Fields of the Atlantic Monthly: Letters to an Editor, 1861-1870

Fields of the Atlantic Monthly: Letters to an Editor, 1861-1870

Fields of the Atlantic Monthly: Letters to an Editor, 1861-1870

Fields of the Atlantic Monthly: Letters to an Editor, 1861-1870

Excerpt

The foremost publisher in Boston in 1860 was a large, somewhat plump man who always looked as if he were enjoying life tremendously. His name was James Thomas Fields. A youthful roundness of his features hid his fundamental shrewdness, but the youthfulness itself was offset by a huge tangled beard, just beginning to gray. Distinguished looking though it was, that beard was sometimes troublesome, and Mrs. Fields sometimes had to draw the attention of her dinner guests toward the window with "Oh, that looks like a gazelle in the garden!" while she urgently motioned to "Jamie" to disentangle some dropped particle of food.

Fields's reputation for geniality was due partly to his wife's charm and competence as a hostess, but also to the jovial sparkle in his eyes and his deferential manner in conversation. His talk seemed a "triumph of meekness and animal spirits without noise or abruptness, -- full of enjoyment, and perfectly unconscious." Though ready with puns and anecdotes when the occasion prompted, he was not a witty speaker like Holmes or Lowell, but he was easier to talk to. In fact he was a better listener than speaker, and his conversation was designed to make his interlocutor pleased with himself. His manner derived from a former shyness, and was rather deliberately cultivated.

He was known as one who could say "no" most gently, and his diplomacy with writers was almost unmatched. Even Gail Hamilton, whose quarrel with Fields was notorious, had to confess that she feared to meet her publisher face to face because his persuasiveness invariably overcame her arguments. She appreci-

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