Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eugene Field

Eugene Field (1850-1895) = Children's Poet Laureate. Eccentric Journalist. Toy & book collector. Best known for his sentimental poetry for children. Eugene was born on the third of September to Roswell Martin & Francis Reed Field in St. Louis, MO. His Irish nanny was Temperance Moon. When he was six years old, his mother died of cholera and he and his brother, Roswell, Jr. were sent to live with Cousin Mary Field French in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Eugene was a fun-loving boy. He loved playing with the neighborhood boys or pulling pranks or messing about with his menagerie of pets including Dooley the dog. This dog inspired Gene to write his first bit of verse when he was about eleven years old.
When Eugene learned to read, he discovered fairy tales and would often read them instead of studying. He didn't much like school, but on Sundays, Miss Mary held a strict Puritan Sabbath, going to church in the mornings and making the boys study the Bible in the afternoons after dinner. Eugene declared that the Bible study he did in those days was of the greatest benefit to him in his writing later.
Gene and Julia Sutherland Comstock, daughter of Alexander Comstock, had an October wedding at the Christ Episcopal Church in St. Joseph, MO. in 1873. To this union eight children were born.
He began his writing career as a reporter. He was employed by the St. Louis Journal (1873-1875); the St. Joseph Gazette (1875-1876); St. Louis Times-Journal (1876-1880); the Kansas City Times (1880-1881) and other papers outside of Missouri.
At the early age of 45; Gene's funeral services were held in the Fourth Presbyterian Church at RUSH & Superior streets in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Reverend F.M. Bristol gave the eulogy address.

In the Firelight.
By Eugene Field.

The fire upon the hearth is low,
And there is stillness everywhere,
And, like wing'd spirits, here and there
The firelight shadows round me creep,
A childish treble breaks the gloom,
And softly from a further room
Comes: "Now I lay me down to sleep."

And, somehow, with that little pray'r
And that sweet treble in my ears,
My thought goes back to distant years,
And lingers with a dear one there;
And as I hear my child's amen,
My mother's faith comes back to me –
Crouched at her side I seem to be,
And mother holds my hands again.

Oh, for an hour in that dear place –
Oh, for the peace of that dear time –
Oh, for that childish trust sublime –
Oh, for a glimpse of mother's face!
Yet, as the shadows round me creep,
I do not seem to be alone –
Sweet magic of that treble tone
And "Now I lay me down to sleep!"

More to Read:
1. Bufton's Universal Cyclopaedia. Ed. By Alexander, Bailey, Bufton, Clintock, Colledge, Crampton, Higgins, Jeffrey, Neergaard, & RUSH. Mutual Pub; Kansas City, 1925.
2. Eugene Field: The Children's Poet. Carol Greene. 1994.
3. Field Days: The Life, Times & Reputation of Eugene Field. By Robert Conrow. 1974. ( * not recommended reading for children)
4. Missouri Legends: Famous People from the Show-Me State. John W. Brown. 2008
5. One Hundred and One Famous Poems. Edited by Roy C. Cook. 1928.
6. Poems of Childhood: Eugene Field. Illustrated by Maxfield Parrish.
7. The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat. By Eugene Field. Illustrated by Janet Street. 1990.
8. Webster's Biographical Dictionary. G & C. Merriam, 1956.
9. The World Book Encyclopedia. Field Enterprises Educational Corp; Chicago; 1967.
10. “A Condensed History of the Kansas City Area: Its Mayors and Some V.I.P.s 1850-1950 ” Assembled by George Fuller Green. City Historian. The Lowell Press; Kansas City, MO. 1968.
11. St. Louis Courthouse Postcard by Raphael & Tuck.
12. Missouri: Day by Day. By Floyd C. Shoemaker, Editor. Mo State Historical Society, 1942.
13. Findagrave #4706

Eugene Field's books: The Tribune Primer (1882); A Little Book of Western Verse (1889); A Little Book of Profitable Tales (1889-90); With Trumpet and Drum (1892); Second Book of Verse (1892); Echoes from the Sabine Farm (1892).

 Places to Visit in MO.:
1. Eugene Field House & St. Louis Toy Museum. Home of poet and toy collector
2. Eugene Field and Dred Scott Case lawyer, Roswell Field, 634 South Broadway, St. Louis.
3. Little Boy Blue Statue, Public Library, St. Joseph, MO.
4. Old Courthouse. 11 N. Fourth St. St. Louis. Place of Dred & Harriet Scott's Trial.
5. Dred Scott is buried at Calvary Cemetery, 5239 West Florissant Avenue, St. Louis,
6. Marker c, 1875, 211 Capitol Ave, Jefferson City, MO.

"Gene, during his college days, was a round peg in a square hole." ~ Dr. Hopkins, President of Williams College.

1897 = November 4. Eugene Field Day. Schools throughout Missouri, on the recommendation of the State Superintendent of Public Schools, annually observed the date of Field's death with recitation programs.

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Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. ~ Ephesians 1:15-17.