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The Stars: A Slumber Story
By Eugene Field (1901)
First Edition, First Printing
DESCRIPTION: It's a shame that those writers who primarily get known through short ephemeral work (stories in magazines, columns in newspapers, slam poems at open mics) are so quickly destined to get forgotten by the culture at large, because many of these writers were actually the most fascinating people of their times, and it's a shame they didn't leave behind a more substantial body of work to be remembered by. Take Eugene Field, for a good example, the "poet laureate of children's verse" (or so his ravenous fans called him); a true literary vagabond in one of the more interesting times in American literary history (from the end of the Civil War in the 1860s to the dawn of the 20th century, when such authors as Mark Twain, Henry James and Field himself established America's very first globally respected arts community), over his life he put in at least a year apiece in St. Louis, Massachusetts, Galesburg Illinois, Columbia Missouri, St. Joseph Missouri, Kansas City, Denver, and a good stint in Chicago, where he lived literally one block away from CCLaP's headquarters here in the Uptown neighborhood. (His house still stands, for pilgrims who want to visit, at the corner of Clarendon and Hutchinson, in a historical district full of other grand homes from when this was Chicago's first-ever wealthy suburb in the middle of the woods, way back in the 1890s.) And all this time he was plugging away at a series of newspapers syndicated nationally, and getting paid good money for it, delivering a combination of humorous verse, children's poems, witty screeds about intellectuals, and a long-standing feud with Boston, a sort of Dave Barry of his age who was adored by tens of millions of genteel middle-classers.
Thankfully, though, much of this work was eventually collected up into a series of standalone hardback books; this one today, for example, was put out by The New Amsterdam Book Company in 1901, not very long after his tragically young death, and contains not just his long-form poem "The Stars" but two critical assessments of the author as well. An extremely hard-to-find volume, as are all of Field's non-illustrated first editions from these years (instead, the public tended to respond much more favorably to the illustrated second editions, the most notorious being Maxfield Parrish's 1904 adaptation of Poems of Childhood), this is a true gem for any serious collector of Victoriana or children's literature, as well as those interested in the first wave of late-19th-century Chicago authors (also including Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair and Carl Sandburg) who helped establish the city's first-ever legitimate artistic bona fides.
CONDITION: Text: Good Plus (G+). Although still in solid shape, this particular copy's spine is rather beat up on the top and bottom corners, with a bit of sunning and staining on the covers as well. The inside front flap features a handwritten inscription from a previous owner which states, "Agnes Lee From Aunt Mary Jan 16th 1919." Issued without a dust jacket. As confirmed by the McBride Guide to the Identification of First Editions, a matching date on the title page and copyright page, and lack of additional printing notices, makes this a true first edition, first printing.
PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at the Oak Brook Book Fair, April 2014.