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Lafcadio Hearn   By:

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The Hearn crest is "on a mount vert a heron arg.," and the motto "Ardua petit ardea."

[Illustration: Lafcadio Hearn and His Wife.]






Copyright, 1912, by D. APPLETON AND COMPANY


No regret is vain. It is sorrow that spins the thread, softer than moonshine, thinner than fragrance, stronger than death, the Gleipnir chain of the Greater Memory.


When Death has set his seal on an eminent man's career, there is a not unnatural curiosity to know something of his life, as revealed by himself, particularly in letters to intimate friends. "All biography ought, as much as possible, to be autobiography," says Stevenson, and of all autobiographical material, letters are the most satisfactory. Generally written on the impulse of the moment, with no idea of subsequent publication, they come, as it were, like butter fresh from the churning with the impress of the mind of the writer stamped distinctly upon them. One letter of George Sand's written to Flaubert, or one of Goethe's to Frau von Stein, or his friend Stilling, is worth pages of embellished reminiscences.

The circumstances surrounding Lafcadio Hearn's life and work impart a particular interest and charm to his correspondence. He was, as he himself imagined, unfitted by personal defect from being looked upon with favour in general society. This idea, combined with innate sensitive shyness, caused him, especially towards the latter years of his life, to become more or less of a recluse, and induced him to seek an outlet in intellectual commune with literary comrades on paper. Hence the wonderful series of letters, edited by Miss Elizabeth Bisland (Mrs. Wetmore), to Krehbiel, Ellwood Hendrik, and Chamberlain. Those to Professor Chamberlain, written during the most productive literary period of his life, from the vantage ground, as it were, of many years of intellectual work and experience, are particularly interesting, giving a unique and illuminating revelation of a cultured and passionately enthusiastic nature.

During his stay at Kumamoto, when the bulk of the letters to Chamberlain were written, he initiated a correspondence with his half sister, Mrs. Atkinson, who had written to him from Ireland. His erratic nature, tamed and softened by the birth of his son, Kazuo, turned with yearning towards his kindred, forgotten for so many years, and these Atkinson letters, though not boasting the high intellectual level of those to Professor Chamberlain, show him, in their affectionate playfulness, and in the quaint memories recalled of his childhood, under a new and delightful aspect.

There has been a certain amount of friction with his American editress, owing to the fact of my having been given the right to use these letters. It is as well, therefore, to explain that owing to criticisms and remarks made about people and relatives, in Hearn's usual outspoken fashion, it would have been impossible, in their original form, to allow them to pass into the hands of any one but a person intimately connected with the Hearn family; but I can assure Mrs. Wetmore and Captain Mitchell McDonald those kind friends who have done so much for the sake of Hearn's children and widow that Mrs. Koizumi, financially, suffers nothing from the fact of the letters not having crossed the Atlantic.

Besides being indebted to Mrs. Atkinson for having been allowed to make extracts from the letters written to her, my thanks are due to Miss Edith Hardy, her cousin, for the use of diaries and reminiscences; also to the Rev... Continue reading book >>

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