Thus when he was sent by the Journal to
Jefferson City to report the proceedings of the Missouri State
Legislature, what his paper got was not an edifying summary of that
unending grist of mostly irrelevant and immaterial legislation through
the General Assembly hopper, but a running fire of pungent comment on
the Idiosyncrasies of its officers and members. He would attach himself
to the legislators whose personal qualities afforded most profitable
ammunition for sport in print. He shunned the sessions of Senate and
House and held all night sessions of story and song with the choice
spirits to be found on the floors and in the lobbies of every western
legislature. I wonder why I wrote "western" when the species is as
ubiquitous in Maine as in Colorado? From such sources Field gleaned the
infinite fund of anecdote and of character-study which eventually made
him the most sought-for boon companion that ever crossed the lobby of
a legislature or of a state capital hotel in Missouri, Colorado, or
Illinois. He was a looker-on in the legislative halls, and right
merrily he lampooned everything he saw. Nothing was too trivial for
his notice, nothing so serious as to escape his ridicule or satire.

There was little about his work at this time that gave promise of
anything beyond the spicy facility of a quick-witted, light-hearted
western paragrapher. Looking back it is possible, however, to
discover something of the flavor of the inextinguishable drollery
that persisted to his last printed work in such verses as these in
the St. Louis Journal:

  _THE NEW BABY

  We welcome thee, eventful morn
  Since to the poet there is born
        A son and heir;
  A fuzzy babe of rosy hue,
  And staring eyes of misty blue
        Sans teeth, sans hair.

  Let those who know not wedded joy
  Revile this most illustrious boy--
        This genial child!
  But let the brother poets raise
  Their songs and chant their sweetest lays
        To him reviled.

  Then strike, O bards, your tuneful lyres,
  'Awake, O rhyming souls, your fires,
        And use no stint!
  Bring forth the festive syrup cup--
  Fill every loyal beaker up
        With peppermint!

  March, 1878._

In the spring of 1879 the St. Louis Times-Journal printed the following
April verses by Field, which were copied without the author's name by
London Truth, and went the rounds of the papers in this country,
credited to that misnamed paper, and attributed, much to Field's glee,
to William S. Gilbert, then at the height of his Pinafore and Bab
Ballad fame:

  _APRIL VESPERS

  The turtles drum in the pulseless bay,
    The crickets creak in the prickful hedge,
    The bull-frogs boom in the puddling sedge
  And the whoopoe whoops its vesper lay
                        Away
  In the twilight soft and gray.

  Two lovers stroll in the glinting gloam--
    His hand in her'n and her'n in his--
    She blushes deep--he is talking biz--
  They hug and hop as they listless roam--
                        They roam--
  It's late when they get back home.

  Down by the little wicket-gate,
    Down where the creepful ivy grows,
    Down where the sweet nasturtium blows,
  A box-toed parent lies in wait--
                        In wait
  For the maiden and her mate.

  Let crickets creak and bull-frogs boom,
    The whoopoe wail in the distant dell--
    Their tuneful throbs will ne'er dispel
  The planted pain and the rooted gloom--
                        The gloom
  Of the lover's dismal doom._

Just by the way of illustrating in fac-simile and preserving the
character of the newspaper paragrapher's work in the last century, the
following "Funny Fancies," by Field, from the St. Louis Journal of
August 3d, 1878, may be of interest:

  A green Christmas--No, no, we mean a green peach makes a fat
  graveyard.

  A philanthropic citizen of Memphis has wedded a Miss Hoss. He doubtless
  took her for wheel or whoa.

  We have tried every expedient and we find that the simple legend:
  "Smallpox in this House" will preserve the most uninterrupted bliss in
  an editorial room.

  There is a moment when a man's soul revolts against the dispensations
  of Providence, and that is when he finds that his wife has been using
  his flannel trousers to wrap up the ice in.

  To the average Athenian the dearest spot on earth is the Greece spot.

  Mr. Deer was hung at Atlanta. Of course he died game.

  'Tis pleasant at the close of day
        To play
        Croquet.

  And if your partner makes a miss
        Why kiss
        The siss.

  But if she gives your chin a thwack,
        Why whack
        Her back!

  A great many newspaper men lie awake night after night mentally
  debating whether they will leave their property to some charitable
  institution or spend it the next day for something with a little lemon
  in it.

It was during his earlier connection with the St. Louis Journal that
Field was assigned the duty of misreporting Carl Schurz, when that
peripatetic statesman stumped Missouri in 1874 as a candidate for
re-election to the United States Senate. Field in later years paid
unstinted tribute to the logic, eloquence, and patriotic force of Mr.
Schurz's futile appeals to the rural voters of Missouri. But during the
trip his reports were in nowise conducive to the success of the
Republican and Independent candidate. Mr. Schurz's only remonstrances
were, "Field, why will you lie so outrageously?" It was only by the
exercise of careful watchfulness that Mr. Schurz's party was saved from
serious compromise through the practical jokes and snares which Field
laid for the grave, but not revered Senator. On one occasion when a
party of German serenaders appeared at the hotel where the party was
stopping, before Mr. Schurz had completed a necessary change of toilet
Field stepped out on the veranda, and, waving the vociferous cornet and
trombone to silence, proceeded to address the crowd in broken English.
As he went on the cheering soon subsided into amazed silence at the
heterodox doctrines he uttered, until the bogus candidate was pushed
unceremoniously aside by the real one. Mr. Schurz had great difficulty
in saving Field from the just wrath of the crowd, which had resented
his broken English more than his political heresies.

On another occasion when there was a momentary delay on the part of the
gentleman who was to introduce Mr. Schurz, Field stepped to the front
and with a strong German accent addressed the gathering as follows:

  LADIES AND SHENTLEMEN: I haf such a pad colt dot et vas not bossible
  for me to make you a speedg to-night, but I haf die bleasure to
  introduce to you my prilliant chournatistic friend Euchene Fielt, who
  will spoke you in my blace.

It was all done so quickly and so seriously that the joke was complete
before Mr. Schurz could push himself into the centre of the stage.
Annoyance and mirth mingled in the explanations that followed. A love
of music common to both was the only thing that made Field tolerable to
his serious-minded elder.

Regarding Eugene Field's work upon the St. Jo Gazette, it was local in
character and of the most ephemeral nature. There is preserved in the
pocket-books of some old printers in the West the galley proof of a
doggerel rhyme read by him at the printers' banquet, at St. Joseph,
Mo., January 1st, 1876. It details the fate of a "Rat" printer, who,
in addition to the mortal offence of "spacing out agate" type with
brevier, sealed his doom by stepping on the tail of our old friend,
the French poodle McSweeny. The execution of the victim's sentence
was described as follows:

  _His body in the fatal cannon then they force
  Shouting erstwhile in accents madly hoarse,
  "Death to all Rats"--the fatal match is struck,
  The cannon pointed upwards--then kerchuck!
  Fiz! Snap! Ker--boom! Slug 14's grotesque form
  Sails out to ride a race upon the storm,
  Up through the roof, and up into the sky--
  As if he sought for "cases" up on high,
  Till like a rocket, or like one who's trusted,
  He fell again to earth--completely busted._

There is not much suggestion, or even promise, in this doggerel, of
the Eugene Field whose verses of occasion were destined within a dozen
years to be sought for in every newspaper office in America.

Long before Field learned the value of his time and writing, he began
to appreciate the value of printer's ink and showed much shrewdness in
courting its favor. He did not wait for chance to bring his wares into
notice, but early joined the circle of busy paragraphers who formed a
wider, if less distinguished, mutual admiration society than that
free-masonry of authorship which at one time almost limited literary
fame in the United States to Henry James, William Dean Howells, Charles
Dudley Warner, and Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Robert J. Burdette is about
the only survivor of the coterie of paragraphers, who, a quarter of a
century ago, made such papers as the Burlington Hawkeye, the Detroit
Free Press, the Oil City Derrick, the Danbury News, and the Cincinnati
Saturday Night, widely quoted throughout the Union for their clever
squibs and lively sallies. Field put himself in the way of the
reciprocating round of mutual quotation and spicy comment, and before
he left St. Louis his "Funny Fancies" in the Times-Journal had the
approval of his fellow-jesters if they could not save that paper from
its approaching doom.

Before leaving St. Louis, however, Eugene Field was to strike one of
the notes that was to vibrate so sweetly and surely to his touch unto
the end. He had lost one baby son in St. Jo, and Melvin was a mere
large-eyed infant when his father was moved at Christmas-time, 1878,
to write his "Christmas Treasures," which he frequently, though
incorrectly, declared to be "the first verse I ever wrote." He probably
meant by this that it was the first verse he ever wrote "that he cared
to preserve," those specimens I have introduced being only given as
marking the steps crude and faltering by which he attained a facility
and technique in the art of versification seldom surpassed.

In Mr. Field's "Auto-Analysis" will be found the following reference to
this early specimen of his verse:

  I wrote and published my first bit of verse in 1879: It was entitled
  "Christmas Treasures" [see "Little Book of Western Verse"]. Just ten
  years later I began suddenly to write verse very frequently.

Which merely indicates what little track Field kept of how, when, or
where he wrote the verse that attracted popular attention and by which
he is best remembered. I need hardly say that with a few noteworthy
exceptions his most highly-prized poems were written before 1888, as a
reference to the "Little Book of Western Verse," above cited, and which
was published in 1889, will clearly show.

In the year 1880 Field received and accepted an offer of the managing
editorship of the Kansas City Times, a position which he filled with
singular ability and success, but which for a year put an almost
absolute extinguisher on his growth as a writer. Under his management
the Times became the most widely-quoted newspaper west of the
Mississippi. He made it the vehicle for every sort of quaint and
exaggerated story that the free and rollicking West could furnish or
invent. He was not particular whether the Times printed the first,
fullest, or most accurate news of the day so long as its pages were
racy with the liveliest accounts and comments on the daily comedy,
eccentricity, and pathos of life.

Right merrily did he abandon himself to the buoyant spirits of an
irrepressible nature. Never sparing himself in the duties of his
exacting position on the Times, neither did he spare himself in
extracting from life all the honey of comedy there was in it. His
salary did not begin to keep pace with his tastes and his pleasures.
But he faced debts with the calm superiority of a genius to whom the
world owed and was willing to pay a living.

There lived in Kansas City, when Field was at the height of his local
fame there, one George Gaston, whose café and bar was the resort of all
the choice spirits of the town. He fairly worshipped Field, who made
his place famous by entertainments there, and by frequent squibs in the
Times. Although George had a rule suspending credit when the checks
given in advance of pay day amounted to more than a customer's weekly
salary, he never thought of enforcing it in the case of 'Gene. More
than once some particularly fine story or flattering notice of the good
cheer at Gaston's sufficed to restore Field's credit on George's
spindle. At Christmas-time that credit was under a cloud of checks for
two bits (25 cents), four bits, and a dollar or more each to the total
of $135.50, when, touched by some simple piece that Field wrote in the
Times, Gaston presented his bill for the amount endorsed "paid in
full." When the document was handed to Field he scanned it for a moment
and then walked over to the bar, behind which George was standing
smiling complacently and eke benevolently.

"How's this, George?" said Field.

"Oh, that's all right," returned George.

"But this is receipted," continued the ex-debtor.

"Sure," said the gracious creditor.

"Do I understand," said Field, with a gravity that should have warned
his friend, "that I have paid this bill?"

"That's what," was George's laconic assurance.

"In full?"

"In full's what I said," murmured the unsuspecting philanthropist,
enjoying to the full his own magnanimity.

"Well, sir," said Field, raising his voice without relaxing a muscle,
"Is it not customary in Missouri when one gentleman pays another
gentleman in full to set up the wine?"

George could scarcely respire for a moment, but gradually recovered
sufficiently to mumble, "Gents, this is one on yours truly. What'll you
have?"

And with one voice Field's cronies, who were witnesses to the scene,
ejaculated, "Make it a case." And they made a night of it, such as
would have rejoiced the hearts of the joyous spirits of the "Noctes
Ambrosianæ."

From such revels and such fooling Field often went to work next day
without an hour's sleep.

While in Kansas City Field wrote that pathetic tale of misplaced
confidence that records the fate of "Johnny Jones and his sister Sue."
It was entitled "The Little Peach" and has had a vogue fully as wide,
if not as sentimental, as "Little Boy Blue." Field's own estimate of
this production is somewhat bluntly set out in the following note upon
a script copy of it made in 1887:

Originally printed in the Kansas City Times, recited publicly by Henry
E. Dixey, John A. Mackey, Sol Smith Russell, and almost every comedian
in America. Popular but rotten.

The last word is not only harsh but unjust. The variation of the
closing exclamation of each verse is as skilful as anything Field ever
did. Different, indeed, from the refrain in "Wynken, Blynken and Nod,"
but touching the chords of mirth with certainty and irresistible
effect. Field might have added, that none of the comedians he has named
ever gave to the experience of "Johnny Jones and His Sister Sue" in
public recitation the same melancholy humor and pathetic conclusion as
did the author of their misfortunes and untimely end himself. As a
penance, perhaps, for the injustice done to "The Little Peach" in the
quoted comment, Field spent several days in 1887 in translating it, so
to speak, into Greek characters, in which it appears in the volume
given to Mrs. Thompson, which is herewith reproduced in facsimile as a
specimen of one of the grotesque fancies Field indulged:

[Illustration: "THE PEAR" IN FIELD'S "GREEK" TEXT.]

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the Greek characters, I have
retranslated this poem into corresponding English, which the reader can
compare with his version of "The Little Peach."

  _THE PEAR

  (In English Equivalent.)

  A little pear in a garden grue
  A little pear of emerald 'ue
  Kissed bi the sun and bathed bi the due,
                    It grew.

  One da, going that garden thro'
  That little pear kame to the fue
  Of Thomas Smith and 'is sister Sue
                    Those tou!

  Up at the pear a klub tha thrue
  Down from the stem on uikh it grue
  Fell the little pear of emerald 'ue
                    Peek-a-boo!

  Tom took a bite and Sue took one too
  And then the trouble began to brue
  Trouble the doktors kouldn't subdue
                    Too true (paragorik too?).

  Under the turf fare the daisies grue
  They planted Tom and 'is sister Sue
  And their little souls to the angels flue
                    Boo 'oo!

  But as to the pear of emerald 'ue
  Kissed bi the sun and bathed bi the due
  I'll add that its mission on earth is thro'
                    Adieu._



CHAPTER IX

IN DENVER, 1881-1883


It was in Denver that Eugene Field entered upon and completed the final
stage of what may be called the hobble-de-hoy period in his life and
literary career. He went to the capital of Colorado the most
indefatigable merry-maker that ever turned night into day, a
past-master in the art of mimicry, the most inveterate practical joker
that ever violated the proprieties of friendship, time, and occasion to
raise a laugh or puncture a fraud. As his friend of those days, E.D.
Cowen, has written, "as a farceur and entertainer no professional could
surpass him."

Field was tempted to go to Denver by the offer of the managing
editorship of the Tribune, which was owned and controlled by the
railroad and political coalition then dominant in Colorado. It was run
on a scale of extravagance out of all proportion to its legitimate
revenue, its newspaper functions being altogether subordinate to
services as a railroad ally and political organ. The late O.H.
Rothacker, one of the ablest and most versatile writers in the country,
was at the head of its editorial staff, and Fred J.V. Skiff, now head
of the Field Columbian Museum, was its business manager. These men,
with Field, were given carte blanche to surround themselves with a
staff and news-gathering equipment to make the Tribune "hum." And they
did make it hum, so that the humming was heard far beyond the borders
of the centennial state.

In studying the character of Eugene Field and his doings in Denver, it
must be borne in mind that we are considering a period in the life of
that city years ago, when the conditions were very different from those
prevailing there now or from those to be met with to-day in any other
large city in the country. Denver in 1881 was very much what San
Francisco was under the influence of the gold rush of the early
fifties, only complicated with the struggles of rival railway
companies. All the politics, railway, and mining interests of the newly
created state centred in Denver. The city was alive with the throbbing
energy of strife and speculation over mines, railway grants, and
political power. Life was rapid, boisterous, and rough. Nothing had
settled into the conventional grooves of habit. The whole community was
fearless in its gayety. It had not learned to affect the sobriety and
demureness of stupidity lest its frivolity should be likened to the
crackling of thorns under a pot.

Into this civilization of the mining camp and smelter, just emerging
into that of the railway, political, and financial centre of a vast and
wealthy territory, came Eugene Field at the age of thirty-one, as free
from care, warm-hearted, and open-handed as the most reckless
adventurer in Colorado. Although a husband and a father, devoted as
ever to his family, he threw himself into the bohemian life of Denver
with the abandon of a youth of twenty. It is almost inconceivable where
Field found the time and strength for the whirl of work and play in
which there was no let up during his two years' stay in Denver. His
duties as managing editor of the Tribune would have taxed the energies
and resources of the strongest man, for he did not spare himself to
fulfil the purpose of his engagement--to make the paper "hum." He
mapped out and directed the work of the staff with a comprehensive
shrewdness and keen appreciation of what his public, as well as his
employers, wanted that left no room for criticism. He kept the whole
city guessing what sensation or reputation would be exploded next in
the Tribune.

But he did not confine himself to the duties of directing the work of
others. He started a column headed "Odds and Ends," to which he was the
principal and, by all odds, the most frequent contributor. He had not
been in the city many months before he began the occasional publication
of those skits which, under the title of "The Tribune Primer," were
gathered into his first unpretentious book of forty-eight pages, and
which in its original form is now one of the most sought after quarries
of the American bibliomaniac. Writing of these sketches in 1894, he
said:

  The little sketches appeared in the Denver Tribune in the Fall of
  1881 and winter of 1882. The whole number did not exceed fifty. I
  quit writing them because all the other newspapers in the country
  began imitating the project.

In fact the series began October 10th, 1881, and ended December 19th of
the same year. Edward B. Morgan, of Denver, in an introductory note to
a few of the sketches omitted from the original "Tribune Primer,"
printed in the Cornhill Booklet for January, 1901, gives the following
version of how the skits began:

  Of the origin of these sketches a story is told--although the writer
  cannot vouch for it--that on the Sunday evening preceding their first
  publication the "printer's devil" was dispatched post-haste to
  Field's home for copy which his happy-go-lucky manner of working had
  not produced. We may perhaps picture him engaged in what was always
  nearest and dearest to his heart, the amusement of his children, and
  perhaps reading to them or more likely composing for them primer
  sketches which he on the spur of the moment parodied for older
  readers. He has probably expressed his own feelings in the third one
  of the skits which he then wrote:

  THE REPORTER ON SUNDAY

  Is this Sunday? Yes, it is a Sunday. How peaceful and quiet it is.
  But who is the man? He does not look peaceful. He is a reporter and
  he is swearing. What makes him swear? Because he has to work on
  Sunday? Oh no! he is swearing because he has to Break the Fourth
  Commandment. It is a sad thing to be a Reporter.

According to Mr. Cowen, however, the inspiration of the primer
compositions was a libel suit brought against the Tribune by Governor
Evans. In ridiculing the governor and his action Field three times used
the old primer method--with illustrations after the fashion of John
Phoenix--and the success of these little sarcasms undoubtedly
encouraged him to elaborate the idea. Field also had a column of
unsigned verse and storyettes in the Tribune under the heading, "For
the Little Folks."

Mr. Morgan discredits Field's statement that the whole number of the
Primers issued did not exceed fifty, because of the unlikelihood of
printing such a small edition of a book to be sold for twenty-five
cents and advertising it daily a month in advance, with a foot-note,
"Trade supplied at Special Rates." Which merely shows that Mr. Morgan
applied to Field's acts the same rule of thumb that would be applicable
to ninety-nine out of a hundred reasonable publishers. But Field was a
rule unto himself, and he could be counted on to be the one hundredth
and unique individual where the other ninety-and-nine were orthodox and
conventional. The fact that only seven or eight copies of the original
Primer are known to book collectors tends to confirm Field's statement,
which receives side light and support from his suggestion to Francis
Wilson that the first edition of "Echoes from the Sabine Farm," which
Mr. Wilson issued in such sumptuous form nearly ten years later, should
consist of only fifty copies, and that each of the two should reserve
one and that they should "burn the other forty-eight."

I have not the slightest doubt that the same disposition was made of
all copies of "The Tribune Primer" over the first fifty, which were
supplied to the favored few at "Special Rates." This was just such a
freak as would have occurred to Field, and in Denver there was no
restraint upon the act following upon any wild thought that flitted
through his topsy-turvy brain.

The jocose spirit in which Field at this time viewed the methods,
duties, and responsibilities of journalism may be gleaned from the
following specimens taken at random from his "Tribune Primer" sketches:

  THE REPORTER

  What is that I see? That, my Child, is the News Interviewer and he is
  now interviewing a Man. But where is the Man? I can see no Man. The
  Man, my Child, is in his Mind.

  A RECHERCHÉ AFFAIR

  This is a recherché Affair. Recherché Affairs are sometimes met with
  in Parlors and Ball Rooms. But more Generally in the Society
  Department of newspapers. A Recherché Affair is an Affair where the
  Society Editor is invited to the refreshment table. When the Society
  Editor is told his Room is Better than his Company, the Affair is not
  Recherché.

  THE STEAM PRESS

  Is this not a Beautiful Steam Press? The Steam is Lying Down on the
  Floor taking a Nap. He came from Africa and is Seventy Years Old. The
  Press prints Papers. It can Print Nine Hundred papera an Hour. It
  takes One Hour and Forty Minutes to Print the Edition of the Paper.
  The Paper has a circulation of Thirty-seven thousand. The business
  Manager says so.

It was indeed a happy departure from the ruder fooling of the newspaper
paragrapher of that day to clothe satire on current events and
every-day affairs in the innocent simplicity of the nursery. But the
vast majority of these Primer paragraphs were by no means as innocent
as those quoted. Many of them had a sting more sharp than that of the
wasp embalmed in one of them:

  See the Wasp. He has pretty yellow stripes around his Body, and a
  darning needle in his tail. If you will Pat the Wasp upon the Tail,
  we will Give you a nice Picture Book.

Very many of them seemed inspired by an irrepressible desire to incite
little children to deeds of mischief never dreamed of in Baxter's
Saints' Rest. Here are a precious pair of paragraphs, each calculated
to bring the joy that takes its meals standing into any home circle
where youthful incorrigibles were in need of outside encouragement to
their infant initiative:

  THE NASTY TOBACCO

  What is that Nasty looking object? It is a Chew of Tobacco. Oh, how
  naughty it is to use the Filthy weed. It makes the teeth black, and
  spoils the Parlor Carpet. Go Quick and Throw the Horrid Stuff Away.
  Put it in the Ice Cream Freezer or in the Coffee Pot where Nobody can
  see it. Little Girls you should never chew Tobacco.

  THE MUCILAGE

  The Bottle is full of Mucilage. Take it and Pour some Mucilage into
  Papa's Slippers. Then when Papa comes Home it will be a Question
  whether there will be more Stick in the Slippers than on your Pants.

But whoever wishes to learn of the peculiar side of Child life that
appealed most strongly to Eugene Field when his own earlier born
children were still in the nursery age, should get a copy of "The
Tribune Primer" and read, not only the sketches themselves, but between
the lines, where he will find much of the teasing spirit that kept his
whole household wondering what he would do next. In these sketches will
be found frequent references to the Bugaboo, a creation of his fancy,
"With a big Voice like a Bear, and Claws as long as a Knife." His
warning to the little children then was, "If you are Good, Beware of
the Bugaboo." In later life he reserved the terror of the Bugaboo for
naughty little boys and girls.

His first poem to his favorite hobgoblin, as it appeared in the Denver
Tribune, was the following:

  _THE AWFUL BUGABOO

  There was an awful Bugaboo
  Whose Eyes were Red and Hair was Blue;
  His Teeth were Long and Sharp and White
  And he went prowling 'round at Night.

  A little Girl was Tucked in Bed,
  A pretty Night Cap on her Head;
  Her Mamma heard her Pleading Say,
  "Oh, do not Take the Lamp away!"

  But Mamma took away the lamp
  And oh, the Room was Dark and Damp;
  The Little Girl was Scared to Death--
  She did not Dare to Draw her Breath.

  And all at once the Bugaboo
  Came Rattling down the Chimney Flue;
  He Perched upon the little Bed
  And scratched the Girl until she bled.

  He drank the Blood and Scratched again--
  The little Girl cried out in vain--
  He picked her up and Off he Flew--
  This Naughty, Naughty Bugaboo!

  So, children when in Bed to-night,
  Don't let them Take away the Light,
  Or else the Awful Bugaboo
  May come and Fly away with You._

It is a far cry in time and a farther one in literary worth from "The
Awful Bugaboo" of 1883 to "Seein' Things" of 1894. The sex of the
victim is different, and the spirit of the incorrigible western tease
gives way to the spirit of Puritanic superstition, but there can be no
mistaking the persistence of the Bugaboo germ in the later verse:

  _An' yet I hate to go to bed,
  For when I'm tucked up warm an' snug an' when my prayers are said,
  Mother tells me "Happy Dreams!" and takes away the light,
  An' leaves me lyin' all alone an' seein' things at night!_

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Sometimes they are as black as ink, an' other times they're white--
  But the color ain't no difference when you're seein' things at night._

In all that Field wrote, whether in prose or rhyme, for the Denver
Tribune nothing contributed to his literary reputation or gave promise
of the place in American letters he was to attain, save one little bit
of fugitive verse, which was for years to justify its title of "The
Wanderer." It contains one of the prettiest, tenderest, most vitally
poetic ideas that ever occurred to Eugene Field. And yet he deliberately
disclaimed it in the moment of its conception and laid it, like a
little foundling, at the door of Madame Modjeska. The expatriation of
the Polish actress, between whom and Field there existed a singularly
warm and enduring friendship, formed the basis for the allegory of the
shell on the mountain, and doubtless suggested to him the humor, if not
the sentiment, of attributing the poem to her and writing it in the
first person. The circumstances of its publication justify its
reproduction here, although I suppose it is one of the most familiar
of Field's poems. I copy it from his manuscript:

  _THE WANDERER

  Upon a mountain height, far from the sea,
      I found a shell,
  And to my listening ear this lonely thing
  Ever a song of ocean seem'd to sing--
      Ever a tale of ocean seem'd to tell.

  How came the shell upon the mountain height?
      Ah, who can say
  Whether there dropped by some too careless hand--
  Whether there cast when oceans swept the land,
      Ere the Eternal had ordained the day?

  Strange, was it not? Far from its native deep,
      One song it sang;
  Sang of the awful mysteries of the tide,
  Sang of the restless sea, profound and wide--
      Ever with echoes of the ocean rang.

  And as the shell upon the mountain height
      Sang of the sea,
  So do I ever, leagues and leagues away--
  So do I ever, wandering where I may,
      Sing, O my home! sing, O my home! of thee!_

I have seen it stated that Madame Modjeska regarded the liberty taken
with her name in this connection with feelings of displeasure, and
Hamlin Garland has reported a conversation with Field, during the
summer of 1893, when the latter, speaking of his work in Denver, and of
"The Tribune Primer" as the most conspicuous thing he did there, said:
"The other thing which rose above the level of my ordinary work was a
bit of verse, 'The Wanderer,' which I credited to Modjeska, and which
has given her no little annoyance." In his note to Mrs. Thompson's
manuscript copy of "The Wanderer," Field says:

  These verses appeared in the Denver Tribune credited to Helena
  Modjeska. They were copied far and wide over Modjeska's name.
  Modjeska took the joke in pretty good part. The original publication
  was June, 1883.

Madame Modjeska not only took the joke in "pretty good part," but
esteemed its perpetrator all the more highly for the light in which it
placed her before the public, which she was then delighting with her
exquisite impersonations of Rosalind and Mary Stuart. For years after
its publication Madame Modjeska, wherever she appeared throughout the
country, was reminded of this joke by the scores of letters sent to her
room, as soon as she registered, requesting autograph copies of "The
Wanderer," or the honor of her signature to a clipping of it neatly
pasted in the autograph hunter's album. Nor were autograph hunters the
only ones imposed on by the signature to "The Wanderer." In August,
1883, Professor David Swing, writing in the Weekly Magazine, gave it as
his opinion that the alleged Modjeska poem was indeed written by
Modjeska, and concluded: "The conversation and tone of her thoughts as
expressed among friends betrays a mind that at least loves the poetic,
and is quite liable to attempt a verse. The child-like simplicity of
this little song is so like Modjeska that no demand arises for any
outside help in the matter." And Field, like the true fisherman he was,
having secured a fine rise, proceeded to remark: "It will, perhaps,
pain the Professor to learn that Madame Modjeska now denies ever having
seen the verses until they appeared in print."

But not until Field reclaimed his child and published "The Wanderer"
as his own, in "A Little Book of Western Verse," was the verse-reading
public satisfied to give the Polish comedienne a long rest from
importunities concerning it.



CHAPTER X

ANECDOTES OF LIFE IN DENVER


No story of Eugene Field's life would be true, no study of his
personality complete, if it ignored or even glossed over "the mad wild
ways of his youthful days" in Denver. He never wearied of telling of
the constant succession of harum-scarum pranks that made the Tribune
office the storm-centre for all the fun-loving characters in Colorado.
Not that Field ever neglected his work or his domestic duties for play,
but it was a dull day for Denver when his pen or his restless spirit
for mischief did not provide some fresh cause for local amazement or
merriment. His associates and abettors in all manner of frolics, where
he was master of the revels, were kindred spirits among the railway
managers, agents, politicians, mining speculators, lawyers, and doctors
of the town. Into this company a fresh ingredient would be introduced
every week from the theatrical troupes which made Denver the western
limit of their circuits or a convenient break in the long overland
jump.

Field's office was a fitting retreat for the genius of disorder. It had
none of the conveniences that are supposed to be necessary in the rooms
of modern managing editors. It was open and accessible to the public
without the intermediary of an office-boy or printer's devil. Field had
his own way of making visitors welcome, whether they came in friendly
guise or on hostile measures bent. Over his desk hung the inhospitable
sign, "This is my busy day," which he is said to have invented, and on
the neighboring wall the motto, "God bless our proof-reader, He can't
call for him too soon." But his crudest device, "fatal," as his friend
E.D. Cowen writes, "to the vengeance of every visitor who came with a
threat of libel suit, and temporarily subversive of the good feeling of
those friends he lured into its treacherous embrace, was a bottomless
black-walnut chair." Its yawning seat was always concealed by a few
exchanges carelessly thrown there--the floor being also liberally
strewn with them. As it was the only chair in the room except the one
Field occupied himself, his caller, though never asked to do so, would
be sure to see in Field's suave smile an invitation to drop into the
trap and thence ingloriously to the floor. Through this famous chair,
on his first visit to the Tribune office, "Bill" Nye dropped into a
lifelong friendship with Eugene Field. When the victim happened to be
an angry sufferer from a too personal reference to his affairs in the
paper, Field would make the most profuse apologies for the scant
furnishings of the office, which he shrewdly ascribed to the poverty of
the publishing company, and tender his own chair as some small
compensation for the mishap.

I have spoken of Edgar W.--more familiarly known as "Bill"--Nye's
unceremonious introduction to Field's friendship. This followed upon
what was virtually the discovery of Nye by Field. The former was what
old-time printers described as "plugging along" without recognition on
the Laramie Boomerang. His peculiar humor caught the attention of
Field, who, with the intuition of a born journalist, wrote and got Nye
to contribute a weekly letter to the Tribune. At first Nye was paid the
princely stipend of $5 a week for these letters. This was raised to
$10, and when Field informed Nye that he was to receive $15 per letter,
the latter promptly packed his grip and took the first train for
Denver, to see what sort of a newspaper Croesus presided over the
order-blank of the Tribune. When he appeared before Field he was
whiskered like a western farmer and his head had not pushed its way
through a thick growth of hair. He was altogether a different looking
personage from the bald-headed, clean-shaven humorist with whose
features the world was destined to become so well acquainted.

After the incident of the chair nothing would do Field but a dinner at
the St. James Hotel, given in honor of Bill Nye. The affair started
after the Tribune had gone to press and lasted all night. At five
o'clock in the morning the company escorted their guest to his room and
departed, with elaborate professions of good-will. They waited in the
hotel office long enough for Nye to get to bed, and then sent up cards,
requesting his presence down-stairs on immediate business. But Nye was
equal to his tormentors, and the bell-boy returned, bearing a shot-gun,
with the message that it would speak for him. When Nye first visited
Field in Chicago, his presence in town was heralded with the following
paragraph:

  The latest news from Bill Nye is to the effect that he has discovered
  a coal mine on his little farm near Hudson, Wis. Ten days ago he
  was spading over his garden--an exercise recommended by his
  physician--and he struck a very rich vein of what is called rock
  coal. Nye paid $2,000 for this farm, and since the development of
  this coal deposit on the premises he has been offered $10,000 for
  five acres. He believes that he has a great fortune within his grasp.

As illustrative of how impossible it was for Field to keep money, it is
related that on one occasion he coaxed F.J.V. Skiff, then business
manager of the Tribune, to advance "just another" $10 to meet some
urgent domestic demands. Scarcely had Mr. Skiff time to place the order
in the cash drawer, ere Field stood before him once more, pleading
_in forma pauperis_ for "another X." He was asked what had become
of the ten he had just received.

"Just my luck, Fred," Field replied. "As I was leaving the office whom
should I meet but one of my old printer boys, dead broke. The X was all
I had, and he told me he had to have it, and he had to." It is needless
to say that Field got the second advance and succeeded in dodging all
impecunious "old boys" on the way home.

I have said that Denver at that time was the centre of all the railway
interests of Colorado and the far West. Being also the capital, it was
the place where legislators and railway agents wrestled with problems
of regulating tariffs and granting privileges to what may be called
their mutual benefit. It was from his experience in Denver that Field
learned that two-thirds of the business of a western legislature
consisted in causing legislative hold-ups, of which the transportation
companies were the victims, and the most vociferously impeccable
statesmen the chief beneficiaries. The secret service funds of the
railway companies doing business in Colorado paid out a hundred dollars
for protection from notorious sandbagging bills and resolutions to
every dollar they spent for special favors in grants and franchises.

This by way of preface to a story in which Eugene Field and a railway
official, who, as I write, holds a high position in the transportation
world, figure. This official was at that time the superintendent of the
Southwestern Division of the Pullman system, with head-quarters at St.
Louis. In those days every session of the Colorado legislature saw its
anti-Pullman rate reduction bill, which Wickersham, as I shall call
him, because that is not his name, was commissioned to checkmate,
strangle, or make away with in committee by the aid of annual passes,
champagne, and the mysterious potency of the national bank-note. As was
remarked by E.D. Cowen, to whose notes I am indebted for refreshing my
memory of Field's tales, Wickersham never failed in generalship,
principally because he was bold in his methods and picturesquely lavish
with his munitions of war. The Pullman Company did not then enjoy the
royalty and defensive alliance which now protects it against rate
legislation throughout the West, and so Wickersham was kept continually
on the go, making alliances and friendships among legislators and
journalists against the days of reckoning.

Field, as the managing editor of the Tribune, was a special favorite
with Wickersham, as he was of every professional and commercial visitor
having an axe to grind at the capital of the state. Pullman's
representative had the wit to appreciate Field, both for his personal
qualities and the assistance he could render through the columns of the
newspaper. Field reciprocated the personal friendship, but, so far as
the Tribune was concerned, took a grim satisfaction in giving
Wickersham to understand that though he could use its freedom he could
not abuse it or count upon its aid beyond what was strictly legitimate.
Field's stereotyped introduction of Wickersham--one calculated to put
him on a pleasant business footing with every practical politician, was
"He's a good fellow and a thoroughbred." So his coming was invariably
celebrated by a general round-up of all the good fellows in Denver, and
his departure left the aching heads and parched recollections that from
the days of Noah have distinguished the morning after.

After one of Wickersham's calls, Field determined that the sobriety and
severe morality of Denver were being scandalized by these periodical
visitations, and he issued orders to the Tribune staff that when next
the "good fellow and thoroughbred" appeared on the scene he should be
given a wide berth, or, as Field put it, should be left to "play a lone
hand in his game." So when Wickersham next swung around the legislative
circle to Denver, not a man about the editorial rooms would go out with
him, listen to his stories, accept a cigar at his hands, or associate
with him in any of the ways that had been their cheerful wont. The
coldness and loneliness of the situation excited Wickersham's thirst
for revenge and also for what is known as the wine of Kentucky. Having
succeeded in getting up a full head of steam, he started out for an
explanation or a counter demonstration. Arriving at the Tribune office,
when the desks were vacated at the evening dinner-hour, he interpreted
it as a further affront and challenge, which he proceeded to answer by
destroying every last scrap of copy in sight for the morrow's paper. He
then converted himself into a small cyclone, and went through every
desk, strewed their litter on the floor, broke all the pens and
pencils, and, in the language of an eye-witness, "ended by toning the
picture of editorial desolation with the violet contents of all the ink
bottles he could find."

Then he retired in hilarious satisfaction from the scene of devastation
he had made. Consternation reigned in that office until Field returned,
when he quickly dispelled the gloom with a promise of revenge, and set
the staff at work to patch up the ruin the envious Wickersham had made.
But they were not permitted to do this in peace, for their enemy,
returning in the dark of night, bombarded the windows of the editorial
rooms with the staves of old ash-barrels he had found conveniently by.

While Wickersham was engaged in this second assault, with windows
smashing to right of them and to left of them, with glass falling all
around them, and the staves of old ash-barrels playing a devil's tattoo
about them, the devoted band of editors, reporters, and copy-readers
worked nobly on. They had confidence in their leader that their hour
would come. Their first duty was to get out the paper. After that they
looked for the deluge.

When Wickersham had expended his last stave and fiercest epithet on the
shattered windows he retired in bad order to his apartments at the St.
James Hotel.

Now began Field's revenge, planned with due deliberation and executed
with malicious thoroughness. He first sent for "'Possum Jim," an aged
and very serious colored man, who worshipped "Mistah Fiel'" because of
the sympathy Eugene never withheld from the dark-skinned children of
the race. "'Possum Jim" spent most of his existence on the same street
corner, waiting for a job, which invariably had to come to him. His
outfit consisted of an express wagon strung together with telegraph
wire, and a nondescript four-footed creature that once bore the
similitude of a horse. Whenever Field had an odd job to be done about
his household he would go out of his way to let "old 'Possum Jim" earn
the quarter--partly to do an act of kindness to "Jim," but chiefly to
tease Mrs. Field by the appearance of the broken-down equipage
lingering in front of their dwelling.

Just before the Tribune went to press, a sergeant of police called on
Field in response to a summons by telephone. After a whispered
conference he left, with a broad smile struggling under his curling
mustache. In company with a number of his staff Field next made the
round of the all-night haunts and gathered to his aid as fine a
collection of bohemian "thoroughbreds" as ever made the revels of Mardi
Gras look like a Sunday-school convention. He installed them at the
resort of a Kentucky gentleman named Jones, opposite the St. James. As
one who was there reports, "The amber milk of the Blue-grass cow flowed
in plenty." Bidding his associates await his return, Field, armed with
a single bottle, crossed the street to the hotel in search of the
enemy.

For half, an hour they waited, in growing fear that Wickersham had
retired for the night, with orders the night clerk dared not disobey,
that he was not to be disturbed, even if the hotel was on fire. Just as
expectation had grown heavy-eyed, Field appeared crossing the street
with Wickersham on his arm, very happy, more of a good fellow than ever
and more than ever ready for red-eyed anarchy of any sort.

"After a swift hour"--I quote from one who was there and whose account
tallies with Field's own--"and as the morning opened out Field insisted
on breaking for sunlight and fresh air. Wickersham was always a leader,
even in the matter of making a noise. He sang; everyone else applauded.
He shrieked and shouted; all approved. Windows went up across the way
in the hotel, and night-capped heads protruded to investigate. The
frantic din of the electric-bells could be heard. The clerk appeared to
protest." What attention might have been paid to his protest will never
be known, for just then "'Possum Jim's" gothic steed and rattletrap
cart rounded the corner.

"I say, old man," shouted Field, "we want your rig for an hour; what's
it worth?"

Jim played his part slyly, and the bargain was finally struck for
$2.50, the owner to present no claim for possible damages. Wickersham
was so delighted with the shrewdness of the deal that he insisted on
paying the bill. The horse, which could scarcely stand on his four
corners, was quickly unharnessed and hitched to a telegraph pole, and
before he realized what the madcaps were about, Wickersham was himself
harnessed into the shafts. The novelty of his position suited his mood.
He pranced and snorted, and pawed the ground and whinnied, and played
horse in fine fettle until the word go. Field, with a companion beside
him, held the reins and cracked the whip. The others helped the
thoroughbred in harness the best they could by pushing.

In this manner, and all yelling like Comanche Indians, twice they made
the circuit of the block. All the guests in front of the big hotel were
leaning out of the windows, when the police sergeant popped in sight
with a squad of four men. Field, who had been duly apprised of their
approach, gave the signal, and the crowd, making good their retreat to
Jones's, abandoned Wickersham to his fate. He was quickly, but roughly,
disentangled from the intricacies of "'Possum Jim's" rope-yarn harness.
The more he protested and expostulated, the more inexorable became the
five big custodians of the outraged peace, until the last word of
remonstrance and explanation died upon his well-nigh breathless lips.
Then he tried cajoling and "connudling" and those silent, persuasive
arts so often efficacious in legislative lobbies; but there were too
many witnesses to his crime, and bribes were not in order.

When at last Wickersham, from sheer despair and physical exhaustion,
sank limp in the arms of his captors, the sergeant, on the pretext of
seeking the aiders and abettors in the riot, half carried, half led the
prisoner into Jones's resort.

A quarter of an hour later the police squad made its exit by the back
door, and less than an hour afterward Wickersham's special was bearing
him southward toward Texas.

But Field's revenge was not fully sated yet. He caused a $2 Pullman
rate-bill, making a sixty per cent. reduction, to be prepared in the
Tribune office, and secured its introduction in the legislature by the
chairman of the House committee on railways. The news was immediately
flashed East, and Wickersham came posting back to Denver with the worst
case of monopoly fright he had ever experienced. The day after his
arrival the Tribune had something to say in every department of his
nefarious mission, and every reference to him bristled with biting
irony and downright accusation. Never was a "good fellow and a
thoroughbred" so mercilessly scarified.

For the remaining six weeks of the session Wickersham did not leave
Denver, nor did he dare look at the Tribune until after breakfast.
Every member of the legislature received a Pullman annual. Champagne
flowed, not by the bottle, but by the dray-load. Wickersham begged for
quarter, but his appeals fell like music on ears that heard but heeded
not. Nor did he find out that the whole affair was a put-up job until
the bill was finally lost in the Senate committee.

One of the familiar stories of Field's rollicking life in Denver was at
the expense of Oscar Wilde, then on his widely advertised visit to
America. As the reader may remember, this was when the aesthetic craze
and the burlesques inseparable from it were at their height.
Anticipating Wilde's appearance in Denver by one day, and making
shrewdly worded announcements through the Tribune in keeping with his
project, Field secured the finest landau in town and was driven through
the streets in a caricature verisimilitude of the poet of the sunflower
and the flowing hair.

The impersonation of Wilde à la Bunthorne in Gilbert and Sullivan's
opera, "Patience," was well calculated to deceive all who were not in
the secret. Field's talent as a farceur and a mimic enabled him to
assume and carry out the expression of bored listlessness which was the
popular idea of the leader of aesthetes. Nobody in the curious,
whooping, yelling crowd assembled along the well-advertised route
suspected the delusion, and after an hour's parade Field succeeded in
making his exit from public gaze without betraying his identity.

When Wilde turned up the next day he was not a little mystified to
learn that he had created a sensation driving around Denver in the
raiments of Bunthorne, while in reality travelling over the prairie in
a palace-car. It was Field himself who relieved his curiosity with a
highly amusing narrative of the experience of the joker lounging in the
seat of honor in the landau.

Wilde, it is related, saw nothing funny in the affair, nor was he
provoked at it. His only comment was, "What a splendid advertisement
for my lecture."

It was while in Denver that Field had numerous and flattering offers to
leave journalism for the stage, and more than once he was sorely
tempted to make the experiment. In the natural qualifications for the
theatrical profession he was most richly endowed. In the arts of
mimicry he had no superior. He had the adaptable face of a comedian,
was a matchless raconteur, and a fine vocalist. At a banquet or in a
parlor he was an entertainer of truly fascinating parts. During his
life in St. Louis and Kansas City his inclination had led him to seek
the society of the green-room, and in Denver his position enlarged the
circle of his acquaintance with the theatrical profession, until it
embraced almost every prominent actor and actress in America, and was
subsequently extended to include the more celebrated artists of
England. Among his favorites was Madame Bernhardt, whose several visits
to the United States afforded him an opportunity for some of the most
entertaining sketches that ever delighted his Chicago readers. None of
these contained more pith in little than that brief paragraph with
which he opened his column one day, to the effect that "An empty cab
drove up to the stage-door of the Columbia Theatre last night, from
which Madame Bernhardt alighted."

Among the celebrities who visited Denver while Field was in what he
would have called his perihelion was Miss Kate Field, with whose name
he took all the liberties of a brother, although there was no blood
relationship between them thicker than the leaves of a genealogical
compendium. He took especial pains to circulate the report through all
the West that Miss Field had brought a sitz-bath with her to alleviate
the dust and hardships of travel in the "Woolly West," where, as he
represented, she thought running water was a luxury and stationary
bath-tubs were unknown. But he atoned for this by one of the daintiest
pleasantries that ever occurred to his playful mind. When Miss Field
was preparing for her lecture tour in Mormon land she started an
inquisitive correspondence with her namesake, whose Tribune Primer was
then spreading his fame through the exchanges. The two soon discovered
that they were cousins, no matter how many times removed, but near
enough to inspire Field to entrust a letter to Uncle Sam's mail
addressed thus:

  _A maiden fair of untold age
  Seeks to adorn our Western stage;
  How foolish of her, yet how nice
  To write me, asking my advice!
  New York's the city where you'll find
  This prodigy of female kind;
  Hotel Victoria's the place
  Where you'll see her smiling face.
  I pray thee, postman, bear away
  This missive to her, sans delay.
  These lines enclosed are writ by me--
  A Field am I, a Field is she.
  Two very fertile fields I ween,
  In constant bloom, yet never green,
  She is my cousin; happy fate
  That gave me such a Cousin Kate._

From Denver to New York this pretty conceit carried the epistle just as
safely and directly as if it had borne the most prosaic superscription
the postal authorities could exact, and I venture to say that it was
handled with a smiling solicitude never bestowed on the humdrum
epistles that travel neither faster nor surer for being marked
"important and immediate." This was before Field had formed the habit
of illuminating everything he wrote with colored inks, or the missive
to his Cousin Kate would have expressed his variegated fancies in all
the colors of the rainbow, especially red.

In a short sketch, entitled "Eugene Field in Denver," Wolfe Londoner
speaks of his friend as a "bright ray of laughing sunshine across this
shadowy vale, a mine of sentiment and charity, an avalanche of fun and
happiness," but one who "never in all the run of his merry, joyous
career was known to wake up with a cent." Why?

Here is the explanation given by Mr. Londoner, who was familiar with
every phase of Eugene Field's life in Denver:

"The course of one short day was ever long enough to drain his open
purse, and his boon companions were as welcome to its contents, while
it could stand the strain, as its careless, happy owner. The bright
side of life attracted his laughing fancy, and with stern and
unalterable determination he studiously avoided all seriousness and
shadow. There was no room in his happy composition for aught of sorrow
or sadness, and a quick and merry wit always extricated him from every
embarrassing position or perplexing dilemma."

Mr. Londoner rightly says that an inert Eugene Field was an
impossibility, and at that time he was only supremely happy when
busily engaged in playing some practical joke on his ever-suspecting
but never sufficiently wary friends. Of course Mr. Londoner himself
was victimized, and more than once. During one campaign, as chairman
of the Republican County Central Committee, Mr. Londoner was delegated
to work up enthusiasm among the colored voters of Denver, and in an
unguarded moment he took Field into his confidence and boasted of his
flattering progress. The next morning the following advertisement,
displayed with all the prominence of glaring scare-heads, appeared:

    WANTED!!

    EVERY COLORED MAN IN THE CITY.

    To call at Wolfe Londoner's Store.
    A Car load of Georgia Watermelons
    Just received For a special distribution
    Among his Colored Friends.
    _Call Early and get Your Melon!!!_

It is needless to say that when Mr. Londoner's store opened in the
morning an ever-increasing cloud of dusky humanity, with teeth that
glistened with the juice of anticipation, gathered about the entrance.
Business in the store was at a standstill and travel on the street was
blocked. No explanation could appease the rising anger of that dark
multitude. It was melons, or a riot. Melons, or that unheard-of
thing--a colored landslide to the democracy. Mr. Londoner was at his
wits' ends. There were no melons in the market, and none expected.
Just as Londoner was preparing to abandon his store to the wrath of
the justly incensed melon-maniacs, a car-load of magnificent melons
dropped into one of the freight sidings, and Londoner and the
Republican party were saved. Nobody ever knew how or whence that
pink-hearted manna came. The price was exorbitant, but that did not
matter. Londoner paid it with the air of a man who had ordered melons
and was indignant that the railway company had disappointed him in not
delivering them the day before. There was not a crack in the solid
black Republican column on election day.

But Field was not through with Mr. Londoner yet. The colored brethren
had to hold their ratification meeting to endorse the Republican
nominations, and more especially to render thanks for the creation of
watermelons, and to the man who paid for them, out of season. Of
course Mr. Londoner was invited to attend, and when it came his turn
to address the meeting the chairman, a colored deacon of the church
where "'Possum Jim" worshipped, by the name of Williams, introduced
him as follows:

"I now take great pleasure in introducing to you our friend and
brother, the Honorable Mistah Wolfe Londoner, who has always been our
true friend and brother, who always advises us to do the right thing,
and stands ready, at all times, to help us in the good fight. Although
he has a white skin, his heart is as black as any of ours. Brothers,
the Honorable Wolfe Londoner."

There was no mistaking the authorship of this felicitous introduction.

Field was never tired of repeating another story at the expense of Mr.
Londoner, in connection with the visit of Charles A. Dana to Denver.
The arrival of "Mr. Dana of the New York Sun" was made the occasion
for one of those receptions by the Press Club which made up in
heartiness what they lacked in conventional ceremony. Mr. Londoner was
the president of the club, and it not only fell to his lot to deliver
the address of welcome to guests of the club, but to look after their
comfort and welfare while they remained in the city, and often to
provide them with the wherewithal to leave it. On Mr. Dana's
presentation he was called on for some remarks, to which Mr. Londoner
listened with the air of a man who had heard the same tale from lips
less entitled to deliver a message of counsel and warning to a group
of newspaper writers. When his guest had finished his remarks, Mr.
Londoner, according to Field's story, walked over to Mr. Dana and
asked him how much he wanted.

Mr. Dana looked at him with a puzzled air, and asked: "How much what?
What do you mean?"

"Why, money," Mr. Londoner is said to have replied. "Every newspaper
man who ever came to this club was introduced the same as you were,
made a speech the same as you did, and then came to me to borrow money
to get out of town with. Now, how much do you want?"

According to Field, he never saw a man so greatly relieved as Mr.
Londoner was when Mr. Dana assured him that his hotel bill was paid
and he had enough money sewed into his waistcoat to carry him back to
New York, where he had a job waiting for him.

On one occasion Field accompanied the Denver Press Club on a pleasure
trip to Manitou, a summer resort that nestles in a cañon at the base
of Mount Rosa. Before the party was comfortably settled in the hotel,
Field was approached by a poor woman who had lost her husband, and who
poured into his ear a sad tale of indigence and sorrow. He became
immediately interested, and at once set about devising means for her
relief. As his purse was as lean as her own and his companions were
not overburdened with the means to get back to Denver, he announced a
grand musical and dramatic entertainment, to be given in the parlors
of the hotel that evening, for the benefit of a deserving charity.
Every guest in the hotel was invited, and the members of the Press
Club spread the notices among the citizens of the village. When asked
who would be the performers, Field answered, with the utmost
nonchalance, that the Lord would provide the entertainment if Manitou
would furnish the audience. The evening came, and the parlors were
crowded with guests and villagers, but no performers. After waiting
until expectancy and curiosity had almost toppled over from tiptoe to
disgust and indignation, Field stepped to the piano with preternatural
gravity and attacked it with all the grand airs of a foreign virtuoso.
Critics would have denied that Field was a pianist, and, technically
considered, they would have been right. But his fingers had a fondness
for the ivory keys, and they responded to his touch with the sweet
melody of the forest to the wind. He carried all the favorite airs of
all the operas he had ever heard in his fingers' ends. He knew the
popular songs of the day by heart, and, where memory failed, could
improvise. He had a voice for the soft and deep chords of negro
melodies I have never heard surpassed, and with all, he had a command
of comedy and pathos which, up to this time, was little known beyond
the circle in Denver over which he reigned as the Lord of Misrule.
That night in Manitou those who were present reported that, from the
moment he sat down at the piano until the last note of the good-night
song died away, he held that impromptu audience fascinated by his
impromptu performance. By turns he sang, played, recited poetry,
mimicked actors and well-known Colorado characters, told anecdotes,
and altogether gave such a single-handed entertainment that the
spectators did not know whether to be more astonished at its variety
or delighted with its genius. The result was a generous collection,
which went far to relieve the distress of the woman who had touched
Field's sympathy.

Let it not be understood that nothing more serious than some hilarious
escapade or sardonic bit of humor ever crossed the life of Eugene
Field in Denver. His innate hatred of humbug and sham made the Denver
Tribune a terror to all public characters who considered that suddenly
acquired wealth gave them a free hand to flaunt ostentatious vulgarity
on all public occasions.



CHAPTER XI

COMING TO CHICAGO


What I have written thus far of Eugene Field has been based upon what
the lawyers call hearsay or documentary evidence. It has for the most
part been directly heard or confirmed from his own lips. In the early
days of our acquaintance the stories of his life in Denver were rife
through every newspaper office and green-room in the United States. No
one who had spent any time in Colorado came East without bringing a
fresh budget of tales of the pranks and pasquinades of Eugene Field,
of the Denver Tribune. The clipping vogue of his Primer series had
given him a newspaper reputation wide as the continent. He was far
more quoted, however, for what he said and did than for anything he
wrote. Had his career ended in 1883, before he came to Chicago, there
would have been little or nothing left of literary value to keep his
memory alive, beyond the regretful mention in the obituary columns of
the western press.

And it came near ending, like the candle exposed to the gusts of
March, or a bubble that has danced and glistened its brief moment in
the sun. The boy who was too delicate for continued application to
books in Amherst, who had outgrown his strength so that his entrance
at Williams was postponed a year, whose backwardness at his books
through three colleges had been excused on the plea of ill-health, had
been living a pace too fast for a never strong and always rebellious
stomach. He was not intemperate in eating or drinking. It was not
excess in the first that ruined his digestion, nor intemperance in the
other that caused him to become a total abstainer from all kinds of
intoxicating beverages. He simply became a dyspeptic through a weird
devotion to the pieces and pastries "like Mary French used to make,"
and he became a teetotaler because the doctors mistook the cause of
his digestive distress.

The one thing of which Eugene Field was intemperate in Denver was of
himself. He gave to that delicate machinery we call the body no rest.
It was winter when he did not see the sun rise several times a week,
and the hours he stole from daylight for sleep were too few and
infrequent to make up for the nights he turned into day for work and
frolic. Thus it came about that in the summer of 1883 Eugene Field had
reached the end of his physical tether, and some change of scene was
necessary to save what was left of an impaired constitution.

From what has been said, it is easy to understand how Field's
abilities were diverted into a new and deeper channel in 1883.
"Stricken by dyspepsia," writes Mr. Cowen, "so severely that he fell
into a state of chronic depression and alarm, he eagerly accepted the
timely offer of Melville E. Stone, then surrounding himself with the
best talent he could procure in the West, of a virtually independent
desk on the Chicago Morning News. There he quickly regained health,
although he never recovered from his ailment."

How Mr. Stone came to be the "Fairy Godmother" to Field at this
turning-point in his life may be briefly related, and partly in Mr.
Stone's own words. He and Victor F. Lawson had made a surprising
success in establishing the Chicago Daily News, in December, 1875, the
first one-cent evening paper in Chicago. It is related that in the
early days of their enterprise they had to import the copper coins for
the use of their patrons--the nickle being up to that time the
smallest coin in use in the West, as the dime, or "short bit," was
until a more recent date on the Pacific coast. The Daily News was more
distinguished for its enterprise in gathering news and getting it out
on the street before the comparative blanket sheets of the early
eighties than for its editorial views or literary features.

In January, 1881, Messrs. Lawson & Stone conceived the idea of
printing a morning edition of their daily, to be called the Morning
News. As it was to be sold for two cents, it was their purpose to make
it better worth the price by a more exacting standard in the manner of
presenting its news and by the employment of special writers for its
editorial page. Just then, however, the crop of unemployed writers of
demonstrated ability or reputation was unusually short, and the
foundation of the Chicago Herald in May of the same year, by half a
dozen energetic journalists of local note, did not tend to overstock
the market with the talent sought for by Messrs. Lawson & Stone. It
was the rivalry between the Morning News (afterwards the Record) and
the Herald, that sent Mr. Stone so far afield as Denver for a man to
assist him in realizing the idea cherished by him and his associate.
An interesting story could be told of that rivalry, which has just
ended by the consolidation of the two papers (March, 1901) into the
Chicago Record-Herald, but only so much of it as affects the life and
movements of Eugene Field concerns us here.

In the early summer of 1883 Mr. Stone, who had been watching with
appreciative newspaper sense the popularity of the Tribune Primer
skits, cast an acquisitive net in the direction of Denver. He had
known Field in St. Louis, and describes their first meeting thus: "I
entered the office of the Dispatch to see Stillson Hutchins, the then
proprietor of that paper. It was in the forenoon, the busy hour for an
afternoon newspaper. A number of people were there, but as to the
proprietor, clerks, and customers, none was engaged in any business,
for, perched on the front counter, telling in a strangely resonant
voice a very funny story, sat Eugene Field. He was a striking figure,
tall, gaunt, almost bald (though little more than twenty years of
age), smooth shaven, and with a remarkable face, which lent itself to
every variety of emotion. In five minutes after our introduction I
knew him. There was no reserve about him. He was of the free,
whole-souled western type--that type which invites your confidence in
return for absolute and unstinted frankness."

Instead of broaching his purpose by letter, Mr. Stone slipped off to
Denver for a personal interview with his intended victim, and, as I
have already intimated, he arrived just in the nick of time to find
Field ready for any move that would take him away from the killing
kindness and exhilarating atmosphere of the Colorado capital. "The
engagement," says Mr. Stone, "was in itself characteristic. Field
wanted to join me. He was tired of Denver and mistrustful of the
limitations upon him there. But if he was to make a change, he must be
assured that it was to be for his permanent good. He was a newspaper
man not from choice, but because in that field he could earn his daily
bread. Behind all he was conscious of great capability--not vain or by
any means self-sufficient, but certain that by study and endeavor he
could take high rank in the literary world and could win a place of
lasting distinction. So he stipulated that he should be given a column
of his own, that he might stand or fall by the excellence of his own
work. Salary was less an object than opportunity."

Mr. Stone gave the necessary assurances, both as to salary--by no
means princely--and opportunity as large as Field had the genius to
fill. As quickly as he could, Field closed up his Denver connections
and prepared for the last move in his newspaper life. How he survived
the round of farewell luncheons, dinners, and midnight suppers given
for and by him was a source of mingled pride and amusement to the
chief sufferer. It was with feelings of genuine regret that he turned
his back on Denver and gave up the jovial and congenial association
with the Tribune and its staff. Although its chief editorial writer,
O.H. Rothacker, had a national reputation, Field was the star of the
company that gave to the Tribune its unique reputation among the
journals of the West, and all classes of citizens felt that something
picturesquely characteristic of the liberty and good-fellowship of
their bustling town was being taken from them. Field's departure meant
the closing of the hobble-de-hoy period in the life of Denver as well
as in his own. His life there had been exactly suited to his
temperament, to the times, and to the environment. It is doubtful if
it would have been possible to repeat such an experience in Denver
five years later, and it is certain that in five years Field had
developed whole leagues of character beyond its repetition.

It was in August, 1883, that Eugene Field, with his family and all his
personal effects, except his father's library, moved to Chicago. That
library was destined to remain safely stored in St. Louis for many
years before he felt financially able to afford it shelter and
quarters commensurate with its intrinsic value and wealth of
associations. So far in his newspaper work Field had little time and
less inclination to learn from books. All stories of his being a close
and omnivorous student of books, previous to his coming to Chicago,
are not consistent with the facts. He was learning all about humanity
by constant attrition with mankind. He was taking in knowledge of the
human passions and emotions at first hand and getting very little
assistance through pouring over the printed observations of others. He
was not a classical scholar in the sense of having acquired any
mastery of or familiarity with the great Latin or Greek writers.
Language, all languages, was a study that was easy to him, and he
acquired facility in translating any foreign tongue, living or dead,
with remarkable readiness by the aid of a dictionary and a nimble wit.
Student in St. Louis, Kansas City, or Denver he was not, any more than
at Williams, Galesburg, or Columbia. But I have no doubt that when
Eugene Field left Denver he had a fixed intention, as suggested in the
words of Mr. Stone, by study and endeavor to take high rank in the
literary world and to "win a place of lasting distinction."

When he came to Chicago his family consisted of Mrs. Field and their
four children, all, happily for him, in vigorous health, and, so far
as the children were concerned, endowed with appetites and a digestion
the envy and despair of their father. "Trotty," the eldest, was by
this time a girl of eight, Melvin a stout sober youth of six, "Pinny"
(Eugene, Jr.) a shrewd little rascal of four, and "Daisy" (Fred), his
mother's boy, a large-eyed, sturdy youngster of nearly three masterful
summers. The family was quickly settled in a small but convenient flat
on Chicago Avenue, three blocks from the Lake, and a little more than
a mile's walk from the office, a distance that never tempted Field to
exercise his legs except on one occasion, when it afforded him a
chance to astonish the natives of North Chicago. It occurred to him
one bleak day in December that it was time the people knew there was a
stranger in town. So he arrayed himself in a long linen duster,
buttoned up from knees to collar, put an old straw hat on his head,
and taking a shabby book under one arm and a palm-leaf fan in his
hand, he marched all the way down Clark Street, past the City Hall, to
the office. Everywhere along the route he was greeted with jeers or
pitying words, as his appearance excited the mirth or commiseration of
the passers-by. When he reached the entrance to the Daily News office
he was followed by a motley crowd of noisy urchins whom he dismissed
with a grimace and the cabalistic gesture with which Nicholas Koorn
perplexed and repulsed Antony Van Corlear from the battlement of the
fortress of Rensellaerstein. Then closing the door in their astonished
faces, he mounted the two flights of stairs to the editorial rooms,
where he recounted, with the glee of the boy he was in such things,
the success of his joke.

Trotty was his favorite child, probably because she was the only girl,
and he was very fond of little girls. Even then she favored her father
in complexion and features more than any of the boys, having the same
large innocent-looking blue eyes. But even she had to serve his
disposition to extract humor from every situation. Before Field had
been in Chicago two months he realized that he had made a serious
miscalculation in impressing Mr. Stone with the thought that salary
was less an object to him than opportunity. Opportunity had not
sufficed to meet Field's bills in Denver, and the promised salary,
that seemed temptingly sufficient at the distance of a thousand miles,
proved distressingly inadequate to feed and clothe three lusty boys
and one growing girl in the bracing atmosphere of Chicago. So it was
not surprising that when Trotty asked her father to give her an
appropriate text to recite in Sunday-school, he schooled her to rise
and declaim with great effect:

"The Lord will provide, my father can't!"

The means Field took to bring the insufficiency of his salary to the
attention of Mr. Stone were as ingenious as they were frequent. I
don't think he would have appreciated an increase of salary that came
without some exercise of his wayward fancy for making mirth out of any
embarrassing financial condition.

It is more than probable that Eugene Field chose Chicago for the place
of his permanent abode after deliberately weighing the advantages and
limitations of its situation with reference to his literary career. He
felt that it was as far east as he could make his home without coming
within the influence of those social and literary conventions that
have squeezed so much of genuine American flavor out of our
literature. He had received many tempting offers from New York
newspapers before coming to Chicago, and after our acquaintance I do
not believe a year went by that Field did not decline an engagement,
personally tendered by Mr. Dana, to go to the New York Sun, at a
salary nearly double that he was receiving here. But, as he told
Julian Ralph on one occasion, he would not live in, or write for, the
East. For, as he put it, there was more liberty and fewer literary
"fellers" out West, and a man had more chance to be judged on his
merits and "grow up with the country."

The Chicago to which Eugene Field came in 1883 was a city of something
over six hundred thousand inhabitants, and pulsing with active
political and commercial life. It had been rebuilt, physically, after
the fire with money borrowed from the East, and was almost too busy
paying interest and principal to have much time to read books, much
less make them, except in the wholly manufacturing sense. It had
already become a great publishing centre, but not of the books that
engage the critical intelligence of the public. The feverish devotion
of its citizens to business during the day-time drove them to bed at
an unseasonably early hour, or to places of amusement, from which they
went so straight home after the performances that there was not a
single fashionable restaurant in the city catering to supper parties
after the play. Whether this condition, making theatre-going less
expensive here than in other large cities, conduced to the result or
not, it was a fact that in the early eighties Chicago was the best
paying city on the continent for theatrical companies of all degrees
of merit. The losses which the best artists and plays almost
invariably reported of New York engagements were frequently recouped
in Chicago.

Chicago never took kindly to grand opera, and probably for the same
reason that it patronized the drama. It sought entertainment and
amusement, and grand opera is a serious business. As Field said of
himself, Chicago liked music "limited"; and its liking was generally
limited to light or comic opera and the entertainments of the Apollo
Club, until Theodore Thomas, with admirable perseverance, aided by the
pocket-books of public-spirited citizens rather than by enthusiastic
music-lovers, succeeded in cultivating the study and love of music up
to a standard above that of any other American city, with the possible
exception of Boston.

I have referred to the theatrical and musical conditions in Chicago in
1883, because it was in them that Eugene Field found his most
congenial atmosphere and associations when he came hither that year.
These were the chief reminders of the life he had left behind when he
turned his back on Denver, and I need scarcely say that they continued
to afford him the keenest pleasure and the most unalloyed recreation
to the end.

Architecturally, Chicago was no more beautiful and far less impressive
than it is now. It could not boast half a dozen buildings, public or
private, worthy of a second glance. Its tallest skyscraper stopped at
nine stories, and that towered a good two stories over its nearest
rival. The bridges across the river connecting the three divisions of
the city were turned slowly and laboriously by hand, and the joke was
current that a Chicagoan of those days could never hear a bell ring
without starting on a run to avoid being bridged. The cable-car was an
experiment on one line, and all the other street-cars were operated
with horses and stopped operation at 12.20 A.M., as Field often
learned to his infinite disgust, for he hated walking worse than he
did horses or horse-cars. In many ways Chicago reminded Field of
Denver, and in no respect more than in its primitive ways, its assumed
airs of importance, and its township politics. Despite its forty odd
years of incorporated life, Chicago, the third city of the United
States, was still a village, and Field insisted on regarding it as
such.

Transplanted from the higher altitude at the foot of the Rockies to
the level of Lake Michigan, I think nothing about Chicago struck him
more forcibly than the harshness of its variable summer climate.
Scarcely a week went by that his column did not contain some reference
in paragraph or verse to its fickle alarming changes. He had not
enough warm blood back of that large gray face to rejoice when the
mercury dropped in an hour, as it often did, from 88 or 90 degrees to
56 or 60 degrees. Such changes, which came with the whirl of the
weather vane, as the wind shifted from its long sweep over the
prairies, all aquiver with the heat, to a strong blow over hundreds of
miles of water whose temperature in dog days never rose above 60
degrees, provoked from him verses such as these, written in the
respective months they celebrate in the year 1884:

  _CHICAGO IN JULY

  The white-capp'd waves of Michigan break
    On the beach where the jacksnipes croon--
  The breeze sweeps in from the purple lake
    And tempers the heat of noon:
  In yonder bush, where the berries grow,
    The Peewee tunefully sings,
  While hither and thither the people go,
    Attending to matters and things.

  There is cool for all in the busy town--
    For the girls in their sealskin sacques--
  For the dainty dudes idling up and down,
    With overcoats on their backs;
  And the horse-cars lurch and the people run
    And the bell at the bridgeway rings--
  But never perspires a single one,
    Attending to matters and things.

  What though the shivering mercury wanes--
    What though the air be chill?
  The beauteous Chloe never complains
    As she roams by the purpling rill;
  And the torn-tit coos to its gentle mate,
    As Chloe industriously swings
  With Daphnis, her beau, on the old front gate,
    Attending to matters and things.

  When the moon comes up, and her cold, pale light
    Coquettes with the freezing streams,
  What care these twain for the wintry night,
    Since Chloe is wrapt in dreams,
  And Daphnis utters no plaint of woe
    O'er his fair jack full on kings,
  But smiles that fortune should bless him so,
    Attending to matters and things.

  CHICAGO IN AUGUST

  When Cynthia's father homeward brought
    An India mull for her to wear,
  How were her handsome features fraught
    With radiant smiles beyond compare!
  And to her bosom Cynthia strained
    Her pa with many a fond caress--
  And ere another week had waned
    That mull was made into a dress.

  And Cynthia blooming like a rose
    Which any swain might joy to cull,
  Cried "How I'll paralyze the beaux
    When I put on my India mull!"
  Now let the heat of August day
    Be what it may--I'll not complain--
  I'll wear the mull, and put away
    This old and faded-out delaine!

  Despite her prayers the heated spell
    Descended not on mead and wold--
  Instead of turning hot as--well,
    The weather turned severely cold,
  The Lake dashed up its icy spray
    And breathed its chill o'er all the plain--
  Cynthia stays at home all day
    And wears the faded-out delaine!

  So is Chicago at this time--
    She stands where icy billows roll--
  She wears her beauteous head sublime,
    While cooling zephyrs thrill her soul.
  But were she tempted to complain,
    Methinks she'd bid the zephyrs lull,
  That she might doff her old delaine
    And don her charming India mull!_

But there was another feature of Chicago that from the day of his
arrival to the day of his departure to that land where dust troubleth
not and soot and filth are unknown, filled his New England soul and
nostrils with ineffable disgust. He never became reconciled to a
condition in which the motto _in hoc signo vinces_ on a bar of
soap had no power to inspire a ray of hope. He had not been here a
month before his muse began to wield the "knotted lash of sarcasm"
above the strenuous but dirty back of Chicago after this fashion:

  _Brown, a Chicago youth, did woo
    A beauteous Detroit belle,
  And for a month--or, maybe, two--
    He wooed the lovely lady well.

  But, oh! one day--one fatal day--
    As mused the belle with naught to do,
  A local paper came her way
    And, drat the luck! she read it through.

  She read of alleys black with mire--
    A river with a putrid breath--
  Streets reeking with malarial ire--
    Inviting foul disease and death.

  Then, with a livid snort she called
    Her trembling lover to her side--
  "How dare you, wretched youth," she bawled,
    "Ask me to be your blushing bride?

  Go back unto your filthy town,
    And never by my side be seen,
  Nor hope to make me Mrs. Brown,
    Until you've got your city clean!"_

Eugene Field made his first appearance in the column of the Morning
News August 15th, 1883, in the most modest way, with a scant column of
paragraphs such as he had contributed to the Denver Tribune, headed
"Current Gossip" instead of "Odds and Ends." The heading was only a
makeshift until a more distinctive one could be chosen in its stead.
On August 31st, 1883, the title "Sharps and Flats" was hoisted to the
top of Field's column, and there it remained over everything he wrote
for more than a dozen years.

There have been many versions of how Field came to hit upon this
title, so appropriate to what appeared under it. The most ingenious of
these was that evolved by John B. Livingstone in "An Appreciation" of
Eugene Field, published in the Interior shortly after his death. In
what, on the whole, is probably the best analysis of Field's genius
and work extant, Mr. Livingstone goes on to say:

"What Virgil was to Tennyson, Horace was to Field in one aspect at
least of the Venusian's character. He could say of his affection for
the protegé of Mæcenas, as the laureate said of his for the 'poet of
the happy Tityrus,' 'I that loved thee since my day began.' It has
been suggested that he owed to a clever farce-comedy of the early
eighties the caption of the widely-read column of journalistic epigram
and persiflage, which he filled with machine-like regularity and the
versatility of the brightest French journalism for ten years. I prefer
to think that he took it, or his cue for it, from a line of Dr.
Phillips Francis's translation of the eighth of the first book of
Horatian Satires:

  _Not to be tedious or repeat
  How Flats and Sharps in concert meet._

"Field's knowledge of Horace and of his translators was complete,
probably not equalled by that of any other member of his craft. He
made a specialty of the study, a hobby of it. And it is more likely,
as it is more gratifying, to believe that he caught his famous caption
(Sharps and Flats) from a paraphrase of his favorite classic poet than
from the play bill of a modern and ephemeral farce."

Unfortunately for this pretty bit of speculation, which Field would
have enjoyed as another evidence of his skill in imposing upon the
elect of criticism, it has no foundation in fact, and its premises of
Field's intimate knowledge and devotion to Horace anticipates the
period of his Horatian "hobby," as Mr. Livingstone so well styles it,
by at least five years. It was not until the winter of 1888-89 that
paraphrases of Horace began to stud his column with the first-fruits
of his tardy wandering and philandering with Dr. Frank W. Reilly
through the groves and meadows of the Sabine farm. But that is another
story.

According to M.E. Stone, the title of the column which Field established
when he came to the Chicago Morning News was borrowed from the name of
a play, "Sharps and Flats," written by Clay M. Greene and myself, and
played with considerable success throughout the United States by
Messrs. Robson and Crane.

[Illustration: Robson. Crane.--Crane. Robson.
ROBSON AND CRANE IN THE PLAY "SHARPS AND FLATS"]

It may be set down here as well as elsewhere, and still quoting Mr.
Stone, that not only did Field write nearly every line that ever
appeared in the "Sharps and Flats" column, but that practically
everything that he ever wrote, after 1883, appeared at one time or
another in that column.

To which it may be added that it has been the custom of those writing
of Eugene Field to surround and endow him throughout his career with
the acquirement of scholarship, and pecuniary independence, which he
never possessed before the last six years of his life.

Practically all Field's scholarship and mental equipment, so far as
they were obtained from books, were acquired after he came to Chicago,
and he was never lifted above the ragged edge of impecuniosity until
he began to receive royalties from the popular edition of "A Little
Book of Western Verse" and "A Little Book of Profitable Tales." His
domestic life was spent in flats or rented houses until less than five
months before his death. The photographs taken a few months before his
death of Eugene Field's home and the beautiful library in which he
wrote are ghastly travesties on the nomadic character of his domestic
arrangements for many years before June, 1895--dreams for which he
longed, but only lived to realize for four brief months. All the best
Field wrote previous to 1890--and it includes the best he ever wrote,
except "The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac"--was written in a room to
which many a box stall is palatial, and his sole library was a
dilapidated edition of Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations," Cruden's
"Concordance of the Bible," and a well-thumbed copy of the King James
version of the Bible. He detested the revised version. The genius of
this man at this time did not depend on scholarship or surroundings,
but on the companionship of his fellows and the unconventionality of
his home life.



CHAPTER XII

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS


It was in the month of September, after Field's coming to the Morning
News, that a managerial convulsion in the office of the Chicago Herald
threw the majority of its editorial corps and special writers across
Fifth Avenue into the employ of Messrs. Lawson & Stone. They were at
first distributed between the morning and evening editions of the
News, my first work being for the latter, to which I contributed
editorial paragraphs for one week, when Mr. Stone concluded to make me
his chief editorial writer on the Morning News. This brought me into
immediate personal and professional relations with Field. Our rooms
adjoined, being separated by a board partition that did not reach to
the ceiling and over which for four years I was constantly bombarded
with missives and missiles from my ever-restless neighbor. Among the
other recruits from the Herald at that time was John F. Ballantyne,
who, from being the managing editor of that paper, was transferred to
the position of chief executive of the Morning News under Mr. Stone.
One of the first duties of his position was to read Field's copy very
closely, to guard against the publication of such bitter innuendoes
and scandalous personalities as had kept the Denver Tribune in
constant hot water between warlike descents upon the editor and costly
appeals to the courts. Mr. Stone wanted all the racy wit that had
distinguished Field's contributions to the Tribune without the
attendant crop of libel suits, and he relied on Ballantyne's Scotch
caution to put a query mark against every paragraph that squinted at a
breach of propriety or a breach of the peace, or that invited a libel
suit. There was no power of final rejection in Ballantyne's blue
pencil. That was left for Mr. Stone's own decision. It was well that
it was so, for Mr. Ballantyne's appreciation of humor was so rigid
that, had it been the arbiter as to which of Field's paragraphs should
be printed, I greatly fear me there would often have been a dearth of
gayety in the "Sharps and Flats." The relations in which Ballantyne
and I found ourselves to Field can best be told in the language of Mr.
Cowen, whose own intimate relations with Field antedated ours and
continued to the end:

"Coming immediately under the influence of John Ballantyne and Slason
Thompson, respectively managing editor and chief editorial writer of
the News--the one possessed of Scotch gravity and the other of fine
literary taste and discrimination--the character of Field's work
quickly modified, and his free and easy, irregular habits succumbed to
studious application and methodical labors. Ballantyne used the blue
pencil tenderly, first attacking Field's trick fabrications and
suppressing the levity which found vent in preceding years in such
pictures of domestic felicity as:

  _Baby and I the weary night
  Are taking a walk for his delight,
  I drowsily stumble o'er stool and chair
  And clasp the babe with grim despair,
             For he's got the colic
             And paregoric
  Don't seem to ease my squalling heir.

  Baby and I in the morning gray
  Are griping and squalling and walking away--
  The fire's gone out and I nearly freeze--
  There's a smell of peppermint on the breeze.
             Then Mamma wakes
             And the baby takes
  And says, "Now cook the breakfast please."_

"The every-day practical joker and entertaining mimic of Denver
recoiled in Chicago from the reputation of a Merry Andrew, the
prospect of gaining which he disrelished and feared. He preferred to
invent paragraphic pleasantries for the world at large and indulge his
personal humor in the office, at home, or with personal friends.
Gayety was his element. He lived, loved, inspired, and translated it,
in the doing which latter he wrote, without strain or embarrassment,
reams of prose satire, _contes risqués_, and Hudibrastic verse."

It is a singular illustration of the irony and mutations of life that
one of the early paragraphs Field wrote for the "Sharps and Flats"
column was inspired by what was supposed to be a fatal assault on his
friend by a notorious political ruffian in Leadville. The paragraph,
which appeared on September 12th, 1883, is interesting as a specimen
of Field's style at that period, and as showing in what esteem he held
Cowen, with whom he had been associated on the Denver Tribune and
whose name recurs in these pages from time to time:

  Edward D. Cowen, the city editor of the Leadville Herald, who was
  murderously assaulted night before last by a desperado named Joy, was
  one of the brightest newspaper men in the West. He came originally
  from Massachusetts, and has relatives living in the southern part of
  Illinois. He was about thirty years of age. He went to Leadville
  about three months ago to work on ex-Senator Tabor's paper, the
  Herald, and was doing excellently well. He was a protegé, to a
  certain extent, of Mrs. Tabor No. 2. She admired his brilliancy, and
  volunteered to help him in any possible way. It was speaking of him
  that she said: "My life will henceforth be devoted to assisting
  worthy young men. In life we must prepare for death, and how can we
  better prepare for death than by helping our fellow-creatures? Alas!"
  she added with a sad, sad sigh, "alas! death is, after all, what we
  live for." Young Cowen had all the social graces men and women
  admire; he was bright in intellect, great in heart, and hearty of
  manner. The loss of no young man we know of would be more deplored
  than his demise.

Cowen never wholly recovered from the effects of his encounter with
Joy, but he survived to joke with Field over the past tense in which
this paragraph is couched, and to afford me valuable assistance in
completing this character-study of our friend.

I have already referred to the "box stall" in which Field sawed his
daily wood, as he was accustomed to call his work. As the day of
thinking that any old pine table, with a candle box for a chair,
crowded off in any sort of a dingy garret, was good enough for the
writers who contributed "copy" for a newspaper, has been succeeded by
an era of quarter-sawed oak desks, swivel chairs, electric light, and
soap and water in editorial quarters throughout the country, let me
attempt to describe the original editorial rooms of the Daily News less
than twenty years ago. The various departments of the paper occupied
what had been three four-story, twenty-five-foot buildings. The floors
of no two of these buildings above the first story were on the same
level. They had evidently been originally built for lodging houses. The
presses and storerooms for the rolls of paper filled the cellars. The
business office occupied one store, which was flanked on either side by
stores that would have been more respectable had they been rented as
saloons, which they were not, because of the conscientious scruples of
Messrs. Lawson & Stone. Parts of two of the buildings were still rented
as lodgings. Up one flight of stairs of the centre building, in the
front, Mr. Stone had his office, which was approached through what
had been a hall bedroom. His room was furnished with black walnut, and
a gloomy and oppressive air of mystery. Mr. Stone had the genius and
the appearance of a chief inquisitor. He was as alert, daring, and
enterprising an editor as the West has ever produced.

The rear of this twenty-five-foot building was given up to the library
and to George E. Plumbe, the editor for many years of the Daily News
Almanac and Political Register. The library consisted of files of
nearly all the Chicago dailies, of Congressional Records and reports,
the leading almanacs, the "Statesman's Year Book," several editions of
"Men of the Times," half a dozen encyclopaedias, the Imperial and
Webster's dictionaries, a few other text books, and about two inches of
genuine Chicago soot which incrusted everything. The theory advanced by
Field's friend, William F. Poole, then of the Public Library and later
of the Newberry Library, that dust is the best preservative of books,
rendered it necessary that the only washstand accessible to the Morning
News should be located in the library. None of us ever came out of that
library as we went in--the one clean roller a day forbade it. Nothing
but the conscientious desire to embellish our "copy" with enough facts
and references to make a showing of erudition ever induced Field or any
of the active members of the editorial staff to borrow the library key
from Ballantyne to break in upon the soporific labors of Mr. Plumbe.
Here the editorial conferences, which Field has illustrated, were held.

[Illustration: DAILY NEWS EDITORIAL COUNCIL OF WAR.
"Now, boys, which point shall we move on?"
_From a drawing by Eugene Field._]

Before quitting the library, which has since grown, in new quarters, to
be one of the most comprehensive newspaper libraries in the country, I
cannot forbear printing one of Field's choice bits at the expense of
the occupants of this floor of the Daily News office. It has no title,
but is supposed to be a soliloquy of Mr. Stone's:

  _I wish my men were more like Plumbe
    And not so much like me--
  I hate to see the paper hum
    When it should stupid be.
  For when a lot of wit and rhyme
    Appears upon our pages,
  I know too well my men in time
    Will ask a raise in wages.

  I love to sit around and chin
    With folk of doubtful fame,
  But oh, it seems a dreadful sin
    When others do the same;
  For others gad to get the news
    To use in their profession,
  But anything I get I use
    For purpose of suppression._

Field's poetical license here does injustice to Mr. Stone, whose
inquisitions generally concerned matters of public or political concern
and whose practice of the editorial art of suppression was never
exercised with any other motive than the public good or the sound
discretion of the editor, who knew that the libel suits most to be
feared were those where the truth about some scalawag was printed
without having the affidavits in the vault and a double hitch on the
witnesses.

Up another long, narrow, dark stairway was the office of Mr.
Ballantyne, the managing editor. He occupied what had been a rear hall
bedroom, 7 x 10 feet. He was six feet two tall, and if he had not been
of an orderly nature, there would not have been room in that back
closet, with its one window and flat-topped desk, for his feet and the
retriever, Snip--the only dog Field ever thoroughly detested.
Ballantyne's room was evidently arranged to prevent any private
conferences with the managing editor. It boasted a second chair, but
when the visitor accepted the rare invitation to be seated, his knees
prevented the closing of the door. The remainder of this floor of the
centre building and the whole of the same floor of the next building
south were taken up by the composing room. A door had been cut in the
wall of the building to the north, just by Mr. Ballantyne's room,
through which, and down three steps, was the space devoted to the
editorial and reportorial staff of the Morning News. The front end of
this space was partitioned off into three rooms, 7 x 12 feet each.
Field claimed one of these boxes, the dramatic critic and solitary
artist of the establishment one, and Morgan Bates, the exchange editor,
and I were sandwiched in between them. The rest of the floor was given
up to the city staff. The telegraph editor had a space railed off for
his accommodation in the composing room. If a fire had broken out in
the central building in those days, along about ten P.M., the
subsequent proceedings of Eugene Field and of others then employed on
the Morning News would probably not have been of further interest,
except to the coroner.

Of the three rooms mentioned, Field's was the only one having any
pretensions to decoration. Its floor and portions of the wall were
stained and grained a rich brown with the juice of the tobacco plant.
In one corner Field had a cupboard-shaped pigeon-file, alphabetically
arranged, for the clippings he daily made--almost all relating some bit
of personal gossip about people in the public eye. Scattered about the
floor were dumb-bells, Indian clubs, and other gymnastic apparatus
which Field never touched and which the janitor had orders not to
disturb in their disorder. Above Field's desk for some time hung a
sheet of tin, which he used as a call bell or to drown the noise of the
office boy poking the big globe stove which was the primitive, but
generally effective, way of heating the whole floor in winter. That it
was not always effective, even after steam was introduced, may be
inferred from the following importunate note written by Field to
Collins Shackelford, the cashier, on one occasion when the former had
been frozen almost numb:

  DEAR MR. SHACKELFORD: There has been no steam in the third-floor
  editorial rooms this afternoon. Somebody must be responsible for this
  brutal neglect, which is of so frequent occurrence that forbearance
  has ceased to be a virtue. I appeal to you in the hope that you will
  be able to correct the outrage. Does it not seem an injustice that
  the writers of this paper should be put at the mercy of sub-cellar
  hands, who are continually demonstrating their incompetency for the
  work which they are supposed to do and for which they are paid?

  Yours truly,

  EUGENE FIELD.
  January 11, 1887.

To those familiar with the internal economy of newspaper offices it
will be no news to learn that death by freezing in the editorial rooms
would be regarded as a matter of small moment compared to a temperature
in the press room that chilled the printing ink in the fountains to the
slow consistency of molasses in January.

To return to the furnishing of the room in which Field did the greater
part of his work for the Morning News. Originally it did not boast a
desk. A pine table with two drawers was considered good enough for the
most brilliant paragrapher in the United States, and, for all he cared,
so it was. He had no special use for a desk, for at that time he
carried his library in his head and wrote on his lap. I am happy in
being able to present in corroboration of this a study of Eugene Field
at work, drawn from life by his friend, J.L. Sclanders, then artist
for the News, and also the copy of a blue print photograph, on the back
of which Field wrote, "And they call this art!"

[Illustration: FIELD AT WORK.
_The Caricature from a Drawing by Sclanders._]

In explanation of these pictures, both true to life when made, it
should be said that, except when there was no steam on, Field almost
invariably wrote in his shirt-sleeves, generally with his waistcoat
unbuttoned and his collar off, and always with his feet crossed across
the corner of the desk or table. One of the first things he did on
coming to the office was to take off his shoes and put on a pair of
slippers with no counters around the heels, so that they slapped along
the floor as he walked and hung from his toes as he wrote.

Why Field always rolled up the bottoms of his trousers on coming into
the office and turned them down when he went out, I do not remember to
have known. Probably it was partly on account of his contradictory
nature, and partly to save the trousers from dragging, for the
unloosening of his "vest" was always attended by the unbuttoning of his
suspenders to permit of his sitting with greater ease upon the curve of
his spine. But why he should have rolled his trousers half way up to
the knee passes my comprehension, as the reason has passed from my
memory, if I ever knew it.

For a long time a rusty old carpenter's saw hung on the wall of his
"boudoir." Beside it were some burglars' implements, and subsequently a
convict's suit hanging to a peg excited the wonder of the curious and
the sarcasm of the ribald.

The table in Field's room, besides serving as a resting place for his
feet, was covered with the exchanges which were passed along to him
after they had passed under the scrutiny and shears of the exchange
editor. When Field had gone through them with his rusty scissors they
were only fit for the floor, where he strewed them with a riotous hand.

If the reader has followed thus far he has a tolerably fair notion of
the unpropitious and eccentric surroundings amid which Field worked
immediately after coming to Chicago. Out of this strange environment
came as variegated a column of satire, wit, and personal persiflage as
ever attracted and fascinated the readers of a daily newspaper.

And now of the man himself as I first saw him. He was at that time in
his thirty-third year, my junior by a year. If Eugene Field had ever
stood up to his full height he would have measured slightly over six
feet. But he never did and was content to shamble through life,
appearing two inches shorter than he really was. Shamble is perhaps
hardly the word to use. But neither glide nor shuffle fits his gait any
more accurately. It was simply a walk with the least possible waste of
energy. It fitted Dr. Holmes's definition of walking as forward motion
to prevent falling. And yet Field never gave you the impression that he
was about to topple over. His legs always acted as if they were weary
and would like to lean their master up against something. As to what
that something might be, he would probably have answered, "Pie."

Field's arms were long, ending in well-shaped hands, which were
remarkably deft and would have been attractive had he not at some time
spoiled the fingers by the nail-biting habit. His shoulders were broad
and square, and not nearly as much rounded as might have been expected
from his position in writing. It was not the stoop of his shoulders
that detracted from his height, but a certain settling together, if I
may so say, of the couplings of his backbone. He was large-boned
throughout, but without the muscles that should have gone with such a
frame. He would probably have described himself as tall, big, gangling.
He had no personal taste or pride in clothing, and never to my
knowledge came across a tailor who took enough interest in his clothes
to give him the benefit of a good fit or to persuade him to choose a
becoming color. For this reason he looked best-dressed in a dress suit,
which he never wore when there was any possibility of avoiding it. His
favorite coat was a sack, cut straight, and made from some cloth in
which the various shades of yellow, green, and brown struggled for
mastery.

But it was of little consequence how Field's body was clothed. He wore
a 7 3-8 hat and there was a head and face under it that compelled a
second glance and repaid scrutiny in any company. The photographs of
Field are numerous, and some of them preserve a fair impression of his
remarkable physiognomy. None of the paintings of him that I have seen
do him justice, and the etchings are not much of an improvement on the
paintings. The best photographs only fail because they cannot retain
the peculiar deathlike pallor of the skin and the clear, innocent china
blue of the large eyes. These eyes were deep set under two arching
brows, and yet were so large that their deep setting was not at first
apparent. Field's nose was a good size and well shaped, with an unusual
curve of the nostrils strangely complementary to the curve of the arch
above the eyes. There was a mole on one cheek, which Field always
insisted on turning to the camera and which the photographer very
generally insisted on retouching out in the finishing. Field was wont
to say that no photograph of him was genuine unless that mole was
"blown in on the negative." The photographs all give him a good chin,
in which there was merely the suggestion of that cleft which he held
marred the strength of George William Curtis's lower jaw.

The feature of his face, if such it can be called, where all portraits
failed, was the hair. It was so fine that there would not have been
much of it had it been thick, and as it was quite thin there was only a
shadow between it and baldness. Even its color was elusive--a cross
between brown and dove color. Only those who knew Field before he came
to Chicago have any impression as to the color of the thatch upon that
head which never during our acquaintance stooped to a slouch hat. This
typical head gear of the West had no attraction for him. The formal
black or brown derby for winter and the seasonable straw hat for summer
seemed necessary to tone down the frivolity of his neckties, which were
chosen with a cowboy's gaudy taste. To the day of his death Field
delighted to present neckties, generally of the made-up variety, to his
friends, which, it is needless to say, they never failed to accept and
seldom wore. Often in the afternoon as it neared two o'clock he would
stick his head above the partition between our rooms and say, "Come
along, Nompy" (his familiar address for the writer). "Come along and
I'll buy you a new necktie."

"The dickens take your neckties!" or something like it, would be my
reply.

Whereupon, with the philosophy of which he never wearied, Field would
rejoin, "Very well, if you won't let me buy you a necktie, you must buy
me a lunch," and off we would march to Henrici's coffee-house around
the corner on Madison Street, generally gathering Ballantyne and Snip
in our train as we passed the kennel of the managing editor of what was
to be the newspaper with the largest morning circulation in Chicago.



CHAPTER XIII

RELATIONS WITH STAGE FOLK


Reference has been made to Field's predilection for the theatrical
profession and to his fondness for the companionship of those who had
attained prominence in it. During his stay in Denver he had established
friendly, and in some instances intimate, relations with the star
actors who included that city in the circuit of their yearly
pilgrimages. The story of how he ingratiated himself into the good
graces of Christine Nilsson, at the expense of a rival newspaper, may
be of interest before taking a final farewell of the episodes connected
with his life in Colorado. When Madame Nilsson was journeying overland
in her special drawing-room car with Henry Abbey, Marcus Meyer, and
Charles Mathews, Field wrote to Omaha, anticipating their arrival
there, to make inquiry as to how the party employed the dull hours of
travel so as to interest the erratic prima donna. It was his intention
to prepare a newspaper sketch of the trip.

The reply was barren of incident, save a casual allusion to certain
sittings at the American game of poker, in which the Swedish songstress
had the advantage of the policy or the luck of her companions. Out of
this inch of cloth Field manufactured something better than the
proverbial ell of very interesting gossip. The reconstructed item
reached San Francisco as soon as Madame Nilsson, and was copied from
the Tribune into the coast papers on the eve of her opening concert.
Now, the madame thought that the American world looked askance at a
woman who gambled, and when the article was kindly brought to her
attention she flew into one of those rages which, report has said, were
the real tragedies of her life. When returning overland to Denver,
Abbey telegraphed ahead to Field, and he, with Cowen, went up to
Cheyenne to meet the party. On entering the drawing-room car the
visitors were hurried into Abbey's compartment with an air of
bewildering mystery, and were there informed in whispers that Madame
Nilsson was furious against the Tribune and would never forgive anybody
attached to it.

"Oh, I'll arrange that," said Field. "Don't announce us, but let us
call on the madame and be introduced."

After some further parley this was done, and this is how he was
greeted.

"Meestair Field--zee--T-r-ee-bune," Madame Nilsson exclaimed hotly. "I
prefair not zee acquaintance of your joor-nal."

"Excuse me, madam," persisted Field, blandly and with grave
earnestness, "I think from what Mr. Abbey has told us that you are bent
on doing the Tribune and its staff a great injustice. It was not the
Tribune that published the poker story that caused you so much just
annoyance. It was our rival, the Republican, a very disreputable
newspaper, which is edited by persons without the least instinct of
gentlemen and with no consideration for the feelings of a lady of your
refined sensibilities."

At this Madame Nilsson thawed visibly, and promptly appealed to Abbey,
Mathews, and Mayer to learn if she had been misinformed. They, of
course, fell in with Field's story, and upon being assured that she was
in error the madame's anger relaxed, and she was soon holding her sides
from laughter at Field's drolleries. The result was that the innocent
Republican staff could not get within speaking distance of Madame
Nilsson during her stay in Denver. The second night of her visit being
Christmas eve, the madame held her Christmas tree in the Windsor Hotel,
with Field acting the rôle of Santa Claus and the Tribune staff playing
the parts of good little boys, while their envious rivals of the
Republican were not invited to share in the crumbs that fell from that
Christmas supper-table.

"I have been a great theatre-goer," says Field in his "Auto-Analysis."
And it may be doubted if any writer of our time repaid the stage as
generously for the pleasure he received from those who walked its
boards before and behind the footlights. No better analysis of his
relations to the profession has been made than that from the pen of his
friend Cowen:

"At the very outset of his newspaper career," says he, "Field's
inclinations led him to the society of the green-room. Of western
critics and reviewers he was the first favorite among dramatic people.
Helpful, kind, and enthusiastic, he was rarely severe and never
captious. Though in no sense an analyst, he was an amusing reviewer
and a great advertiser. Once he conceived an attachment for an actor
or actress, his generous mind set about bringing such fortunate person
more conspicuously into public notice. Emma Abbott's baby, which she
never had, and of whose invented existence he wrote at least a bookful
of startling and funny adventures; Francis Wilson's legs; Sol Smith
Russell's Yankee yarns; Billy Crane's droll stories; Modjeska's spicy
witticisms--these and other jocular pufferies, quoted and read
everywhere with relish for years--were among his hobby-horse
performances begun at that time (1881) and continued long after he had
settled down in the must and rust of bibliomania."

For a long time not a week went by that Field did not invent some
marvellous tale respecting Emma Abbott, once the most popular
light-opera prima donna of the American stage--every yarn calculated
to widen the circle of her popularity. Upon an absolutely fictitious
autobiography of Miss Abbott he once exhausted the fertility of his
fancy in the form of a review,[1] which went the rounds of the press
and which, on her death, contributed many a sober paragraph to the
newspaper reviews of her life.

    [1] Vide Appendix.

To the fame of another opera singer of those days he contributed, by
paragraphs of an entirely different flavor from those that extolled
the Puritan virtues and domestic felicities of Miss Abbott (Mrs.
Wetherell), as may be judged from the following "Love Plaint," written
shortly after he came to Chicago:

  _The tiny birdlings in the tree
    Their tuneful tales of love relate--
  Alas, no lover comes to me--
    I flock alone, without a mate.

  Mine eyes are hot with bitter tears,
    My soul disconsolately yearns--
  But, ah, no wooing knight appears--
    In vain my quenchless passion burns.

  Unheeded are my glowing charms--
    No heroes claim a moonlight tryst--
  All empty are my hungry arms--
    My virgin cheeks are all unkissed.

  Oh, would some cavalier might haste
    To crown me with his manly love,
  And, with his arm about my waist,
    Feed on my cherry lips above.

  Alas, my blush and bloom will fade,
    And I shall lose my dulcet notes--
  Then I shall die an old, old maid,
    And none will mourn Miss Alice Oates._

[Illustration: FRANCIS WILSON.]

Of his friendship with Francis Wilson there is no need to write here,
for is it not fully set forth in that charming little brochure, in
which Mr. Wilson gives to the world a characteristic sketch of the
Eugene Field and bibliomaniac he knew, and in whose work he was so
deeply interested? But Mr. Wilson does not tell how he was pursued and
plagued with the following genial invention which Field printed in his
column in 1884, and which still occasionally turns up in country
exchanges:

"Mr. Francis Wilson, the comedian, is a nephew of Père Hyacinthe, the
ancient divine. During his recent sojourn in Paris he was the père's
guest, and finally became deeply interested in the great work of reform
in which the famous preacher is engaged. His intimate acquaintances say
that Mr. Wilson is fully determined to retire from the stage at the
expiration of five years and devote himself to theological pursuits. He
gave Père Hyacinthe his promise to this effect, and his sincerity is
undoubted."

William Florence, the comedian, was an actor of whom, on and off the
stage, Field never wearied. Night after night would we go to see
"Billy," as he was familiarly and irreverently called, as Bardwell
Slote in the "Mighty Dollar," or as Captain Cuttle in "Dombey and Son."
Although originally an Irish comedian of rollicking and contagious
humor, Florence had played "Bardwell Slote" so constantly and for so
many years that his voice and manner in every-day life had the
ingratiating tone of that typical Washington lobbyist. Before his
death, while touring with Jefferson as Sir Lucius O'Trigger in "The
Rivals," he renewed his earlier triumphs in Irish character, but, even
here the accents of the oily Bardwell gave an additional touch of
blarney to his brogue.

One of the stories that Field delighted to tell of Florence dates back
to 1884, when Monseigneur Capel was in the United States. It related
with the circumspection of verity how Florence and the Monseigneur had
been friends for a number of years. Meeting on the street in Chicago,
the story ran, after a general conversation Florence asked Capel
whether he ever spent an evening at the theatre, intending, in case of
an affirmative reply, to invite him to one of his performances. Capel
shook his head. "No," said he, "it has been twenty-four years since I
attended a theatre, and I cannot conscientiously bring myself to
patronize a place where the devil is preached." Florence protested that
the monseigneur placed a false estimate on the theatrical profession.

"Ah, no," replied Capel, with a sad smile; "you people are sincere
enough; you don't know it, but you preach the devil all the same."

"Well, your grace," inquired Florence, with great urbanity, "which is
worse, preaching the devil from the stage without knowing it, or
preaching Christ crucified from the pulpit without believing it?"

"Both are reprehensible," replied Monseigneur Capel; and, bowing
stiffly, he went his way, while Florence shrugged his shoulders à la
his own fascinating creation of Jules Obenreizer in "No Thoroughfare,"
and walked off in the opposite direction, whistling to himself as he
walked.

Florence delighted in companionship and in the good things and good
stories of the table, whether at a noon breakfast which lasted well
through the afternoon or at the midnight supper which knew no hour for
breaking up, and he never came to Chicago that we did not accommodate
our convenience to his late hours for breakfast or supper. Nothing
short of a concealed stenographer could have done these gatherings
justice. Mr. Stone footed the bills, and Field, Florence, Edward J.
McPhelim of the Chicago Tribune, poet and dramatic critic, and three or
four others of the Daily News staff did the rest. The eating was good,
although the dishes were sometimes weird, the company was better, the
stories, anecdotes, reminiscences, songs, and flow of soul beyond
compare. Field, who ate sparingly and touched liquor not at all, unless
it was to pass a connoisseurs judgment upon some novel, strange, and
rare brand, divided the honors of the hour with the entire company.

In acknowledgment of such attentions, Florence always insisted that
before the close of his engagements we should all be his guests at a
regular Italian luncheon of spaghetti at Caproni's, down on Wabash
Avenue. It is needless to say that the spaghetti was merely the central
dish, around which revolved and was devoured every delicacy that
Florence had ever heard of in his Italian itinerary, the whole washed
down with strange wines from the same sunny land. Florence's fondness
for this sort of thing gave zest to a story Field told of his friend's
experience in London, in the summer of 1890. The epicurean actor had
made an excursion up the Thames with a select party of English clubmen.
Two days later Florence was still abed at Morley's, and, as he said,
contemplated staying there forever. Sir Morell Mackenzie was called to
see him. After sounding his lungs, listening to his heart, thumping his
chest and back, looking at his tongue, and testing his breath with
medicated paper, Sir Morell said:

"As near as I can get at it, you are a victim of misplaced confidence.
You have been training with the young bucks when you should have been
ploughing around with the old stags. You must quit it. Otherwise it
will do you up."

"Well now," said Florence, as related by Field, "that was the saddest
day of my life. Just think of shutting down on the boys, after being
one of them for sixty years! But Sir Morell told the truth. The
Garrick Club boys were terribly mad about it; they said Sir Morell was
a quack, and they adopted resolutions declaring a lack of confidence
in his medical skill. But my mind was made up. 'Billy,' says I to
myself, 'you must let up, you've made a record; it's a long one and an
honorable one. Now you must retire. Your life henceforth shall be
reminiscent and its declining years shall be hallowed by the refulgent
rays of retrospection.' To that resolution I have adhered steadily.
People tell me that I am as young as ever; but no, they can't fool me,
I know better."

[Illustration: WILLIAM J. FLORENCE.]

Whereupon, according to Field, "Joe" Jefferson broke in incredulously:
"Just to illustrate the folly of all that talk, I'll tell you what I
saw last night. When I returned to the hotel, after the play, I went
up to Billy's room and found Billy and the President of the
Philadelphia Catnip Club at supper. What do you suppose they had?
Stewed terrapin and frappéd champagne!"

"That's all right enough," exclaimed Mr. Florence. "Terrapin and
champagne never hurt anybody; I have had 'em all my life. What I
maintain is that people of my age should not and cannot indulge in
extravagance of diet. The utmost simplicity must be the rule of their
life. If Joe would only eat terrapin and drink champagne he wouldn't
be grunting around with dyspepsia all the time. He lives on boiled
mutton and graham bread, and the public call him 'the reverend veteran
Joseph Jefferson.' I stick to terrapin, green turtle, canvasbacks, and
the like, and every young chap in the land slaps me on the back, calls
me Billy, and regards me as a contemporary. But I ain't; I'm getting
old--not too old, but just old enough!"

A dozen years with the boys had done for Field's digestion what the
robust Florence was dreading after sixty, and to the day of his death,
Field, from the rigid practice of his self-denial, pitied and
sympathized with the unhappy wight who had received the warning given
to Florence, "You must quit training with the boys, otherwise it will
do you up." But he had no more obeyed the warning as to coffee and pie
than Florence did as to the injunction of Sir Morell against terrapin
and champagne.

[Illustration: COMMODORE CRANE.
_From a drawing by Eugene Field._]

Another "Billy," William H. Crane, was one of Field's favorites, and
the one with whose name he took the greatest liberties in his column
of "Sharps and Flats." His waggish mind found no end of humor in
creating a son for Mr. Crane, who was christened after his father's
stage partner, Stuart Robson Crane. This child of Field's sardonic
fancy was gifted with all the roguish attributes that are the delight
and despair of fond parents. Scarcely a month, sometimes hardly a
week, went by that Field did not print some yarn about the sayings or
doings of the obstreperous Stuart Robson Crane. Every anecdote that he
heard he adapted to the years and supposed circumstances of "Master
Crane." The close relations which existed between Field and the
Cranes--for he included Mrs. Crane within the inner circle of his
good-fellowship--may be judged from the following tribute:

  _MRS. BILLY CRANE

  A woman is a blessing, be she large or be she small,
  Be she wee as any midget, or as any cypress tall:
  And though I'm free to say I like all women folks the best,
  I think I like the little women better than the rest--
  And of all the little women I'm in love with I am fain
  To sing the praises of the peerless Mrs. Billy Crane.

  I met this charming lady--never mind how long ago--
  In that prehistoric period I was reckoned quite a beau:
  You'd never think it of me if you chanced to see me now,
  With my shrunken shanks and dreary eyes and deeply furrowed brow;
  But I was young and chipper when I joined that brisk campaign
  At Utica to storm the heart of Mrs. Billy Crane.

  We called her Ella in those days, as trim a little minx
  As ever fascinated man with coquetries, methinks!
  I saw her home from singing-school a million times I guess,
  And purred around her domicile three winters, more or less,
  And brought her lozenges and things--alas: 'twas all in vain--
  She was predestined to become a Mrs. Billy Crane!

  That Mr. Billy came in smart and handsome, I'll aver,
  Yet, with all his brains and beauty, he's not good enough for her:
  Now, though I'm somewhat homely and in gumption quite a dolt,
  The quality of goodness is my best and strongest holt,
  And as goodness is the only human thing that doesn't wane,
  I wonder she preferred to wed with Mr. Billy Crane.

  Yet heaven has blessed her all these years--she's just as blithe and gay
  As when the belle of Utica, and she ain't grown old a day!
  Her face is just as pretty and her eyes as bright as then--
  Egad! their gracious magic makes me feel a boy again,
  And still I court (as still I were a callow, York State swain)
  With hecatombs of lozenges that Mrs. Billy Crane!

  That she has heaps of faculty her husband can't deny--
  Whenever he don't toe the mark she knows the reason why:
  She handles all the moneys and receipts, which as a rule
  She carries around upon her arm in a famous reticule,
  And Billy seldom gets a cent unless he can explain
  The wherefores and etceteras to Mrs. Billy Crane!

  Yet O ye gracious actors! with uppers on your feet,
  And O ye bankrupt critics! athirst for things to eat--
  Did you ever leave her presence all unrequited when
  In an hour of inspiration you struck her for a ten?
  No! never yet an applicant there was did not obtain
  A solace for his misery from Mrs. Billy Crane.

  Dear little Lady-Ella! (let me call you that once more,
  In memory of the happy days in Utica of yore)
  If I could have the ordering of blessings here below,
  I might keep some small share myself, but most of 'em should go
  To you--yes, riches, happiness, and health should surely rain
  Upon the temporal estate of Mrs. Billy Crane!

  You're coming to Chicago in a week or two and then.
  In honor of that grand event, I shall blossom out again
  In a brand-new suit of checkered tweed and a low-cut satin vest
  I shall be the gaudiest spectacle in all the gorgeous West!
  And with a splendid coach and four I'll meet you at the train--
  So don't forget the reticule, dear Mrs. Billy Crane!_

And he may doubt, who never knew this master torment, that Field
carried out his threat to appear at Crane's "first night" with that
low-cut satin vest and that speckled tweed suit, which did indeed make
him a gaudy spectacle. But his solemn face gave no sign that his mixed
apparel was making him the cynosure of all curious eyes.

Mr. Crane suffered from the same digestive troubles that confined
Florence to terrapin and champagne and Field to coffee and pies, and
so the state of his health was a constant source of paragraphic
sympathy in "Sharps and Flats." In such paragraphs the actor and
President Cleveland were often represented as fellow-fishermen at
Buzzard's Bay--Crane's summer home being at Cohasset. How they were
associated is illustrated in the following casual item:

  Mr. William H. Crane, the actor, is looking unusually robust this
  autumn. He seems to have recovered entirely from the malady which
  made life a burden to him for several years. He thought there was
  something the matter with his liver. Last July he put in a good share
  of his time blue-fishing with Grover Cleveland. One day they ran out
  of bait.

  "Wonder if they'd bite at liver?" asked Crane.

  "They love it," answered Cleveland.

  So without further ado Crane out with his penknife, amputated his
  liver, and minced it up for bait. He hasn't had a sick day since.

By way of introduction to a few words respecting the close, quizzical,
and always sincere friendship that existed between Field and Helena
Modjeska, the following invention of March 29th, 1884, may serve to
indicate the blithesome spirit with which he tortured facts when
racketting around for something to add to the bewilderment of his
readers and his own relaxation:

  A letter from Mr. William H. Crane imparts some interesting gossip
  touching the Cincinnati dramatic festival. It says that an agreeable
  surprise awaits the patrons of the festival in an interchange of
  parts between Madame Modjeska and Mr. Stuart Robson, the comedian;
  that is to say, Modjeska will take Mr. Robson's place in the "Two
  Dromios," and Robson will take Madame Modjeska's place in the great
  emotional play of "Camille." It is well known that Modjeska has a
  penchant for masculine rôles, and her success as Rosalind and Viola
  leaves no room for doubt that she will give great satisfaction in the
  "Comedy of Errors." Mr. Robson has never liked female rôles, but his
  falsetto voice, his slender figure, his smooth, rosy face, and his
  graceful, effeminate manners qualify him to a remarkable degree for
  the impersonation of feminine characters. Moreover, his long
  residence in Paris has given him a thorough appreciation and
  elaborate knowledge of those characteristics, which must be
  understood ere one can delineate and portray the subtleties of
  Camille as they should be given. Those who anticipate a farcical
  treatment of Dumas's creation at Mr. Robson's hands will be most
  wofully surprised when they come to witness and hear his artistic
  presentation of the most remarkable of emotional rôles.

[Illustration: MODJESKA.]

Elsewhere I have referred to the roguish pleasure Field took in
ascribing the authorship of "The Wanderer" to Helena Modjeska. That
was before he came to Chicago, and seemed to be the overture to a
friendship that continued to exchange its favors and tokens of
affection to the close of his life. The doings of the Madame and Count
Bozenta, her always vivacious and enjoyable husband, were perennial
subjects for Field's kindliest paragraphs. As he says, he was a great
theatre-goer, but Field became a constant one when "Modjesky" came to
town. Her Camille--a character in which she was not excelled by the
great Bernhardt herself--had a remarkable vogue in the early eighties.
She imparted to its impersonation the subtle charm of her own sweet
womanliness, which served to excuse Armand's infatuation and as far as
possible lifted the play out of its unwholesome atmosphere of French
immorality to the plane of romantic devotion and self-sacrifice. Her
Camille seemed a victim of remorseless destiny, a pure soul struggling
amid inexorable circumstances that racked and cajoled a diseased and
suffering body into the maelstrom of sin.

Field was so constituted that, without this saving grace of womanliness,
the presentation of Camille, with all its hectic surroundings, would
have repelled him. He did not care to see Mademoiselle Bernhardt a
second time in the rôle, and he fled from the powerful and fascinating
portrayal of pulmonary emotion which initiated the audiences of Clara
Morris into the terrors of tubercular disease. Night after night, when
Modjeska played Camille, Field would occupy a front seat or a box.
When so seated that his presence could not be overlooked from the
stage, he was wont to divert Camille from her woes with the by-play of
his mobile features. Wherever he sat, his large, white, solemn visage
had a fascination for Madame Modjeska, and from the time she caught
sight of it until Camille settled back lifeless in the final scene, she
played "at him." He repaid this tribute by distorting his face in agony
when Camille was light-hearted, and by breaking into noiseless
merriment as her woes were causing handkerchiefs to flutter throughout
the audience. When we went to visit her next day, as we often did, she
scarcely ever failed to reproach him in some such fashion as: "Ah,
Meester Fielt, why will you seet in the box and talk with your overcoat
on the chair to make Camille laugh who is dying on the stage? Ah,
Meester Fielt, you are a very bad man, but I lof you, don't we,
Charlie?" And the count always stopped rolling a cigarette long enough
to acknowledge that Field was their dearest friend and that they both
loved him, no matter what he did. Next to his wife, the count was
devoted to politics, which he discusses with all the warmth and
gesticulations of a Frenchman and the intelligence of a Polish-American
patriot.

[Illustration: FIELD WITNESSING MODJESKA AS CAMILLE.
_From a drawing by Eugene Field._]

If there were any other visitors present, Modjeska always insisted on
Field's giving his imitation of herself in Camille, in which he
rendered her lines with exaggerated theatrical sentiment and with the
broken-English accent, such as Modjeska permitted herself in the
freedom of private life. She would give him Armand's cues for
particular speeches and his impassioned "Armo, I lof, I lof you!"
never failed to convulse her, while his pulmonary cough was so deep
and sepulchral that it rang through the hotel corridors, making other
guests think that Modjeska herself was in the last stages of a disease
she simulated unto death nightly. After Field had added colored inks
to his stock in trade, these fits of coughing were succeeded by a
handkerchief act, in which the dying Camille appeared to spit blood in
carmine splotches. No burlesque that I have seen of a play frequently
burlesqued ever approached the side-splitting absurdity of these
rehearsals for the benefit of the heroine of "Modjesky as Cameel."

  _An', while Modjesky stated we wuz somewhat off our base,
  I half opined she liked it by the look upon her face,
  I rekollect that Hoover regretted he done wrong
  In throwin' that there actor through a vista ten miles long._

When Field went to California in search of health, in the winter of
1893-94, Madame Modjeska placed her ranch, located ten miles from the
railway, half-way between San Diego and Los Angeles, at his disposal.
The ranch contained about a thousand acres, and he was given carte
blanche to treat it as his own during his stay--a privilege he would
have hastened to invite all his friends to share had his health been
equal to the opportunity to indulge in merry-making.

[Illustration: TWO PROFILES OF EUGENE FIELD.
_The upper one drawn in pencil by Field himself; the lower one by
Modjeska. Reproduced from a fly-leaf of Mrs. Thompson's volume of
autograph verse._]

At a breakfast given to Modjeska at Kinsley's, April 22d, 1886, Field
read the following poem in honor of the guest:

  _TO HELENA MODJESKA

  In thy sweet self, dear lady guest, we find
    Juliet's dark face, Viola's gentle mien,
    The dignity of Scotland's martyr'd queen--
  The beauty and the wit of Rosalind.
    What wonder, then, that we who mop our eyes
    And sob and gush when we should criticise--

  Charmed by the graces of your mien and mind--
    What wonder we should hasten to proclaim
    The art that has secured thy deathless fame?
    And this we swear: We will endorse no name
  But thine alone to old Melpomene,
  Nor will revolve, since rising sons are we,
  Round any orb, save, dear Modjeska, thee
  Who art our Pole star, and will ever be._

As originally written by Field, the rhymes in the first four lines of
this tribute fell alternately, the lines being transposed so that they
ran in order first, third, fourth, and second of the poem as it
appears above. For the fifth and sixth lines of his first version
Field wrote:

  _What wonder, then, that we who mop our eyes
  When we are hired to rail and criticise?_

It is a question the reader can decide for himself whether his second
thought was an improvement. His original intention contemplated a
longer poem, but after he had written a fourteenth line that read:

  _The radiant Pole star of the mimic stage--_

Field concluded to wind it up with the fourteenth line, as in the
finished version.

Upon the back of the original manuscript of these lines to Madame
Modjeska I find this Sapphic fragment under the line--suggestive of
its subject, "The Things of Life":

  _A little sour, a little sweet,
  Fill out our brief and human hour,
                       meet_

He never filled out the blank or gave a clue as to what further
reflections on the springs of life were in his mind.

I never knew Field to be as infatuated with any stage production as
with the first performance of the pirated edition of "The Mikado" in
Chicago, in the summer of 1885. The cast was indeed a memorable one,
including Roland Reed as Koko, Alice Harrison as Yum-Yum, Belle Archer
as Pitti-Sing, Frederick Archer as Pooh-Bah, George Broderick as the
Mikado, and Mrs. Broderick as Katisha. The Brodericks had rich
church-choir voices, Belle Archer was a beauty of that fresh, innocent
type that did one's eyes good simply to look upon, and she was just
emerging into a career that grew in popularity until her untimely
death. Archer was a stilted English comedian who seemed built to be
"insulted" as Pooh-Bah, while Roland Reed and Miss Harrison were two
comedians of the first rank. As a singing soubrette, daring,
versatile, and popular, Miss Harrison had no superiors in her day. The
entire company was saturated with the spirit and "go" of Gilbert, and
fairly tingled with the joyous music of Sullivan. The fact that the
production was of a pirated version, untrammelled by the oversight of
D'Oyley Carte, added zest to the performance and enlisted Field's
partisan sympathy and co-operation from the start. He enjoyed each
night's performance with all the relish of a boy eating the apples of
pleasure from a forbidden orchard. When the season came to an end, as
all good things must, Field, Ballantyne, and I went to Milwaukee to
see that our friends had a fair start there. We got back to Chicago on
the early morning milk train, and in "Sharps and Flats" the next day
Field recorded the definitive judgment that "Miss Alice Harrison, in
her performance of Yum-Yum in Gilbert and Sullivan's new opera of 'The
Mikado,' has set the standard of that interesting rôle, and it is a
high one. In fact, we doubt whether it will ever be approached by any
other artist on the American stage."

It never has been approached, nor has the opera, so far as my
information goes, ever been given with the same Gilbertian verve and
swing. The subsequent performance of "The Mikado" by the authorized
company, seen throughout the United States, seemed by comparison "like
water after wine."

On the operatic stage Madame Sembrich was by all odds Field's favorite
prima donna. He was one of the earliest writers on the press to
recognize the wonderful beauty of the singer's voice and the
perfection of her method. He easily distinguished between her trained
faculty and the bird-like notes of Patti, but the personality of the
former won him, where he remained unmoved when Patti's wonderful voice
rippled through the most difficult, florid music like crystal running
water over the smooth stones of a mountain brook. Field's admiration
for Sembrich often found expression in more conventional phrases, but
never in a form that better illustrated how she attracted him than in
the following amusing comment on her appearance in Chicago, January
24th, 1884, in Lucia:

  It is not at all surprising that Madame Sembrich caught on so grandly
  night before last. She is the most comfortable-looking prima donna
  that has ever visited Chicago. She is one of your square-built,
  stout-rigged little ladies with a bright, honest face and bouncing
  manners. Her arms are long but shapely, and in the last act of Lucia
  her luxurious black hair tumbles down and envelopes her like a
  mosquito net. Her audience night before last was a coldly critical
  one, of course, and it sat like a bump on a log until Sembrich made
  her appearance in the mad scene, where Lucheer gives her vocal circus
  in the presence of twenty-five Scotch ladies in red, white, and green
  dresses, and twenty-five supposititious Scotch gentlemen in costumes
  of the Court of Louis XIV. Instead of sending for a doctor to assist
  Lucheer in her trouble, these fantastically attired ladies and
  gentlemen stand around and look dreary while Lucheer does ground and
  lofty tumbling, and executes pirouettes and trapeze performances in
  the vocal art.

  Then the audience began to wake up. The comfortable-looking little
  prima donna gathered herself together and let loose the cyclone of
  her genius and accomplishments. It was a whirlwind of appoggiaturas,
  semi-quavers, accenturas, rinforzandos, moderatos, prestos, trills,
  sforzandos, fortes, rallentandos, supertonics, salterellos, sonatas,
  ensembles, pianissimos, staccatos, accellerandos, quasi-innocents,
  cadenzas, symphones, cavatinas, arias, counter-points, fiorituras,
  tonics, sub-medicants, allegrissimos, chromatics, concertos,
  andantes, études, larghettos, adagios, and every variety of turilural
  and dingus known to the minstrel art. The audience was paralyzed.
  When she finally struck up high F sharp in the descending fourth of D
  in alt, one gentleman from the South Side who had hired a dress-coat
  for the occasion broke forth in a hearty "Brava!" This encouraged a
  resident of the North Side to shout "Bravissimo," and then several
  dudes from the Blue Island district raised the cry of "Bong," "Tray
  beang," and "Brava!"

  The applause became universal--it spread like wild-fire. The vast
  audience seemed crazed with delight and enthusiasm. And it argues
  volumes for the culture of our enterprising and fair city that not
  one word of English was heard among the encouraging and approving
  shouts that were hurled at the smiling prima donna. Even the pork
  merchants and the grain dealers in the family circle vied with each
  other in hoarsely wafting Italian words of cheer at the triumphant
  Sembrich. French was hardly good enough, although it was utilized by
  a few large manufacturers and butterine merchants who sat in the
  parquet, and one man was put out by the ushers because he so far
  forgot himself and the éclat of the occasion as to shout in vehement
  German: "Mein Gott in himmel--das ist ver tampt goot!" It was an
  ovation, but it was no more than Sembrich deserved--bless her fat
  little buttons!

Remember, this was nearly twenty years ago. It argues much for the
saneness of Field's enthusiasm, as well as for the perfection of
Madame Sembrich's methods, that she is still able to arouse a like
enthusiasm in audiences where true dramatic instinct and high vocal
art are valued as the rarest combination on the operatic stage.

Two manuscript poems in my scrap-book testify that another songster,
early in Field's Chicago life, enjoyed his friendship and inspired his
pen along a line it was to travel many a tuneful metre. The first,
with frequent erasures and interlineations, bears date May 25th, 1894,
and was inscribed, "To Mrs. Will J. Davis." It runs as follows:

  _A HUSHABY SONG

  The stars are twinkling in the skies,
    The earth is lost in slumber deep--
  So hush, my sweet, and close your eyes
    And let me lull your soul to sleep;
  Compose thy dimpled hands to rest,
    And like a little birdling lie
  Secure within thy cosy nest
  Upon my mother breast
    And slumber to my lullaby;
    So hushaby, oh, hushaby.

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

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

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

  _THE SINGER MOTHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: JESSIE BARTLETT DAVIS.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  BIOGRAPHY OF KATE CLAXTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: SOL SMITH RUSSELL.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XIV

BEGINNING OF HIS LITERARY EDUCATION


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  "_Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit._"

  To Slason Thompson
  from
  Eugene Field.
  Christmas, 1885.

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

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

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

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

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

  "_His looks adorned the venerable place,_"

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

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

[Illustration: DR. FRANK W. REILLY.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

  _MÆCENAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  BÉRANGER

  _Viens, mon chien! Viens, ma pauvre bête!
     Mange, malgré, mon désespoir.
  II me reste un gâteau de fête--
     Demain nous aurons du pain noir!_

  PROUT

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

  FIELD

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

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

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

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

  _TO DR. FRANK W. REILLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XV

METHOD OF WORK


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

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

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

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

PUISSANT AND TRIUMPHANT LORD:

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

In all fealty, my liege,
Thy gentle vassal,

[Illustration: The mark of The Good Knight.]

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

SIR SLOSSON:

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

THE GOOD KNIGHT.

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

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

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

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

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

Or this:

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

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

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

  GOOD AND GENTLE KNIGHT:

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

  Your most courteous friend,

  E. FIELD.

       *       *       *       *       *

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

  THE GOOD KNIGHT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We opine,"

"Anent the story,"

"We are free to admit,"

"We violate no confidence,"

"It is stated, though not authoritatively,"

"Our versatile friend,"

"We learn from a responsible source," and

"Our distinguished fellow-townsman."

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

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

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

  _MAY THE 26th, 1885

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

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

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



CHAPTER XVI

NATURE OF HIS DAILY WORK


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gave some particulars a few weeks ago of the large amount of
property which had been extracted from Bulgaria by Prince Alexander,
who arrived at Sofia penniless, except for a sum of money which was
advanced to him by the late Emperor of Russia. It is now asserted by
the American papers that Prince Alexander has made considerable
purchases under an assumed name (Alexander Marie Wilhelm Ludwig
Maraschkoff) of real estate in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, and
Omaha, and that he is part owner of one of the largest sheep ranches
in New Mexico. The Prince's property in America is under the charge of
Colonel Norton, a well-known attorney of Chicago. Prince Alexander
must be possessed of a true Yankee cuteness if he managed to squeeze
the "pile" for these investments out of Bulgaria in addition to the
£70,000 to which I referred recently. The Russian papers have accused
him of dabbling in stock exchange speculations, and if disposed for
such business, his position must have given him some excellent
opportunities of making highly profitable bargains.

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

  _TO EUGENE FIELD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  EVANSTON, ILL., Aug. 15, 1888.

  _To the Editor_:

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

    _RESIGNATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Yours truly,

  MELISSA MAYFIELD.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Yours truly,

  CADMON E. BATES.

Upon which Field, in his editorial plurality, commented:

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

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

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

  Yours truly,

  L.R. COWPERTHWAITE.

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

  Yours truly,

  J.G.K.

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

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

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

  A DANGER THAT THREATENS

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

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

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

  Last year not more than 2,700 young authors contributed stories to
  the Christmas number of the Daily News: this year the number of
  contributors reached 6,125.

  Hitherto the rivalry between our trade and our literature has been
  friendly to a degree. The packer has patronized the poet;
  metaphorically speaking, the hog and the epic have lain down together
  and wallowed in the same Parnassan pool. The censers that have swung
  continually in the temple of the muses have been replenished with
  lard oil, and to our grateful olfactories has the joyous Lake breezes
  wafted the refreshing odors of sonnets and of slaughter pens
  commingled.

  But how long is this sort of thing going to last? It surely cannot be
  the millennium. These twin giants will some day--alas, too
  soon--learn their powers and be greedy to test them against one
  another. A fatal jealousy seems to be inevitable; it may be fended
  off, but how?

  The world's fair will be likely to precipitate a conflict between the
  interests of which we speak. Each interest is already claiming
  precedence, and we hear with alarm that less than a week ago one of
  our most respected packers threatened to withdraw his support of the
  international copyright bill unless the Chicago Literary Society
  united in an indorsement of his sugar-cured hams.

  When we think of the horrors that will attend and follow a set-to
  between Chicago trade and Chicago literature, we are prone to cry
  out, in the words of the immortal Moore--not Tom--but Mrs. Julia A.,
  of Michigan:

    _An awful tremor quakes the soul!
      And makes the heart to quiver,
    While up and down the spine doth roll
      A melancholy shiver._

In December, 1895, Edmund Clarence Stedman contributed to the "Souvenir
Book" of the New York Hebrew Fair a charmingly appreciative, yet justly
critical, tribute to Eugene Field, whom he likened to Shakespeare's
Yorick, whose "motley covered the sweetest nature and tenderest heart."
Mr. Stedman there speaks of Field as a "complex American with the
obstreperous _bizarrerie_ of the frontier and the artistic delicacy of
our oldest culture always at odds within him--but he was above all a
child of nature, a frolic incarnate, and just as he would have been in
any time or country." He also tells how Field put their friendship to
one of those tests which sooner or later he applied to all--the test of
linking their names with something utterly ludicrous and impossible,
but published with all the solemn earmarks of verity. It was on the
occasion of Mr. Stedman's visit to Chicago on its invitation to lecture
before the Twentieth Century Club. This gave Field the cue to announce
the coming event in a way to fill the visitor with consternation. About
two weeks before the poet-critic was expected, Field's column contained
the following innocent paragraph:

  Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman, the poet, and the foremost of American
  critics, is about to visit Chicago. He comes as the guest of the
  Twentieth Century Club, and on the evening of Tuesday, the 28th
  inst., he will deliver before that discriminating body an address
  upon the subject of "Poetry," this address being one of the notable
  series which Mr. Stedman prepared for and read before the
  undergraduates of Johns Hopkins University last winter. These
  discourses are, as we judge from epitomes published in the New York
  Tribune, marvels of scholarship and of criticism.

  Twenty years have elapsed, as we understand, since Mr. Stedman last
  visited Chicago. He will find amazing changes, all in the nature of
  improvements. He will be delighted with the beauty of our city and
  with the appreciation, the intelligence, and the culture of our
  society. But what should and will please him most will be the
  cordiality of that reception which Chicago will give him, and the
  enthusiasm with which she will entertain this charming prince of
  American letters, this eminent poet, this mighty good fellow!

I doubt if Mr. Stedman ever saw this item, which Field merely
inserted, as was his wont, as a prelude to the whimsical announcement
which followed in two days, and which was eagerly copied in the New
York papers in time to make Mr. Stedman cast about for some excuse for
being somewhere else than in Chicago on the 29th of April, 1891. This
second notice is too good an instance of the liberty Field took with
the name of a friend in his delectable vocation of laying "the knotted
lash of sarcasm" about the shoulders of wealth and fashion of Chicago,
not to be quoted in full. It was given with all the precision of
typographical arrangement that is considered proper in printing a
veritable programme of some public procession, in the following terms:

  Chicago literary circles are all agog over the prospective visit of
  Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman, the eminent poet-critic. At the regular
  monthly conclave of the Robert Browning Benevolent and Patriotical
  Association of Cook County, night before last, it was resolved to
  invite Mr. Stedman to a grand complimentary banquet at the Kinsley's
  on Wednesday evening, the 29th. Prof. William Morton Payne, grand
  marshal of the parade which is to conduct the famous guest from the
  railway station the morning he arrives, tells us that the procession
  will be in this order:

  Twenty police officers afoot.

  The grand marshal, horseback, accompanied by ten male members of the
  Twentieth Century Club, also horseback.

  Mr. Stedman in a landau drawn by four horses, two black and two white.

  The Twentieth Century Club in carriages.

  A brass band afoot.

  The Robert Browning Club in Frank Parmelee's 'buses.

  The Homer Clubs afoot, preceded by a fife-and-drum corps and a real
  Greek philosopher attired in a tunic.

  Another brass band.

  A beautiful young woman playing the guitar, symbolizing Apollo and his
  lute in a car drawn by nine milk-white stallions, impersonating the
  muses.

  Two Hundred Chicago poets afoot.

  The Chicago Literary Club in carriages.

  A splendid gilded chariot bearing Gunther's Shakespeare autograph and
  Mr. Ellsworth's first printed book.

  Another brass band.

  Magnificent advertising car of Armour and Co., illustrating the
  progress of civilization.

  The Fishbladder Brigade and the Blue Island Avenue Shelley Club.

  The fire department.

  Another brass band.

  Citizens in carriages, afoot and horseback.

  Advertising cars and wagons.

  The line of march will be an extensive one, taking in the
  packing-houses and other notable points. At Mr. Armour's interesting
  professional establishment the process of slaughtering will be
  illustrated for the delectation of the honored guest, after which an
  appropriate poem will be read by Decatur Jones, President of the Lake
  View Elite Club. Then Mr. Armour will entertain a select few at a
  champagne luncheon in the scalding-room.

  In high literary circles it is rumored that the Rev. F.M. Bristol has
  got an option on all autographs that Mr. Stedman may write during his
  stay in Chicago. Much excitement has been caused by this, and there is
  talk of an indignation meeting in Battery D, to be addressed by the
  Rev. Flavius Gunsaulus, the Rev. Frank W. Brobst, and other eminent
  speakers.

Small wonder that Mr. Stedman's soul was filled with trepidation as
his train approached Chicago, and that he was greatly relieved as it
rolled into the station to find only a few friends awaiting him; and
among them he quickly singled out Eugene Field, "his sardonic face
agrin like a school-boy's."

Enough has been written and quoted to give the reader a fair idea of
the general character of Eugene Field's daily work and of the spirit
that inspired it. As Mr. Stedman has said, the work of the journeyman
and the real literary artist appeared cheek by jowl in his column. The
best of it has been preserved in his collected works. That given in
this chapter is merely intended to show how he illuminated the
lightest and most ephemeral topics of the day with a literary touch at
once acute and humorous, and certainly unconventional. In the Appendix
to these volumes the reader will find a review of the fictitious
biography of Miss Emma Abbott, the once noted opera singer. It is an
ingenious piece of work and will repay reading as a satire on current
reviewing, besides illustrating the daring liberty Field could take
with anyone whom he reckoned a friend.

The following paragraph, which will serve as a tail-piece to this
chapter, printed May 31st, 1894, shows how the playful raillery which
marked his earlier work in and about Chicago survived to the end:

  The oldest house in Chicago stands on the West Side, and was built
  in 1839 A.D. The oldest horse in Chicago works for the Lake View
  Street-Car Company, and was present at the battle of Marathon 490 B.C.


END OF VOL. I.





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