Eugene Field, A Study In Heredity And Contradictions
Slason Thompson

Part 1 out of 5

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[Illustration: Portrait of Eugene Field in 1885.]




With Portraits, Views and Fac-Simile Illustrations


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



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

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
Nixon sold old clothes, while Mr. Stone's cablegram was prepared by
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.


CHICAGO, September 30th, 1901.



IX. IN DENVER, 1881-1883 143





_From a drawing by Eugene Field._

_From a drawing by Eugene Field._

_From a drawing by Eugene Field._

_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

_Written by Eugene Field._

_From a drawing by Eugene Field._


_Eugene Field's Grandfather._

_Eugene Field's Grandmother._

_Eugene Field's Father._


_From a Daguerreotype taken a year or two before
his birth._

_From a Daguerreotype taken before Eugene and
Roswell became members of Miss French's family
in Amherst, on the death of their mother._


_Now owned by Mr. Hiram Eaton, of New York._











_The caricature from a drawing by Sclanders._







_Francis Mahony._




"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.

_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


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

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.



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 naively 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."

_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

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

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

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

"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

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

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

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.



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

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,

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.

_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:



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

"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


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'."



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

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.

_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

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."

_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

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?"


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

"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."

_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

"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

"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

"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,


"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

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

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.



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.


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.


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