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American Literature:



 The Later Historians





 Henry James


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George Washington Cable

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

More than a dozen years after the Civil War there began to appear in "Scribner's Magazine" a series of short stories, revealing singular types of character, and a peculiar civilization, surcharged with a delightful atmosphere, admirably adapted to the purpose of romance. They were found in the limits of the United States, and yet belonged to a reserved aristocratic French and Spanish community. This revelation of the Creoles of New Orleans, hitherto secluded from general observation, was made by George Washington Cable, who had lived familiarly among them, and had the artistic sense necessary to set them properly before the world. He was born in New Orleans in 1844, the son of a prosperous merchant, who failed a few years later. On the death of his father, young Cable left school and became a store clerk. At the age of nineteen he entered the Confederate army, and served till the close of the war. Thereafter he led a checkered life, as clerk, member of a surveying expedition, reporter and contributor to the New Orleans papers. The stories of Creole life published in "Scribner's Magazine" proved still more popular, when issued in the volume "Old Creole Days." In 188o appeared "The Grandissimes," his first long novel, followed soon by "Madame Delphine" and "Dr. Sevier." This remarkable trio of novels has given Cable a unique place in American literature. No rivals have entered his field; he stands alone as a truthful delineator of a remarkable civilization. His scenes were laid in a former generation, thus giving better scope for his fancy, while his thorough knowledge of the conservative society and its environment prevented his going astray in depicting it. Of course the sensitive, tender-hearted Creoles, jealous of their caste and their privacy, resented the exposure of their lives, however sympathetic the relation. Part of his picturesque stories related to the Quadroons, and the mixture of these with the others gave serious offense. There were later sketches of the descendants of the Acadians, who found refuge in Louisiana, when dragged into,exile from Nova Scotia. The volume, "Bonaventure," includes three of the best stories. Mr. Cable wrote also a "History of New Orleans," in connection with the census of 1880. He afterward removed to Massachusetts and engaged in religious work. One more novel has been added to his list, "John March, Southerner."

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