James Thomas Fields was born on December 31, 1817, in Portsmouth, Hew Hampshire (Simkin). His father was a shipmaster; Fields’ home town of Portsmouth was the only seaport in their state. When his father died at sea because of a storm he left Fields and his brother with only their mother (Fields). Fields loved reading books at a young age and he mastered almost all the books in the Portsmouth Library. He started to work in a bookstore called the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston when he was 14. Later, Fields started to write his own articles for the newspaper at the age of 17. He also became a member of the Boston Mercantile Library Association at the same age. This is where Fields and other young men read the leading poets and wrote their own poems and stories (Fields).
Fields’ next big step was opening a publishing and bookselling firm with William Ticknor when he was 21. As a publisher, Fields knew many American writers and British writers simultaneously. He kept close personal friendships with some of these writers too. One of the well-known collections he published was by Thomas De Quincey; the firm published 20 volumes. The firm was also known as the first American publisher that paid foreign writers for their works (Simkin).
Fields had a tough experience with marriage. He was engaged to Mary Willard, who was 6 years younger than him. But Mary died in 1845 from tuberculosis before their marriage. Fields then fell in love with Mary’s younger sister Eliza Willard and married her in 1850. Sadly, Eliza also died because of tuberculosis just 4 months after their marriage. Fields was troubled by the loss of his wife and fiancé, so he traveled to Europe. He married his second wife, Annie Adams, a famous writer herself, in 1854, and they published many writers’ works, including those of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and more (Simkin). Fields invited Charles Dickens to visit the United States, and he invited Fields and Annie to England in 1868.
After running a business almost his entire life, Fields retired from his company Ticknor and Fields in 1871 to focus on his own writing (Simkin). In the same year, Fields wrote about his personal friendship with different authors like Charles Dickens in his book Yesterdays with Authors. He also published his essays, poems, and sketches in a collection called Underbrush in 1877 (Simkin).
James T. Fields died on April 24, 1881, in Boston, after which his wife Annie wrote a biography of him called Memoir of James T. Fields.
ReferenceFields, Annie. James T. Fields Biographical Notes and Personal Sketches. Hansebooks, 2016.
Simkin, John. “James Thomas Fields Biography.” Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, https://spartacus-