Field, Eugene

Field, Eugene

▪ American poet
born Sept. 2, 1850, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.
died Nov. 4, 1895, Chicago

      U.S. poet and journalist, best known, to his disgust, as the “poet of childhood.”

      Field attended several colleges but took no degree; at the University of Missouri he was known less as a student than as a prankster. After his marriage in 1873, Field did editorial work for a variety of newspapers, including the Denver Tribune. From his Tribune column, “Odds and Ends,” he gathered comic paragraphs to form his first book, The Tribune Primer (1882), journalistic joking in the tradition of American humorists Artemus Ward and Josh Billings. These squibs served as apprentice work for his “Sharps and Flats” column in the Chicago Morning News (renamed the Record in 1890). Here Field satirized the cultural pretensions of the newly rich Chicago meat barons. A Little Book of Western Verse (1889), drawn in part from his column, included poems in Pike county dialect after the manner of Bret Harte and John Hay, verses for children in an affected Old English dialect, translations of Horace, and the well-known “Little Boy Blue” and “Dutch Lullaby” (“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”). Field's collected works in 10 volumes were published the year after his death, and two more volumes were added in 1900.

Additional Reading
Field's sense of humour, which often took the form of elaborate practical joking, is revealed in two volumes of personal reminiscences by his friends Charles H. Dennis, Eugene Field's Creative Years (1924, reissued 1971); and Slason Thompson, Life of Eugene Field (1927). A more recent biography is Robert Conrow, Field Days (1974).

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Universalium. 2010.

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