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.