FIELDS BEQUEST GAVE FAMOUS OLD WORKS TO TREASURE ROOM
Lincoln-Owned Volumes and Manuscripts by Hawthorne and Whittler add Interest to Collection.
The following description of the manuscripts and books which came to the Widener Library through the bequest of Mrs. James T. Fields, by G. P. Winship '98, the Widener Collection Librarian, is reprinted here from the current issue of the Alumni Bulletin.
"The bequest of Mrs. James T. Fields gives Widener Library twenty-five of the more important volumes from the 'Shelf of Old Books' which she described so delightfully in her essays published under that title in 1894. In their new home they can never exert the charm --of which they were after all but a part of the frame--that made Mrs. Fields's home for a third of a century the most-sought literary mecca for those who knew their way about Boston. They will, however, find some old and many new friends on the securer shelves of the library, where they add a fresh distinction to the 'Treasure Room.'
"This shelf-full is equally remarkable for its manuscripts in the autograph of authors who won a permanent place in English literature, for its personal letters, written for the most part to Mr. Fields or to his wife, signed by well-known names, and for its volumes which once belonged to famous persons.
"Of these 'Association Books,' as the booksellers style them, the first place is claimed by two copies of Pope's poems. One is an edition printed at Philadelphia in 1839, which has no importance in itself, but is a new title for the College Library. This particular volume has, however, on the cover and again on the fly leaf the signature of 'A. Lincoln,' with a note in his handwriting stating that it was 'Presented by his friend N. W. Edwards.' On the opposite page is a statement showing that it was given by Lincoln to his law-partner, W. H. Herndon, who in turn gave it to Mr. Fields on January 1, 1867, so that it comes to the College library by a direct descent. Into this copy Mr. Fields pasted a long letter from Lincoln, written at Washington on February 15, 1848, discussing the right of the President to act without consulting Congress, in time of war or threatening international complication. The other volume of Pope is a copy of the first edition of the 'Rape of the Lock,' in its contemporary panelled calf binding and larger than the copy in Mr. Lefferts's collection of Pope's works, which likewise now belongs to Harvard. The Fields copy lacks two leaves, but it has on a corner of the title page the name of a former owner, 'Ch. Lamb,' and the four missing pages have been replaced by a manuscript copy in the handwriting of 'Elia.'
Lowell's "Bigelow Papers."
"The Editor of the Atlantic, who was also a member of the firm of Ticknor and Fields, was a valued and valuable friend to every author of distinction during the middle of the nineteenth century. When they learned of his fondness for the original manuscripts of famous books, they gave him the best they had saved from the printer and furnace-man. Lowell sent him the Second Series of the 'Bigelow Papers,' 'as a trifling acknowledgment of many substantial obligations,' and Holmes inscribed the manuscript of 'The Guardian Angel' as 'A token of kind regard from one of many writers who have found him a wise, faithful and generous friend.'
"Mr. Fields added to Lowell's manuscript an autograph letter in the handwriting of Hosea Bigelow himself, from which some future candidate for the Ph.D. at Harvard may be able to draw materials for a dissertation based on the analogies of the disputes over Junius and Bacon. . . .
"Hawthorne's manuscript of 'The House of the Seven Gables' contains a letter from the author suggesting possible titles for this romance. 'The one selected,' he wrote, 'is rather the best; and has the great advantage that it would puzzle the devil to tell what it means.' Nearly hidden at the end of this volume, is the poem, in its author's handwriting, which Longfellow wrote upon the death of Hawthorne.
"Dickens sent Mr. Fields a bit of the 'Uncommercial Traveller,' selected, it is likely enough, by that inveterate joker, because it revealed his method of literary composition when he was having the greatest difficulty in phrasing the narrative to suit him. From Whittier came the manuscript of several poems, together with a letter suggesting that one of them is of a class of poems of mine which are rather un-Quakerish.' Thackeray is represented by a bit of the 'Roundabout Papers,' Sydney Smith by his 'Letter to the Pennsylvanians' who had repudiated a state loan, and George Eliot by 'Agatha.' Charles Reade's first draft of 'The Box Tunnel' is accompanied by two letters, expressing his appreciation of the fact that the Boston firm had 'taken up an author on your own judgment instead of waiting until sixteen old women had waited for some echo and echoed it and called it their verdict.' Emerson is represented by 'The Titmouse' and also by the loose and printer-thumbed sheets of an article hurriedly written in the hours following the arrival of the news of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Byron Editions Supplemented.
"Mr. Fields secured from his friend, Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh, a copy of Byron's 'Don Juan, Cantos III, IV, and V,' which supplements most satisfactorily the Byron first editions which Harvard received with the library of Harry Widener. The first page of this copy is covered by a note in Byron's handwriting, as attested by the publisher, John Murray. In this the author implores 'those superior persons--the publisher and printer--that they will in future, less misspell, misplace, mistake, and mis-everything, the humbled M.S.S. of their humble Servant. Oct. 26th, 1821.' There are three volumes of Wordsworth's Poems, one of them made up of several 'first editions' as published separately, and all containing, in the author's hand, the corrections of wording, phrases and punctuation which he introduced into the later editions.
"A volume of 'The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats' has on the title the autograph of Leigh Hunt. Into it Hunt pasted a bit of manuscript written by Keats, a letter in which Coleridge expresses a preference for sausages over a mutton chop, and one from Shelley which originally covered 'a check for (within a few shillings) the amount of your bill.'
"A list of the autograph letters selected by Mrs. Fields for the two scrap books which she bequeathed to the College would contain the names of most of the writers of the nineteenth century. When these are added to the catalogue of those which Mr. Winsor and Mr. Lane have for many years been accumulating for the College Library, recently very largely increased by the gift of Dr. Rupert Norton's collection, by those in the Harry Widener Library, and those of Mr. Robert Gould Shaw, the College will have available for use a very important body of material illustrating the personality of nearly all the men and women who have had a dominating influence upon the last hundred years."