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Title: Letters from The Raven - Correspondence of L. Hearn with Henry Watkin
Author: Hearn, Lafcadio
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Letters from The Raven


Lafcadio Hearn with
Henry Watkin







My Sweethearts Three

Marian, May









It is felt that no apology is necessary for offering to the interested
public, even though it be a limited one, the letters and extracts from
letters which appear in this little volume. In a day when the letters
of Aubrey Beardsley--who was a draughtsman rather than a writer--are
gravely offered to possible readers by a great publishing house, it is
surely allowable to present for the first time epistles of a really
great author. No excuse was offered for printing such things as:
"Thank you so much. It was very good of you to call." If this tells us
anything concerning the unfortunate young master of white and black,
I am unable to discern it. I feel quite sure that no one can make the
same objection to the correspondence herewith given. It tells us many
things concerning Hearn's life and moods and aspirations that otherwise
would have been unknown to us. He wrote to Mr. Henry Watkin as to his
dearest friend. In his letters, we get what we do not find elsewhere.
We have here facts without which his future biographer would be at a

If there be any repetitions in the sections which follow, the
indulgence of the reader is craved. Such as they are, they were
written at widely separated intervals in the hope that material might
be finally gathered for a "Life and Letters of Hearn." This hope has so
far been frustrated, but it is felt that much is here offered that will
lead to a better understanding and appreciation of this famous writer.
The endeavor of the editor has been so far as possible to let Hearn
tell his own story, giving only enough comment to make clear what Hearn
himself had to say.

In writing of their beloved R. L. S., enthusiasts tell us Stevenson is
endeared to mankind not only because of his writings, but also because
of his dauntless cheerfulness in the face of incurable disease. Hearn,
in another field, was equally charming in his work and, in the face of
another danger, equally dauntless. From the first he was confronted
by the possible fate of the sightless. At best he had but a pearly
vision of the world. The mere labor of writing was a physical task
with him, demanding hours for the composition of a single letter. Yet
he accomplished almost two score volumes, none of which is carelessly
written. Seeing as through a ghostly vapor, in his books he revelled
in color as few writers of our day have been able to do. How he
managed to see, or rather to comprehend, all the things he so vividly
described, was one of his secrets.

The best work of his life was commenced at the age of forty, when he
arrived in Japan. He had many qualifications for his chosen field.
During the long, lazy two years in Martinique he had literally soaked
his mind, as it were, with Oriental philosophy. When he came to Japan
he was weary of wandering, and the courtesy, gentleness and kindliness
of the natives soon convinced him that they were the best people in the
world among whom to live. A small man physically, he felt at home in a
nation of small men. It pleased his shy, sensitive nature to think that
he was often mistaken for a Japanese.

To his studies and his work he brought a prodigious curiosity, a
perfect sympathy, and an admirable style. He had an eye that observed
everything in this delightful Nippon, from the manner in which the
women threaded their needles to the effect of Shinto and Buddhism
upon the national character, religion, art, and literature. Japanese
folk-lore, Japanese street songs and sayings, the home life of the
people,--everything appealed to him, and the farther removed from
modern days and from Christianity, the stronger the appeal.

Zangwill has acutely said, in speaking of Loti's famous story of Japan,
"Instead of looking for the soul of a people, Pierre Loti was simply
looking for a woman."

Hearn did not fail to tell us of many women, but his most particular
search was for just that soul of a people which Loti ignored; and in
the hunt for that soul, he became more and more impressed by that
Buddhism which enabled him the better to comprehend the people. His
whole religious life had been a wandering away from the Christianity
to which he was born and a finding of a faith compounded of Buddhism
modified by paganism, and a leaven of the scientific beliefs of
agnostics such as Spencer and Huxley, whom he never wearied of reading
and quoting. In all his writings this tendency is displayed. In one of
the letters we see him an avowed agnostic, or perhaps "pantheist" would
be the better word. In his little-known story of 1889, published in
_Lippincott's,_ with the Buddhist title of "Karma," there is a curious
tribute to a fair, pure woman. It shows the hold the theory of heredity
and evolution and the belief in reincarnation already had upon him:

"In her beauty is the resurrection of the fairest past;--in her youth,
the perfection of the present;--in her girl dreams, the promise of
the To-Be.... A million lives have been consumed that hers should be
made admirable; countless minds have planned and toiled and agonized
that thought might reach a higher and purer power in her delicate
brain;--countless hearts have been burned out by suffering that hers
might pulse for joy;--innumerable eyes have lost their light that hers
might be filled with witchery;--innumerable lips have prayed that hers
might be kissed." On his first day in the Orient he visited a temple
and made an offering, recording the following conversation, which gives
an admirable insight into his religious beliefs:[1]

"'Are you a Christian?'

"And I answered truthfully,'No.'

"'Are you a Buddhist?'

"'Not exactly.'

"'Why do you make offerings if you do not believe in Buddha?'

"'I revere the beauty of his teaching, and the faith of those who follow

From this by degrees he reached to a pure Buddhism, tempered, however,
by a strange, romantic half belief, half love for the old pagan gods,
feeling himself at heart a pagan, too:

"For these quaint Gods of Roads and Gods of Earth are really living
still, though so worn and mossed and feebly worshipped. In this brief
moment, at least, I am really in the Elder World,--perhaps just at that
epoch of it when the primal faith is growing a little old-fashioned,
crumbling slowly before the corrosive influence of a new philosophy;
and I know myself a pagan still, loving these simple old gods, these
gods of a people's childhood. And they need some love, these naïf,
innocent, ugly gods. The beautiful divinities will live forever by that
sweetness of womanhood idealized in the Buddhist art of them: eternal
are Kwannon and Benten; they need no help of man; they will compel
reverence when the great temples shall all have become voiceless and
priestless as this shrine of Koshin is. But these kind, queer, artless,
mouldering gods, who have given ease to so many troubled minds, who
have gladdened so many simple hearts, who have heard so many innocent
prayers,--how gladly would I prolong their beneficent lives in spite
of the so-called 'laws of progress' and the irrefutable philosophy of

It is the combination of the various beliefs here shadowed that
explains the unique note he brought into our literature. The man who
was at once a follower of Spencer and of Buddha, with a large sympathy
for the old folk-religion, brought forth an embodied thought entirely
new to the world. Nothing like it had ever been produced before. Its
like may never be produced again. He endeavored to reconcile the
evolutional theory of inherited tendencies with the Buddhist belief in
reincarnation,--one lengthening chain of lives,--and with the worship
of the dead as seen in pure Shinto, for "is not every action indeed the
work of the Dead who dwell within us?"

It was this queer combination that gave a strange charm, a moving
magic, to various passages in his books. For the rest, his work and
method of labor, may best be described in his own words when speaking
of Japanese artists. He writes:

"The foreign artist will give you realistic reflections of what he
sees; but he will give you nothing more. The Japanese artist gives you
that which he feels,--the mood of a season, the precise sensation of
an hour and place; his work is qualified by a power of suggestiveness
rarely found in the art of the West. The Occidental painter renders
minute detail; he satisfies the imagination he evokes. But his Oriental
brother either suppresses or idealizes detail,--steeps his distances
in mist, bands his landscapes with cloud, makes of his experience a
memory in which only the strange and the beautiful survive, with their
sensations. He surpasses imagination, excites it, leaves it hungry with
the hunger of charm perceived in glimpses only. Nevertheless in such
glimpses he is able to convey the feeling of a time, the character
of a place, after a fashion that seems magical. He is a painter of
recollections and sensations rather than of clear-cut realities; and in
this lies the secret of his amazing power."

It has often been asked, "These books are beautiful as prose, but do
they give us Japan?" Some have said he saw Japan with the eyes of a
lover and was thus deceived. Captain F. Brinkley, an authority on
Oriental matters and for years editor of the most important English
paper in the Orient, has expressed, to the present writer, his
skepticism concerning the entire verity of some of Hearn's pictures.
On the other hand, here is what two Japanese writers say: Mr. Yone
Noguchi, himself a poet of no mean abilities, writes of Hearn: "I like
to vindicate Hearn from the criticism that his writing is about one
third Japanese and two thirds Hearn. Fortunately his two thirds Hearn
is also Japanese."

This is heartily seconded by Mr. Adachi Kinnosuke: "So truly did he
write of us and of our land, that the West, which is always delighted
to fall in love with counterfeits in preference to the genuine, did not
believe him; made merry at his expense, told him that he was a dreamer,
that his accounts were too rose-colored. We of the soil only marvelled.
Of him we have said that he is more of Nippon than ourselves."

No fitter close to this introduction may be given than Noguchi's prose
elegy sent to America from Tokio several days after Hearn's interment:

"Truly he was a delicate, easily broken Japanese vase, old as the
world, beautiful as a cherry blossom. Alas! that wonderful vase was
broken. He is no more with us. Surely we could better lose two or three
battle-ships at Port Arthur than Lafcadio Hearn."

[Footnote 1: This and several other extracts are from that delightful
book, _Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan_, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.]

Letters from The Raven

Take up any book written by Lafcadio Hearn concerning Japan, and you
will find the most delicate interpretation of the life of the people,
their religion, their folk-songs, their customs, expressed in English
that it is a delight to read. Upon further examination you will notice
the calm, the serenity, the self-poise of the writer. It is as though,
miraculously finding utterance, he were one of those stone Buddhas
erected along the Japanese highways. He seems to have every attribute
of a great writer save humor. There is hardly a smile in any of his
books on Japan. One would say that the author was a man who never knew
what gaiety was. One would judge that his life had lain in quiet places
always, without any singular sorrow or suffering, without any struggle
for existence. Judged by what Hearn told the world at large, the
impression would be a correct one.

He was shy by nature. He did not take the world into his confidence. He
was not one to harp on his own troubles and ask the world to sympathize
with him. The world had dealt him some very hard blows,--blows which
hurt sorely,--and so, while he gave the public his books, he kept
himself to himself. He transferred the aroma of Japan to his writings.
He did not sell the reader snap-shots of his own personality. To one
man only perhaps in the whole world did the little Greek-Irishman
reveal his inner thoughts, and he was one who thirty-eight years ago
opened his heart and his home to the travel-stained, poverty-burdened
lad of nineteen, who had run away from a monastery in Wales and who
still had part of his monk's garb for clothing when he reached America.

Hearn never discussed his family affairs very extensively, but made
it clear that his father was a surgeon in the crack Seventy-sixth
Regiment of British Infantry, and his mother a Greek woman of Cherigo
in the Ionian Islands. The social circle to which his father belonged
frowned on the _mesalliance_, and when the wife and children arrived in
England, after the father's death, the aristocratic relatives soon made
the strangers feel that they were anything but welcome.

The young Lafcadio was chosen for the priesthood, and after receiving
his education partly in France and partly in England, he was sent to
a monastery in Wales. As he related afterwards, he was in bad odor
there from the first. Even as a boy he had the skeptical notions
about things religious that were to abide with him for long years
after and change him to an ardent materialist until he fell under the
influence of Buddhism. One day, after a dispute with the priests, and
in disgust with the course in life that had been mapped out for him,
the boy took what money he could get and made off to America. After
sundry adventures, concerning which he was always silent, he arrived
in Cincinnati in 1869, hungry, tired, unkempt,--a boy without a trade,
without friends, without money. In some way he made the acquaintance
of a Scotch printer, and this man in turn introduced him to Henry
Watkin, an Englishman, largely self-educated, of broad culture and wide
reading, of singular liberality of views, and a lover of his kind.
Watkin at this time ran a printing shop.

Left alone with the lad, who had come across the seas to be as far away
as possible from his father's people, the man of forty-five surveyed
the boy of nineteen and said, "Well, my young man, how do you expect to
earn a living?"

"I don't know."

"Have you any trade?"

"No, sir."

"Can you do anything at all?"

"Yes, sir; I might write," was the eager reply.

"Umph!" said Watkin; "better learn some bread-winning trade and put off
writing until later."

After this Hearn was installed as errand boy and helper. He was not
goodly to look upon. His body was unusually puny and under-sized.
The softness of his tread had something feline and feminine in it.
His head, covered with long black hair, was full and intellectual,
save for two defects, a weak chin and an eye of the variety known as
"pearl,"--large and white and bulbous, so that it repelled people upon
a first acquaintance.

Hearn felt deeply the effect his shyness, his puny body, and his
unsightly eye had upon people, and this feeling served to make him even
more diffident and more melancholy than he was by nature. However, as
with many melancholy-natured souls, he had an element of fun in him,
which came out afterwards upon his longer acquaintance with the first
man who had given him a helping hand.

Hearn swept the floor of the printing shop and tried to learn the
printer's craft, but failed, He slept in a little room back of the
shop and ate his meals in the place with Mr. Watkin. He availed
himself of his benefactor's library, and read Poe and volumes on free
thought, delighted to find a kindred spirit in the older man. Together
they often crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky to hear lectures on
spiritualism and laugh about them. Their companionship was not broken
when Mr. Watkin secured for the boy a position with a Captain Barney,
who edited and published a commercial, paper, for which Hearn solicited
advertisements and to which he began also to contribute articles. One
of these--a singular composition for such a paper--was a proposal to
cross the Atlantic in a balloon anchored to a floating buoy. It was
later in the year that he secured a position as a reporter on the
_Enquirer_, through some "feature" articles he shyly deposited upon the
editor's desk, making his escape before the great man had caught him in
the act. It was not long before the latent talent in the youth began to
make itself manifest. He was not a rapid writer. On the contrary, he
was exceedingly slow, but his product was written in English that no
reporter then working in Cincinnati approached. His fellow reporters
soon became jealous of him. They were, moreover, repelled by his
personal appearance and chilled by his steady refusal to see the fun of
getting drunk. Finding lack of congeniality among the young men of his
own age and occupation, among whom he was to work for seven more years,
his friendship with Mr. Watkin became all the stronger, so that he came
to look upon the latter as the one person in Cincinnati upon whom he
could count for unselfish companionship and sincere advice. Hearn's
Cincinnati experiences ended with his service on the _Enquirer._ Before
that he had been proofreader to a publishing house and secretary to
Cincinnati's public librarian. He was also for a time on the staff of
the _Commercial._ It was while on the _Enquirer_ that he accomplished
several journalistic feats that are still referred to in gatherings
of oldtime newspaper men of Cincinnati. One was a grisly description
of the charred body of a murdered man, the screed being evidently
inspired by recollections of Poe. The other was an article describing
Cincinnati as seen from the top of a high church steeple, the joke
of it being that Hearn, by reason of his defective vision, could see
nothing even after he had made his perilous climb. It was in the last
days of his stay in Cincinnati that he, with H. F. Farny, the painter,
issued a short-lived weekly known as _Giglampz_. Farny, not yet famous
as an Indian painter, contributed the drawings, and Hearn the bulk of
the letter press for the journal, which modestly announced that it
was going to eclipse _Punch_ and all the other famous comic weeklies.
Hearn, always sensitive, practically withdrew from the magazine when
Farny took the very excusable liberty of changing the title of one
of the essays of the former. Farny thought the title offensive to
people of good taste, and said so. Hearn apparently acquiesced, but
brooded over the "slight," and never again contributed to the weekly.
Shortly afterwards it died. It is doubtful whether there are any copies
in existence. Many Cincinnati collectors have made rounds of the
second-hand book-shops in a vain search for stray numbers.

Early in their acquaintance Watkin and Hearn called each other by
endearing names which were adhered to throughout the long years of
their correspondence. Mr. Watkin, with his leonine head, was familiarly
addressed as "Old Man" or "Dad;" while the boy, by virtue of his dark
hair and coloring, the gloomy cast of his thoughts, and his deep love
for Poe, was known as "The Raven," a name which caught his fancy.
Indeed, a simple little drawing of the bird stood for many years in
place of a signature to anything he chanced to write to Mr. Watkin. In
spite of their varying lines of work, the two were often together. When
"The Raven" was prowling the city for news, he was often accompanied by
his "Dad." Not infrequently, when the younger man had no especial task,
he would come to Mr. Watkin's office and read some books there. One of
these, whose title and author Mr. Watkin has forgotten, fascinated at
the same time that it repelled Hearn by its grim and ghastly stories of
battle, murder, and sudden death. One night Mr. Watkin left him reading
in the office. When he opened the place the next morning he found this
note from Hearn:

"10 P.M. These stories are positively so horrible that even a
materialist feels rather unpleasantly situated when left alone with
the thoughts conjured up by this dreamer of fantastic dreams. The
brain-chambers of fancy become thronged with goblins. I think I shall
go home."

For signature there was appended a very black and a very
thoughtful-looking raven.

It was also in these days that Hearn indulged in his little
pleasantries with Mr. Watkin. Hardly a day passed without a visit to
the printing office. When he did not find his friend, he usually left
a card for him, on which was some little drawing, Hearn having quite a
talent in this direction,-a talent that he never afterward developed.
Of course some of the cards were just as nonsensical as the nonsense
verses friends often write to each other. They are merely quoted to
show Hearn's fund of animal spirits at the time.


Mr. Watkin one day left a card for possible customers: "Gone to supper.
H. W." Hearn passed by and wrote on the opposite side of the card:
"Gone to get my sable plumage plucked." The inevitable raven followed
as signature. It was Hearn's way of saying he had come to see Mr.
Watkin and had then gone to a barber shop to have his hair cut. Once he
omitted the raven and signed his note, "Kaw."


On another occasion when Mr. Watkin came to the office he found a
note informing him that he was "a flabbergasted ichthyosaurus and an
antediluvian alligator" for not being on hand.

The influence of Poe was strong upon him even in this nonsense. Hearn
waited for his friend one night until a late hour. The shop was quite
lonely, as it was the only open one in a big building on a more or less
deserted street. The quiet became oppressive, and the little man left
because "these chambers are cursed with the Curse of Silence. And the
night, which is the Shadow of God, waneth."

Mr. Watkin had a dog. Hearn did not like the animal, and it seemed
to reciprocate the feeling. One of Hearn's notes was largely devoted
to the little beast. When he so chose Hearn could make a fairly good
drawing. This particular note was adorned with rude pictures of an
animal supposed to be a dog. The teeth were made the most prominent
feature. The pictures were purposely made in a childish style, and used
for the word "dog."


"I tried to find you last night.

"You were not in apparently.

"I shook the door long and violently, and listened.

"I did not hear the [dog] bark.

"Perhaps you were not aware that the night you got so infernally mad I
slipped a cooked beefsteak strongly seasoned with Strychnine under the

"I was glad that the [dog] did not bark.

"I suspect the [dog] will not bark ANY MORE!

"I think the [dog] must have gone to that Bourne from which NO

"I hope the [dog] is DEAD."

The note is signed with the usual drawing of a raven. On still another
occasion he wrote the following farrago:

"I came to see you--to thank you--to remonstrate with you--to
demonstrate matters syllogistically and phlebotomically. GONE!!! Then
I departed, wandering among the tombs of Memory, where the Ghouls of
the Present gnaw the black bones of the Past. Then I returned and crept
to the door and listened to see if I could hear the beating of your
hideous heart."

These little notes are not presented here for any intrinsic merit; they
are given simply to show how different was the real Hearn from the shy,
silent, uncommunicative, grave, little reporter.

His notes were but precursors to the letters in which he was most
truly to reveal himself. Unlike the epistles of great writers that
so frequently find their way into print, Hearn's letters were not
written with an eye to publication. They were written solely for the
interest of their recipient. They were in the highest form of the true
letter,--written talks with the favorite friend, couched usually in
the best language the writer knew how to employ. They tell their own
story,--the only story of Hearn's life,--a story often of hopeless
search for bread-winning work; of bitter glooms and hysterical
pleasures; of deep enjoyment of Louisiana autumns and West Indian and
Japanese scenes; of savage hatred of Cincinnati and New Orleans, the
two American cities in which he had worked as a newspaper man and in
which he had been made to realize that he had many enemies and but few
friends. Everything is told in these letters to Mr. Watkin, to whom he
poured out his thoughts and feelings without reserve. Hearn's first
step towards bettering himself followed when he became weary of the
drudgery of work on the Cincinnati papers, and decided, after much
discussion with Mr. Watkin, to resign his position and go South, the
Crescent City being his objective point.

It was in October, 1877, that Hearn set out from Cincinnati on his way
to New Orleans, going by rail to Memphis, whence he took the steamboat
_Thompson Dean_ down the Mississippi River to his destination. While
in Memphis, impatiently waiting for his steamer to arrive, and
afterwards in New Orleans, Hearn kept himself in touch with his friend
in Cincinnati by means of a series of messages hastily scribbled on
postal cards. Many of these reflected the animal spirits of the young
man of twenty-seven, who had still preserved a goodly quantity of
his boyishness, though he felt, as he said, as old as the moon. But
not all of the little messages were gay. The tendency to despondency
and morbidity, which had partially led Mr. Watkin to dub Hearn "The
Raven," now showed itself. The first of these cards, which Mr. Watkin
has preserved, was sent from Memphis on October 28, 1877. It bears two
drawings of a raven. In one the eyes are very thoughtful. The raven
is scratching its head with its claws, and below is the legend, "In a
dilemma at Memphis." The other raven is merely labelled, "Remorseful."
The next was sent on October 29. Hearn had begun to worry. He wrote:

"DEAR O. M. [Old Man]: Did not stop at Louisville. Could n't find
out anything about train. Am stuck at Memphis for a week waiting for
a boat. Getting d--d poor. New Orleans far off. Five hundred miles
to Vicksburg. Board two dollars per day. Trouble and confusion.
Flabbergasted. Mixed up. Knocked into a cocked hat."

The raven, used as the signature, wears a troubled countenance. On the
same day, perhaps in the evening, Hearn sent still another card:

"DEAR O. M.: Have succeeded with enormous difficulty in securing
accommodations at one dollar per diem, including a bed in a haunted
room. Very blue. Here is the mosquito of these parts, natural size.
[Hearn gives a vivid pencil drawing of one, two thirds of an inch
long.] I spend my nights in making war upon him and my days in watching
the murmuring current of the Mississippi and the most wonderful sunsets
on the Arkansaw side that I ever saw. Don't think I should like to
swim the Mississippi at this point. Perhaps the _Dean_ may be here on
Wednesday. I don't like Memphis at all, but cannot express my opinion
in a postal card. They have a pretty fountain here--much better than
that old brass candlestick in Cincinnati."

The next postal card was mailed on October 30, and contains one of the
cleverest drawings of the series. Hearn says: "It has been raining all
day, and I have had nothing to do but look at it. Half wish was back in

Then follows a rude sketch of part of the Ohio River and its confluence
with the Mississippi. A huddle of buildings represents Cincinnati.
Another huddle represents Memphis. There stands the raven, his eyes
bulging out of his head, looking at some object in the distance. The
object is a huge snail which is leaving New Orleans and is labelled the
_Thompson Dean._

One of the finest of all the letters he wrote to Mr. Watkin was from
Memphis. It is dated October 31, 1877. In this he made a prediction
which afterwards came literally true. He seemed to foresee that, while
in his loneliness he would write often to Mr. Watkin, once he became
engrossed in his work and saw new sights and new faces, his letters
would be written at greater intervals.

"DEAR OLD DAD: I am writing in a great big, dreary room of this great,
dreary house. It overlooks the Mississippi. I hear the puffing and the
panting of the cotton boats and the deep calls of the river traffic;
but I neither hear nor see the _Thompson Dean._ She will not be here
this week, I am afraid, as she only left New Orleans to-day.


"My room is carpetless and much larger than your office. Old blocked-up
stairways come up here and there through the floor or down through
the ceiling, and they suddenly disappear. There is a great red daub on
one wall as though made by a bloody hand when somebody was staggering
down the stairway. There are only a few panes of glass in the windows.
I am the first tenant of the room for fifteen years. Spiders are busy
spinning their dusty tapestries in every corner, and between the
bannisters of the old stairways. The planks of the floor are sprung,
and when I walk along the room at night it sounds as though Something
or Somebody was following me in the dark. And then being in the third
story makes it much more ghostly.

"I had hard work to get a washstand and towel put in this great, dreary
room; for the landlord had not washed his face for more than a quarter
of a century, and regarded washing as an expensive luxury. At last I
succeeded with the assistance of the barkeeper, who has taken a liking
to me.

"Perhaps you have seen by the paper that General N. B. Forrest died
here night before last. To-day they are burying him. I see troops of
men in grey uniforms parading the streets, and the business of the city
is suspended in honor of the dead. And they are firing weary, dreary
minute guns.

"I am terribly tired of this dirty, dusty, ugly town,---a city only
forty years old, but looking old as the ragged, fissured bluffs on
which it stands. It is full of great houses, which were once grand, but
are now as waste and dreary within and without as the huge building
in which I am lodging for the sum of twenty-five cents a night. I am
obliged to leave my things in the barkeeper's care at night for fear of
their being stolen; and he thinks me a little reckless because I sleep
with my money under my pillow. You see the doors of my room--there are
three of them--lock badly.... They are ringing those dead bells every
moment,--it is a very unpleasant sound. I suppose you will not laugh if
I tell you that I have been crying a good deal of nights,--just like I
used to do when a college boy returned from vacation. It is a lonely
feeling, this of finding oneself alone in a strange city, where you
never meet a face that you know; and when all the faces you did know
seem to have been dead faces, disappeared for an indefinite time. I
have not travelled enough the last eight years, I suppose: it does not
do to become attached insensibly to places and persons.... I suppose
you have had some postal cards from me; and you are beginning to think
I am writing quite often. I suppose I am, and you know the reason why;
and perhaps you are thinking to yourself: 'He feels a little blue now,
and is accordingly very affectionate, &c.; but by and by he will be
quite forgetful, and perhaps will not write so often as at present.'

"Well, I suppose you are right. I live in and by extremes and am on
an extreme now. I write extremely often, because I feel alone and
extremely alone. By and by, if I get well, I shall write only by weeks;
and with time perhaps only by months; and when at last comes the rush
of business and busy newspaper work, only by years,--until the times
and places of old friendship are forgotten, and old faces have become
dim as dreams, and these little spider-threads of attachments will
finally yield to the long strain of a thousand miles."

Apostal card of November 3 says: "Will leave Memphis Tuesday next,
PERHAPS. Am beginning to doubt the existence of the _Thompson Dean._"
November 13, 1877, finds Hearn overjoyed to be in New Orleans. The
postal card bears in the left-hand corner a drawing of a door labelled
"228." In a window at the side of the door sits the raven. On the
other side is the legend:

          _Raven liveth at_
                     228 _Baronne St._
                             _New Orleans_
          _Care Mrs. Bustellos_

Then comes another raven, with the doggerel:

          _Indite him an epistle._
          _Don't give him particular H_--.

And finally the remarks:

          _Pretty Louisiana! Nice Louisiana!_

Hearn began to send letters to one of the Cincinnati papers, but
was soon in a terrible plight, as his postal card of December 9

"I am in a very desperate fix here,--having no credit. If you can help
me a little within the next few days, please try. I fear I must ask
you to ask Davie to sell all my books except the French ones. The need
of money has placed me in so humiliating a position that I cannot play
the part of correspondent any longer. The _Commercial_ has not sent me
anything, and I cannot even get stamps. I landed in New Orleans with a
fraction over twenty dollars, which I paid out in advance."


Mr. Watkin was unable to make the reply he desired, and was even
prevented by other matters from answering in any way until weeks later.
It was this silence which caused Hearn to mail a postal card, on
January 13, 1878, which contained one of his cleverest drawings. In the
background is shown the sky with a crescent moon. In the foreground,
upright from a grass-grown, grave, stands a tombstone, bearing the

                                 H. W.
                                NOV. 29

Perched on top of the stone is a particularly ragged and particularly
black raven. It was the last gleam of fun that was to come from him
for some time. He was to experience some of the bitterest moments of
his life, moments which explained his hatred of New Orleans, as the
slanders of the newspapermen of Cincinnati embittered him against that

The following seems to be the first, or one of the first, letters
written by him after his arrival in New Orleans. As usual, it is

"DEAR OLD FRIEND: I cannot say how glad I was to hear from you. I did
not--unfortunately--get your letter at Memphis; it would have cheered
me up. I am slowly, very slowly, getting better.


"The wealth of a world is here,--unworked gold in the ore, one might
say; the paradise of the South is here, deserted and half in ruins.
I never beheld anything so beautiful and so sad. When I saw it
first--sunrise over Louisiana--the tears sprang to my eyes. It was like
young death,--a dead bride crowned with orange flowers,--a dead face
that asked for a kiss. I cannot say how fair and rich and beautiful
this dead South is. It has fascinated me. I have resolved to live in
it; I could not leave it for that chill and damp Northern life again.
Yes; I think you could make it pay to come here. One can do much here
with very little capital. The great thing is, of course, the sugar-cane
business. Everybody who goes into it almost does well. Some make half a
million a year at it. The capital required to build a sugar mill, &c.,
is of course enormous; but men often begin with a few acres and become
well-to-do in a few years. Louisiana thirsts for emigrants as a dry
land for water. I was thinking of writing to tell you that I think you
could do something in the way of the fruit business to make it worth
your while to comedown,--oranges, bananas, and tropical plants sell
here at fabulously low prices. Bananas are of course perishable freight
when ripe; but oranges are not, and I hear they sell at fifty cents
a hundred, and even less than that a short distance from the city.
So there are many other things here one could speculate in. I think
with one partner North and one South, a firm could make money in the
fruit business here. But there, you know I don't know anything about
business. What's the good of asking ME about business?

"If you come here, you can live for almost nothing. Food is
ridiculously cheap,--that is, cheap food. Then there are first-class
restaurants here, where the charge is three dollars for dinner. But
board and lodging is very cheap....


"I have written twice to the _Commercial_, but have only seen one of my
letters,--the Forrest letter. I have a copy. I fear the other letters
will not be published. Too enthusiastic, you know. But I could not
write coolly about beautiful Louisiana....

"Oh, you must come to New Orleans sometime,--no nasty chill, no coughs
and cold. The healthiest climate in the world. Eternal summer.

"It is damp at nights however, and fires are lit of evenings to dry the
rooms. You know the land is marshy. Even the dead are unburied,--they
are only vaulted up. The cemeteries are vaults, not graveyards. Only
the Jews bury their dead; and their dead are buried in water. It is
water three--yes, two--feet underground.

"I like the people, especially the French; but of course I might yet
have reason to change my opinion....

"Would you be surprised to hear that I have been visiting my UNCLE?
Would you be astonished to learn that I was on the verge of poverty?
No. Then, forsooth, I will be discreet. One can live here for twenty
cents a day--what's the odds? ...

"Yours truly,


On the reverse side of an application for a money order, Hearn wrote to
Watkin in 1878, some considerable time after his arrival in New Orleans:

"I see the Cincinnati _Commercial_ once in a while, and do not find any
difference in it. My departure affecteth its columns not at all. In
sooth a man on a daily newspaper is as a grain of mustard seed. Hope
I may do better in New Orleans. It is time for a fellow to get out of
Cincinnati when they begin to call it the Paris of America. But there
are some worse places than Cincinnati. There is Memphis, for example."

At one period, early during his stay in New Orleans, when Hearn began
to look back upon what he had accomplished, or rather had failed to
accomplish, in his life, he sank into the depths of despair. As was his
wont, he wrote from his heart to his sole friend, depending upon him
not only for cheer, but for advice. Mr. Watkin refused to take this
long letter seriously, teased him about it rather, and advised him not
to go to England, but to remain here in this country and persist in one
line of work. The Hearn letter, which follows, belongs to the month of
February, 1878:

"DEAR OLD MAN: I shall be twenty-eight years old in a few days,--a
very few days more; and I am frightened to think how few they are.
I am afraid to look at the almanac to find out what day The Day
falls upon,--it might fall upon a Friday,--and I can't shake off a
superstition about it,--a superstition always outlives a religion.
Looking back at the file of these twenty-eight years, which grow more
shadowy in receding, I can remember and distinguish the features of
at least twenty. There is an alarming similarity of misery in all
their faces; and however misty the face, the outlines of misery are
remarkably perceptible. Each, too, seems to be a record of similar
events,--thwarting of will and desire in every natural way, ill success
in every aim, denial of almost every special wish, compulsion to ad
upon the principle that everything agreeable was wrong and everything
disagreeable right, unpleasant recognition of selfweakness and
inability to win success by individual force,--not to mention enormous
addenda in the line of novel and wholly unexpected disappointments.
Somehow or other, whenever I succeeded in an undertaking, the fruit
acquired seemed tasteless and vapid; but usually, when one step
more would have been victory, some extraordinary and unanticipated
obstacle rose up in impassability. I must acknowledge, however,
that, as a general rule, the unexpected obstacle was usually erected
by myself;--some loss of temper, impatience, extra-sensitiveness,
betrayed and indulged instead of concealed, might be credited with a
large majority of failures.

"Without a renovation of individuality, however, I really can see no
prospect, beyond the twenty-eighth year, of better years--the years
seem to grow worse in regular succession. As to the renovation,--it is
hardly possible: don't you think so? Sometimes I think small people
without great wills and great energies have no business trying to
do much in this wonderful country; the successful men all appear to
have gigantic shoulders and preponderant deportments. When I look
into the private histories of the young men who achieved success in
the special line I have been vainly endeavoring to follow to some
termination, I find they generally hanged themselves or starved to
death, while their publishers made enormous fortunes and world-wide
reputations after their unfortunate and idealistic customers were
dead. There were a few exceptions, but these exceptions were cases of
extraordinary personal vigor and vital force. So while my whole nature
urges me to continue as I have begun, I see nothing in prospect: except
starvation, sickness, artificial wants, which I shall never be wealthy
enough to even partially gratify, and perhaps utter despair at the
end. Then again, while I have not yet lost all confidence in myself,
I feel strongly doubtful whether I shall ever have means or leisure
to develop the latent (possible) ability within me to do something
decently meritorious. Perhaps, had I not been constrained to ambition
by necessity, I should never have had any such yearnings about the
unattainable and iridescent bubbles of literary success. But that has
nothing to do with the question. Such is the proposition now: how can I
get out of hell when I have got halfway down to the bottom of it? Can
I carry on any kind of business? I can fancy that I see you throw back
your head and wag your beard with a hearty laugh at the mere idea, the
preposterous idea!

"Can I keep any single situation for any great length of time? You
know I can't,--couldn't stand it; hate the mere idea of it,--something
horribly disagreeable would be sure to happen. Then again, I can't
even stay in one place for any healthy period of time. I can't stay
anywhere without getting in trouble. And my heart always feels like a
bird, fluttering impatiently for the migrating season. I think I could
be quite happy if I were a swallow and could have a summer nest in the
ear of an Egyptian colossus or a broken capital of the Parthenon.

"I know just exactly what I should like to do,--to wander forever here
and there until I got very old and apish and grey, and died,--just to
wander where I pleased and keep myself to myself, and never bother
anybody. But that I can't do. Then what in the name of the Nine
Incarnations of Vishnu, can I do? Please try to tell me.

"Shall I, in spite of myopia, seek for a passage on some tropical
vessel, and sail hither and thither on the main, like the ghost of
Gawain on a wandering wind, till I have learned all the ropes and spars
by heart, and know by sight the various rigging of all the navies of
the world?

"Shall I try to go back to England at once, instead of waiting to be
a millionaire? (This is a seaport, remember: that is why I dread to
leave it for further inland towns. I feel as if I could almost catch a
distant glimpse of the mighty dome of St. Paul's from the levee of New

"Shall I begin to eat opium, and enjoy in fancy all that reality
refuses, and may forever refuse me?

"Shall I go to Texas and start a cheap bean-house--(hideous
occupation!) with my pact, who wants me to go there?

"Shall I cease to worry over fate and facts, and go right to hell on a
2.40, till I get tired even of hell and blow my highly sensitive and
exquisitely delicate brains out?

"Shall I try to get acquainted with Yellow Jack and the Charity
Hospital,--or try to get to St. Louis on the next boat? Honestly, I'd
like to know. I'm so tired,--so awfully, fearfully, disgustingly tired
of wasting my life without being able to help it. Don't tell me I could
have helped it,--I know better. No man could have helped doing anything
already done. I hate the gilded slavery of newspaper work,--the
starvation of Bohemianism,--the bore of waiting for a chance to become
an insurance agent or a magazine writer,--and oh, venerable friend, I
hate a thousand times worst of all to work for somebody else. I hoped
to become independent when I came down here,--to work for myself; and
I have made a most damnable failure of it. In addition to the rest, my
horrid eye is bad yet. I had lost nearly half the field of vision from
congestion of the retina when I wrote you the rather frantic epistles
which you would not answer. Now I see only in patches, but am getting
along better and hope to be quite well in time,--certainly much better.
You see I can write a pretty long letter to while away Sunday idleness."

Hearn had reached New Orleans at the time the yellow fever was raging
there, and in April, 1878, he wrote reassuring his old friend that his
health was not endangered:

"DEAR OLD MAN: Yellow Jack has not caught me; and since I was laid up
with the dengue or break-bone fever, I believe I am acclimated.... They
sprinkle the streets here with watering-carts filled with carbolic
acid, pour lime in the gutters, and make all the preparations against
fever possible, except the only sensible one of cleaning the stinking
gutters and stopping up the pest-holes. Politicians make devilish bad
health officers. When I tell you that all of our gutters are haunted by
eels whose bite is certain death, you can imagine how vile they are....
Nobody works here in summer. The population would starve to death
anywhere else. Neither does anybody think of working in the sun if they
can help it. That is why we have no sunstroke. The horses usually wear

After a seven months' hunt for work Hearn saw some of the hardest times
of his life in New Orleans. The situation, as he described in his
letter to Mr. Watkin, could not have been worse than when, as a waif,
he wandered the streets of London. It was postmarked June 14, 1878.

"DEAR OLD MAN: Wish you would tell me something wise and serviceable.
I'm completely and hopelessly busted up and flattened out, but I
don't write this because I have any desire to ask you for pecuniary
assistance,--have asked for that elsewhere. Have been here seven
months and never made one cent in the city. No possible prospect of
doing anything in this town now or within twenty-five years. Books and
clothes all gone, shirt sticking through seat of my pants,--literary
work rejected East,--get a five-cent meal once in two days,--don't know
one night where I'm going to sleep next,--and am d--d sick with climate
into the bargain. Yellow fever supposed to be in the city. Newspapers
expected to bust up. Twenty dollars per month is a good living here;
but it's simply impossible to make even ten. Have been cheated and
swindled considerably; and have cheated and swindled others in
retaliation. We are about even. D--n New Orleans!--wish I'd never seen
it. I am thinking of going to Texas. How do you like the idea?--to
Dallas or Waco. Eyes about played out, I guess. Have a sort of idea
that I can be wonderfully economical if I get any more good luck. Can
save fifteen out of twenty dollars a month--under new conditions (?).
Have no regular place of residence now. Can't you drop a line to P. O.
next week, letting shining drops of wisdom drip from the end of your

It was right after this in the same month, when his fortunes were
at the lowest ebb, that things took a turn for the better, as is
indicated by the following, in which in jest he proposes to engage in a
"get-rich-quick" scheme:

"DEAR OLD MAN: Somehow or other, when a man gets right down in the
dirt, he jumps up again. The day after I wrote you, I got a position
(without asking for it) as assistant editor on the _Item_, at a
salary considerably smaller than that I received on the _Commercial_
(of Cincinnati), but large enough to enable me to save half of it.
Therefore I hasten to return Will's generous favor with the most
sincere thanks and kindest wishes. You would scarcely know me now, for
my face is thinner than a knife and my skin very dark. The Southern
sun has turned me into a mulatto. I have ceased to wear spectacles,
and my hair is wild and ghastly. I am seriously thinking of going into
a fraud, which will pay like hell,--an advertising fraud: buying land
by the pound and selling it in boxes at one dollar per box. I have a
party here now who wants to furnish bulk of capital and go shares. He
is an old hand at the dodge. It would be carried along under false
names, of course; and there is really no money in honest work.... I
think I shall see you in the fall or spring; and when I come again to
Cincinnati, it will be, my dear old man, as you would wish, with money
in my pocket. It did me much good to hear from you; for I fancied my
postal card asking for help might have offended you; and I feared you
had resolved that I was a fraud. Well, I am something of a fraud, but
not to everybody I don't like the people here at all, and would not
live here continually. But it is convenient now, for I could not live
cheaper elsewhere."

Again undated, but belonging to his early New Orleans period, is the
letter in which, after discussing some business venture he had in mind,
he says:

"There is a strong feeling down here that the South will soon be
the safest place to live in. The labor troubles North promise to be
something terrible. I assure you that few well-posted newspaper men
here would care to exchange localities until after these labor troubles
have assumed some definite shape. There is no labor element here that
is dangerous.

"There are some businesses which would pay here: a cheap restaurant, a
cheap swimming bath, or a cheap laundry. Money just now could be coined
at any of these things. Everything else here is dead. I met a highly
educated Jew here not long ago, who had lived and made money in New
Zealand, Martinique, British Columbia, Panama, Sandwich Islands, Buenos
Ayres, and San Francisco. 'I have been,' he said, 'almost every place
where money can be made, and I know almost every dodge known to Hebrews
in the money-making way. But I do not see a single chance to make
anything in this town.' He left for the North. He was from London.

"I should like to see you down here, if it were not for malaria. You
would not escape the regular marsh fever; but that is not dangerous
when the symptoms are recognized and promptly treated. When I had it I
did not know what it was. I took instinctively a large dose of castor
oil. Sometime after I met the druggist, a good old German, who sold it
me. 'I never expected to see you again,' he said; 'you had a very bad
case of fever when I saw you.'

"But everybody gets that here. You live so abstemiously and thirst so
little after the flesh-pots that I think you would not have much to
fear. I go swimming a good deal; but I find the water horribly warm.
The lake seems to be situated directly over the great furnace of

"I'll be doubly d--d if I have the vaguest idea what I shall do. I
have a delightfully lazy life here; and I assure you I never intend
to work fourteen hours a day again. But whether to leave here I don't
know. I'm only making about ten dollars a week, but that is better than
making twenty-five dollars and being a slave to a newspaper. I write
what I please, go when I please, and quit work when I please. I have
really only three hours a day office duty,--mostly consumed in waiting
for proofs. If I stay here, I can make more soon. But I don't really
care a damn whether I make much money or not. If I have to make money
by working hard for it, I shall certainly remain poor. I have done the
last hard work I shall ever do.

"On the success of some literary work, however, I have a vague idea of
receiving enough ready money to invest in some promising little specs,
here,--of the nature I have already hinted at. If they pay, they will
pay admirably. If I lose the money, I shan't die of starvation....

"I shall certainly not leave here before seeing Cuba. It would be a
mortal sin to be so near the Antilles and yet never have sailed that
sapphire sea yclept the Spanish Main.

"I never felt so funny in my whole life. I have no ambition, no loves,
no anxieties,--sometimes a vague unrest without a motive, sometimes a
feeling as if my heart was winged and trying to soar away, sometimes a
vague longing for pleasurable wanderings, sometimes a halfcrazy passion
for a great night with wine and women and music. But these are much
like flitting dreams, and amount to little. They are ephemeral. The
wandering passion is strongest of all; and I feel no inclination to
avail myself of the only anchor which keeps the ship of a man's life
in port.

"Then again,--I have curiously regained memories of long ago,
which I thought utterly forgotten. Leisure lends memory a sharp
definition. Life here is so lazy,--nights are so liquid with tropic
moonlight,--days are so splendid with green and gold,--summer is so
languid with perfume and warmth,--that I hardly know whether I am
dreaming or awake. It is all a dream here, I suppose, and will seem a
dream even after the sharp awakening of another voyage, the immortal
gods only know where. Ah! Gods! beautiful Gods of antiquity! One can
only feel you, and know you, and believe in you, after living in this
sweet, golden air. What is the good of dreaming about earthly women,
when one is in love with marble, and ivory, and the bronzes of two
thousand years ago? Let me be the last of the idol-worshippers, O
golden Venus, and sacrifice to thee the twin doves thou lovest,--the
birds of Paphos,--the Cythendae!"

Hearn had had his troubles with New Orleans and Cincinnati newspaper
men, some of whom pirated his translations, while others printed
slanderous stories concerning his manner of living,--slanders
which Mr. Watkin combated in a personal letter to the editor of the
_Commercial_ some years after, when his attackers again became busy. On
July 10, 1878, Hearn wrote:

"MY DEAR OLD MAN: Was delighted to hear from you. I am very glad the
thing is as much of a mystery to you as it is to me. I can only surmise
that it must have been a piece of spite work on the part of a certain
gentleman connected with the N. O. _Times,_ who printed some of my
work before, and got a raking for it. My position here is a peculiar
one, and not as stable as I should like, so that if it were made to
appear that I had re-utilized stuff from the _Item_, I would certainly
get into trouble. I have been very ill for a week, break-bone fever.
I do not expect to return North 'broke.' 'Cahlves is too scace in dis
country to be killed for a prodigal son.' I wish you were near that I
might whisper projects of colossal magnitude in your ear. I am working
like hell to make a good raise for Europe. Will write more soon. Editor
away to-day and the whole paper on my hands.

"_Monday._ Delayed posting letter. I find this climate terribly
enervating. No one could have led a more monastic life than I have
done here; yet I find I cannot even think energetically. The mind seems
to lose all power of activity. I have been collecting materials for
magazine articles, and I can't write them out. I have only been able to
do mechanical work,--translating, &c., and one Romanesque essay, which
was successively rejected by three magazines. Wish I was on a polar

"I have been an awfully good boy down here, and have no news to tell
you of amours or curious experiences."

Hearn once more tells of his trouble with a Cincinnati paper, alleging
the owners failed to pay him for his New Orleans correspondence, and
how finally he was "happily discharged."

Then he resumes: "By the way, I wrote a poem for the decoration of the
soldiers' graves at Chalmette National Cemetery, on the 30th inst. I
think it was. The poem was read by Col. Wright of this city at the
decoration and published in the _Democrat_. It was the first bit of
rhyme I wrote, and so you must excuse it. But it is not as good as--

    "_The love of Hearn and Watkin_,
    _What is its kin_?--
    _It is two toads encysted_
    _Within one stone_,
    _Two vipers twisted_
    _Into one._

    "Here is the poem:

    _"Fairflowers pass away:_
    _In perfumed ruin falls the lily's urn_;
    _In pallid pink decay_
    _Moulders the rose;--all in their time return_
    _To the primeval clay._

    _"Yet still their tiny ghosts_
    _Hover about our homes on viewless wings;_
    _In incense-breathing hosts_
    _They love to haunt those stores of trifling things_
    _Of which affection boasts_,--

    _"Some curl of glossy hair_,--
    _Some loving letter penned by pretty fingers_,--
    _Some volume old and rare_,
    _On whose time-yellow fly-leaf fondly lingers_
    _The name of a woman fair._

    _"So in that hour_
    _When brave lives fail and brave hearts cease to beat_,--
    _Each deed of power
    Lives on to haunt our memories,--faintly sweet_
    _Like the ghost of a flower._

    _"Each flower we strew_
    _In tribute to the brave to-day shall prove_
    _A token true_
    _Of some sweet memory of the dead we love_,--
    _The Men in Blue._

    _"Perchance the story_
    _Of Chalmette's heroes may be lost to fame,_
    _As years wax hoary;_
    _But Valor's Angel keeps each gallant name_
    _On his Roll of Glory."_

August 14, 1878, Hearn wrote a letter to the man who had always cheered
him and who now in turn needed cheering. Business in all lines in
Cincinnati was bad, and Mr. Watkin was quite despondent. He had written
Hearn something of this, and also had hinted that he might move to
Kansas or somewhere farther West. In return he received the following
letter, expressive of all that was most fun-loving in its writer:

"MY DEAR OLD MAN: I think you had better come here next Oktober and
rejoin your naughty raven. It would not do you any harm to reconnoitre.
Think of the times we could have,--delightful rooms with five large
windows opening on piazzas shaded by banana trees; dining at Chinese
restaurants and being served by Manila waitresses, with oblique eyes
and skin like gold; visiting sugar-cane plantations; scudding over to
Cuba; dying with the mere delight of laziness; laughing at cold and
smiling at the news of snowstorms a thousand miles away; eating the
cheapest food in the world,--and sinning the sweetest kind of sins. Now
you know, good old Dad, nice old Dad,--you know that you are lazy and
ought to be still lazier. Come here and be lazy. Let me be the siren
voice enticing a Ulysses who does not stuff wax in his ears. Don't go
to horrid, dreadful Kansas. Go to some outrageous ruinous land, where
the moons are ten times larger than they are there. Or tell me to pull
up stakes, and I shall take unto myself the wings of a bird and fly to
any place but beastly Cincinnati.

"Money can be made here out of the poor. People are so poor here that
nothing pays except that which appeals to poverty. But I think you
could make things hop around lively. Now one can make thirty milk
biscuits for five cents and eight cups of coffee for five cents. Just
think of it! ...

"Cincinnati is bad; but it's going to be a d--d sight worse. You know
that as well as I do. Leave the vile hole and the long catalogue of
Horrid Acquaintances behind you, and come down here to your own little
man,--good little man. Get you nice room, nice board, nice business.
Perhaps we might strike ile in a glorious spec. Why don't you spec.?
You'd better spec, pretty soon, or the times will get so bad that you
will have to get up and dust. This is a seaport. There are tall ships
here. They sail to Europe,--to London, Marseilles, Constantinople,
Smyrna. They sail to the West Indies and those seaports where we are
going to open a cigar store or something of that kind.

    _Oh, I have seven tall ships at sea,_
    _And seven more at hand;_
    _And five and twenty jolly, jolly seamen_
    _Shall be at your command._

May the Immortal Gods preserve you in immortal youth."

There now follow some letters whose dates it has been impossible to
fix. The cancellation marks on the envelopes give the months, but not
the years. However, there is internal evidence to show that they
belong to the period between the last group and the group of 1882,
so that they were written in the years 1879, 1880, and 1881, in all
probability. The first is one of the most interesting letters in the
whole set. The future great writer is displayed as the owner of a
five-cent eating-house. The letter is replete with ridiculous little
sketches of a bird, which he claimed was a raven. In fact:, in the
following, wherever "raven" is used, the reader must understand that
there is a drawing of one in the letter. It was written in February:

"MY DEAR O. M.: Your style of correspondence--four letters a
year--leads me to suppose that the fate of the Raven is of little
consequence. It was therefore with surprise that I heard of a letter
concerning It being received at the _Item_ office. The letter warranted
the assumption that you had at least some curiosity, if nothing better,
in regard to It. That curiosity should be gratified. The Raven keepeth
a restaurant in the city of New Orleans. It is secretly in business
for itself. It is also in the newspaper business. The reason It has
gone into business for itself is that It is tired of working for other
people. The reason that It is still in the newspaper line is that the
business is not yet paying, and needs some financial support. The
business is the cheapest in N. O. All dishes are five cents. Knocks
the market price out of things. The business has already cost about
one hundred dollars to set up. May pay well; may not. The Raven has a
partner,--a large and ferocious man, who kills people that disagree
with their coffee. The Raven expects to settle in Cuba before long.
Is going there to reconnoitre in a few months,--if Fortune smileth.
It has mastered the elements of Spanish language, and has a Spanish
tutor who comes every day to teach It. It has been studying Spanish
assiduously for six mos.; and trusts to be able to establish a _meson
de los estrangeros,_ or stranger's restaurant, in Havana,--unless It is
busted up pretty soon. It might be busted up. As yet It has remained
poor. Economy is the cause thereof. It has seen little of wine and
women in this city. Its notions are mean and stingy. It is constantly
suspicious that Its partner may go back on It. It is of a suspicious
character. It has debts on its mind, but prefers to look after its own
interests at present,--until It can buy some clothes. It also proposes
to establish another five-cent eating-house here in the French quarter,
sooner or later, if this one pays. If the O. M. ever leaves Cincinnati,
he may see the Raven. Otherwise he will not. If he comes to this part
of the world, he can obtain board cheap at the five-cent restaurant.
The Raven would not object: to see him again,--on the contrary, he is
filled with CURIOSITY to see him. The Raven may succeed right off. He
may not. But he is going to succeed sooner or later, even if he has to
start an eating-house in Hell. He sends you his respects,--reserving
his affection for a later time."

Hearn enclosed with the latter a yellow handbill advertising his
restaurant. It was as follows:

                 "_The_ 5 _cent Restaurant_
                       160 _Dryades Street_"

_This is the cheapest eating-house in the South. It is neat, orderly,
and respectable as any other in New Orleans. You can get a good meal
for a couple of nickels. All dishes_ 5 _cents. A large cup of pure
Coffee, with Rolls, only_ 5 _cents._
           _Everything half the price of the markets_."

In a letter postmarked June 27, he again refers to his knowledge of
Spanish, and, what is more interesting, makes his first reference to
Japan, the country where he was to achieve his best work: "Your little
Raven talks Spanish. Has a fair acquaintance with the language. Just
now rusty for want of practice. Soon pick it up again.... "Have also
wild theories regarding Japan.

Splendid field in Japan Climate just like

England,--perhaps a little milder. Plenty of Europeans. English,
American and French papers....

"Would not be surprised if you could make N. Orleans trip pay--now
that I have seen your circulars. Only--remember C. O. D. Everybody
here is a thief. Must be careful even in changing a quarter not to
get counterfeits or false change. Horrid den of villains, robbers,
mutual admiration,--political quacks, medical quacks, literary
quacks,--adventurers, Spanish, Italian, Greek, English, Corsican,
French, Venezuelan,--Parisian roués, Sicilian murderers, Irish
ruffians.... Couldn't be half so bad in Japan."

The censure of New Orleans people must not be taken too seriously. He
afterwards had some very dear friends there, who changed his opinions
to a great extent. On November 24 came a letter liberally sprinkled
with drawings of the raven and replete with his fun:

"DEAR OLD MAN: The Raven has not found letter-writing a pleasant
occupation lately. It has had some trouble; It has also been studying
very hard; It has had Its literary work doubled, and It has had little
leisure time, as Its grotesque and fantastic Eye is not yet in a
healthy condition. It cannot write at night, not in these beautiful
Southern Nights, which flame with stars,--the 'holy Night,' as the old
Greek poet called it, which is 'all Eye, all Ear, all perfume to the

"The Raven would like to see you, as It could tell you a great many
queer things about Southern matters, which no paper has published or
dare publish, and about the city and about the people. But It hardly
hopes to see you; for after this summer It will not be here. It has
latterly heard much of advantages held out to It in Mexico City, where
the great exposition is soon to be held; and Its Spanish studies have
been successful. It wants to find a temporary resting-place among
Spanish people, and cannot stay here. It would be pleased to forget
Its own language for a while, whether in Cuba or elsewhere.... The
Raven cannot go North, as It cannot afford to. It will require all
It can save to carry It through troubles which await It somewhere
else,--for thou knowest full well that Woe is the normal condition
of the Raven's existence. The Raven passeth Its time thusly: In the
morning It a-riseth with the Sun and drinketh a cup of coffee and
devoureth a piece of bread. Then It proceeded to the office and
concocteth devilment for the _Item,_ Then It returned to Its room,
whose windows are shadowed by creeping plants and clouds of mosquitoes,
and received Its Spanish tutor. Then It goeth to a Chinese restaurant,
where It eateth an amazing dinner,--Its bump of ALIMENTATIVENESS being
enormously developed. Then It spendeth two hours among the second-hand
bookstores. It then goeth to bed,--to arise in the dead vast and middle
of the night and smoke Its pipe. For a year It hath not smoked a cigar;
and Its morals are exemplary. It sendeth you Its affectionate good-will
and proceedeth forthwith to smoke Its pipe."

Again, without any clue as to its date and without any aid from the
memory of Mr. Watkin, is a small photograph of the writer, with this
characteristic note:

"DEAR OLD DAD: Would like to hear from you, to see you, to chat with
you. Write me a line or two. As soon as I can find time, will write
a nice, long, chatty letter,--all about everything you would like to
hear. Am doing well. New Orleans is not, however, what I hoped it was.
Are you well and happy? I have thoughts of cemeteries and graves, and a
dear old Ghost with a white beard,--a Voice of the Past.

"I press your hand.


In a letter dated July 7, 1882, Hearn tells of his first adventures
in the book-writing line and of the horrified criticisms of some of
the Eastern book-reviewers. All told, however, he becomes the more
purposeful Hearn, the man Mr. Watkin had always predicted he would be
if he continued at his literary work in his own way. It is interesting
for another reason, too, in that it shows how already, in these New
Orleans days, Hearn was preparing himself by his studies for his future
life in Japan.

"MY DEAR OLD DAD: Your letter lies before me here like a white tablet
of stone bearing a dead name; and in my mind there is just such a
silence as one feels standing before a tomb,--so that I can press your
hand only and say nothing.




"I must go North in a few months, by way of Cincinnati, and spend a
week or so in the city. My intention is to see Worthington about a new
publication. He is now in Europe. Here I make thirty dollars a week for
about five hours' work a day, and the position appears tolerably solid;
but the climate is enervating, the man who refuses to connect himself
with church or clique lives alone like a hermit in the Thebaids, and
one sickens of such a life at times. Sometimes I fancy that the older I
grow, the more distasteful companionship becomes; but this may be owing
to the situation here. Nevertheless I am feeling very old, old almost
as the Tartar of Longfellow's poem,--'three hundred and sixty years.'

"Imagine the heavy, rancid air of a Southern swamp in midsummer, when
the very clouds seem like those which belonged to the atmosphere of
pregeologic periods, uncreated lead and iron,--never a breath of pure
air,--dust that is powdered dung,--quaking ground that shakes with
the passage of a wagon,--heat as of a perpetual vapor bath,--and at
night, subtle damps that fill the bones with rheumatism and poison the
blood. Then, when one thinks of green hills and brisk winds, comes a
strange despondency. It is something like the outlying region through
which Milton's Lucifer passed, half crawling, half flying, on his way
to the Garden of Eden. Your little reprints provoked very pleasant
old memories. I paid the Somebody one hundred and fifty dollars for
the publication.[1] Have not yet heard from him. The understanding is
that I get my money back and something besides. However, I shall be
satisfied with the something. I have had many nice notices, letters
from authors of some note, and a few criticisms of the true Pharisaic
species. I enclose one for your amusement. I have also built up a fine
library, about three hundred picked volumes, and have a little money
saved. Have also some ambition to try the book business,--not here,
but in San Francisco or somewhere else. However, I have no definite
plans,--only a purpose to do something for myself and thus obtain
leisure for a systematic literary purpose. Were you situated like
me,--that is, having no large business or large interests,--I think
I should try to coax you to seek the El Dorado of the future, where
fortunes will certainly be made by practical men,--Mexico,--where no
one ever lights a fire, and where one has only to go in the sun when he
is too cold, into the shade when he is too warm. But for the present
I will only ask you to come down here when the weather gets healthy
and your business will allow it. You will stay with me, of course, and
no expense. The trip would be agreeable in the season when the air is
sweet with orange blossoms.

[Footnote 1: Translation of Gautier's short stories.]

"The population here is exceedingly queer,--something it is hard to
describe, and something which it is possible to learn only after
a painful experience of years. At present I may say that all my
acquaintances here are limited to about half a dozen, with one or
two friends whom I invite to see me occasionally. Yet almost daily
I receive letters from people I do not know, asking favors which I
never grant. New Orleans is the best school for the study of human
selfishness I have ever been in. Buddhism teaches that the second birth
is to this life 'as the echo to the voice in the cavern, as the great
footprints to the steps of the elephant.' According to the teaching of
the Oriental Christ, this whole population will be born again as wild
beasts,--which is consoling. ... You say you cannot write. I differ
with you; but it would certainly be impossible for either of us to
write many things we would like to say. Still, you can easily drop a
line from time to time, even a postal card, just to let me know you
are well. If I do not get up to see you by September, I hope to see
you down. I dreamed one night that I heard the ticking of the queer
clock,--like the longstrides of a man booted and spurred. You know the
clock I mean,--the long, weird-faced clock. My eyes are not well, of
course,--never will be; but they are better. More about myself I cannot
tell you in a letter,--except that I suppose I have changed a little.
Less despondent, but less hopeful; wiser a little and more silent;
less nervous, but less merry; more systematic and perhaps a good deal
more selfish. Not strictly economical, but coming to it steadily; and
in leisure hours studying the theories of the East, the poetry of
antique India, the teachings of the wise concerning absorption and
emanation, the illusions of existence, and happiness as the equivalent
of annihilation. Think they were wiser than the wisest of Occidental

"And still there is in life much sweetness and much pleasure in the
accomplishment of a fixed purpose. Existence may be a delusion and
desire a snare, but I expect to exist long enough to satisfy my desire
to see thee again before entering Nirvana. So, reaching to thee the
grasp of friendship across the distance of a thousand miles, I remain
in the hope of being always remembered sincerely as your friend."

On September 10, 1882, in reply to a letter from Mr. Watkin, in which
the latter said he thought of going to Tampa for a rest and possibly
also to look around and see what the business prospers were, Hearn
filled five big sheets with all the information he could gather about
Tampa, from facts about fleas to a glowing eulogy of the moon,--"seven
times larger than your cold moon."

Following upon his translations of Gautier, Hearn busied himself with
translations from Flaubert, and sent the manuscript of the proposed
title-page and introduction to Mr. Watkin to set up, as he was
superstitious about his "Dear Old Dad" bringing him luck. As usual he
urged his friend to visit him, drawing in a letter of September 14,
1882, the following alluring pictures:

"In October we shall have exquisite weather--St. Martin's summer, the
Creoles call it,--something like Indian summer North. Then I shall
indeed hope to see you. No danger now of fever; and will have a nice
healthy room for you. If you can't get away in October, wait till
November,--nice and clear month generally, with orange-blossom smells.
Raven wants to have a big talk. As for writing, don't write if it
bothers you. I am sure you cannot have much time and must take care of
your eyes. Perhaps some day we can both take things more easily, and a
long rest by running streams, near mountain winds and in a climate like
unto an eternal mountain springtime. Dream of voices of birds, whisper
of leaves, milky quivering of stars, laughing of streams, odors of pine
and of savage flowers, shadows of flying clouds, winds triumphantly
free. Horrible cities! vile air! abominable noises! sickness! humdrum
human machines! Let us strike our tents! move a little nearer to

October 26, 1882, still writing about the promised visit of Mr. Watkin,
he sent the following:

"MY DEAR OLD MAN: As the twig is bent, &c.--neither you nor I can now
correct ourselves of habits. We are both old. [Hearn was thirty-two
and Mr. Watkin fifty-nine.] I, for my part, feel ancient as the moon,
and regret the departure of my youth. But I observe that all my best
friends have the same habit. There's Charley Johnson,--wrote me twice
in five years. There's the old newspaper coteries never write me at
all. There is myself, just as bad as anybody. When somebody asked
Théophile Gautier to write, he answered, 'Oh, ask a carpenter to plane
planks just for fun!' It is a fact. Life's too short.... I was afraid
for a while that Yellow Jack was trying to climb up this way from
Pensacola; but I think all danger is now over. The weather feels chilly
to us,--alligator-blooded and web-footed dwellers of the swamp (the
Dismal Swamp): it will feel warm to you....

"Yes; I think a river trip down would be nicer for you, as it would
include rest, good living, and a certain magical illusion of Southern
beauties which bewitched me into making my dwelling-place among the
frogs and bugs and the everlasting mosquitoes. 'Bugs' here mean every
flying and crawling thing whereof the entomology is unknown to the
people. The electric lights nightly murder centillions of them."

The letter is signed as usual with the drawing of a raven. As a
novelty, the bird is looking at a steamer bearing over the side-wheel
the name _Watkin_.

November 24, 1882, he wrote to Mr. Watkin, foreshadowing the book,
"Stray Leaves from Strange Literatures," which was to bring him his
first meed of praise from all sides. Again in this letter he somewhat
despondently referred to his being a small man in a world where,
according to his morbid views, big men won all the battles:

"I'm busy on a collection of Oriental legends,--Brahmanic, Buddhistic,
Talmudic, Arabic, Chinese, and Polynesian,--which I hope to have ready
in the spring. I think I can get Scribner or Osgood to bring it out.

"I think myself that life is worth living under the conditions you
speak of; but they are very hard to obtain. I would be glad to try
a new climate,--a new climate is a new life, a new youth. Here the
problem of existence forever stares one in the face with eyes of iron.
Independence is so hard to obtain,--the churches, the societies, the
organizations, the cliques, the humbugs are all working against the
man who tries to preserve independence of thought and action. Outside
of these one cannot obtain a woman's society, and if obtained one is
forever buried in the mediocrity to which she belongs.... My idea of
perfect bliss would be ease and absolute quiet,--silence, dreams,
tepidness,--great quaint rooms overlooking a street full of shadows
and emptiness,--friends in the evening, a pipe, a little philosophy,
wandering under the moon.... I am beginning to imagine that to be
forever in the company of one woman would kill a man with ennui. And
I feel that I am getting old--immemorially old,--older than the moon.
I ought never to have been born in this century, I think sometimes,
because I live forever in dreams of other centuries and other faiths
and other ethics,--dreams rudely broken by the sound of cursing in the
street below, cursing in seven different languages. I can't tell you
much else about myself. I live in my books, and the smoke of my pipe,
and ideas that nobody has any right expelling a good time in this world
unless he be gifted with great physical strength and force of will.
These give success. Little phantoms of men are blown about like down
in the storms of the human struggle: they have not enough weight to
keep them in place. And the Talmud says: 'There are three whose life
is no life: the Sympathetic man, the Irascible, and the Melancholy.'
But alas! the art by which the Sorceress of Colchis could recreate
a body by cutting it up and boiling it in a pot is lost. Don't you
think happiness is solely the result of perfect health under normal
conditions of existence? I believe in the German philosopher who said
that whether one had a billion dollars a day or only one dollar a
week, it made no difference in regard to the amount of happiness a
human brain was susceptible of. Still, it would be so nice to avoid
the opposite by walling oneself up from the human species,--like the
Cainites, whose cities were 'walled up to Heaven.'"

There now ensues in the correspondence, a silence extending over a
period of nearly five years. These were busy years for Hearn. His
position in the New Orleans newspaper world became a prominent one,
and his translations of stories from the French, made for the papers
by which he was employed, were so favorably received as to give him
greater confidence in his own abilities.

Early in June of the year 1887 things began to take a turn for greater
work for Hearn. His studies of the negroes and the Creoles of Louisiana
had attracted the attention of the publishers, and he had received some
rather tempting offers to do work for them. It was then that he left
New Orleans, going to New York by way of Cincinnati. With all of his
old shyness, his avoidance of mere acquaintances, and his love of the
white-haired old gentleman, who alone in Cincinnati had understood him,
Hearn spent his entire day in Cincinnati in chat at Watkin's printing
office, which was then situated at 26 Longworth Street. It was there
that Hearn saw once more the tall clock, whose peculiar ticking seemed
to have fascinated him and to which references are made even in his
few letters from Japan. After the day with Mr. Watkin, he went direct
to New York, where he was the guest of his friend, Mr. H. E. Krehbiel,
the well-known musical critic, who was then living at 438 West 57th
Street. From there it was that Hearn wrote to his mentor the following
confession of affection and gratitude:

"DEAR OLD MAN: A delightful trip brought me safe and sound to New
York, where my dear friend Krehbiel was waiting to take me to his cosy
home. I cannot tell you how much our little meeting delighted me, or
how much I regretted to depart so soon, or how differently I regarded
our old friendship from my old way of looking at it. I was too young,
too foolish, and too selfish to know you as you are, when we used to
be together. Ten years made little exterior change in me, but a great
deal of heart-change; and I saw you as you are,--noble and true and
frank and generous, and felt I loved you more than I ever did before;
felt also how much I owed you, and will always owe you,--and understood
how much allowance you had made for all my horrid, foolish ways when
I used to be with you. Well, I am sure to see you again.' I am having
one of the most delightful holidays here I ever had in my life; and I
expect to stay a few weeks. If it were not for the terrible winters,
I should like to live in New York. Some day I suppose I shall have to
spend a good deal of my time here. The houses eleven stories high,
that seem trying to climb into the moon,--the tremendous streets and
roads,--the cascading thunder of the awful torrent of life,--the sense
of wealth-force and mind-power that oppresses the stranger here,--all
these form so colossal a contrast with the inert and warmly colored
Southern life that I know not how to express my impression. I can
only think that I have found superb material for a future story, in
which the influence of New York on a Southern mind may be described.
Well, new as these things may seem to me, they are, no doubt, old
and uninteresting to you,--so that I shall not bore you with my
impressions. I will look forward to our next meeting, when during a
longer stay in Cin. I can tell you such little experiences of my trip
as may please you. I want to get into that dear little shop of yours
again. I dreamed of it the other night, and heard the ticking of the
old clock like a man's feet treading on pavement far away; and I saw
the Sphinx, with the mother and child in her arms, move her monstrous
head, and observe: 'The sky in New York is grey!'

"When I woke up it _was_ grey, and it remained grey until to-day.
Even now it is not like our summer blue. It looks higher and paler
and colder. We are nearer to God in the South, just as we are nearer
to Death in that terrible and splendid heat of the Gulf Coast. When
I write God, of course I mean only the World-Soul, the mighty and
sweetest life of Nature, the great Blue Ghost, the Holy Ghost which
fills planets and hearts with beauty.

"Believe me, Dear Old Dad,

"Affectionately, your son,


Below this is once more the familiar drawing of the raven.

From this time on the letters came at greater and greater intervals.
There were only three more from America and then four from Japan. It
was not that Hearn forgot his old friend or cared less for him. But he
became busier, and with larger projects, newer aims, and a different
life, there was less time in which to indulge himself in the active
correspondence of former years. Between the New York group of letters
and those from Japan is a gap. Letters on both sides had become a
matter of years instead of weeks or months. Mr. Watkin, with the
increasing weight of years on his shoulders and the increasing cares of
a business that had begun to decline with the introduction of modern
printing methods, found less time to write to his Raven.

Early in July, 1887, Hearn at last departed on that long-wished-for
journey to the West Indies. A note, hastily scribbled to Mr. Watkin,
told of the arrangements:

"DEAR OLD MAN: I leave on the _Barracouta_ for Trinidad, Sunday, at
daybreak. I have been travelling about a good deal, and have been
silent only because so busy and so tired when the business was over.
Your dear letter and your excellent little stamp both delighted me. I
will let you hear from me soon again,--that is, as soon as I can get to
a P. O.

"With affection, always your little Raven,


This promise of frequent letters was one he was not destined to
keep. Once in the West Indies, he found himself so enthralled by its
beauties, so busy putting on paper his impressions of what he was
seeing and breathing and feeling, that it was not until he was once
more in the United States that he found time to write.

September 21, 1887, he sent the following from Metuchen, New Jersey:

"DEAR OLD DAD: After three months or so in the West Indies and British
Guiana, I am back again in the U. S. in first-rate health and spirits.
I ought to have been able to write you, I thought, from Martinique;
but the enormous and unexpected volume of work I had to do rendered it
almost impossible to write anything except business letters to Harpers,
and one or two necessary notes to friends looking after my affairs
elsewhere. My conviction is that you and I would do well to spend our
lives in the Antilles. All dreams of Paradise (even Mahomet's) are more
than realized there by nature;--after returning, I find this world all
colorless, all grey, and fearfully cold. I feel like an outcast from
heaven. But it is no use trying to tell you anything about it in a
letter. I wrote nearly three hundred pages of manuscript to the Harpers
about it,--and I have not been able to say one thousandth part. I got
two little orders for stamps for you at Martinique,--pencil stamps like
the one you made for me. One is to be 'Plissonneau, fils;' the other,
'A. Testart.' Send bill to me, and stamps to A. Testart, St. Pierre,
Martinique, French W. Indies. I hope to see you on my way South, dear
old Dad.

"Believe me always,


In view of the terrible catastrophe at St. Pierre, it would be
interesting to know whether Hearn's friends perished in that fury of
fire and lava and hot ashes. Hearn's expectations about returning to
New Orleans were not destined to be fulfilled. So successful had he
been in his work for Harpers that, a week later than the date of the
previous letter, he had the satisfa&ion of announcing that he was going
back to what at that time seemed to him the most delightful region in
the world. The opening of this letter is unique, in that it is the only
one in which he is in the least ceremonious:

"H. WATKIN, ESQ., DEAR OLD DAD: I am going right back to the Tropics
again, this time to stay. I have quit newspapering forever. Wish
I could see you and chat with you before I go, but I cannot get a
chance this time. My address will be care American Consul, St. Pierre,
Martinique, Lesser Antilles. I may not be there all the time, but
that will be my headquarters, and there letters will always reach
me. To-day I am packing, rushing around breathlessly, preparing to
go,--so that my letter must be brief. I did better with my venture than
I ever expected; for I got for my work done seven hundred dollars,
besides having secured material for much better work. You will hear of
me in the _Harper's Magazine_ this winter,--beginning about January
and February. I shall be able hereafter to rest where I please; so
that I shall have no trouble, when I get to New York again, in
running to Cincinnati. Of course I don't want my little plans known
yet,--because no one knows what might turn up; but these are the
present prospers,--quite bright for me. I will write from Martinique or
Guadeloupe, and try to coax you to go down there. Good-bye for a little
while, with my best love to you.
                                                     "L. HEARN"

Again this promise of letters from the West Indies was destined to
be broken. While lotus-eating, Hearn wrote few letters. He was most
probably busy, amid the glow and color of the Antilles, studying the
philosophical, scientific, and religious works which were destined
so strongly to color his writings about Japan. He went to the
latter country in 1890. In order that the reader may have a clear
understanding of events, the facts in Hearn's Japanese career may be
told in a few words. In 1890 and 1891 he served as English teacher in
the ordinary middle school and the normal school of Matsue in Izumo.
Next he was connected with the government school at Kumamoto. Then came
newspaperwork at Kobe, and finally in 1896 he was honored by being made
lecturer on English literature at the Imperial University of Tokio,
which position he held until 1903, when he retired, owing to increasing
trouble with his eyes, which had caused him anxiety all his life. He
was contemplating a lecture trip in the United States, but ill health
prevented. He died at his Tokio home September 26, 1904, and was buried
September 29, with the Buddhist rites, the funeral service being held
at the temple of Jito-in of Ichigaya. He now sleeps in the lonely old
cemetery of Zōshigaya in the outskirts of the capital. Shortly after
Hearn reached Japan Mr. Watkin obtained his address, and wrote him a
letter telling how often he had thought of him and had expected to hear
from him in the two years and more that had elapsed since their last
letters. This brought a speedy reply,--a reply which showed that, so
far as his feeling for the old English printer was concerned, there
was little difference between the immature, ambition-stung youth of
nineteen and the well-known, mature author of forty, who felt in some
dim way that there amid this Oriental people he was destined to live
and die. The reply to Mr. Watkin is from Yokohama, and, contrary to
Hearn's previous rule, is actually dated,--April 25, 1890.

"DEAR OLD DAD: I was very happy to feel that your dear heart thought
about me; I also have often found myself dreaming of you. I arrived
here, by way of Canada and Vancouver, after passing some years in
the West Indies. I think I shall stay here some years. I have not
been getting rich,--quite the contrary; but I am at least preparing a
foundation for ultimate independence,--if I keep my health. It is very
good now, but I have many grey hairs, and I shall be next June forty
years old.

"I trust to make enough in a year or two to realize my dream of a home
in the West Indies; if I succeed, I must try to coax you to come along,
and dream life away quietly where all is sun and beauty. But no one
ever lived who seemed more a creature of circumstances than I; I drift
with various forces in the direction of least resistance,--resolve
to love nothing, and love always too much for my own peace of
mind,--places, things, and persons,--and lo! presto! everything is
swept away, and becomes a dream,--like life itself.

"Perhaps there will be a great awakening; and each will cease to be an
Ego, but an All, and will know the divinity of Man by seeing, as the
veil falls, himself in each and all.

"Here I am in the land of dreams,--surrounded by strange Gods. I seem
to have known and loved them before somewhere: I burn incense before
them. I pass much of my time in the temples, trying to see into the
heart of this mysterious people. In order to do so I have to blend with
them and become a part of them. It is not easy. But I hope to learn the
language; and if I do not, in spite of myself, settle here, you will
see me again. If you do not, I shall be under big trees in some old
Buddhist cemetery, with six laths above me, inscribed with prayers in
an unknown tongue, and a queerly carved monument typifying those five
elements into which we are supposed to melt away. I trust all is well
with you, dear old Dad. Write me when it will not pain your eyes. Tell
me all you can about yourself. Be sure that I always remember you; and
that my love goes to you.


"I could tell you so much to make you laugh if you were here; and to
hear you laugh again would make me very happy."

An interval of over four years now occurred before Hearn wrote once
more to Cincinnati. Some very decided changes had taken place in his
life. He had wedded a Japanese woman, he had a son, and he was reputed
to have become a Buddhist. He had been successful with his literary
work, his essays on things Japanese being among the most noteworthy
and popular articles in the _Atlantic Monthly._ It was at this period,
when Mr. Watkin thought his friend was most happy, that he received a
long reply from Japan in response to a joint letter sent by the old
gentleman and his daughter, Miss Effie Watkin. It is a singular thing
that it was not until this time that Hearn ever mentioned Mr. Watkin's
wife and daughter. He had in truth been few times in their presence.
Mrs. Watkin, a woman of strong common sense, had found the foolish
superstitions of the young lad hard to bear, and he had accordingly,
when in Cincinnati, confined his particular friendship to the husband
and father. The letter from Hearn rather surprised its recipient by
reason of its despondency. It had much of the old gloomy cast of
thought. For this there were two potent reasons. One was his worry
over his son's future. The other was his worry over that Japan he had
learned to love so well. He felt doubtful about the outcome of the war
with China,--the letter was written in September, 1894,--and troubles
for the Mikado's empire always made him a little sad. Singularly
enough, the same feeling can be traced very clearly in his book,
"Japan, An Attempt at Interpretation," written in the first months of
the struggle with Russia.

One other word of introductory comment is necessary. His seeming
depreciation of his own essays was only the reflection of his general
gloomy viewpoint at the time the letter was written. Hearn was dwelling
at the time at Kumamoto.

"DEAR OLD DAD: It delighted me to get that kindest double letter from
yourself and sweet-hearted little daughter,--or rather delighted us.
My wife speaks no English, but I translated it for her. She will send
a letter in Japanese, which Miss Effie will not be able to read, but
which she will keep as a curiosity perhaps. Our love to you both.

"How often I have thought of you, and wondered about you, and wished I
could pass with you more of the old-fashioned evenings, reading ancient
volumes of the_ Atlantic Monthly_,--so much better a magazine in those
days than in these, when I am regularly advertised as one of its

"I often wonder now at your infinite patience with the extraordinary,
superhuman foolishness and wickedness of the worst pet you ever had in
your life. When I think of all the naughty, mean, absurd, detestable
things I did to vex you and to scandalize you, I can't for the life of
me understand why you did n't want to kill me,--as a sacrifice to the
Gods. What an idiot I was!--and how could you be so good?--and why do
men change so? I think of my old self as of something which ought not
to have been allowed to exist on the face of the earth,--and yet, in my
present self, I sometimes feel ghostly reminders that the old self was
very real indeed. Well, I wish I were near you to love you and make up
for all old troubles.

"I have a son. He is my torment and my pride. He is not like me or
his mother. He has chestnut hair and blue eyes, and is enormously
strong,--the old Gothic blood came out uppermost. I am, of course,
very anxious about him. He _can't_ become a Japanese,--his soul is all
English, and his looks. I must educate him abroad. Head all above the
ears,--promises to be intelligent. I shall never have another child.
I feel too heavily the tremendous responsibility of the thing. But
the boy is there,--intensely alive; and I must devote the rest of
my existence to him. One thing I hope for is that he will never be
capable of doing such foolish things as his daddy used to do. His name
is Kaji-we or Ka-jio. He does not cry, and has a tremendous capacity
for growing. And he gives me the greatest variety of anxiety about his

"When you hear that I have been able to save between thirty-five
hundred and four thousand dollars, you will not think I have made no
progress. But I have put all, or all that I could reasonably do, in my
wife's name. The future looks very black. The reaction against foreign
influence is strong; and I feel more and more every day that I shall
have to leave Japan eventually, at least for some years. When I first
met you I was--nineteen. I am now forty-four! Well, I suppose I must
have lots more trouble before I go to Nirvana.

"Effie says you do not see my writings. My book will be out by the
time you get this letter,--that is, my first book on Japan.[1] Effie
can read bits of it to you. And I figure in the _Atlantic_ every few
months. Cheap fame;--the amazing fortune I once expected does n't
turn up at all. I have been obliged to learn the fact that I am not a
genius, and that I must be content with the crumbs from the table of

"But this is all Egotism. I am guilty of it only because you asked
for a small quantity. About yourself and all who love you my letter
rather ought to be. Speak always well of me to John Chamberlain [a
journalist]. I liked him well. Do you remember the long walks over
the Ohio, in the evening, among the fireflies and grasshoppers, to
hear lectures upon spiritual things? If I were near you now, I could
saturate you with Oriental spiritualism,--Buddhism,--everything you
would like, but after a totally novel fashion. When one has lived
alone five years in a Buddhist atmosphere, one naturally becomes
penetrated by the thoughts that hover in it; my whole thinking, I
must acknowledge, has been changed, in spite of my long studies of
Spencer and of Schopenhauer. I do not mean that I am a Buddhist, but
I mean that the inherited ancestral feelings about the universe--the
Occidental ideas every Englishman has--have been totally transformed.

"There is yet no fixity, however: the changes continue,--and I really
do not know how I shall feel about the universe later on. What a
pity that Western education and Western ideas only corrupt and spoil
the Japanese,--and that the Japanese peasant is now superior to the
Japanese noble!

"You have heard of the war. The Japanese are a fighting race; and I
think they will win all the battles. But to conquer a Chinese army
is not the same thing as to conquer the Chinese government. The war
makes us all uneasy. Japan's weakness is financial. A country where it
costs a dollar a month to live, and where the population is only forty
million, is not really strong enough for such an enormous job. Our hope
is that science and rapidity of movement may compensate for smallness
of resources.

"I am almost sure I shall have to seek America again. If that happens,
I shall see you or die. All now is doubt and confusion. But in this
little house all is love to you. We have your picture;... we all know
you, as if you were an old acquaintance.

"I wish we could be together somewhere for a pleasant evening chat,
hearing in the intervals the office clock, like the sound of a
long-legged walker. I wish we could talk over all the hopes and dreams
of ideal societies, and the reasons of the failure to realize them. I
wish I could tell you about the ideas of Western civilization which are
produced by a long sojourn in the Orient. How pleasant to take country
walks again! that is, if there be any country left around Cincinnati.
How pleasant to read to you strange stories and theories from the Far
East! Still, I have become so accustomed to Japanese life that a return
to Western ways would not be altogether easy at first. What a pity I
did not reach Japan ten years sooner!

"Tell me, if you write again, all pleasant news about old friends. Love
to you always, and believe me ever,

                           "Your extremely bad and ungrateful
                                         "Grey-headed boy,
                                                   "LAFCADIO HEARN"

[Footnote 1: _Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan._]

Shortly after this long letter came the one written by Hearn's Japanese
wife, accompanied by this note:

"DEAR MISS EFFIE: Here is my wife's answer to your most kind letter.
She thanks you very much for writing,--says that she knows your papa
well, by looking at his photograph, and by hearing me talk of him; she
apologizes for not being able to write or speak English; she hopes to
see you some day, and to be shown by you some of the wonders of the
Western world, about which she knows nothing; she tells you about our
little son; and finally says that if she ever comes to America she will
bring you some curious memento from Japan. It is all written in the
old style of high Japanese courtesy, in which your letter is called
'jewel-pen letter.' Best regards and kindest love for your papa. We are
going to leave Kumamoto. Will write again soon.


In 1895 an accident befell Mr. Watkin, and, upon his request, Mrs.
Watkin wrote a letter to the distant friend. Mrs. Watkin was rather
timid about it and was dubious about receiving a reply. However,
despite this feeling, she enclosed some little verses of hers upon a
spiritual theme. In a short time she received the following reply:

_"Kobe;--shimoyamatedori, Shichome_

"7 _Feb._ 28, 1895

"DEAR MRS. WATKIN: Your kind, sweet letter reached me by last
American mail, and gave me all the pleasure you could have desired.
But why have you even dreamed of apologizing for writing to me, who
love you all, and for whom everything is comprehensible even if not
wholly comprehended? All love and good wishes to you. I received the
little poem, and liked it. Those mysteries in which you appear to be
interested are scarcely mysteries in the Far East: the immaterial world
counts here for more than the visible. Perhaps some day I may suddenly
drop in upon you all, and talk ghostliness to you,--a new ghostliness,
which you may like. Some hints of it appear in a little book of mine,
to be issued about the time this letter reaches you,--'Out of the East.'

"I really think I may see you and my dear old Dad again. I may be
obliged erelong to return, at least temporarily, to America, to make
some money, though my home must be in Japan till my boy grows up a
little. He seems to be very strong and bright, and queerly enough he is
fair. I have two souls now, which is troublesome; for his every word
and cry stirs strange ripples in my own life, and the freedom of being
responsible only for oneself is over forever for me. Whether this be
for the worse or the better in the eternal order of things, the Gods
must decide.

"I should like to see your new home. The other one was very cosy;
but perhaps this is even better. What I also want to see is No. _16_
Longworth Street, and to hear the ticking of the old clock that used to
sound like the steps of a long-legged man walking on pavement. Effie
wrote me a dear, pretty letter. Thank her for me. It is just about
seven years now since I saw Dad. I suppose he looks now more like
Homer than ever. .1 have become somewhat grey, and have crow's-feet
around my eyes. Also I have become fat, and disinclined for violent
exercise. In other words, I'm getting down the shady side of the
hill,--and the horizon before me is already darkening, and the winds
blowing out of it, cold. And I am not in the least concerned about the
enigmas,--except that I wonder what my boy will do if I don't live to
be nearly as old as Dad. Ever with all affectionate regards to him and
yourself and Effie,

                                                     "LAFCADIO HEARN"

In 1896 Mr. Watkin, partially recovered from his injuries, wrote
Hearn a letter, and received a last one from him,--a reply in which
the writer finally placed the seal upon the finest friendship in
his history. Unlike some of his other attempts at prophecy, Hearn's
predictions in this last letter failed to come true. He never saw his
old friend again, and the old gentleman, at the age of eighty-two, now
occupies a room in the Old Men's Home in Cincinnati, counting among his
chief treasures the letters which have been here presented.

                                          _"Bangai_ 16
                                                _"May_ 23,'96

"DEAR OLD DAD: How nice to get so dear a letter from you! I know the
cost to you of writing it, and my dear old father must not imagine
that I do not understand why he cannot write often. With his little
grey boy it is much the same now: he finds it hard to write letters,
and he has very few correspondents. Why, indeed, should he have many?
True men are few; and the autograph-hunters, and the scheming class
of small publishers, and the people, who want gratis information
about commercial matters in Japan are not considered by him as
correspondents. They never get any answers. I have two or three dear
friends in this world: is not that enough?--you being oldest and
dearest. To feel that one has them is much.

"But I must ask many pardons. I fear Miss Effie will not forgive me
for not acknowledging ere now the receipt of a photograph, which
surprised as much as it pleased me. To think of the little girl having
so developed into the fine serious woman! How old it makes me feel!
for I remember Miss Effie when she was so little. Please ask her to
forgive me. I was away when the photograph came (in Kyoto), and when I
returned, lazily put off writing from day to day. There was, however,
some excuse for my laziness. I have been very sick with inflammation
of the lungs, and am getting well very slowly. But all danger is
practically over.

"I see from the kind letter of protest bearing your initials that
the idealism which makes love has never gone out of your heart when
you think of me. It is all much more real than any materialism; see,
you always predicted that I should be able to do something, while
extremely practical, materialistic people predicted that I should end
in jail or at the termination of a rope. And your prediction seems
to have been wiser,--for at last, at last I am attracting a little
attention in England.... Also I see (what I did not know before) that
some people have been writing horrid things about me. I expected it,
sooner or later, as I have been an open enemy of the missionaries; and,
besides, the least success in this world must be atoned for. The price
is heavy. Those who ignore you when you are nobody find it necessary
to hate you when you disappoint their expectations. But if I keep my
health I need not care very much. The incident only brought out some of
the honey in dear old Dad's heart.

"You ask about my boy. I can best respond by sending his last
photo,--nearly three years old now. If I can educate him in France or
Italy, it would be better for him, I think. He is very sensitive; and I
am afraid of American or English school training for him. I only pray
the Gods will spare me till he is eighteen or twenty. I am watching to
see what he will develop; if he have any natural gift, I shall try to
cultivate only that gift. Ornamental education is a wicked, farcical
waste of time. It left me incapacitated to do anything; and I still
feel the sorrow of the sin of having dissipated ten years in Latin and
Greek, and stuff,... when a knowledge of some one practical thing, and
of a modern language or two, would have been of so much service. As it
is, I am only self-taught; for everything I learned in school I have
since had to unlearn. You helped me with some of the unlearning, dear
old Dad!

"I really expect to see you. You are only seventy-two, and hale, and I
trust you have long years before you, and that we shall meet. About the
business depression, I hear that it is passing and that 'flush times'
are in store for the West. This, I trust, will be. Oh, no! I shall not
have to look for you 'in the old men's home,'--no, I shall see you in
your own home,--and talk queer talk to you.

"For the time being (indeed, for two years) I have lived altogether by
literary work, without breaking my little reserves, and it is likely
that better things are in store for me. I am anxious for success,--for
the boy's sake above all. To have the future of others to make--to feel
the responsibilities--certainly changes the face of life. I am always
frightened, of course; but I work and hope. That is the best, is it
not? Remember me to all kind friends. Ask Effie to forgive my rude
silence, and all yours to believe my love and constant remembrance.


"I am a Japanese citizen now (Y. Koizumi),--adopted into the family
of my wife. This settles all legal question as to property as well
as marriage under Japanese law; and if I die, the Consul can't touch
anything belonging to my people."

The rest is silence.

Letters to a Lady

Herewith are presented letters that were the outgrowth of a friendship
that probably meant a great deal to Lafcadio Hearn at the time. In
speaking of them, one inevitably thinks of Prosper Mérimée's "Lettres à
une inconnue.". The later missives, too, must for years to come remain
"letters to an unknown,"--unknown to all save a few persons. It was
only recently that the natural course of events made it at all possible
to include them in this collection. Even now the ban of silence is
placed on many things we would like to know.

The letters were written during the memorable year 1876, marked by
exciting political conventions and an even more exciting national
election, and finally by the great Centennial Exposition. At this time
Hearn was in his twenty-sixth year. He had been in the United States
for nearly six years, and was at the time employed as a reporter on Mr.
Murat Halstead's Cincinnati _Commercial._ Although he did not like this
country and was at this time dreaming of returning some day to Europe,
he had been trying for years to make a thoroughly competent newspaper
reporter of himself. However, we gather from remarks in his letters
that he was still regarded as only a minor member of the staff.

Among men his chief friend remained Mr. Watkin. If he had any friends
among young women, he has left no record of them. He seems to have
been more or less solitary always. He is constantly telling of his
constraint in social gatherings, of his inability to appear otherwise
than cold to those around him. Life was indeed to him always a curious
carnival, in which one must be careful to keep on the mask, to guard
the tongue lest one say something redounding to one's injury or

With such characteristics, we are therefore at a loss to learn how his
intimacy with the unknown began. It may have had its origin when some
assignment in the line of newspaper duty took him to her home. One
fancies the unknown must have had a keen eye for character and ability
to discern anything unusual, anything love-worthy, in the ill-dressed,
somewhat ill-featured, shy, timid, little youth Hearn was at that time.
It had not heretofore been his good fortune to attract. However that
may be, the established fact of the friendship remains.

The identity of the unknown is a secret. We are told that she was a
woman of culture and refinement; that she was possessed of some wealth;
and, finally, that she was many years older than Hearn.

Mérimée has been referred to. The reference is forced upon us by Hearn
himself. He mentions those famous "Lettres," and says he feels toward
his "Dear Lady" as Mérimée did toward his "inconnue." The comparison
is not exact. Indeed, it is rather a case of contrast. Like Mérimée,
Hearn's motto seems to have been, with very rare exceptions, "Remember
to distrust;" but, unlike Mérimée, Hearn was not a man of wealth and
prominence and influence in his native land; unlike Mérimée, Hearn had
not had all the advantages wealth and culture can give; unlike Mérimée,
he had known, and was still destined to know, hard and bitter years.

With Mérimée, the French stylist _par excellence_, impersonality was
a passion. His was an impersonality that was broken down only in the
famous "Lettres." Hearn, on the other hand, could not help injecting
much of himself into his books. Nor does the contrast end there.

"For her first thoughts," as Walter Pater well says of the "Lettres"
and the author's attitude toward the woman in the case, "Mérimée is
always pleading, but always complaining that he gets only her second
thoughts,--the thoughts, that is, of a reserved, self-limiting nature."

In the present collection of letters, the rôles are reversed. We gather
from the letters that it was Hearn who never let himself go, who always
kept himself under cautious restraint, and that it was the woman who
resented these second thoughts, these promptings of careful meditations
rather than of fresh, warm impulses.

In Mérimée the ardent lover alternated with the severe critic. He
quarrelled with the unknown and then had reconciliations, until at
last the old love passed away into a form of calm friendship. In the
meantime he packed his letters with keen criticisms of books, society,
politics, archæology, noted people,--everything that interested a
citizen of the world.

In Hearn we have the lonely little egotist, writing mainly about
himself. In his appreciation of a woman's friendship and his pride in
her cordial admiration, he expands and reveals some part of his own
thoughts, beliefs, studies. For the rest, the connection, on his side
at least, seems to have been one of platonic friendship. The lady was
more or less existing, Hearn being constantly occupied in explaining
away what she was quick to fancy were slights.

She would seem to have been even more sensitive than he. To speak
plainly, too, there is a note of evasion in his letters; despite his
appreciation of her, he seems to have seized upon his newspaper work
as an excuse for preventing their friendship becoming something more
intimate. He kept things--at least in his letters--upon a very formal
plane. He was to the recipient, one fancies, provokingly distant in his
"Dear Lady" form of address. There was an ominous sign in the constant
reference to letters returned or unopened. Indeed, there finally came
the breach that in the nature of things was inevitable, and then all
his letters were returned to him.

The young man did not destroy them. Shortly afterwards he departed for
the South. It is not a little strange that in all the years in New
Orleans that followed--lean years and fat, years of bitter poverty
and of comparative prosperity--Hearn preserved this batch of letters
intact. When nearing the age of forty and close to that period when he
was to sail for Japan, the more or less matured man passed judgment
upon the letters of his youth, found them good, and placed them in the
keeping of his friend. He told Mr. Watkin to do with the faded missives
what he deemed best. In some fashion he would seem to have felt that he
was yet destined to accomplish something in the world of literature,
and to have proudly thought that some day even these boyish screeds
would be eagerly read.

As for these letters, as with most of Hearn's missives, they were for
the most part undated,--written hurriedly on any kind of paper, often
on mere scraps.

He places himself before us as the "Oriental by birth and half by
blood;" as a lad destined for Catholicism, and, instead of that,
savagely attacking the religion of his mother. We have hints of the
hard measure the world had dealt him and how he felt like a barbarian
beyond the pale of polite society. He confesses himself ill at ease
among the cultivated classes, and we dimly feel that there were in
those years, before he came to Cincinnati, days so bitter that they
left a permanent mark. Without religious faith, going to the boyish
extreme of lightly attacking Christianity, he imagined himself ready
to become a sort of æsthetic pagan, worshipping Venus and the other
gods of the antique world. As antagonistic to accepted pulpit teaching,
he read Darwin, and pompously and not a little solemnly announced, "I
accept Darwin fully."

Perhaps no inconsiderable portion of this paganism was caused by his
youthful worship of Swinburne. All young men in the late sixties and
early seventies, with an ear for verbal music and magic, were swearing
allegiance to the bard of the famous "Poems and Ballads." Indeed, one
feels that Hearn would have been a poet himself, had he but been gifted
with the faculty of rhyme. Much of the other equipment of the poet was
his in abundant measure,--the love of beauty, the love of lovely words,
the joy in the manifold things of nature and art.

Speaking of Swinburne brings us to his reading, and we catch a glimpse
of that little shelf of treasured books,--Balzacand Gautier and
Rabelais in the French; Poe, to be sure; and--strange choice--the poems
of Mr. Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

In these "Letters to a Lady" there is comparatively little discussion
of literary subjects, save the mention of the fact that he is reading,
always reading. Of literary criticism there is but little. In one
letter, indeed, we do get a reference to the character of the Sultana
of Aldrich's "Cloth of Gold," but this is a moral rather than a
literary discussion. The sign that he was ranging far afield among
other men's works, and also the hint of the writer that was to be,
is given in little sentences dropped half unconsciously here and
there,--sentences that to the student of Hearn's letters seem to be
characteristic of his ways of thought, as when he says, "Somehow the
ghosts of the letters I write by night laugh in my face by day;" or
when he speaks of his horror of crowds and compares it to the terror
of the desert camel being urged toward the white walls and shining
minarets of the city beyond the desert; or when, curiously enough, he
speaks of himself as seeming like a lizard in the July sun, a very
similar turn of thought having been employed by Flaubert in one of his
letters, which Hearn had probably never read, even though he did once
plan a translation from that author.

It is only necessary in conclusion to call attention to one more letter
in this section. As a matter of plain prose it would seem that the lady
had complained of the coldness and the dubious tone of some of Hearn's
letters and had returned them to him. In response he wrote to her a
fable of a Sultan and a neighboring Sultana. He told how the Sultana
complained of the Sultan's messengers, and how the Sultan committed
them to death by fire. The lady was supposed, from this pretty fable,
to draw the conclusion that Hearn's letters had been destroyed by their
author. From the collection herewith appended, it can be seen that the
fabulist availed himself of poetic license.


DEAR FRIEND: Your last kind letter makes me in some sort ashamed of my
diffidence and coldness. Yet you must be aware how peculiarly I feel
myself situated,--constrained, watched everywhere by a hundred eyes
that know me, hemmed in with conventionalities of which I only know the
value sufficiently to have my nerves on a perpetual strain through fear
of breaking them. I am not by nature cold,--quite the reverse, indeed,
as many a bitter experience taught me; and I beg you to attribute my
manner rather to overcaution than to indifference to the feelings of
others. Why, do not we all wear masks in this great carnival mummery
of life, in which we all dance and smile disguisedly, until the
midnight of our allotted pleasure time comes; and the King-Skeleton
commands, "Masks off--show your skulls"? I am afraid you do not
understand [me]; or rather, I feel sure you do not wholly,--for you
have had little opportunity. You have only seen me on my best behavior;
perhaps you might think less of me under other circumstances, but never
think me a chilly phantom, though you may occasionally see me only as
the Shadow of that which I really am. Have I been rude? Try to forgive
my rudeness. It was involuntary.... I think I understood your letters;
and I did not form any opinion therefrom, I feel sure, which you would
not have liked. I wish I could be less strained and conventional in
company. Will try my best to do better. Sincerely,
                                                      L. HEARN


DEAR FRIEND AND LADY (if I may so call you): Do not suppose that
when I delay answering one of your kind letters, the tardiness is
attributable to neglect: or forgetfulness or inappreciation of your
favor. I thoroughly feel--and feel keenly--every kind word or thought
you have expressed or felt forme; I have never rendered you, it is
true, a single compliment worthy of those I have received,--but only
because I was sure that you understood my feelings better than if I had
expressed them; I never write altogether as I think, partly because I
am not naturally demonstrative, and while capable of more than ordinary
sensitive feeling, I have a kind of reluctance to take off what I might
term my little mask. Don't hesitate to scold me, as you threaten,
should you think I deserve it....

I have been busy all day among noisy crowds of enthusiastic Catholics;
and I shudder at the thought of entering a crowd at all times, just
as the desert camel shudders when his driver urges him toward the
white walls and the shining minarets of a city sparkling beyond the
verge of the silent yellow waste. Consequently I was not able to write
till late; and even now I am not in a good writing humor. One's skull
becomes peopled with Dreams and Fantastic Things just before daybreak;
and if you notice aught foolish or absurd in these lines, please
attribute them to that weird influence which comes on us all--

_"in the dead vast and middle of the night."_

I must make one more visit to the Central Police Station ere
cockcrow,--poetically speaking.




_Cincinnati, Thursday_, 27, 1876

DEAR LADY: I return by mail the very interesting letters which you
kindly left for my perusal; also, the list of Mr.'s collection, whereof
I have taken a copy. The other collectors are so slow in preparing
their lists that I fear I shall not be able to publish a full account
of their contributions to the World's Exposition for several days
yet.... I am very thankful for your assistance in obtaining information
regarding these things.

As an English subject, and one who feels a kind of home interest in
European news, you may feel assured that the letters from beyond the
"great water" interested me extremely.

The author gives a pleasant, realistic, and entertaining picture of
the brilliant social affair whereof her letter treats; and her account
would have done credit to most foreign newspaper correspondents,
speaking from a journalistic point of view....

Believe me very respectfully yours,



There is a fragment in which is taken up the matter of invitations he
has refused. It is chiefly interesting because of his expressed desire
to return to Europe:

"I daily receive and pay no attention whatever to other invitations,
because I know my presence is only desired for journalistic favors;
but with you I regret to be unable to accept them quite as much as
you could. In speaking of impulses, I refer merely to sudden actions
without preparation,--such as your first note of yesterday; or your
action on fancying that I had been talking too much; or your becoming
vexed at me for what I could not help. You ought to know that I would
do anything in my power to please you or to accommodate you....

"Let me also take this opportunity of thanking you for those books
again. I have been very much fascinated by one of them and have not
only read but re-read it. It is seemingly by some strange fatuity that
your little invitations have latterly fallen on busy days. Last week
it was all work; and this week I have had a very easy time of it. You
looked at me yesterday as if I had done you some injury, and you hated
to see me. If you go to Europe, my best wishes go with you. I hope to
return there, and leave this country forever some day in the remote

"Do not be offended at my letter.

"L. H."


In a letter dated "Thursday p. m., 1876" we find him apologizing for
some breach of etiquette. He then, as usual, complains of the newspaper
man's lot:

"This afternoon I received your kind note. One of the misfortunes of a
journalistic existence is the inability of a newspaper man to fulfil
an appointment, meet an engagement, or definitely accept an invitation
not immediately connected with his round of regular duty, as he may at
any moment be ordered to the most outlandish places in the pursuit of
news. I think, however, that I may safely accept your kind invitation
to dine with you on Sunday at one o'clock p. m., and also to ride
out to Avondale. Nothing could give me greater pleasure; the more
so as Sunday is an inordinately dull day in the newspaper sphere. I
will certainly be on hand unless something very extraordinary should
intervene to prevent; and in such event I shall endeavor to inform you
beforehand, so as not to cause you any trouble.

"I remain, dear Lady,

"Very respectfully,



_Cincinnati, Friday_, 1876 DEAR LADY: I very much regret that I should
have inadvertently worded my last note in so clumsy a manner as to make
it appear that in accepting your kind invitation I was prospectively
interested in nothing but "items" and thankful only for the opportunity
of obtaining news. In mentioning that I was especially glad to accept
your invitation on Sunday, "as it is an especially dull day for news,"
I simply meant that I would find more leisure time on Sunday than
upon any other day in the week; and would thus feel more pleasure in
making a call without being worried by office business. I hope you will
therefore consider my rudeness the result of hurried writing and clumsy
phraseology rather than of deliberate ignorance.

If it be agreeable to you, I will call upon you at 1 p. m. on Sunday
as per invitation. I cannot definitely say, however, what I could do
in the way of writing an account of other collections than what have
already been spoken of, inasmuch as I am, you know, only a reporter in
the office, and subject to orders from the City Editor.

As I have not written any letters except of a business character for
several years, please to excuse any apparent lack of courtesy in my
note. I am apt to say something malapropos without intending. I remain,

                                    Very respectfully yours,
                                                        LAFCADIO HEARN


DEAR LADY: Excuse my tardiness in replying to your kind and, may I
say, too complimentary letter; for I scarcely deserve the courteous
interest you have expressed in regard to myself. Also let me assure
you that you are very much mistaken in fancying that I am so used to
all kinds of people as to feel no pleasure in such introductions as
that of Sunday evening. The fact is that I was very much pleased; but
am so poor a hand at compliments that I feared even to express to
Miss ---- the pleasure I felt in her songs and playing, to wish you
many happy returns of your birthday, or to hint how well I enjoyed
the conversation of your lady sister. I have not visited out since I
was sixteen,--nine years ago; have led a very hard and extraordinary
life previous to my connection with the press,--became a species of
clumsy barbarian,--and in short for various reasons considered myself
ostracized, tabooed, outlawed. These facts should be sufficient to
explain to you that I am not used to all sorts of people,--not to the
cultivated class of people at all, and feel all the greater pleasure in
such a visit as that referred to....

I have not had time yet to conclude the entertaining volume of travel
you kindly sent me, but have read sufficient to interest me extremely.
I find a vast number of novel and hitherto unpublished facts,--the
results of more than ordinarily keen observation in the work. If I were
reviewing the book, I might feel inclined to take issue with the author
in respect: to his views concerning the work of the missionaries in
Tahiti,--who have been, you know, most severely criticised by radically
minded observers; but the writer's pictures are clearly defined,
realistic, and powerfully drawn. I must not waste your time, however,
with further gossip just now.

Believe me, dear Lady,

Very respectfully yours,



DEAR LADY: I am not so insusceptible to such pretty flattery as yours,
even though I think it undeserved, as to feel otherwise than pleased.
Of course I am vain enough to be gratified at anything good said of
me by you or your friends. In regard to enjoying music and flowers,
I would only say that I love everything beautiful, and can only look
at the social, ethical, or natural world with the eyes of a pagan
rather than a Christian, revering the heathen philosophy of æsthetic
sense; and surely so must all who truly love the antique loveliness
of the Antique World, which deified all fair things and worshipped
only those beauties of form and sense whereof it brought forth the
highest types. But to speak truly, I am afraid of parties; one's
nerves are ever on a painful strain in the effort to be agreeable,
in the fear of doing something gauche, and in the awful perplexity
of searching for compliments which must fall on the ear as vapid and
commonplace,--vanity and vexation of spirit. Indeed, I much enjoyed the
little party the other night, because it was a home circle; and I did
not feel as though people were scrutinizing my face, my manners, my
dress, or criticising my words with severe mental criticism, or making
the awful discovery that I "had hands" and did not know what to do with

I did not tell you when my vacation should commence, because I did
not know myself; indeed, I do not yet know. Our vacations generally
commence about June, when each one in turn takes a couple or three
weeks' travel and rest; but as I am the youngest and freshest (in the
sense of inexperience) of the staff, I suppose I will have to wait
my turn until the others have decided. Some like to escape the hot
weather. I love hot weather,--the hotter the better. I feel always like
a lizard in the July sun; and when the juice of the poison plants is
thickest and the venomous reptiles most active, then I, too, feel life
most enjoyable, as "Elsie Venner" did. Therefore I may have to wait for
my vacation till the golden autumn cometh; but I will endeavor to get
away so soon as I can, and will let you know just so soon as I know

Very respectfully yours, dear Lady,



_Cincinnati_, _May_ 9, 1876

DEAR LADY: I am at once gratified and surprised to find that my little
article should have given you so much pleasure. Had I not been very
busy with a mass of matter-of-fact work last evening, I should have
done better justice to Mr.----'s splendid collection. That was a very
unfortunate mistake of mine in regard to his name, but I shall try to
correct it.

In regard to mentioning Mr.----'s name,

I desire to say to you, in strict confidence, that I purposely
omitted it for prudential reasons. Newspapers are very jealous of
their employés in the matter of giving compliments; and I feared
that further mention just at this time might render it all the more
difficult for me to do you a reportorial kindness on some future
occasion. This may seem odd; but one outside the newspaper circle can
have no idea how particular newspaper proprietors are.

With regard to my article, dear Lady, I would say, in reply to your
kind query, that you are welcome to use it as you please. I only-regret
the lack of time to have improved it before it appeared in the
_Commercial._ My love for things Oriental need not surprise you, as I
happen to be an Oriental by birth and half by blood.

I cannot definitely answer you in regard to the prospective country
visit, so courteously proposed, until I see you again or hear from
you. I fear I shall have to postpone the pleasure until the regular
reporters' vacation time,--that is, if it should necessitate absence
from duty for any considerable length of time. However, you can explain
further when I again have the pleasure of seeing you; and if I can
possibly get away, I will be only too glad of so pleasant a holiday.

Very respectfully and gratefully,



DEAR LADY: If I disappointed you last evening, be sure that I myself
was much more disappointed, especially as I had to pass within a
stone's throw of your house without going in. I believe that if you
only knew how frightfully busy we all are, you would have postponed the
invitation until next week, when I shall have some leisure and hope to
see you. I had expected up to the last moment to be able to call, if
only for an hour; but a sudden appointment put it out of my power. The
convention is keeping us all as busy as men can be.

I see you returned my letter. I know it was not a satisfactory one.
Somehow the ghosts of the letters I write by night laugh in my face
by day. I either talk too freely or write too hurriedly. I will
not certainly give your books away, for I prize them highly and am
delighted with them. I had thought they were only lent. They now nestle
on my book-shelf along with a copy of Balzac's "Contes Drolatiques,"
illustrated by Doré, Gautier's most Pre-Raphael and wickedest work,
Swinburne, Edgar Poe, Rabelais, Aldrich, and some other odd books which
form my library. I generally read a little before going to bed.

I hope to visit your farm indeed, but the journalist is a creature who
sells himself for a salary. He is a slave to his master, and must await
the course of events.

No; you must not pity me or feel sorry for me. What would you do if I
were to write you some of my up-and-down experiences and absurdities?
And you cannot be of service to me except I were suddenly to lose
everything and not know where to turn. Now I am doing very well, and
would be doing better but for an escapade....

Of course I will write you in P--; I should like nothing better,
feeling towards you like Prosper Mérimée to his "inconnue." I wish I
could make my letters equally interesting.

I do not think that I am unfortunate in life, and yet I have done
everything to make me so. If you only knew some of my follies, you
would cease perhaps to like me. Some day I will confide some of my
oddities to you. But don't think me unfortunate because I am a skeptic.

Skepticism is hereditary on my father's side. My mother, a Greek woman,
was rather reverential; she believed in the Oriental Catholicism,--the
Byzantine fashion of Christianity which produced such hideous madonnas
and idiotic-looking saints in stained glass. I think being skeptical
enables one to enjoy life better,--to live like the ancients without
thought of the Shadow of Death. I was once a Catholic,--at least, my
guardians tried to make me so, but only succeeded in making me dream
of all priests as monsters and hypocrites, of nuns as goblins in black
robes, of religion as epidemic insanity, useful only in inculcating
ethics in coarse minds by main force. Afterwards it often delighted me
to force a controversy upon some priest, deny his basis of belief, and
find him startled to discover that he could not attempt to establish it

You say, "What else is there" but faith to make life pleasant? Why, the
majority of things that faith despises. I fancy if one will only try
to analyze the amount of comfort derived from Christianity by himself,
he will find the candid answer. Whence come all our arts, our loves,
our luxuries, our best literature, our sense of manhood to do and dare,
our reverence or respect: for Woman, our sense of beauty, our sense
of humanity? Never from Christianity. From the antique faiths, the
dead civilizations, the lost Greece and Rome, the warrior-creed of
Scandinavia, the Viking's manhood and reverence for woman,--his creator
and goddess. Yet all faiths surely have their ends in shaping and
perfecting this electrical machine of the human mind, and preparing the
field of humanity for a wider harvest of future generations, long after
the worms, fed from our own lives, have ceased to writhe about us, as
the serpents writhe among the grinning masks of stone on the columns of

How you must be bored by so long a letter!

[_The letter is signed by a drawing of the raven, familiar in the
letters to Mr. Watkin._]


DEAR LADY: There once lived an Eastern Sultan who reigned over a city
fairer than far Samarcand. He dwelt in a gorgeous palace of the most
bizarre and fantastically beautiful Saracenic design,--columns of
chalcedony and gold-veined quartz, of onyx and sardonyx, of porphyry
and jasper, upheld fretted arches of a fashion lovelier than the arches
of the Mosque of Cordova There were colonnades upon colonnades, domes
rising above courts where silver fountains sang the songs of the
Water-Spirit; here were minarets whose gilded crescents kissed the
azure heaven; there were eunuchs, officers, executioners, viziers,
odalisques, women graceful of form as undulating flame.

In a neighboring kingdom dwelt a sultry-eyed Sultana,--a daughter
of sunrise, shaped of fire and snow, impulsive, generous, and far
more potent than the Sultan. Either desired to become the friend of
the other, but either feared to cross the line of purple hills which
separated the kingdom. But they held communication by messengers.
The Sultana's messengers always spoke the truth, yet scarcely spoke
plainly, having great faith in diplomatic suggestion rather than
in blunt and forcible utterance. The Sultan's messengers, on the
other hand, only spoke half of the truth, being fearful lest their
words should be overheard by the keen ears of men who desired that
no courtesies should be exchanged between their mistress and her
neighboring brother. At last the Sultana became wroth with a great
wrath at the messengers, forasmuch as they conversed only in enigmas,
the Sultana being apparently quite unable to imagine why they should
so speak. Therefore the Sultana bound the messengers, stripped them
naked, and, placing them in bags, despatched them by a camel caravan to
the Sultan, expressing much anger at the conduct of the messengers. The
Sultan, being alarmed at the detention of his messengers, knowing their
proverbial loquacity, and fearing they had turned traitors, thanked
Allah for their return, and swore by the Beard of his Father that ere
sunrise they should die the death of cravens, inasmuch as they had
not fulfilled their duty satisfactorily. He decided that they should
be burnt with fire, and their ashes cast into the waters of the great

                  _"sweeping down_
    _Past carven pillars, under tamarisk groves_
    _To where the broad sea sparkled."_

"Kara-Mustapha," exclaimed the Sultan to his trusty vizier, "I desire
the death of these dogs. May their fathers' graves be everlastingly
defiled! Let them be burnt even as we burn the bones of the unclean
beast. Let them be consumed in the furnaces of thy kitchen, that my
viands may partake of a sweeter flavor." And so they died.

Meanwhile the Sultana repented of her wrath against the messengers,
and despatched a sable eunuch in all haste to save them. But the eunuch
arrived before midday, while the prince was yet in his harem dreaming
of satiny-skinned houris and the flowers of the valley of Nourjahad,
the fruits of the golden-leaved vines of Paradise, and the honeyed lips
of the daughters of the prophet, which make mad those who kiss them
with the madness of furious love. And the prince, being aroused by his
favorite odalisque, lifted up his eyes and beheld the eunuch there
standing with a message from the Sultana. And reading the message he
fell from the tapestried couch upon the floor, exclaiming, "May all the
Ghouls devour my father's bones, and may they tear and devour me when
next I visit my mother's grave! By the beard of Allah, those messengers
are not; they have died the dog's death, and have vanished even as
the smoke of a narghile vanisheth." And a soft wind from the sensuous
rosy-skied South toyed and caressed the volatile dust of the bones of
the messengers; the dust fructified flowers of intoxicating perfume,
and the spirit of the messengers melted into the glory of Paradise.
There is but one God--Mahomet is his prophet. [_This is signed by a
crescent and with L and H interwoven_.]


DEAR LADY: I felt glad for divers reasons on receiving your letter and
the little parcel,--firstly, because I felt that you were not very
angry at my foolish fable; and secondly, because I always feel happy
on having something nice to read. I had already read considerable of
Darwin's "Voyages;" but just now I happened to desire a work of just
that kind in order to educate myself in regard to certain ethnological
points. I accept Darwin fully.

I do not believe in God--neither god of Greece nor of Rome nor any
other god. I do indeed revere Woman as the creator, and I respect--yes,
I almost believe in--the graceful Hellenic anthropomorphism which
worshipped feminine softness and serpentine fascination and
intoxicating loveliness in the garb of Venus Anadyomene. Yes, I could
almost worship Aphrodite arisen, were there another renaissance of
the antique paganism; and I feel all through me the spirit of that
exquisite idolatry expressed in Swinburne's ode to "Our Lady of
Pain." But I do not believe in Christ or in Christianity,--the former
is not a grand character in my eyes, even as a myth; the latter I
abhor as antagonistic to art, to nature, to passion, and to justice.
As Théophile Gautier wrote, "I have never gathered passionflowers on
the rocks of Calvary; and the river which flows from the flank of the
Cross, making a crimson girdle about the world, has never bathed me
with its waves."

I always take good care of books, and will return these you have so
kindly lent me in a week or two.

Dear Lady, I am very anxious to be able to write that I have a week's
freedom or a fortnight's holiday; and I promise you to let you know
as soon as possible. But as yet I cannot leave my dull office,--the
convention keeps us awfully busy. I would see you very often were it
possible; but I never have more than a few hours' leisure daily.


I have still your letter,--I fancied it might be asked for again, but
I do not like to return it, dear Lady,--I had rather make a Gheber
sacrifice, and immolate Eros, a smiling and willing victim, to the
White Lord of Fire.

No, I did not think the Sultana wicked; for I hold naught in human
action to be evil save that which brings sorrow or pain to others. But
even suppose the Sultana wicked for the sake of argument: her pretty
and yet needless apology for the supposed mischief done was so tender,
delicate, and uniquely fantastic that it would have earned the pardons
supplicated for by ten thousand such peccadilloes. I could not forget
it any more than I could forget the curves about the carved lips of the
sweet Medicean Venus; it was a psychical blush of which the peculiar
ruddiness made one long to see its twin.

This morning I found within my room a perfumed parcel, daintily
odorous, containing diverse wonderful things, including a crystal
vessel of remarkably peculiar design, very beautiful and very foreign.
I thought of filling it with black volcanic wines, choleric and angry
wine, in order to stimulate my resolution to the point of chiding the
sender right severely. But the style of the vessel forbade; it was
ruddily clear in the stained design, and icily brilliant elsewhere;
it suggested the cold purity of a northern land,--fresh sea-breezes,
fair hair, coolness of physical temperature. I concluded that nothing
stronger than good brown ale would look at home therein; and this
beverage provoketh good-nature.

I don't know how to reproach the author of this present properly. I
shall not attempt it now. But I will certainly beg and entreat that I
may not be favored with any more such kindnesses. I don't merit them,
and feel the reverse of pleasant by accepting them. Why I don't know,
but I never like to get presents some way or other. It is remarkably
odd and pretty; so was the letter which accompanied it.


DEAR LADY: Notwithstanding your threat to leave my letters unopened, I
will venture to write you a few lines. I think that you have misjudged
me; and while fancying that I was treating you unkindly, you actually
treated me somewhat unfairly,--without, of course, intending it. You
have a&ed throughout, or nearly so, upon sudden impulse, which was
injudicious; and when you found me acting in the opposite extreme, the
necessary lack of sympathy in our actions prompted you to believe that
I was "heartless." Now I can fully sympathize with your impulsiveness
because I have had similar impulses; but I have been forced to control
such impulses by the caution learned of unpleasant experiences. I will
run no risks that could involve you or me,--especially you. I did not
for one instant (and you only asserted the contrary through a spirit of
mischievous reproach) think that I could not trust you with my letters.
But I could not trust the letters....

I did not accept your last invitation only because I could not: it was
of all weeks the busiest. I did not visit your home yesterday, because
I had an assignment at the same hour in the east end, for the purpose
of examining a smoke-consumer. If you had written me the day before, I
could have made proper arrangements to come. You must think me capable
of a little meanness to suppose that I would be discourteous enough
to desire a _revanche_ for your impulsive expression of an impulse. I
understand why you returned my letter, and I could not feel offended.


DEAR LADY: You must not ask me to forgive you, because I have nothing
to forgive; and you must not speak of my being angry with you,
because I was not angry with you at all. I wrote sharply, and perhaps
disagreeably, because I felt that to do so would most speedily relieve
you from your embarrassment; and sympathized sufficiently with your
error to suffer with you. I entered into your feelings much more
thoroughly, I believe, than you had any idea of, and I only deferred
writing last night because I was fairly tired out with hard work. I
have made many mistakes similar to yours; and felt similar regrets; and
felt my face burn as though pricked with ten thousand needles, even
when lying in bed in the dark, to think that a friend had betrayed some
tender little confidence which might be turned into sinister ridicule.
I was very, very sorry to feel that you had suffered similarly.

So, dear Lady, I feel generally very reluctant to unbosom myself
on paper, not knowing who might behold the exposition, and sneer
at it without being capable of understanding it. We all have two
natures,--the one is our every-day garb of mannerism; the other we
strived to keep draped, like a snow-limbed statue of Psyche, half
guarded from unæsthetic eyes by a semi-diaphanous veil. This veiled
nature is delicate as the wings of a butterfly, the gossamer web
visible only when the sunlight catches it, or the frost-flowers on a
window-pane. It will bear no rude touches--no careless handling. It is
tenderer than the mythic blossom which bled when plucked, and its very
tenderness enhances its capacity for suffering.

You may hear many things which on the impulse of the moment might
affect you unpleasantly; but you need never yield to such an impulse. I
am very well known in the city; and you might often hear people speak
of me, but you must not think foolish things, or dream annoying dreams

What a funny little bundle of pretty contradictions your letter is! How
can I answer it? By word of pen? No, not at all. I must only say that I
like you quite as much--well, at least nearly as much--as you say that
you wish. I won't say "quite," because I don't know myself, and how can
I yet know you?



DEAR LADY,--I remember having once been severely chided by a hoary
friend of mine--a white-bearded Mentor--because I had just received
a present from a friend, and had impulsively exclaimed, "Do tell me
what I shall give him in return!" "Give in return!" quoth Mentor. "What
for?--to destroy your little obligations of gratitude?--to insult
your friend by practically intimating that you believe he expected
something in return? Don't send him anything save thanks." Well, I
didn't. But when I received your exquisite little gift this morning,
I thought of writing, "How can I return your kindness," &c.; and now,
calling my old friend's advice to mind, I shall only say, "Thanks,
dear Lady." Still, flowers and me _[sic]_ have so little in common,
that much as I love them, I feel I ought not to be near them,--just
as one who loves a woman so passionately that his dearest wish is to
kiss her footprints; or as Kingsley's Norseman, who threw himself at
the feet of the fair-haired priestess, crying, "Trample on me! spit on
me! I am not worthy to be trod upon by your feet." Of course this is
an extravagant simile; but the nature of a man is so coarse and rude
compared with the fragrance and beauty of the flowers, that he feels in
a purer atmosphere when they are breathing perfume about him. Flowers
do seem to me like ghosts of maidens, like "that maid whom Gwydion made
by glamour out of flowers."

Just fancy!--I was smoking a very poor cigar when the basket of
blossoms came up to my rooms; and the odor of tobacco in the presence
of the flowers seemed sacrilegious. I felt like the toad in Edgar
Fawcett's poem. Perhaps you do not know that little poem, as it has not
yet been published in book form. So I will quote it; but do not think
me sentimental.

    "TO A TOAD

    "_Blue dusk, that brings the dewy hours_,
    _Brings thee, of graceless form in sooth,_
    _Dark stumbler at the roots of flowers;_
    _Flaccidy inert, uncouth_.

    "_Right ill can human wonder guess_
    _Thy meaning or thy mission here,_
    _Gray lump of mottled clamminess_--
    _With that preposterous leer!_

    "_But when I see thy dull bulk where_
    _Luxurious roses bend and burny_
    _Or some slim lily lifts to air_
    _Her frail and fragrant urn,_--

    "_Of these, among the garden ways_,
    _So grim a watcher dost thou seem_
    _That I, with meditative gaze_
    _Look down on thee and dream_

    "_Of thick-lipped slaves, with ebon skin,_
    _That squat in hideous dumb repose_
    _And guard the drowsy ladies in_
    _Their still seraglios_"

And talking of little roses, luxurious roses, I like them because of
the fancies they evoke; their leaves and odor seem of kinship to the
lips and the breath of a fair woman,--the lips of a woman humid with
fresh kisses as the heart of the rose is humid with dews,--lips curled
like the petals of the pink flower, recalling those of Swinburne's

    "_Curled lips, long since half kissed away,_
    _Still sweet and keen"_

Dear lady, you sent me a very æsthetic present; and I fear I have
written you a very sentimental letter. But if you don't want such
effusions, you must not send me such flowers. I received your last
few lines, and feel much relieved to find I have not offended you
by my foolish letter. I cannot sit down late at night without
saying something outrageous; and I must be possessed by the Devil of
                                           Very sincerely yours,
                                                         L. HEARN

Letters of Ozias Midwinter

"After this perhaps you will recognize the signature OZIAS MIDWINTER.
It was taken from Wilkie Collins's 'Armadale.'" This brief postal-card
message to his friend, Mr. Henry Watkin, written from New Orleans,
November 15, 1877, is the valuable clue that leads to a discovery of
a vein of work done by Lafcadio Hearn,--work that perhaps in after
years he came to scorn, if not to forget. But for this information,
imparted to a friend by Hearn himself, the "Letters of Ozias Midwinter"
would doubtless lie undisturbed in their dusty tomb,--the files of
the newspaper of yester-year. There may be those who will decry this
resurrection of forgotten things; who will say it was the hack-work
of a starving man; that it were better left undisturbed. They have
a right to their opinion. Nevertheless, with due respect: to them,
there are things in these letters as good as anything Hearn ever
wrote. More than that, they reveal the whole trend of his mind; they
foreshadow the things that were to interest him in the West Indies
and in Japan,--the little mysteries of life, the poetry of names,
the melody of folk-songs, the fascination of old things. The very
adoption of the name of Ozias Midwinter is significant. Already at
twenty-seven Hearn was too true a critic of real literature to imagine
for a moment that "Armadale" was a book that was worth while; but there
were things in this practically forgotten story that appealed to him
with peculiar force, things that to him seemed almost as if they might
have been written concerning himself. Hearn at times felt that his very
name was ugly. In "Armadale" we read, "the strangely uncouth name of
Ozias Midwinter;" and again: "It is so remarkably ugly that it must
be genuine. No sane human being would, assume such a name as Ozias

His diminutive appearance was a sore point with Hearn. "Armadale"
depicts Midwinter as "young and slim and under-sized."

There was something foreign-looking about Hearn. His fictional hero was
thus described: "His tawny complexion, his large bright brown eyes,
and his black beard gave him something of a foreign look.... His dusky
hands were wiry and nervous."

Hearn, by reason of the peculiar appearance of his eyes, more often
repelled than attracted people. He could therefore sympathize with
Midwinter, who says: "I produced a disagreeable impression at first
sight. I couldn't mend it afterwards."

A few more quotations will complete the picture and further make clear
the fascination this character in a poor novel had for Hearn. The
latter was from the start remarkably shy. He avoided the generality of
men. For years he had been a failure in life. Everything he had tried
had somehow fallen far below his expectations. Indeed, at the very
time he was writing the Midwinter letters he was tramping the streets,
going from newspaper office to office in New Orleans seeking work. Let
us see now how these things in the life of Hearn correspond with the
description of Midwinter: "From first to last the man's real character
shrank back with a savage shyness from the rector's touch."

And again: "It mattered little what he tried: failure (for which nobody
was ever to blame but himself) was sure to be the end of it, sooner
or later. Friends to assist him he had none to apply to; and as for
relations, he wished to be excused from speaking of them. For all he
knew of them they might be dead, and for all they knew he might be

And finally: "Ozias Midwinter at twenty spoke of his life as Ozias
Midwinter at seventy might have spoken, with a long weariness of years
on him which he had learned to bear patiently."

So much for the pseudonym. Now for the work to which it was attached.
In after years, when Hearn had begun to attain a degree of prosperity,
he either forgot something of the hard days, or, for some reason known
to himself, told a pleasing fiction about them. Thus, in one letter
that was made public shortly after his death, he says he went South
from Cincinnati on a vacation, saw the blue and gold of Southern days,
and determined to abide in such a climate forever. It has already been
made clear in his letters to Mr. Watkin that he went South because the
_wanderlust_ was upon him, because he had begun to hate Cincinnati,
because he felt that he must find more congenial work elsewhere.
Whatever enthusiasts in Cincinnati and New Orleans may say now, he
was not a good reporter in the present-day acceptance of the term.
There was, on his part, a fancy for fine writing, for rhetoric, which
the city editors of three decades ago may have admired, but which at
present would be most vigorously blue-pencilled. A youthful Hearn
to-day would have a rather hard time in Cincinnati, where the cry is
for facts and again facts, and then for brevity and then once more for
brevity. If Hearn did not come up to the modern standards of newspaper
reporting, neither did he come up to the modern ideals of newspaper
correspondence. It is probable that few papers to-day would tolerate
the particular kind of "news letter" that Hearn sent to the Cincinnati
_Commercial_ in the years 1877 and 1878. It was in a day when the
telegraph service was not so well developed as at present, and the news
letters from Washington, Boston, New York, New Orleans, and London
were a regular feature. There are few newspapers to-day which contain
letters by men so eminent in after years as two of the _Commercial_
correspondents became,--Hearn and Moncure D. Conway, also for some time
a resident of Cincinnati and afterwards correspondent from London.

Few if any of Hearn's "news letters" made any pretence at giving
news. As far as the style of them was concerned, they might have been
written for his friend Watkin alone, instead of for a great Ohio valley
newspaper, catering to a considerable clientèle. He chose what subjects
interested him, not what were presumed to interest the readers of the
paper. In days when Louisiana's political affairs were still in the
turmoil of the reconstruction period, when the North was still keenly
watching events in the "rebel" South, Hearn had few if any references
to these matters.

As near an approach as any to a news letter was his first one, sent
from Memphis, November 6, 1877, when he wrote some "Notes on Forrest's
Funeral." In this he related how he saw the funeral of General N. B.
Forrest, the great Confederate cavalryman, told some anecdotes of the
dead man's bravery and savagery, and gave his ancestry and an outline
of his life.

Then he proceeded: "Old citizens of Memphis mildly described him to me
as a 'terror.' He would knock a man down upon the least provocation,
and whether with or without weapons, there were few people in the city
whom he could not worst in a fight. Imagine a man about six feet three
inches in height, very sinewy and active, with a vigorous, rugged
face, bright grey eyes that almost always look fierce, eyebrows that
seem always on the verge of a frown, and dark brown hair and chin
beard, with strong inclination to curl, and you have some idea of
Forrest's appearance before his last illness. He was, further, one of
the most arbitrary, imperious, and determined men that it is possible
to conceive of holding a high position in a civilized community. Rough,
rugged, desperate, uncultured, his character fitted him rather for the
life of the borderer than the planter; he seemed by nature a typical
pioneer,--one of those fierce and terrible men who form in themselves a
kind of protecting fringe to the borders of white civilization."

This is straightforward and vivid enough. But it was impossible for this
dreamer of weird dreams to go through a whole letter in this fashion,
and so we have the following, which, well written as it is, would
scandalize the modern telegraph editor handling the correspondence:
"The same night they buried him, there came a storm. From the same room
whence I had watched the funeral, I saw the Northern mists crossing
the Mississippi into Arkansas like an invading army; then came grey
rain, and at last a fierce wind, making wild charges through it all.
Somehow or other the queer fancy came to me that the dead Confederate
cavalrymen, rejoined by their desperate leader, were fighting ghostly
battles with the men who died for the Union."

The hustling, bustling Memphis of to-day is a far different place
from the decayed, war-stricken town that the vagrant newspaper man
saw. Its ruin, its damp days and nights, depressed him. In a letter
of November 23, 1877, he recorded his impressions in a way that would
doubtless to-day appeal strongly to the memory of the older generation
of Memphians, who have not become used to the new order of things:

"The antiquity of the name of Memphis--a name suggesting vastness and
ruin--compels something of a reverential feeling; and I approached the
Memphis of the Mississippi dreaming solemnly of the Memphis of the
Nile. I found the great cotton mart truly Egyptian in its melancholy
decay, and not, therefore, wholly unworthy of its appellation.
Tenantless warehouses with shattered windows; poverty-stricken hotels
that vainly strive to keep up appearances; rows of once splendid
buildings, from whose façades the paint has almost all scaled off;
mock stone fronts, whence the stucco has fallen in patches, exposing
the humble brick reality underneath; dinginess, dirt, and dismal
dilapidation greet the eye at every turn. The city's life seems to
have contracted about its heart, leaving the greater portion of its
body paralyzed. Its commercial pulse appears to beat very feebly. It
gives one the impression of a place that had been stricken by some
great misfortune beyond hope of recovery. Yet Memphis still handles one
fifth of the annual cotton crop,--often more than a million bales in
a season,--and in this great branch of commerce the city will always
hold its own, though fine buildings crumble and debts accumulate and
warehouses lie vacant.... But when rain and white fogs come, the
melancholy of Memphis becomes absolutely Stygian: all things wooden
utter strange groans and crackling sounds; all things of stone or of
stucco sweat as in the agony of dissolution, and beyond the cloudy
brow of the bluffs the Mississippi flows dimly,--a spectral river,
a Styx-flood, with pale mists lingering like Shades upon its banks,
waiting for that ghostly ferryman, the wind."

In this letter occurred a quaint passage, illustrating at the same time
the wide range of Hearn's reading and the curious paths into which he
had allowed his mind to stray: "Elagabalus, wishing to obtain some idea
of the vastness of imperial Rome, ordered all the cobwebs in the city
to be collected together and heaped up before him. Estimated by such a
method, the size of Memphis would appear vast enough to have astonished
even Elagabalus."

However, brief as was his stay in Memphis, disagreeable as were most
of his impressions, he found time to fall in love with one little
piece of sculpture, thus charmingly described as "a little nude Venus
at the street fountain, who has become all of one dusky greyish-green
hue, preserving her youth only in the beauty of her rounded figure and
unwrinkled comeliness of face." In this letter he detailed something
of his journey down the river, chronicled his delight in the Southern
sunsets, and finally arrived at the first of his promised lands: "The
daylight faded away, and the stars came out, but that warm glow in the
southern horizon only paled so that it seemed a little further off. The
river broadened till it looked, with the tropical verdure of its banks,
like the Ganges, until at last there loomed up a vast line of shadows,
dotted with points of light, and through a forest of masts and a host
of phantom-white river boats and a wilderness of chimneys the _Thompson
Dean_, singing her cheery challenge, steamed up to the mighty levee of
New Orleans."

In his next letter, dated November 26, 1877, he described his first
impressions "at the gates of the Tropics." He came across things that
reminded him of London and of Paris and evoked memories of his youth:

"Eighteen miles of levee! London, with all the gloomy vastness of her
docks and her 'river of ten thousand masts,' can offer no spectacle so
picturesquely attractive and so varied in the attraction." And again:
"Canal Street, with its grand breadth and imposing façades, gives one
recollections of London and Oxford Street and Regent Street." He went
to the French market, still one of the great sights of the city, and
could not write enough about it:

"The markets of London are less brightly clean and neatly arranged;
the markets of Paris are less picturesque." Even a cotton-press seen
at the cotton landing was an event to be celebrated. The thing was to
him not merely a piece of ingenious machinery; it was something weird,
something demoniac: "Fancy a monstrous head of living iron and brass,
fifty feet high from its junction with the ground, having jointed gaps
in its face like Gothic eyes, a mouth five feet wide, opening six feet
from the mastodon teeth in the lower jaw to the mastodon teeth in the
upper jaw. The lower jaw alone moves, as in living beings, and it is
worked by two vast iron tendons, long and thick and solid as church
pillars. The surface of this lower jaw is equivalent to six square
feet. The more I looked at the thing, the more I felt as though its
prodigious anatomy had been studied after the anatomy of some extinct
animal,--the way those jaws worked, the manner in which those muscles
moved. Men rolled a cotton bale to the mouth of the monster. The jaws
opened with a low roar, and so remained. The lower jaw had descended
to the level with the platform on which the bale was lying. It was
an immense plantation bale. Two black men rolled it into the yawning
mouth. The titan muscles contracted, and the jaws closed, silently,
steadily, swiftly. The bale flattened, flattened, flattened down to
sixteen inches, twelve inches, eight inches, five inches,--positively
less than five inches! I thought it was going to disappear altogether.
But after crushing it beyond five inches the jaw remained stationary
and the monster growled like rumbling thunder. I thought the machine
began to look as hideous as one of those horrible yawning heads which
formed the gates of the teocallis at Palenque, and through whose awful
jaws the sacrificial victims passed."

On December 7, 1877, he dived into more serious and even more practical
things. This man, to whom colored races were always of the deepest
interest, who had prowled around the negro quarters of Cincinnati for
songs and melodies and superstitions, around the Chinese laundries for
chance discoveries of strange musical instruments from the Orient,
after a residence in the South of one month, discussed a question which
is still agitating the country and which threatens to trouble it for
many years to come,--the negro question. Charles Gayarré of Louisiana
had written an article for the _North American Review_ entitled "The
Southern Question." Hearn, who certainly cannot be accused of prejudice
against colored peoples, agreed with the Southern writer that white
supremacy was necessary for Southern peace and prosperity. He felt that
the particular menace of the whites was from the mixed breeds, whose
black blood had just enough alloy to make them despise the simplicity
and faithfulness of the lowly "darky" of the old régime and aspire
to more rights and more privileges. Recently a Southern thinker has
written a book to show that, in the inexorable law of the survival
of the fittest, the ten million negroes must be swept aside by the
seventy million whites of this land, and finally perish from the face
of the earth, as do all the weaker races. Nearly three decades ago
Hearn came to the same conclusion,--a conclusion not expressed without
some feeling of fondness for the race: "As for the black man, he must
disappear with the years. Dependent like the ivy, he needs some strong
oak-like friend to cling to. His support has been cut from him, and
his life must wither in its prostrate helplessness. Will he leave no
trace of his past in the fields made fertile by his mighty labors, no
memory of his presence in this fair land he made rich in vain? Ah, yes!
the echo of the sweetly melancholy songs of slavery,--the weird and
beautiful melodies born in the hearts of the poor, childlike people to
whom freedom was destruction."

By the time he sent his next letter, dated December 10, 1877, he
had again been wandering about the city. He visited the old Spanish
cathedral founded by Don Andre Almonaster, Regidor and Alferez Real
of his Most Catholic Majesty. This is the church that is always
referred to as the "French cathedral." Hearn described its two ancient
tombs,--that of Almonaster, who died in 1708, and then that of the
French noble family of De Marigny de Mandeville, scions of which died
and were buried there in 1728, 1779, and 1800. Hearn had his own
reflections over the matter just as Irving had in Westminster Abbey:

"O Knights of the Ancient Régime, the feet of the plebeians are
blotting out your escutcheons; the overthrowers of throned Powers pass
by your tombs with a smile of complacency; the callous knees of the
poorest poor will erelong obliterate your carven memory from the stone;
the very places of your dwelling have crumbled out of sight and out
of remembrance. The glory of Versailles has passed away; 'the spider
taketh hold with his hands, and is in the palaces of Kings.'"

From musings in the cathedral he passed into a disquisition on
language. He held that the French tongue sounded better to him from
the mouth of a negro than did the harsher English. Southern speech
flows melodiously from the negro's lips, being musically akin to
the many-vowelled languages of Africa. The _th's_ and _thr's,_ the
difficult diphthongs and guttural _rr's_ of English and German, have
a certain rude Northern strength beyond the mastery of Ethiopian lips.
He finds that the Louisiana blacks speak a corrupted French, often
called "Creole," which is not the Creole of the Antilles. This recalls
to him a memory of his childhood in England and gives also a foretaste
of what he was to do ten years later, when Harpers gave him a chance to
describe what he felt and saw in the French West Indies:

"Yesterday evening, the first time for ten years, I heard again that
sweetest of all dialects, the Creole of the Antilles. I had first
heard it spoken in England by the children of an English family
from Trinidad, who were visiting relatives in the mother country,
and I could never forget its melody. In Martinique and elsewhere it
has almost a written dialect; the school-children used to study the
'Creole catechism,' and priests used to preach to their congregations
in Creole. You cannot help falling in love with it after having once
heard it spoken by young lips, unless indeed you have no poetry in
your composition, no music in your soul. It is the most liquid,
mellow, languid language in the world. It is especially a language for
love-making. It sounds like pretty baby-talk; it woos like the cooing
of a dove. It seems to be a mixture of French, a little Spanish, and
West African dialects,--those negro dialects that are voluminous with
vowels. You can imagine how smooth it is from the fact that in West
Indian Creole the letter _r_ is never pronounced; and the Europeans
of the Indies complain that once their children have learned to speak
Creole, it is hard to teach them to pronounce any other language
correctly. They will say 'b'ed' for bread and 't'ed' for thread. So
that it is a sort of wopsy-popsy-ootsy-tootsy language."

And from this affectionate passage he is led to speak of Creole
satires. During the Republican régime in New Orleans after the Civil
War there was a witty, bitter, and brilliant French paper called _Le
Carillon_, which designated Republicans by a new term, "Radicanailles,"
which seemed exceedingly satisfying to the proud aristocracy,--this
word compounded of "radical" and _"canaille"_ The paper used to print
Creole satires. One was on ex-Governor Antoine, in the form of a parody
upon "La Fille de Madame Angot." Now Hearn's ambition was to write a
sinuous, silvern, poetical prose. He rarely attempted verse. In his
better known books on Japan his versions of Japanese songs and poems
are in prose. So, too, in these letters all his renderings of the
things that attracted him are in prose. Here is his version of the
satire just mentioned, redolent as it is of an era of bitterness:


"In the old days before the war, I was a slave at Caddo [Parish]. I
tilled the earth and raised sweet potatoes and water-melons. Then
afterwards I left the plough and took up the razor to shave folks in
the street,--white and black, too. But that, that was before the war.


"When Banks went up the river (Red River) with soldiers and with
cannon, I changed my career. Then I became a runaway slave. I married
my own cousin, who is at this hour my wife. She--she attended to the
kitchen. I--I sought for honors. But that, that was during the war.


"And then afterward in the custom-house men called me Collector; and
then Louisiana named me her Senator; and then to show her confidence
the people made me Governor and called me His Eminence; and that is
what I am at this present hour. And that, that is since the war."

From this, with the inconsequential air of a butterfly, he turned to
the subject of the Greeks of New Orleans,--a subject that must have
lain near to his heart by reason of the deep love he bore for his
Greek mother. Among the New Orleans people he mentioned was one Greek
gentleman: "I never met a finer old man. Though more than seventy years
of age, his face was still as firmly outlined, as clearly cut, as an
antique cameo; its traits recalled memories of old marbles, portraits
in stone of Aristophanes and Sophocles; it bespoke a grand blending
of cynicism and poetry."

But the sons of Hellas were not all alike satisfactory to his
fastidious taste: "There are many Greeks, sailors and laborers, in New
Orleans; but I cannot say that they inspire one with dreams of Athens
or of Corinth, of Panathenaic processions or Panhellenic games. Their
faces are not numismatic; their forms are not athletic. Sometimes
you can discern a something national about a Greek steamboatman,--a
something characteristic which distinguishes him from the equally
swarthy Italian, Spaniard, 'Dago.' But that something is not of
antiquity; it is not inspirational. It is Byzantine, and one is apt to
dislike it. It reminds one of Taine's merciless criticism of the faces
of Byzantine art. But I have seen a few rare Hellenic types here, and
among these some beautiful Romaic girls,--maidens with faces to remind
you of the gracious vase paintings of antiquity." One would think he
had crammed this letter full enough of topics, but he had one more.
Throughout his life ghost stories were an obsession with him. They
run all through his books on Japan. Three decades ago he lamented:
"In these days ghosts have almost lost the power to interest us, for
we have become too familiar with their cloudy faces, and familiarity
begetteth contempt. An original ghost story is a luxury, and a rare
luxury at that."

He then told of a house on Melpomene Street, New Orleans, in which no
one could dwell in peace. If a person were so hardy and so skeptical
as to move in, he soon found his furniture scattered, and his carpets
torn up by invisible hands. Ghostly feet shook the house with their
terrible steps; ghostly hands opened bolted doors as if locks did not
exist,--so that by and by no one came to live in the old place any more:

"As the years flitted by the goblin of Decay added himself to the
number of the Haunters; the walls crumbled, and the floors yielded, and
grass, livid and ghastly looking grass, forced its pale way between the
chinks of the planks in the parlor. The windows fell into ruin, and the
wind entered freely to play with the ghosts, and cried weirdly in the
vacant room."

Then one night Chief of Police Leary and six of his most stalwart men
determined to stand watch in the building and solve the mystery. They
placed candles in one of the rooms, and towards midnight stood in a
hollow square, with Chief Leary in the middle, so that he could aid
his men to repel an attack from any quarter whatsoever. The ghosts
blew out the lighted candles and, to this extent, were commonplace
enough. But the next instant they displayed their complete ingenuity
and originality by seizing the seven guardians of the peace and hurling
them violently against the ceiling. Hearn adds, with a touch of playful
humor: "The city of New Orleans would not pay the doctors' bills of men
injured while in the discharge of their duty."

By December 17, 1877, he had become interested in the past and present
of "Los Criollos," the Creoles, who were to be such a fascinating
subject to him when he visited Martinique and other enchanted isles of
the Caribbean.

In this first letter on the subject he corrected the common error
of speaking of mulattoes, quadroons, and octaroons of Louisiana as
Creoles,--a mistake which curiously enough he himself made in his
book, "Ghombo Zhebes," several years later. In this letter, however,
he correctly pointed out that no person with the slightest taint of
negro blood was a Creole, and that the common mistake was made not
only in the North, but also often in the South, where they should know
better; not only in America, but also in England, France, and Spain,
the former mother countries of all the West Indian colonists. "Creole,"
properly speaking, is the term applied to the pure-blooded offspring
of Europeans born in the colonies of South America or the West Indies,
to distinguish them from children of mixed blood born in the colonies
or of pure blood born in the mother country. In Louisiana, he pointed
out that it usually meant they were of French, more rarely of Spanish,
descent. He paid a tribute to the Creole society of New Orleans which
was made up of the descendants of all the early European settlers:
"Something of all that was noble and true and brilliant in the almost
forgotten life of the dead South lives here still (its atmosphere is
European; its tastes are governed by European literature and the art
culture of the Old World)." Hethen quoted some of the poems in the
patois of Louisiana and also some from Martinique that he had already
picked up.

On December 22 he devoted his attention to "New Orleans in Wet
Weather." He had much to say of its dampness and chills and fogs:
"Strange it is to observe the approach of one of these eerie fogs on
some fair night. The blue deeps above glow tenderly beyond the sharp
crescent of the moon; the heavens seem transformed to an infinite
ocean of liquid turquoise, made living with the palpitating life of
the throbbing stars. In this limpid clearness, this yellow, tropical
moonlight, objects are plainly visible at a distance of miles; far
sounds come to the ear with marvellous distinctness,--the clarion calls
of the boats, the long, loud panting of the cotton-presses, exhaling
steaming breath from their tireless lungs of steel.

"Suddenly sounds become fainter and fainter, as though the atmosphere
were made feeble by unaccountable enchantment; distant objects lose
distinctness; the heaven is cloudless, but her lights, low-burning and
dim, no longer make the night transparent, and a chill falls upon the
city, such as augurs the coming of a ghost. Then the ghost appears; the
invisible makes itself visible; a vast form of thin white mist seems to
clasp the whole night in its deathly embrace; the face of the moon is
hidden as with a grey veil, and the spectral fog extinguishes with its
chill breath the trembling flames of the stars."

Turning his thought to grave matters, he refers to the elevated tombs
in the cemeteries, which some irreverently call "bake ovens." Then
comes a touch of the playful, familiar enough to those who read the
present volume, but rare in his other books: "Fancy being asked by a
sexton whether you wished to have the remains of your wife or child
deposited in 'one of them bake ovens.'"

Again, with a swift turn of thought and subject, as if in conversation
with a friend or as if in a letter to him, he reverts to "Beast Ben
Butler" and his needless brutality in having carved on one of the
New Orleans statues, Clay's declaration against slavery and Andrew
Jackson's famous saying, "Our federal Union: it must be preserved."
The sight of Levantine sailors selling fruit in the markets caused him
to rhapsodize on the sea, giving the first of those prose poems in
which he was to wax almost lyrical in so many of his works: "If you,
O reader, chance to be a child of the sea; if, in earliest childhood,
you listened each morning and evening to that most ancient and mystic
hymn-chant of the waves, which none can hear without awe, and which no
musician can learn; if you have ever watched wonderingly the far sails
of the fishing vessels turn rosy in the blush of the sunset, or silver
under the moon, or golden in the glow of sunrise; if you once breathed
as your native air the divine breath of the ocean, and learned the
swimmer's art from the hoary breakers, and received the Ocean god's
christening, the glorious baptism of salt,--then perhaps you know only
too well why those sailors of the Levant cannot seek homes within the
heart of the land. Twenty years may have passed since your ears last
caught the thunder of that mighty ode of hexameters which the sea has
always sung and will sing forever,--since your eyes sought the far
line where the vaulted blue of heaven touches the level immensity of
rolling waters,--since you breathed the breath of the ocean, and felt
its clear ozone living in your veins like an elixir. Have you forgotten
the mighty measure of that mighty song? Have you forgotten the divine
saltiness of that unfettered wind? Is not the spell of the sea strong
upon you still?...

"And I think that the Levantine sailors dare not dwell in the midst of
the land, for fear lest dreams of a shadowy sea might come upon them in
the night, and phantom winds call wildly to them in their sleep, and
they might wake to find themselves a thousand miles beyond the voice of
the breakers."

On December 27, 1877, already deeply interested in the niceties of
language, Hearn gave his Cincinnati readers a dissertation upon the
curiosities of Creole grammar, and quoted in Creole a weird love-song,
said to be of negro origin. He doubted whether it was really composed
by a negro, but remarked that its spirit was undoubtedly African. Then
he gave the following prose version of this exotic:

    "_Since first I beheld you_, _Adele,_
    _While dancing the calinda_,
    _I have remained faithful to the thought of you;_
    _My freedom has departed from me,_
    _I care no longer for all other negresses;_
    _I have no heart left for them;_--
    _You have such grace and cunning:_--
    _You are like the Congo serpent._

    "_I love you too much, my beautiful one:_--
    _I am not able to help it._
    _My heart has become just like a grasshopper,--_
    _It does nothing but leap._
    _I have never met any woman_
    _Who has so beautiful a form as yours._
    _Your eyes flash flame;_
    _Your body has enchained me captive._

    "_Ah, you are so like the serpent-of-the-rattles_
    _Who knows how to charm the little bird_,
    _And who has a mouth ever ready for it_
    _Yo serve it for a tomb._
    _I have never known any negress_
    _Who could walk with such grace as you can_.
    _Or who could make such beautiful gestures;_
    _Your body is a beautiful doll._

    "_When I cannot see you, Adele_,
    _I feel myself ready to die;_
    _My life becomes like a candle_
    _Which has almost burned itself out._
    _I cannot then find anything in the world_
    _Which is able to give me pleasure_:--
    _I could well go down to the river_
    _And throw myself in it that I might cease to suffer_.

    "_Tell me if you have a man_,
    _And I will make an ouanga charm for him:_
    _I will make him turn into a phantom_,
    _If you will only take me for your husband._
    _I will not go to see you when you are cross;_
    _Other women are mere trash to me;_
    _I will make you very happy_
    _And I will give you a beautiful Madras handkerchief._"

He freely admitted that the poem was untranslatable, that it lost its
weird beauty, its melody, its liquid softness, its languor, when put
into English. Then came a characteristic bit in which he displayed
the man who dwelt with delight upon the inner meaning of words,--the
delight felt only by the artist in language: "I think there is some
true poetry in these allusions to the snake. Is not the serpent a
symbol of grace? Is not the so-called 'line of beauty' serpentine? And
is there not something of the serpent in the beauty of all graceful
women? something of undulating shapeliness, something of silent
fascination? something of Lilith and Lamia? The French have a beautiful
verb expressive of this idea,--_serpenter_, 'to serpent,' to curve
in changing undulations like a lithe snake. The French artist speaks
of the outlines of a beautiful human body as serpenting,' curving and
winding like a serpent. Do you not like the word? I think it is so
expressive of flowinglines of elegance,--so full of that mystery of
grace which puzzled Solomon: 'the way of a serpent upon a rock.'"

On January 7, 1878, came a picture in prose, which now reminds us
of William Ernest Henley's "London Voluntary," in which the latter
described the splendor of a golden October day in the metropolis of the
world. Here is Christmas Eve in New Orleans: "Christmas Eve came in
with a blaze of orange glory in the west, and masses of lemon-colored
clouds piled up above the sunset. The whole city was filled with
orange-colored light, just before the sun went down; and between the
lemon-hued clouds and the blue were faint tints of green. The colors of
that sunset seemed a fairy mockery of the colors of the fruit booths
throughout the city; where the golden fruit lay piled up in luxuriant
heaps, and where the awnings of white canvas had been replaced by long
archways of interwoven orange branches with the fruit still glowing
upon them. It was an Orange Christmas."

Then at nightfall he passed the French opera house on Bourbon Street.
It was "dark and dead and silent," and as a matter of course the
dreamer had another vision: "Sometimes, when passing under the sharply
cut shadows of the building in a night of tropical moonlight, I fancy
that a shadowy performance of 'Don Giovanni' or 'Masaniello' must be
going on within for the entertainment of a ghostly audience; and that
if somebody would but open the doors an instant, one might catch a
glimpse of spectral splendor, of dusky-eyed beauties long dead,--of
forgotten faces pale with the sleep of battlefields,--of silks that
should be mouldering in mouldering chests with the fashions of twenty
years ago."

And finally this letter contained the following prophetic utterance
concerning the new South,--the South then not yet in existence, the
South that so nearly approximates what Hearn said it would be: "It is
the picturesqueness of the South, the poetry, the traditions, the
legends, the superstitions, the quaint faiths, the family prides, the
luxuriousness, the splendid indolence and the splendid sins of the
old social system which have passed, or which are now passing, away
forever.... The new South may, perhaps, become far richer than the old
South; but there will be no aristocracy, no lives of unbridled luxury,
no reckless splendors of hospitality, no mad pursuit of costliest
pleasures. The old hospitality has been starved to death, and leaves
no trace of its former being save the thin ghost of a romance. The new
South will be less magnificent, though wealthier; less generous, though
more self-denying; less poetical, though more cultured. The new cities
will be, probably, more prosperous and less picturesque than the old."

January 14, 1878, Hearn devoted his entire letter to W. C. C. Claiborne,
the first American governor of Louisiana. He told in what hostile
manner the American was received by the haughty Creole gentry, and
how he was alleged to have worn his hat at the theatre. It is in the
comment on this that Hearn most amusingly displays himself as an
Englishman, with the dim-seeing eyes of a Dickens or a saucy Kipling
rather than the clear-headed, clear-eyed American, or the adopted
citizen, understanding this country and its people: "I fancy that
wearing of the hat before those terribly cultivated and excruciatingly
courteous Creole audiences must have been at first a mere oversight;
but that poor Claiborne naturally got stubborn when such an outcry
was raised about it and, with an angry pride of manhood peculiar to
good American blood, swore 'by the Eternal' that he would wear his
hat wherever he pleased. Don't you almost wish you could slap him on
the shoulder with that truly American slap of approbation?" Of course
that is pure Dickens, the Dickens of "American Notes," just as is the
following rather amusing description of American newspapers in the good
years 1804, 1805, and 1806: "In those days the newspaper seems to have
been neither more nor less than a public spittoon,--every man flung his
quid of private opinion into it."

Hearn went to look at the Claiborne graves in the old St. Louis
cemetery on Basin Street. Throughout his life graveyards seemed to have
a fascination for him; but the following description of the St. Louis
cemetery is interesting because it proves, what has often been denied,
that part of Hearn's boyhood was spent in Wales: "This cemetery is one
of the most curious, and at the same time one of the most dilapidated,
in the world. I have seen old graveyards in the north of England, and
tombs in Wales, where names of the dead of three hundred years ago
may yet be read upon the mossy stones; but I have never seen so grim
a necropolis as the ruined Creole cemetery at New Orleans. There is
no order there, no regularity, no long piles of white obelisks, no
even ranks of grey tablets. The tombs seem to jostle one another; the
graveyard is a labyrinth in which one may easily lose oneself. Some of
the tombs are Roman in size and design; some are mere heaps of broken
brick; some are of the old-fashioned table form."

Readers of Hearn's books are familiar with those pages in which he
speaks of Japanese female names, and studies appellations in general.
This fancy was no new thing with him. As long ago as February 18, 1878,
he studied the curious nomenclature of New Orleans streets, revealing,
as it does, part of the history of the city, something of its old
gallant life, something of its old classical culture. He told how
Burgundy Street was named after the great duke; Dauphine is, of course,
self-explanatory, as are Louis XV and Royal and Bourbon. Governors
are represented by Carondelet, Galvez, and others; French and Spanish
piety, by such names as St. Bartholomy, St. Charles, and Annunciata.
The classicism, which so affected the traditions of French poetry
and the French stage, is here represented by-streets named Calliope,
Clio, Dryades, &c. Gallantry, "often wicked gallantry, I fear," is
commemorated by a number of streets christened with "the sweetest and
prettiest feminine names imaginable,--Adele, Celeste, Suzette, and

Then he gave his readers some more of those Creole songs he was always
collecting, some of which as rich treasure he was afterwards to give to
his friend, Mr. H. E. Krehbiel, the musical critic. In this letter he
told how, when for the first time he read Daudet's novel, translated
under the title of "Sidonie," he was charmed with the refrain of a
Creole song, and determined, when in New Orleans, to procure the whole
poem. He recorded his disappointment in being able only to get one
stanza, which he translated as follows:

    "_Others say it is your happiness;_
    _I say, it is your sorrow:_
    _When we are enchanted by love,_
    _Farewell to all happiness!_
    _Poor little Miss Zizi!_
    _Poor little Miss Zizi!_
    _Poor little Miss Zizi!_
    _She has sorrow, sorrow, sorrow;_--
    _She has sorrow in her heart!"_

Here is another bit, which seems to the Anglo-Saxon very uncouth and
unpoetical when given in bare, bald English, robbed of the oft-lisping
Creole melody:

    _"If thou wert a little bird_,
    _And I were a little gun,_
    _I would shoot thee--bang!_
    _Ah, dear little_
    _Mahogany jewel_,
    _I love thee as a little pig loves the mud?'_

The next is more charming. It is only a snatch, but it hints delicious

"_Delaide, my queen, the way is too long for me to travel;_--
_That way leads far up yonder._
_But, little as I am, I am going to stem the stream up there._
'_I, Liron, am come,' is what I shall say to them_.
'_My queen, good night; 'tis I, Liron, who have come.'"_

And finally there is this one, evidently of negro origin, made to
ridicule a mulatto girl named Toucouton, who tried to pass as white:

    "_Ah, Toucouton!_
    _I know you well:_
    _You are like a blackamoor;_
    _There is no soap_
    _Which is white enough_
    _To wash your skin._

    "_When the white folks give a ball_,
    _You are not able to go there;_
    _Ah, how will you be able to play the flirt!_
    _You who so love to shine?_
    _Ah, Toucouton, &c._

    _"Once you used to take a seat_
    _Among the fashionable people_;
    _Now you must take leave_, _decamps_
    _Without any delay whatever_.
    _Ah, Toucouton," &c._

We have seen that all these letters by Hearn were as if written for his
own pleasure or for the pleasure of a friend, but decidedly not for a
newspaper clientèle. After the "news" just referred to, there followed
two letters which would seem to indicate that the patient editor
besought his correspondent to come nearer to hard, prosaic news matters
and treat of the turmoil of Louisiana state affairs. Accordingly, on
March 24, 1878, there was a screed on of "Louisiana as It Is," treating
of the political questions, and finally another, on March 31, scouting
the possibility of forming a Hayes party in Louisiana. These letters
were written in so half-hearted a way that it was not at all surprising
to see the next letter from New Orleans signed by a new and more
ordinary name. Hearn was no longer the representative of the paper. He
went on record to the effect that he quit because the paper was slow
about paying him money, although he demanded the arrears time and time
again. The chances are that the _Commercial's_ readers stupidly wanted
more about politics and less about Creole love poetry. With the close
of this correspondence Hearn thus definitely closed all connexion with
the Cincinnati newspaper world.

We have seen now, from the Midwinter letters, how the Hearn of New
Orleans was the father of the Hearn of the West Indies and of Japan.
Indeed, so far as his work was concerned, the same subjects interested
him throughout his life. This is not to say that he remained at a
standstill. On the contrary, he was constantly growing. Despite his
bad eyesight, he read incessantly, and his reading took a very wide
range. He labored to perfect his style. He struggled with words; he
used the file after a fashion to remind one of what Flaubert and
Stevenson have told us of themselves. But with a very wise knowledge
of his own sympathies and limitations, he chose exactly the topics
for his pen that could most surely stir his imagination. It is a
little singular, some seven years after his letters to the Cincinnati
newspaper, to find him writing practically the same kind of articles
and on the same subjects for _Harper's Weekly_. Hearn, then at the age
of thirty-five, anxious to have his things appear in some publication
with a circulation other than purely local, and anxious likewise to eke
out his slender income, managed to secure a commission from the house
of Harper. The firm had sent a staff artist to New Orleans to draw
sketches of the exposition of 1885. Hearn was to supply the descriptive
articles. His first appeared in _Harper's Weekly_ of January 3, 1885,
and was a straightforward account of the exposition. Of course with
a man of Hearn's temperament this could not last long, so it is not
surprising to see the next letter, which appeared on January 10, 1885,
devoted to "The Creole Patois."

"Although," he writes, "the pure Creole element is disappearing from
the 'Vie Faubon,' as Creole children call the antiquated part of New
Orleans, it is there, nevertheless, that the patois survives as a
current idiom; it is there one must dwell to hear it spoken in its
purity and to study its peculiarities of intonation and construction.
The patois-speaking inhabitants, dwelling mostly in those portions of
the quadrilateral furthest from the river and from the broad American
boundary of Canal Street,--which many of them never cross when they
can help it,--are not less bizarre than the architectural background
of their picturesque existence. The visitor is surrounded by a life
motley-colored as those fantastic populations described in the Story of
the Young King of the Black Isles; the African ebon is least visible,
but of bronze browns, banana yellows, orange golds, there are endless
varieties, paling off into faint lemon tints and even dead silver
whites. The paler the shade, the more strongly do Latin characteristics
show themselves; and the oval faces, with slender cheeks and low,
broad brows, prevail. Sometimes in the yellower types a curious Sphinx
visage appears, dreamy as Egypt. Occasionally also one may encounter
figures so lithe, so animal, as to recall the savage grace of Piou's
'Satyress.' For the true colorist the contrast of a light saffron skin
with dead black hair and eyes of liquid jet has a novel charm, as
of those descriptions in the Malay poem, Bida-sari,' of 'women like
statues of gold.' It is hard to persuade oneself that such types do
not belong to one distinct race, the remnant of some ancient island
tribe, and the sound of their richly vowelled Creole speech might
prolong the pleasant illusion."

Happening to mention an ocoroon, the very term starts him on a rhapsody:

"That word reminds one of a celebrated and vanished type,--never
mirrored upon canvas, yet not less physically worthy of artistic
preservation than those amber-tinted beauties glorified in the Oriental
studies of Ingres, of Richter, of Gérôme! Uncommonly tall were those
famous beauties, citrine-hued, elegant of stature as palmettoes, lithe
as serpents; never again will such types reappear upon American soil.
Daughters of luxury, artificial human growths, never organized to enter
the iron struggle for life unassisted and unprotected, they vanished
forever with the social system which made them a place apart as for
splendid plants reared within a conservatory. With the fall of American
feudalism the dainty glass house was dashed to pieces; the species
it contained have perished utterly; and whatever morality may have
gained, one cannot help thinking that art has lost something by their
extinction. What figures for designs in bronze! What tints for canvas!"

Then Hearn returns to the subject of the Creoles, and speaks of the
compilation of Creole proverbs of the Antilles and other places, but
of the lack of a similar work in Louisiana. It foreshadowed his own
"Ghombo Zhebes," then in the making. Reading his description of the
fugitive Creole literature, one regrets that Hearn did not find time
and opportunity to collect: it as he did the proverbs.

"The inedited Creole literature," says he, "comprised songs, satires
in rhyme, proverbs, fairy tales,--almost everything commonly included
under the term of folk-lore. The lyrical portion of it is opulent
in oddities, in melancholy beauties; Alphonse Daudet has frequently
borrowed therefrom, using Creole refrains in his novels with admirable
effect. Some of the popular songs possess a unique and almost weird
pathos; there is a strange, naïve sorrow in their burdens, as of
children sobbing for lonesomeness in the night. Others, on the
contrary, are inimitably comical. There are many ditties or ballads
devoted to episodes of old plantation life, to surreptitious frolic,
to description of singular industries and callings, to commemoration
of events which had strongly impressed the vivid imagination of
negroes,--a circus show, an unexpected holiday, the visit of a
beautiful stranger to the planter's home, or even some one of those
incidents indelibly marked with a crimson spatter upon the fierce
history of Louisiana politics."

On January 17, under the same caption, Hearn continued the subject,
giving some of the songs and speaking of their probable African

On January 31, once more under the general title of "The New Orleans
Exposition," Hearn turns with avidity to musings on the Japanese
exhibit. Right in the beginning we have this on art, remarkable, as
so much of Hearn's work was, for a vivid sense of color and form
despite his own difficulty in seeing: "What Japanese art of the best
era is unrivalled in--that characteristic in which, according even
to the confession of the best French art connoisseurs, it excels all
other art--is movement, the rhythm, the poetry of visible motion.
Great masters of the antique Japanese schools have been known to
devote a whole lifetime to the depiction of one kind of bird, one
variety of insect or reptile, alone. This specialization of art, as
Ary Renan admirably showed us in a recent essay, produced results
that no European master has ever been able to approach. A flight of
gulls sweeping through the gold light of a summer morning; a long
line of cranes sailing against a vermilion sky; a swallow twirling
its kite shape against the disk of the sun; the heavy, eccentric,
velvety flight of bats under the moon; the fairy hoverings of moths
or splendid butterflies,--these are subjects the Japanese brush has
rendered with a sublimity of realism which might be imitated, perhaps,
but never surpassed. Except in the statues of gods or goddesses
(Buddhas which almost compel the Christian to share the religious
awe of their worshippers, or those charming virgins of the Japanese
heaven, 'slenderly supple as a beautiful lily'), the Japanese have
been far from successful in delineation of the human figure. But their
sculpture or painting of animal forms amazes by its grace; their bronze
tortoises, crabs, storks, frogs, are not mere copies of nature: they
are exquisite idealizations of it."

Almost every paragraph seems to foreshadow some chapter in some one of
Hearn's future books on Japan. With a memory of his papers on Japanese
inserts, this, written in 1885, is significant:

"Perhaps it is bad taste on the writer's part, but the bugs and
reptiles in cotton attracted his attention even more than the cranes.
You see a Japanese tray covered with what appear to be dead and living
bugs and beetles,--some apparently about to fly away; others with
upturned abdomen, legs shrunk up, antennae inert. They are so life-like
that you may actually weigh one in your hand a moment before you find
that it is made of cotton. Everything, even to the joints of legs or
abdomen, is exquisitely imitated: the metallic lustre of the beetle's
armor is reproduced by a bronze varnish. There are cotton crickets with
the lustre of lacquer, and cotton grasshoppers of many colors: the
korogi, whose singing is like to the sound of a weaver, weaving rapidly
('ko-ro-ru, ko-ro-ru'), and the kirigisi, whose name is an imitation of
its own note."

Or again, remembering his masterly description of an ascent of the
famous Japanese mountain, read this, written long before he had ever
seen it in the reality: "Splendid silks were hanging up everywhere,
some exquisitely embroidered with attractive compositions, figures,
landscapes, and especially views of Fusiyama, the matchless mountain,
whose crater edges are shaped like the eight petals of the Sacred
Lotos; Fusiyama, of which the great artist Houkousai alone drew one
hundred different views; Fusiyama, whose snows may only be compared for
pearly beauty to 'the white teeth of a young girl,' and whose summit
magically changes its tints through the numberless variations of light.
Everywhere it appears,--the wonderful mountain,--on fans, behind rains
of gold, or athwart a furnace light of sunset, or against an immaculate
blue, or gold burnished by some wizard dawn; in bronze, exhaling from
its mimic crater a pillar of incense smoke; on porcelain, towering
above stretches of vineyard and city-speckled plains, or perchance
begirdled by a rich cloud sash of silky, shifting tints, like some
beauty of Yosiwara."

At this period in his life there was not only a love of Creole
folk-lore and a longing for Japan, but a very decided and deep interest
in things Chinese. Not only was Hearn preparing himself for the writing
of "Some Chinese Ghosts," but it is altogether probable that his dreams
of a trip to Asia contemplated a sojourn in China as well as in Japan.
The daintiness, the fairy-like beauty of the Island Empire won him, and
China lost its chance for interpretation by a master. However, in his
letter of March 7, 1885, telling of "The East at New Orleans," we find
this relative to China:

"At either side of the main entrance is a great vase, carved from
lips to base with complex designs in partial relief and enamelled in
divers colors. In general effect of coloration the display is strictly
Chinese; the dominating tone is yellow,--bright yellow, the sacred and
cosmogonic color according to Chinese belief. When the Master of Heaven
deigns to write, He writes with yellow ink only, save when He takes
the lightning for His brush to trace a white sentence of destruction.
So at least we are told in the book called Kan-ing p'ien,--the 'Book
of Rewards and Punishments,' which further describes the writing of
God as being in _tchouen_,--those antique 'seal-characters' now rarely
seen except in jewel engraving, signatures stamped on works of art, or
inscriptions upon monuments,--those primitive ideographic characters
dating back perhaps to that age of which we have no historic record,
but of which Chinese architecture, with its strange peaks and curves,
offers us more than a suggestion,--the great Nomad Era."

There were only two more of Hearn's letters on the exposition, one
on March 14, on Mexico at New Orleans, telling of the wax figures,
depicting various Mexican types, and describing the feather-work,
imitated from that of the Aztecs; the other, appearing April 11, 1885,
telling of the government exhibit. On November 7 he wound up his
letters _for Harper's_ by telling something about "The Last of the
Voudoos,"--Jean Montanet, or Voudoo John, or Bayou John, who had just
died in New Orleans.

On March 28 and April 4 there appeared in _Harper's Bazar,_ some "Notes
of a Curiosity Hunter," in which he described some of the things that
interested him most in the Japanese and Mexican exhibits.


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