Title: James Thomas Fields Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1767-1914
Date (bulk): (bulk 1850-1914)
Fields, James Thomas
Extent: 5,438 pieces
The Huntington Library
San Marino, California 91108
Acquired from Rosenbach in 1922. FI 5097-5438 and FAC 1015 acquired from Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bole in 1978.
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[Identification of item], James Thomas Fields Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
James Thomas Fields (1817-1881) occupied an important position in the nineteenth century literary scene in his dual role as
The Atlantic Monthly and publisher in the Boston firm of Ticknor and Fields. His career as publisher began in 1831, when he became a clerk for
the Old Corner Bookstore, which evolved into the firm of William D. Ticknor and Company. During the forties, Ticknor and Co.
began its rise to greatness, with extra impetus provided by its publication in 1847 of Longfellow's
Evangeline. Soon after, the firm also established relations with other New England writers such as Whittier, Lowell, Hawthorne, and Holmes,
each of whom contributed to the increasing prestige of Ticknor and Co. Meanwhile, Fields began a corresponding rise, advancing
to a junior partnership in 1843, though the firm retained its title until 1849, when it became Ticknor, Reed and Fields. The
title of Ticknor and Fields came into being in June, 1854, and lasted until 1868, when reorganization changed the name to
Fields, Osgood and Company, with Fields as senior partner. Throughout his career as a publisher, Fields was extremely successful
in establishing good relationships (and in a great many cases, friendships) with a large number of authors, both American
and English. Through his fair and generous terms in dealing with them and through his policy of protecting their works against
piracy in spite of the absence of any international copyright laws, he was able to attract established, well-known writers
to his firm, as well as many who would yet achieve fame. Fields succeeded also in obtaining wide exposure of his firm's books
by means of his extensive circle of friends and acquaintances among editors and book reviewers. Chiefly as a result of his
promotional talents, Ticknor and Fields were able to develop a national market for their books and hence to make Boston the
primary center in the United States for the publication of literary works.
In his capacity as editor of
The Atlantic Monthly, Fields was no less successful. Created in May, 1857, the magazine was purchased by Ticknor and Fields two years later. The
following year, Fields took over the editorship of the magazine from James Russell Lowell. During Field's tenure as editor,
he continued to maintain the magazine's reputation for dignity and integrity which Lowell had established, and his promptness
and business acumen provided a marked contrast to Lowell's sometimes casual methods. As in his role of publisher, Fields dealt
fairly and generously with
Atlantic contributors, inaugurating the practice of paying for articles when accepted rather than when published. Further, he actively
sought out new writers in an effort to broaden the appeal of the magazine, also accepting more pieces of light fiction to
ease the number of scholarly literary and historical articles. Under his leadership, the
Atlantic significantly increased its circulation, becoming widely known throughout much of the United States and England, as well.
On December 31, 1870, Fields retired from business, partly because of health, but was able to continue his writing and lecturing.
He also continued to enjoy the many friendships he had formed with authors and other literary figures. The Fields home, with
James and his wife, Annie (Adams) Fields (1834-1915) receiving, had become a delightful gathering place for literary people
in Boston. There were frequent visits from those in and around Boston, such as Dr. Holmes, who lived just down the street,
and there were guests from abroad -- those whom the Fieldses had met on their several trips to England, and many distinguished
visitors who were brought to the Fieldses' to meet the Boston literary circle. The story of the many hours spent with their
literary friends is told in their memoirs:
Authors and Friends, by Annie Fields, and
Yesterdays with Authors, by James T. Fields.
Following James Fields's death in 1881, Annie continued to receive her many friends, with the frequent companionship of Sarah
Orne Jewett, and continued her own literary activities until her death in 1915.
The collection consists primarily of letters from authors to James Thomas Fields, mostly relating to publication of their
manuscripts by his firm. Letters concerning literary matters are also addressed to Annie Fields. Included in the collection
are many autograph manuscripts of poems, essays, articles, etc. by American and English authors.
Austin, James C.
Fields of the Atlantic Monthly. (San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington Library, 1953).
Charvat, William. James T. Fields and the Beginnings of Book Promotion, 1840-1855,
The Huntington Library Quarterly VIII (Nov., 1944), 75-94.
Authors and Friends. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1897).
Fields, James T.
Yesterdays with Authors. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1900).
Howe, M. A. DeWolfe.
Memories of a Hostess. (Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1922).