1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cable, George Washington

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CABLE, GEORGE WASHINGTON (1844–) American author, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the 12th of October 1844. At the age of fourteen he entered a mercantile establishment as a clerk; joined the Confederate army (4th Mississippi Cavalry) at the age of nineteen; at the close of the war engaged in civil engineering, and in newspaper work in New Orleans; and first became known in literature by sketches and stories of old French-American life in that city. These were first published in Scribner’s Monthly, and were collected in book form in 1879, under the title of Old Creole Days. The characteristics of the series—of which the novelette Madame Delphine (1881) is virtually a part—are neatness of touch, sympathetic accuracy of description of people and places, and a constant combination of gentle pathos with quiet humour. These shorter tales were followed by the novels The Grandissimes (1880), Dr Sevier (1883) and Bonaventure (1888), of which the first dealt with Creole life in Louisiana a hundred years ago, while the second was related to the period of the Civil War of 1861–65. Dr Sevier, on the whole, is to be accounted Cable’s masterpiece, its character of Narcisse combining nearly all the qualities which have given him his place in American literature as an artist and a social chronicler. In this, as in nearly all of his stories, he makes much use of the soft French-English dialect of Louisiana. He does not confine himself to New Orleans, laying many of his scenes, as in the short story Belles Demoiselles Plantation, in the marshy lowlands towards the mouth of the Mississippi. Cable was the leader in the noteworthy literary movement which has influenced nearly all southern writers since the war of 1861—a movement of which the chief importance lay in the determination to portray local scenes, characters and historical episodes with accuracy instead of merely imaginative romanticism, and to interest readers by fidelity and sympathy in the portrayal of things well known to the authors. Other writings by Cable have dealt with various problems of race and politics in the southern states during and after the “reconstruction period” following the Civil War; while in The Creoles of Louisiana (1884) he presented a history of that folk from the time of its appearance as a social and military factor. His dispassionate treatment of his theme in this volume and its predecessors gave increasing offence to sensitive Creoles and their sympathizers, and in 1886 Cable removed to Northampton, Massachusetts. At one time he edited a magazine in Northampton, and afterwards conducted the monthly Current Literature, published in New York. His Collected Works were published in a uniform issue in 5 vols. (New York, 1898). Among his later volumes are The Cavalier (1901), Bylow Hill (1902), and Kincaid’s Battery (1908).