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Eugene Field

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Eugene Field (1850-1895) was a remarkable combination of a book-loving scholar, a wide-awake journalist, a Western humorist, and a tender-hearted poet. He was born at St. Louis, studied at more than one college, graduated from the University of Michigan and traveled in Europe. After his return he was a journalist in Denver and other cities, but finally settled in Chicago. Here he found congenial work in contributing daily to the press whims and fancies in prose and verse. Some of his poems were in Western dialect and described vividly rude fron-tier life. But he also had especial fondness for children and some of his most pleasing work was lullabies, little folk's stories, and "Love Songs of Childhood." His classical scholarship was shown in his translations from Horace. After his death his works and plays were collected in ten volumes, and his friends testified their regard in affectionate praise.

James Whitcomb Riley is the popular Hoosier poet. He was born at Greenfield, Indiana, in 1852, and early contributed to local papers, chiefly in verse. He belonged for a time to a strolling company of actors, for whom he recast plays and improvised songs. Then he obtained a place with the "Indianapolis Journal." He has also been a popular lecturer. Among his publications are "The Ole Swimmin'-Hole and 'Leven More Poems," "Pipes o' Pan at Zekesbury," "Rhymes of Childhood," "Poems here at Home." Though most of his poems are in dialect, he has written also in serious style, and has touched the hearts of people, seldom reached by the loftier poets.

Another poet who has won favor with the masses of the people is Will Carleton. He was born at Hudson, Michigan, in 1845, graduated at Hillsdale College, and engaged in newspaper work in Detroit and Chicago. His numerous poems of rural life and incidents have been collected in "Farm Ballads," "Farm Legends," "Farm Festivals," and a similar series relating to the city. The best known of his poems are "Betsey and I Are Out," "How Betsey and I Made Up," "Over the Hills to the Poor House," and "Gone With a Handsomer Man." Though not ranking high from a literary point of view, they de-serve commendation for their correct moral tone.

John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1891), a native of Ireland, entered the British army for the purpose of propagating Fenianism. Detected, tried and convicted, he was trans-ported to Australia, but managed to escape to an American vessel. He settled in Boston, where he became editor of "The Pilot." Besides a narrative of his adventures, he published some volumes of poetry and a novel, "Moon-dyne." He was, above all, a poet, and utilized his knowledge of remote lands and seas in both poetry and prose.

Richard Watson Gilder, born at Bordentown, New Jersey, in 1843, belongs to a literary family. In 1869 he became associate editor of "Scribner's Monthly" and when the title was changed to the "Century Magazine," in 1881, he was made editor-in-chief. His own books have been poems, artistic and mystical. They include "The Celestial Passion," "The New Day," "The Poet and His Master" (1878), and "Lyrics" (1885).

No more vivid picture of the condition of Virginia just before and during the Civil War has been given than in the dialect stories of Thomas Nelson Page. These humorous and pathetic tales are put in the mouth of an old negro, who looks back with regret to the vanished blessings of patriarchal slavery. "Marse Chan" appeared in the "Century Magazine" in 1884, and was soon followed by "Meh Lady," "Ole Stracted," and "Unc' Edinburg's Drowndin'." Page was born in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1854, was educated at the University of Virginia, and became a lawyer at Richmond. He has sketched his own boyhood in "Two Little Confederates" (1888). Other stories of Virginia war life are "On Newfound River" (1891), "The Burial of the Guns" (1894). In "Red Rock" (1899) the troublous times of reconstruction and carpetbaggers are dealt with from the Southern point of view.

The novelist who has best succeeded in reproducing the atmosphere of Kentucky country life before the war is James Lane Allen, who was born at Lexington in that State in 1850. He had been engaged as a teacher before he devoted himself to literature in 1885. For "Harper's Magazine" he prepared sketches of the Blue Grass Region, and afterward used these studies as the background of his stories. "The Choir Invisible" is an enlargement of a tale of pioneer times originally published as "John Gray." "With Flute and Violin" is a pathetic story, founded on the life of a minister of Lexington. One of the "Two Gentlemen of Kentucky" is an old negro preacher. "King Solomon" is a tribute to the self-sacrificing heroism of an outcast. In other stories historical events and personages are freely introduced. "Summer in Arcady," though full of local color, is poetical and spiritual.

The American novelist of socialism was Edward Bellamy (1850-1898). Born at Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, he was educated in Germany. He was chiefly en-gaged in journalism, and for a time resided in Hawaii. Returning to his native State in 1877, he founded the "Springfield News." His earlier novels were "Six to One; a Nantucket Idyl" (1878), "Dr. Heidenhoff's Process" (1880). But his name was made widely known by his novel, "Looking Backward" (1888), in which a person enjoying the public comforts and manifold inventions of the socialistic era of A. D. 2000 describes the inconvenience and troubles of life in the Nineteenth Century. Such was its effect on the public mind that societies were formed in all parts of the country to promote the ideas of the work, especially the single tax on land. After some years of labor in this cause, Bellamy's health failed, but he added another work, advocating the same ideas, "Equality" (1897). His great merit is that he put into literature the ideal community of the vast mass of the American people, whether to be realized in the way he proposed or not.

Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathaniel, was born in Bos-ton in 1846, and went with his father to England in 1853. He returned to Massachusetts for his education, but left Harvard on the death of his father in 1864, and went abroad. After further study in Germany he became a civil engineer, and was employed as such in New York City. In 1872 he took up journalism and literature and since that time has been constantly engaged in contributing to periodicals and newspapers. For some years he resided in London and contributed to "The Spectator." His "Saxon Studies" consists of pleasant sketches of German life. Among his best short stories are "Bressant," "Idolatry," and "Archibald Malmaison;" among the longer novels are "Garth," "Sebastian Strome," and "Fortune's Fool." He has also written a biography of "Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife."

John Hay at one time seemed to be the rival to Bret Harte, but the wealth acquired by his marriage seems to have diverted him to other pursuits. He was born at Salem, Indiana, in 1838, graduated at Brown University, and entered on law practice at Springfield, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln, when elected to the Presidency, chose John G. Nicolay and Hay as his private secretaries, and during the war employed the latter on missions of import-ance. For faithful service in the field he was brevetted colonel of volunteers. When Lincoln died, Colonel Hay was at his bedside. Afterward he was in the diplomatic service at Paris, Vienna and Madrid. In 1870 he became an editorial writer on the "New York Tribune." His "Pike County Ballads" (1871), at once took the world by storm; "Jim Bludso," the pilot who stuck to his post when the steamboat was on fire, and "Little Breeches" were the first dialect poems in which the humorous and heroic were blended. At the same time Colonel Hay published "Castilian Days," giving his impressions of the romance and beauty of Spain. The style is graceful, and the book shows both humor and fancy. A notable novel, "The Breadwinners," describing the struggle between labor and capital, has been ascribed to Hay, but he has never acknowledged it. His most important literary undertaking has been the "Life of Abraham Lincoln" (Io vols., 1890), prepared in conjunction with Nicolay. It portrays the martyred President in public and private life and gives full details of his surroundings in all parts of his career. In 1897 Colonel Hay was appointed Minister to England, and in 1898 he was called to be Secretary of State.

One of the strangely attractive writers of recent times is Lafcadio Hearn. He was born in the Ionian Islands in 185o, of an Irish father and Greek mother. He was educated in England and France, but came to America, and was employed on newspapers in Cincinnati and New Orleans. After publishing "Chita, a Memory of Last Island" (1889), he was sent to the West Indies to describe the natives. This was done in "Two Years in the West Indies," and in "Youma," a tale of the fidelity of a black nurse to her infant white charge during an insurrection. Hearn then went to Japan, where he has become a teacher, learned the Japanese language, accepted the Buddhist faith, married a Japanese wife and taken a Japanese name, Y. Koijumi. His books include "Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan" (1895), "Kokoro; Hints and Echoes of Japanese Inner Life" (1896). His style is highly picturesque, vividly expressing the beauty of the distant land in which the wanderer has fixed his abode.

Charles Dudley Warner is a delightful essayist, humor-ist, and companion in travel, and an accomplished editor. He was born at Plainfield, Massachusetts, in 1829, graduated at Hamilton College in 1851, was a surveyor in Mis-souri, and a lawyer in Chicago. In 186o he removed to Hartford, Connecticut, and became editor of the "Cour-ant." He has had charge of the "Editor's Drawer" in "Harper's Magazine" since 1884. After various contributions to magazines, he became known as a humorist by "My Summer in a Garden" (187o), a book full of quiet but irresistable fun. "Back-Log Studies" (1872), mingled graver thoughts with mirth. Warner was associated with Mark Twain in "The Gilded Age" (1873), His books of travel in Egypt and the Levant, and in the Western and Southern United States, are among the best of their class, brisk, bright, and stimulating. Warner has also written much on literature, one of his best books being "The Relation of Literature to Life" (1896). He has published biographies of Captain John Smith and Washington Irving. He was chief editor of the "Library of the World's Best Literature" (1896-8).

Having earned a high reputation as a newspaper correspondent, Harold Frederic (1856-1898) was coming into fame as a novelist when death suddenly cut short his career. He was born at Utica, New York, of an Irish father and New England mother. Taken from school at twelve, he found his way to a newspaper office. As a reporter he went to Albany and New York, and in 1884 was made London correspondent of the New York "Times." His ability was soon widely recognized. Amid his journalistic labors he found time to write stories and novels of more than average merit. The first that attracted notice was "Seth's Brother's Wife" (1887), a "purpose" story. "In the Valley" was a story of colonial times along the Mohawk River, contrasting scenes of peace and war; "The Copperhead," a somewhat similar story of the Civil War. But "The Damnation of Theron Ware" (1896), challenged public attention by its startling title and manifest power. A weak, imperfectly educated Methodist minister is brought into unexpected contact with the strong faith and impressive ritual of the Roman Catholic Church. Swayed from his religious moorings by admiration and love of an intellectually robust girl, he is morally shipwrecked. Carefully as the story is wrought, and exact as it is in separate scenes, the whole is not consistent. The signal ability displayed in the first part is not maintained to the end. In later stories Frederic turned to England for scenes and themes. His last, "The Market Place" (1898), is equal to any of its predecessors. Yet the testimony of his associates is that in none of his works did he exhibit the full measure of the powers they believed him to possess. In particular, humor, which was a marked characteristic of his conversation, is absent from his writings.

Literature for juvenile readers has been almost exclusively an American invention. There had been some English precursors in "Evenings at Home," "Sandford and Merton," and Miss Edgeworth's "Moral Tales." Even Goldsmith and Charles Lamb wrote some children's stories. But the first who devoted himself with success to instructive books of this class was the American Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860), best known as "Peter Parley." More than two hundred volumes were prepared by him, historical, biographical and instructive. So popular did his pen-name become that more than seventy volumes were issued under it without his authority. Jacob Abbott (1803-1879) wrote almost an equal number of instructive story books, including the "Rollo Books," the "Franconia Stories," and the "Marco Paul Series." William T. Adams (1822-1897), a teacher in the Boston public schools, became, under the name "Oliver Optic," a favorite writer for boys. He wrote several series, "Young America Abroad," "Lake Shore," and "Army and Navy." Other superior writers of this class are Hezekiah Butterworth, born in 1839, who has written "Zig-Zag Journeys" in many countries, many excellent stories and ballads; Horatio Alger, born in 1834, who has written "Luck and Pluck," and more than fifty similar books, urging boys to self-support, besides biographies of Lincoln, Garfield, etc. ; Horace Elisha Scudder, born in 1838, who has written the Bodley Books," biographies of Washington and Noah Webster, some histories, and literary essays; Willis John Abbot, born in 1863, who has written boys' books on the Navy in each of the American wars.

To the same class may be added Charles Carleton Coffin (1823-1896), best known. as a war correspondent, who wrote for boys the "Story of Liberty" (1878), and a series of books on the Civil War.

Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, after attaining international reputation as a specialist in nervous diseases, began, at the age of fifty, to write stories, sketches, and literary essays, with increasing success until in "Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker" (1897), he produced a powerful historical novel of Philadelphia in the Revolution. He has, however, done injustice to the Quakers and their mode of life. Earlier novels were, "In War Time," and "Far in the For-est." Later came "The Adventures of François," a tale of the French Revolution. François was a foundling, who became a thief, juggler and fencing-master. The tale is artistically constructed, but has not the same direct interest as its predecessor. Dr. Mitchell has also written poems which were collected in 1896. In his dramatic pieces he has displayed especial vigor. Dr. Mitchell was born at Philadelphia in 1829, the son of a distinguished physician. He was led to his study of nervous affections by his experience as an army surgeon.

The most successful American soldier novelist is Charles King, born at Albany, New York, in 1844, but taken to Wisconsin a year later. He is a graduate of West Point, but resigned from the army in 1879, and was for a time professor of military science at the University of Wisconsin. In the Spanish-American War he was made a general of volunteers, as his father had been in the Civil War. His literary work consists of narratives of his own experience, as "Campaigning with Crook" (189o), and "Famous and Decisive Battles of the World" (1884), and a long series of novels describing army and frontier life. Among the best are "The Colonel's Daughter" (1883), "Kitty's Conquest" (1884), and "Captain Close and Sergeant Croesus" (1895). Two of his stories relate to the Civil War, and one of these, "Between the Lines" has had special success.

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