Authors: George Washington Cable

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Grandissimes, 1880

Dr. Sevier, 1884

Bonaventure, 1888

John March, Southerner, 1894

The Cavalier, 1901

Bylow Hill, 1902

Kincaid’s Battery, 1908

Gideon’s Band, 1914

Lovers of Louisiana, 1918

Short Fiction:

Old Creole Days, 1879

Madame Delphine, 1881

Strong Hearts, 1899

Posson Jone’and Père Raphaël, 1909

The Flower of the Chapdelaines, 1918

Nonfiction:

The Creoles of Louisiana, 1884

The Silent South, 1885

Strange True Stories of Louisiana, 1889

The Negro Question, 1890

The Busy Man’s Bible, 1891

A Memory of Roswell Smith, 1892

The Amateur Garden, 1914

Miscellaneous:

The Cable Story Book: Selections for School Reading, 1899

Biography

George Washington Cable, a man of diverse and lively talents, was born in New Orleans in 1844. His father was from an old slaveholding family in Virginia, while his mother came of straitlaced Puritan stock; from this contrast may have stemmed some of the contradictions which later marked Cable’s adult personality and literary career.{$I[AN]9810001479}{$I[A]Cable, George Washington}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Cable, George Washington}{$I[tim]1844;Cable, George Washington}

George Washington Cable

(Library of Congress)

In 1859, on the eve of the Civil War, Cable’s father died after a series of business reverses which had brought the family to the brink of poverty. During the next few years, the boy, only fourteen at the time of his father’s death, became the mainstay of the family. In 1863, Cable enlisted in the Confederate cavalry. Twice wounded, he nevertheless served until the end of the war, interspersing his activities as a trooper with self-imposed studies in mathematics, Latin, and the Bible.

For two years after the war, Cable was almost completely incapacitated by malarial fever. Recovering slowly, he began to write for the New Orleans Picayune, doing a regular column called “Drop Shot.” His journalistic career proved short-lived, however, when the paper dropped him for refusing to report theatrical performances. Next, as an accountant and correspondence clerk, he found congenial work with a firm of cotton factors. His marriage in 1869 to Louise S. Bartlett seemed to complete the pattern by which his life would be ordered.

Suddenly, however–and almost by accident–this course was changed. His passion for self-education had led him to develop mastery of French and to dig into the city archives. Among the latter he found numerous fascinating events which he could not resist using as the basis for narratives of his own. When a literary scout, Edward King, examined his papers for Scribner’s Monthly, the result was publication of “’Sieur George” in the October, 1873, issue of that magazine. Old Creole Days, a collection of seven tales, followed six years later. This volume gained for its author instant recognition as a new and interesting interpreter of the South. When the firm for which he worked was eventually dissolved, he seized the opportunity to turn to writing as a full-time occupation. In steady succession appeared The Grandissimes, The Creoles of Louisiana, Dr. Sevier, and The Silent South. Criticism of his views on the South led him in 1885 to establish a home for his family in Northampton, Massachusetts. During his later years in New England, he became a close friend of Mark Twain, with whom he had gone on a celebrated reading tour in 1884, and he continued to write and publish as late as 1918. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida, on January 31, 1925.

A large part of Cable’s remarkable energy went into his varied activities as an advocate of social reform. His Puritan inheritance found its outlet in untiring work as a philanthropist, a religious leader, and a Bible-class teacher; and his outspoken views, especially those regarding justice for blacks, often earned for him the resentment of his native South. Nevertheless, it is as a romanticist that the twentieth century most easily identifies George Washington Cable. His early work, for which he is by now best remembered, has established him as a leading exponent of the “local color” school, and his Louisiana tales have preserved an exotic segment of American life.

BibliographyBiklé, Lucy Leffingwell Cable. George W. Cable: His Life and Letters. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928. This biography, written by Cable’s daughter, has the advantage of immediacy to, and intimacy with, the subject. Covers the life of Cable primarily through the many letters that he wrote.Butcher, Philip. George W. Cable. New York: Twayne, 1962. Literary biography provides a good general introduction to Cable, examining his life in the context of his work and vice versa. Discusses the major phases of Cable’s life–from New Orleans and Old Creole Days to his friendship with Mark Twain to his social and political involvement–in an honest, engaging fashion.Cleman, John. George Washington Cable Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1996. Critical introduction to Cable’s life and work discusses the author’s major works and the social context within which they were created. Includes chapters devoted to Cable’s advocacy of civil rights for African Americans, his political writing, and his later works of “pure fiction.”Ekstrom, Kjell. George Washington Cable: A Study of His Early Life and Work. New York: Haskell House, 1966. Focuses on Cable’s Creole fiction, giving much historical, literary, and cultural background to Cable’s early work. In addition to biographical information on Cable’s early years, provides discussion of the literary and nonliterary sources for the Creole short stories and novels.Elfenbein, Anna Shannon. Women on the Color Lines: Evolving Stereotypes and the Writings of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989. Argues that Cable identified racism with sexism and classism and subverted the traditional literary categories that have segmented white women and women of color. Discusses how in the story “Tite Poulete” Cable moves beyond racism to a consideration of the shared oppression of all women.Foote, Stephanie. “’The Shadow of the Ethiopian’: George Washington Cable’s The Grandissimes.” In Regional Fictions: Culture and Identity in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001. Examination of Cable’s novel explains the book’s place in American regional fiction. This chapter is part of a larger study that focuses on how Cable’s work and other regional fiction shaped Americans’ ideas about the value of local identity.Jones, Gavin. “Signifying Songs: The Double Meaning of Black Dialect in the Work of George Washington Cable.” American Literary History 9 (Summer, 1997): 244-267. Discusses the interaction of African American and French Creole culture in Cable’s works. Argues that African American dialect, song, and satire were transmitted to the white community subversively.Ladd, Barbara. Nationalism and the Color Line in George W. Cable, Mark Twain, and William Faulkner. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996. Demonstrates how the works of Cable and the other writers were influenced by the cultural legacy that French and Spanish colonialism embedded in the Mississippi River Valley and the Deep South.Petry, Alice Hall. A Genius in His Way. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1988. A literary study focusing on the short stories from Old Creole Days, but opening with a chapter on Madame Delphine, this book is rather scholarly, but accessible to an advanced high school student. The bibliography includes only items cited in the text.Roberson, William H. George Washington Cable: An Annotated Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1982. An important resource.Rubin, Louis D., Jr. George W. Cable: The Life and Times of a Southern Heretic. New York: Pegasus, 1979. By Rubin’s own admission, the biography in this book is dependent on the work of Arlin Turner (cited below), but Rubin’s comments on Cable’s works are insightful and informative. Includes complete chapters on the novels The Grandissimes, Dr. Sevier, and John March, Southerner.Schmidt, Peter. “Romancing Multiracial Democracy: George Washington Cable’s Lovers of Louisiana.” In Sitting in Darkness: New South Fiction, Education, and the Rise of Jim Crow Colonialism, 1865-1920. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008. Chapter on Cable’s last novel is included in an exploration of how southern fiction published from the time of Reconstruction through the end of World War I affected societal reform in the South in regard to race, politics, and education.Turner, Arlin. George W. Cable: A Biography. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1957. Thoroughly researched biography in many ways set the standard for further Cable studies. Discusses in great detail not only Cable’s life but also his literary work, his political involvement, the geographical contexts of his work, and the important historical events that affected his life and work. Includes extensive bibliography and index.Turner, Arlin. Mark Twain and George W. Cable: The Record of a Literary Friendship. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1960. Drawing almost exclusively on letters between the two writers, this short volume is useful for its personal insights.Turner, Arlin, ed. Critical Essays on George W. Cable. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980. An important resource. Includes bibliographical references and an index.
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