Annie Fields

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Annie Adams Fields (1834-1915).

Annie Adams Fields kept a literary salon in her Boston home on 148 Chestnut Street where the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens, and Nathaniel Hawthorne gathered. Married to the publisher James T. Fields, who followed her advice on literary matters,
she helped start the careers of writers including Celia Thaxter, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Willa Cather. In her own writing career, Fields edited books of letters and wrote novels, biographies, and poetry. Fields was also a social reformer who founded organizations to help working men and women.  After the death of her husband in 1881, Fields lived with her close friend Sarah Orne Jewett for eighteen years in a “Boston marriage,” an arrangement in which two women lived together without the financial support of a man.


Under the Olive (Boston: 1880).

Published anonymously, this volume contains 19 verses written in classical meter on subjects such as Achilles, Sophocles, and Pandora. The book was well received. Harriet Beecher Stowe, a close friend of Fields, was happy for the book’s reception, but she thought that Fields’ charity work had a “higher beauty.”


The Life and Letters of Harreit Beecher Stowe (Boston: 1898).

Fields first met Stowe years after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin through her husband James T. Fields. They met again in Italy and sailed back to the United States together.  For decades, Fields’s work served as the biographical standard on Stowe.

Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842- 1904) was a wealthy Beacon Hill artist and socialite who was widely admired for her paintings and stained glass windows.  In the 1880s, she began designing revolutionary book covers for the Boston publisher Houghton, Mifflin, introducing  designs based on openness and simplicity while rejecting the cluttered Victorian designs of the time.  Some of her best work was created for her close friend, the author Sarah Orne Jewett. Whitman designed the cover of Stowe’s biography.


A.L.S. to Julian Hawthorne (June 1909).

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) had admitted to Fields that it was he who destroyed the manuscript of The Scarlet Letter, and she reminds his son Julian of it in this letter defending her husband:

There is a passage which I think it would be well for you to eliminate from your last book. The one which you speak of Mr. Fields as inappreciative of the “Scarlet Letter” and having burned the manuscript.


A.L.S. to Mrs. Fairchild (Manchester-by-the-Sea: August 20, 1909).

The great friendship between Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) and Annie Fields did not end when Jewett passed away. Jewett had convinced Fields that their spirits would go on together, keeping their friendship alive, even without her being physically present:

…it is indeed true that having laid aside her painful body she now seems very near to me in many loving ways which are all her own and I feel greatly comforted and companioned by her.