Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Eugene Field Papers, 1873-1923

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, December 1996

Summary Information
Title: Eugene Field papers
Creator: Field, Eugene, 1850-1895
Inclusive dates: 1873-1923
Bulk dates: 1873-1896
Extent: 19 items
Abstract:
The Field papers contain eleven letters from the popular American writer, Eugene Field; one undated letter from J.M. Stoddart to Field; two manuscript poems; a newspaper edition of "The House," with marginal editorial notes; and a set of proof sheets from Field's "autobiography," Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac .

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991-2004. M-2684, M-2862.2, M-3141, M-3184, M-3259.1-3, M-4034, M-4396.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Eugene Field papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Among the important figures in American journalism during the Gilded Age, Eugene Field stands out for his originality, productivity and energy, as well as for his odd and occasionally outrageous sense of humor. A native westerner of New England extraction, Field made efforts -- only partially successful -- to study at Williams College, Knox College, and the University of Missouri, before leaving behind his education in 1873 to marry sixteen year old Julia Sutherland Comstock. While it cannot be said that Field's marriage sobered him up, it provided him with a partner to share in his eccentricities and to watch over his finances that were perpetually imperiled by his headlong rush into any number of new enthusiasms.

Having disposed of the remnants of a once substantial inheritance on his wedding trip, Field turned to newspaper editing to earn a living. Climbing the journalistic ladder through Saint Joseph, Saint Louis, and Kansas City, Mo., and Denver, Colo., Field arrived at the apex of his profession in 1883 when he joined the staff of the Chicago Morning News. His editorial column, "Sharps and Flats," earned him a wide readership, providing an original concoction of serious poetry and prose leavened with broad doses of humor, whimsy and satire. As his column drew a larger and larger readership, Field basked in the light of minor celebrity, becoming a much sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit, and a best-selling author of light verse, serious poetry and prose. After moving to Chicago, he indulged an increasingly serious interest in collecting rare books and fine printing, and wrote two popular works on the subject, including a posthumously-published "imaginary autobiography,"Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac. Although suffering from ill health for many years, Field's productivity continued unabated up to the day of his death in 1895. Julia and eight of their children survived him.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Field papers contain eleven letters from the popular American writer, Eugene Field; one undated letter from J.M. Stoddart to Field; two manuscript poems; a newspaper edition of "The House," with marginal editorial notes; and a set of proof sheets from Field's "autobiography," Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac. Field's letters are addressed variously to his wife or children, and to Harvard linguist, Francis J. Childs.

Although the letters in the Field papers are miscellaneous, and touch on a wide variety of subjects, several stand out for their individual interest. One letter, apparently written to a son (1886 September 10), includes a brief, pleasant description of a baseball game between Chicago and Detroit, and is accompanied by a charming example of Field's ability as an illustrator. The most important letters in the collection are those few that reveal some of Field's attitudes toward marriage and family. Two letters addressed to his 16-year-old fiancee (1873 January 10 and 1873 October 10), for instance, provide advice on how to prepare for their impending wedding night, adding confidently, "Oh Julia, you know not what bliss is in store for you!" Another letter written to his wife shortly after the death of a young son (1890 October 4) suggests the fragile distance that Field was able to place between himself and his deceased child. "I fear that I am regarded quite hard hearted," he wrote "I have been so peaceful since the end came. While our boy still lived, I battled constantly in spirit and I think that another week would have killed me. Now that all is over, I am content, wholly reconciled. I believe our boy is happy now. It is selfish to wish him back."

The collection contains final manuscript drafts of Field's poems, "De Amicitus," "A French Crisis" (published as "The Fair Limousin") and "Holly and Ivy" (which was decoratively illustrated by the author), and the newspaper edition of "The House," with marginal editorial notes, some of which are in Field's hand. A single cabinet card photograph of Field in this collection was signed by him and dated May, 1895.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • American poetry--19th century.
    • Book collectors.
    • Courtship--19th century.
    • Journalism--United States--History--19th century.
    Contributors:
    • Stoddart, J.M. (Joseph Marshall), 1845-1921.
    Genre Terms:
    • Autobiographies.
    • Photographs.
    • Poems.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   1  
    Eugene Field papers,  1873-1923 [series]:
     
    Correspondence and manuscript writings,  1873 January 10-1893 December 2 (15 items)
    Located in custom blue folio.  
    Manuscript poem, with corrections, A French Crisis,  1887 December 11.
     
    Proof sheets, Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac , New York, 1896. With Eugene Field II ANS,  1923 March 27, stating that these were the proofs submitted to the Eugene Field estate.
     
    The House, newspaper edition, [1895?]
     
    Eugene Field, cabinet card. Photographer S.L. Stein, Milwaukee, 1894. Signed by Field with dedication to Julian Ralph, May 1895.
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The following two items are located in the Graphics Division:

    Field, Eugene ALS to Col. Cockerill; Chicago, [Illinois], 1888 March 30. With an illustration of a young child holding a candle.

    Young, Art. Ink drawing of Eugene Field in his workshop/den, undated.

    Partial Subject Index
    Baseball
    • 1886 September 10
    Baseball--Illustrations
    • 1886 September 10
    Book collectors
    • 1896
    • 1892 December 22
    Children--Death
    • 1890 October 4
    Christmas--Poetry
    • ca.1880?
    Courtship--19th century
    • 1873 January 10
    • 1873 October 10
    Field, Eugene, II
    • 1896
    Field, Julia Sutherland Comstock, b. ca.1857
    • 1896
    Husband and wife
    • 1873 January 10
    • 1873 October 10
    Lowell, James Russell, 1819-1891
    • 1892 December 22
    • 1893 October 21
    Marriage
    • 1873 January 10
    Poetry
    • 1889 February 14
    Publishers and publishing--Illinois
    • 1893 October 21
    Weddings
    • 1873 October 10