LAFCADIO HEARN by Elizabeth Stevenson


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Tapping all available resources, Elizabeth Stevenson has produced a sane and readable biography of the once popular journalist and novelist, a best seller before World War I. At best, the remembrance of him is as a lover of the picturesque and sentimental aspects of Japan. Hardly anyone today recalls those two interesting earlier decades in his life, when he was first a hard-bitten, sensational reporter in Cincinnati, a brilliant, observant reporter in New Orleans and in Martinique. Born of an Irish father, who- soldiering in the Greek islands chanced to marry a Greek woman- Hearn was taken in early years to Ireland. There he was abandoned by his parents, adopted and educated by an aunt who also later abandoned him. His heritage and youth were thus extremely difficult, and he grew up schooled to a harsh world. At 19, his relations summarily sent him to the United States, and in Cincinnati, by luck and pluck, he picked up some newspaper work. Exceedingly shy and sensitive, his life was further distorted by the loss of sight in one eye. Miss Stevenson brings out both sides of Hearn's nature:- his sense of realism and compassion for the underprivileged -- and his search for the romantic and eerie beauty exemplified by his favorite French authors, Baudelaire, Flaubert, de Maupassant and others. The conflict led to a restless and wandering life, many broken friendships, and no real haven until he found Japan. There he married a Japanese wife, found a post in the Tokyo university and took Japanese citizenship. Despite documented detail and loving care, Hearn's permanent stature remains that of a second-rate novelist and teller of tales and a gifted journalist in what today seems the Yellow Book genre. Fairly interesting as a life study, but not an important book.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1961
Publisher: Macmillan