Thursday, December 3, 2009

Field* + Feild* (for Field* or Feild*)

Today's literary lion, born in 1850 on the plains of Missouri, was undoubtedly outstanding in his field. Following the death of his mother, the young Eugene Field was taken in and raised by an aunt in Amherst, Massachusetts. His father was the attorney who defended Dred Scott in the lawsuit that is thought to have started the Civil War. Eugene grew up to work on various newspapers in St. Joseph (Mo.), Chicago, and Denver and began writing for children just several years before his own premature passing at the age of 45. A search on Field* + Feild* yields 55 records in OhioLINK: a number of them clarify the misspelling with a [sic], while others do not involve a misspelling at all (e.g., Feild* being the correct spelling of a personal name). Several records also include the Middle English spelling of field, which is apparently feilde. One associates Eugene Field, whose poems were often illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, with such wonderfully sentimental poetry as "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod." But he could also be quite the wag. Reviewing an actor named Creston Clarke in the role of King Lear, Field once wrote that Clarke "played the king as if under momentary apprehension that somebody else was about to play the ace."

(Edward McCartan's statue of the "Dream Lady" from Field's poem "Rock-a-by-Lady," erected in 1922 at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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