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Roswell Field

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Failing to cash a 40¢ royalty check, Field writes that his wife intended to

keep the check and frame it as a constant reminder of the sweet rewards of literature

and as a stimulus to renewed literary exertion

Roswell Martin Field, Jr., 1851–1919.  American author; brother of Eugene Field.  Typed Letter Signed, Your Obedient servant / Roswell Field, one page, 8” x 11”, on stationery of The Chicago Evening Post, Editorial Department, January 15, 1900.

This is a superb, tongue-in-cheek letter by Field to his publisher, which had written him over his failure to cash a royalty check—for all of 40¢, which would be about $12 today.  He writes, in full:: “In reply to your letter, prodding me for not cashing a check for royalties, sent a year ago, permit me to say that, to the get of my recollection, the check was made payable to my wife, to whom I delivered the same.  It is my further impression that she remarked at the time that she would keep the check and frame it as a constant reminder of the sweet rewards of literature and as a stimulus to renewed literary exertion.  As the check was for forty cents I earnestly endeavored to dissuade her from this fatuous and improvident course, but it would appear that my arguments were futile.  I am obliged to you for your kindly interest, and I will redouble efforts to bring her to our business-like way of thinking.  Pending this interesting conjugal session believe me  /  Your Obedient Servant . . . .”

Field, the brother of renowned children’s author Eugene Field, was an accomplished author in his own right.  Along with Eugene Field, he translated and published Horace’s Echoes From the Sabine Farm (1893), and with others he translated the French comic opera Fauvette (1890).  Either alone or with others, he published In Sunflower Land: Stories of God’s Own Country (1892); The Muses Up to Date (1897); The Passing of Mother’s Portrait (1901); The Romance of an Old Fool (1902); The Bondage of Ballinger (1903); Little Miss Dee (1904); and Madeline (1906). In 1896, he wrote the introduction for the posthumous publication of The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, his brother’s compilation of sketches on bibliomania that first appeared in the Chicago Record in 1895.

The year after Eugene Field’s death, Roswell also published The Writings in Prose and Verse of Eugene Field (1896).  He wrote a long introduction, which he titled “A Memory,” that he ended with a poignant passage:

Sleep, my brother, in the perfect joy of an awakening to that happiness beyond the probationary life.  Sleep in the assurance that those who loved you will always cherish the memory of that love as the tender inspiration of your gentle spirit.  Sleep and dream that the songs you sang will still be sung when those who sing them now are sleeping with you.  Sleep and take your rest as calmly and peacefully as you slept when your last “Good-Night” lengthened into eternity.  And if the Horace you so merrily invoked comes to you in your slumber and bids you awake to that sweet cheer, that “fellowship that knows no end beyond the misty Stygian sea,” tell him that the time has not yet come, and that there are those yet uncalled, to whom you have pledged the joyous meeting on yonder shore, and who would share with you the heaven your companionship would brighten.

This letter is in good condition.  Field has signed in brown fountain pen.  The letter has two vertical folds, one of which passes through the “Ro” in Field’s signature, and one horizontal fold.  A circled, handwritten penciled “F” in the middle of the text denotes receipt of the letter, and there are filing holes in the upper blank margin.  There is overall toning, with scattered soiling and handling marks, and there is slight paper loss at three corners.  Fold splits on the ends of the horizontal fold and a small fold break in the upper right corner have been archivally repaired.  


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