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Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn (June 27, 1850 - September 26, 1904) is an author, best known for his books about Japan.

Hearn was born in Leucadia (pronounced Lefcadia, whence his name, which was one adopted by himself), one of the Greek Ionian Islands. He moved to Dublin Ireland at the age of 6. He was the son of Surgeon-major Charles Hearn, of Kings County, Ireland, who, during the English occupation of the Jonian Islands, was stationed there, and who married a Greek wife. Artistic and rather bohemian tastes were in Lafcadio Hearns blood. His fathers brother Richard was at one time a well-known member of the Barbizon set of artists, though he made no mark as a painter through his lack of energy. Young Hearn had rather a casual education, but was for a time (1865) at Ushaw Roman Catholic College[?], Durham. The religious faith in which he was brought up was, however, soon lost; and at 19, being thrown on his own resources, he went to the United States of America and at first picked up a living in the lower grades of newspaper work in Cincinnati. The details are obscure, but he continued to occupy himself with journalism and with out-of-the-way observation and reading, and meanwhile his erratic, romantic and rather morbid idiosyncrasies developed. He was from 1877 through 1888 in New Orleans, Louisiana writing for the Times Democrat[?]. His writings about New Orleans focused on the city's Creole history, distinctive cuisine, underworld, and Voodoo. His writings for national publications like Harper's Weekly[?] and Scribner's Magazine[?] helped mold the popular image of New Orleans as a colorfull place of decadence and hedonism. His best known book on Louisina[?] is Gombo Zhebes (1885).

The Times Democrat sent Hearn to the West Indies as a corrispondant. He spent two years in the islands. There he produced Two Years in the French West Indies and Youma, The Story of a West-Indian Slave (both 1890).

In 1891 Lafcadio Hearn he went to Japan with a commission as a newspaper correspondent[?], which was quickly broken off. But here he found his true sphere.

The list of his books on Japanese subjects tells its own tale:

He became a teacher of English at the University of Tokyo, and soon fell completely under the spell of Japanese ideas. He married a Japanese wife, became a naturalized Japanese under the name of Yakumo Koizumi, and adopted the Buddhist religion. For the last two years of his life (he died on September 26, 1904) his healthwasfailing, and he was deprived of his lecturership at the University. But he had gradually become known to the world at large by the originality, power and literary charm of his writings. This wayward bohemian genius, who had seen life in so many climes, and turned from Roman Catholic to atheist and then to Buddhist, was curiously qualified, among all those who were interpreting the new and the old Japan to the Western world, to see it with unfettered understanding, and to express its life and thought with most intimate and most artistic sincerity. Lafcadio Hearns books were indeed unique for their day in the literature about Japan, in their combination of real knowledge with a literary art which is often exquisite.

See Elizabeth Bisland, The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Ilearn (2 vols., 1906); G. M. Gould, Concerning Lafcadio Hearn (1908).

External Links

e-texts of some of Lafcadio Hearn's works:
  • Chita (http://www.abacci.com/books/book.asp?bookID=367)
  • Kwaidan (http://www.abacci.com/books/book.asp?bookID=2560)

The article contais materials from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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