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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Eugene Field (1850–1895)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
EUGENE FIELD was born in St. Louis, Missouri, September 2d, 1850. He was of New England ancestry, and spent his early years in Massachusetts. “While he gloried in the West,” wrote one of his biographers, “and remained loyal to the section which gave him birth and in which he chose to cast his lot, he was not less proud of his New England blood, and not the less conscious of his New England training.” He studied at Williams and Knox Colleges, and at the University of Michigan, and after his graduation in 1871 he traveled in Europe.  1
  Returning to St. Louis he became engaged in journalism, and was connected with various newspapers in St. Louis, St. Joseph, Kansas City, and Denver, until he finally settled in Chicago. Through his tales and poems he acquired popularity, and in addition to his labors as a journalist and poet he became a favorite lecturer. Of his love of curios his brother says:—  2
  “For years he had been an indefatigable collector, and he took a boyish pleasure not only in his souvenirs of long journeys and distinguished men and women, but in the queer toys and trinkets of children, which seemed to give him inspiration for much that was effective in childhood verse. To the careless observer the immense array of weird dolls and absurd toys in his working-room meant little more than an idiosyncratic passion for the anomalous, but those who were near to him knew what a connecting link they were between him and little children, of whom he wrote, and how each trumpet and drum, each ‘spinster doll,’ each little toy dog, each little tin soldier, played its part in the poems he sent out into the world.”  3
  He was extremely fond of children, and some of his best poetry was written on themes that interest childhood. His numerous lullabies have been set to music by several American composers. He was a devoted student of Horace, from whom he made many translations. Some of these are included in ‘Echoes from a Sabine Farm,’ which he wrote with his brother, Roswell Martin Field, and which was published soon after his death, which took place in Chicago, November 4th, 1895. His last books were ‘My House’ and ‘The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac,’ a series of essays on literary subjects, interspersed with short poems. His other publications include: ‘A Little Book of Western Verse’; ‘A Little Book of Profitable Tales’; ‘Love Songs of Childhood’; ‘A Second Book of Verse’; and ‘The Holy Cross and Other Tales,’ the initial story of which has for its theme the death of the Wandering Jew upon the mountain of the Holy Cross. A complete edition of Field’s works (10 vols., New York, 1896) is enriched with critical and personal estimates of the man and the writer by Joel Chandler Harris, Julian Hawthorne, E. E. Hale, Francis Wilson, and Edmund Clarence Stedman. Mr. Stedman says:—
          “Of all moderns, then, here or in the old world, Eugene Field seems to be most like the survival or revival of the ideal jester of knightly times; as if Yorick himself were incarnated, or as if a superior bearer of the bauble at the court of Italy, or France, or of the English King Hal, had come to life again,—as much out of time as Twain’s Yankee at the court of King Arthur; but not out of place, for he fitted himself as aptly to his folk and region as Puck to the fays and mortals of a wood near Athens…. To come to the jesters of history,—which is so much less real than fiction,—what laurels are greener than those of Triboulet, and Will Somers, and John Heywood, dramatist and master of the King’s merry interludes? Their shafts were feathered with mirth and song but pointed with wisdom; and well might old John Trussell say:—‘It often happens that wise counsel is more sweetly followed when it is tempered with folly, and earnest is the less offensive if it be delivered in jest.’ Yes, Field ‘caught on’ to his time,—a complex American, with the obstreperous bizarrerie of the frontier and the artistic delicacy of our oldest culture always at odds with 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. Fortune had given him that unforgettable mummer’s face, that clean-cut, mobile visage, that animated natural mask. No one else had so deep and rich a voice for the reading of the music and pathos of a poet’s lines; and no actor ever managed both face and voice better than he in delivering his own verses, merry or sad.”
  4
 
 
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