James Thomas Fields

James T. Fields, Hawthorne's favorite book promoter, AMS translated from German

James T. Fields, Hawthorne's favorite book promoter, AMS translated from German


Two adjacent paper fragments inscribed overall and signed by James T. Fields (1817-1881) as "James T. Fields '/' " at bottom. In very good to near fine condition, with expected wear including traces of glue. Fields's manuscript is laid down in two parts on a 6" x 8.875" scrapbook album page inscribed with the following provenance: "MS poem by James T. Fields. Given Mrs. Stevens by the author."


Fields has copied down his English translation of "Two Coffins" by German poet Andreas Justinius Kerner (1786-1862). Kerner was a true student of the Romantic School, enchanted by melancholy and supernatural topics. "Two Coffins" tells the story of a German king and his minstrel whose funerary effigies are located side by side in a cathedral.


"From the German.


In the old Cathedral resting,

Two coffins press the stones,

One holds the great King Ottmar,

And one the poet's bones.


High in his power, the monarch

Ancestral glories led, -

The sword lies in his right hand,

And the crown upon his head.


The minstrel near the proud king

Is laid in quiet sleep,

With lifeless hands enfolded,

His gentle harp to keep.


Castles and towers are falling, -

The war-cry thrills the land, -

But the sword it moveth never

In the dead king's hand.


Through valleys, sweet with blossoms,

Mild breezes float along,

And the poet's harp is sounding

In never-dying song.


James T. Fields '/' ".


Another writer was inspired by Kerner's poem and its ideas about the democratization of death. Eugene Field (1850-1895) (no relation to James T. Fields) made his literary reputation as a children's book author, but he too published his version of Kerner's poem. The  differences between Kerner's version and Field's version are minimal and mainly restricted to word choice. Field changed "King Ottmar" to a generic monarch, probably for the benefit of American audiences.


Eugene Field, "Two Coffins"


"In yonder old cathedral

    Two lovely coffins lie;

In one, the head of the state lies dead,

    And a singer sleeps hard by.

Once had that King great power

    And proudly ruled the land —

His crown e’en now is on his brow

    And his sword is in his hand.

How sweetly sleeps the singer

    With calmly folded eyes,

And on the breast of the bard at rest

    The harp that he sounded lies.

The castle walls are falling

    And war distracts the land,

But the sword leaps not from that mildewed spot

    There in that dead king’s hand.

But with every grace of nature

    There seems to float along —

To cheer again the hearts of men —

    The singer’s deathless song".


One of the major participants of the nineteenth-century Boston literary scene, or American Bloomsbury School, James T. Fields was a poet, lecturer, publisher, and editor. He co-owned the publishing firm Ticknor & Fields and served as managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly after 1861. Many of Fields's clients were also his friends, like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Willis Parker, and others.



Item: 63993

Price: $500.00
James Thomas FieldsJames Thomas FieldsJames Thomas Fields
James Thomas Fields
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