Special Collections · The Lafcadio Hearn Collection

Stray Leaves From Strange Literature

Boston: J. R. Osgood and Company, 1884.

In New Orleans, after translating One Of Cleopatra’s Nights from the French, Hearn decided that his first effort at a book of his own would come next. He had started writing for the Times-Democrat in 1881 and the management there gave him the chance to do some notable work in the fields of criticism and translation. Many of the columns featured folk tales, legends and anecdotes that were favorites of his and which were representative of many cultures. In this book he planned to bring these cultures together with some degree of commonality. These tales, as Hearn tells us in the Preface are “reconstructions of what impressed me as most fantastically beautiful in the most exotic literature which I was able to obtain.”

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

La Cuisine Créole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes From Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous for Its Cuisine

New York: W. H. Coleman, 1885.

Written anonymously but attributed to Hearn, this cook book was planned for distribution at the 1884 Cotton Exposition in New Orleans but few were distributed there because of printing delays which kept the book from being sold until just a few days before the Exposition closed.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Gombo Zhèbes: Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs, Selected From Six Creole Dialects

New York: W. H. Coleman, 1885.

Hearn kept careful records of the good Creole recipes he discovered in New Orleans as well as various Creole proverbs that appealed to him. By 1880, he had assembled quite a collection of both. Gombo Zhèbes is a collection of 352 Creole proverbs selected from 6 dialects. There are 6 in the Creole of French Guyana; 28 in the Creole of Haiti; 51 in the Creole of New Orleans; 101 in the Creole of Martinique; 110 in the Creole of Mauritius and 52 in the Creole of Trinidad.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Some Chinese Ghosts

Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1887.

After completing Stray Leaves from Strange Literature, Hearn began an intensive study of Chinese legends. Each one of them was published with great fanfare by Page Baker in the daily issues of the New Orleans Times-Democrat. These articles were so successful that Hearn decided to try submitting them to Harper’s. His first try failed but, then, Roberts Brothers of Boston accepted the manuscript and he was on his way. Shortly after publication, in 1887, Mr. Roberts sent a statement of royalties to Hearn. Quoting Edward Laroque Tinker in his Lafcadio Hearn’s American Days

It was small to be sure, but that cannot excuse his behavior. The receipt of the statement threw him into one of those unreasoning explosions of anger that was sure to burst, sooner or later, upon the head of anyone with whom he had business dealings. Grabbing a pen, he wrote a characteristic note to his publishers, baldly accusing them of robbing him. The senior partner, Mr. Roberts, was a stiff-backed dignified descendent of the Pilgrim fathers, and he read it without visible signs of emotion other than a heightened grimness in the lines around his mouth. Pressing a button on his desk, he instructed the office boy to find out how many copies of Some Chinese Ghosts there were in the house. These facts having been reported to him, he merely said, “Destroy every copy, and the plates with them.” Thus ended the incident.

It is understandable why this book is one of the most difficult to find of all Hearn items. The few hundred copies that did escape Mr. Roberts’ wrath did improve Hearn’s reputation as a writer even though they earned him little, moneywise.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Chita: A Memory of Last Island

New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889.

Hearn spent his summer holiday in 1884 at Grande Isle in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from New Orleans. 30 miles from Grande Isle was a barren sandbank… all that was left of Last Island which had largely disappeared after a heavy hurricane in 1856. While there, Hearn heard several tales about the tragic storm that had occurred 28 years earlier. When he returned to New Orleans, he prepared a series of articles which purported to be letters from victims of that terrible storm. They were called “Torn Letters”. Later on, he pulled these stories together into one, expanding the totality somewhat and the result was Chita. It was accepted enthusiastically by Henry Alden for publication in Harper’s Magazine. Later, Alden arranged for Chita to be published in book form. It was only a short novel but it was the longest work of fiction that Hearn ever attempted to write. The Boston Evening Transcript when reviewing Chita said, “By right of this single but profoundly remarkable book, Mr. Hearn may lay good claim to the title of the American Victor Hugo… So living a book has scarcely been given to our generation.”

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Two Years in the French West Indies

New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890.

When Hearn left New Orleans in 1887, he headed for New York, where he met with Henry Alden at Harper’s, who immediately commissioned him to write a series of stories about the West Indies. In the beginning of June, Hearn boarded the Barracouta and was on his way. During a three month sojourn in Martinique, he found, “the climate was simply heaven on earth, no thieves, no roughs, no snobs, everything primitive and morally pure. Confound fame, wealth, reputation and splendour! Leave them all, give up New Orleans, these things are superfluous in the West Indies, obsolete nuisances.” After only three months, he was back in New York, but only for one disastrous week in which problem after problem piled up on him. He returned to Martinique immediately, staying there for two years until May 1889 when he returned to New York to put the finishing touches on Youma, to pull together the stories for Two Years in the French West Indies and to review the proofs of Chita before it appeared in book form.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Youma

New York: Harper & Brothers, 1890.

This is the last story that Hearn wrote before leaving Martinique. Understanding the circumstances under which it was written, one can’t help but think that Youma was really another example of Hearn’s ability to report incidents vividly, as he did so frequently in Cincinnati and New Orleans… but this time in the form of a novelette, posed as fiction.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company; Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1894.

This is the first of Hearn’s books written about Japan. It was published after Hearn had been in Japan for four years. Gould reported, “In many ways the present book about Japan is his happiest, for the charm over everything is fresh and radiant. It is here that we learn the old graceful customs, the touching child-like ways and the sacred appealing rites that so endear to us the Japanese.”

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Out of the East: Reveries and Studies in New Japan

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company; Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1895.

Hearn wrote Out of the East while still living in Kumamoto and teaching at the Fifth National College there. It was not published until March of 1895, and, by that time, he had moved to Kobe where he took a reportorial job with the Kobe Chronicle. This was about the time that Hearn started his life as a Japanese citizen and a time when his reputation as a fine writer was spreading rapidly. Out of the East followed closely Hearn’s first book on Japan, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, which had become a sine qua non when it came to books covering Japan and the Japanese. The book strengthened his popularity in the United States and England.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Kokoro

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company; Cambridge: The Riverside Press. 1896.

“Kokoro” meaning “heart” or “the heart of things” in Japanese, could have been expected to be merely a continuation of Out of the East which it immediately followed. Even if so, it did a far better job of interpreting the “heart” of Japan. It is thought by many that Hearn had reached a degree of excellence in his writing in Kokoro that placed it above any of his previous work. Although Hearn was living in Kobe at the time, the favored essays in Kokoro were inspired by his frequent trips to Kyoto, only a short distance from Kobe. Kokoro was published in 1896 in both the United States and England and the reviews were very positive indeed. Basil Hall Chamberlain paid Hearn a visit and declared Hearn to be “the Occidental King of Japan”. Hearn’s favorite accolade of all came from his friend and fellow English teacher, during his days at the Matsue Middle School, Sentaro Nishida, who wrote to Hearn with his compliments and said he was gaining a deeper understanding of the Japanese people from Hearn.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Gleanings in Buddha Fields: Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company; Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1897.

This is Hearn’s third book of the Japanese period and was written at Kobe. In this volume of essays, intermingled with sketches in a lighter vein, Hearn pursues further philosophical studies, leaning heavily on Buddhism as a source of inspiration.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Exotics and Retrospectives

Cover of Exotics and Retrospectives

Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1898.

Hearn worked harder on this subject than on any of his previous writings. He had become fascinated with Buddhism and in this book turns to Buddhist mysticism to explain some very personal experiential phenomena.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

In Ghostly Japan

Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1899.

This collection of stories written by Hearn finds him dealing once again with the ethereal, things far removed from reality, even wraith-like. Hearn’s ghosts not only represent the dead but, also, the living. Throughout, Hearn deals with the folklore, superstitions, and traditions of Japan with a heavy emphasis on the influence of Buddhism.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Shadowings

Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1900.

Here, Hearn writes several essays upon matters Japanesque which involve no small amount of erudition and patient research… essays on the various species of Japanese singing locusts, on the complicated etiquette of Japanese female names, etc. Then, there is also a collection of curious tales of ghouls, wraiths, vampires… weird, uncanny little stories.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

A Japanese Miscellany

Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1901.

Here we have an unpretentious collection of folklore stories, anecdotes and essays which provide a warm, clearly understandable look at Japan and things Japanese. It is full of interesting and often charming things, as in the “Songs of Japanese Children”, songs relating to weather and sky and animals, play songs, narratives and lullabies.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation

New York: Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1904.

This was the last book Hearn wrote before he died and perhaps his best book about Japan for it synthesizes what he had learned about Japan and the Japanese during the 14 years he had lived there. During the last year before his death Hearn worked feverishly to complete the 21 lectures that he was preparing for a series at Cornell University. His friend, Elizabeth Bisland, had arranged for him to have a lectureship at Cornell. After being accepted by Cornell, they later withdrew the offer, ostensibly because of lack of funds. Hearn thought that some of the negative criticism about him and his strange ways may have prompted alumni and others to force the school’s administration to withdraw the lectureship. In a letter to Elizabeth Bisland, Hearn wrote, “I have material evidence that certain religious combinations want to prevent my chances in America; if you can help me to do something journalistic, I imagine it would be better to let the (Cornell) thing remain unknown for the time being.” At any rate, the 21 lectures form the basis of Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation and it turned out to be one of the finest studies of the life and soul of a nation ever written. As one critic put it, “Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation is a work which is a classic in science, a wonder of erudition, the product of long years of keenest observation, of marvelous comprehension.”

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

London, Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1904.

This book follows in the same vein as Hearn’s previous five books… Kotto, Japanese Fairy Tales, A Japanese Miscellany, Shadowings and In Ghostly Japan. However, it was not published until after Hearn’s death in 1904. It again is a collection of old stories, many of them in the gruesome genre, an area that Hearn had so frequently visited in his earlier years.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him

The Romance of the Milky Way

Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1905.

This is the last of the principle books by Hearn. It was published posthumously in 1905. Here, again, Hearn deals with stories and sketches having a tendency to be supernatural, of another world, enchanting sentimentalities, in much the same way that he did in the seven books published between 1897 and 1902… Gleanings in Buddha Fields, Exotics and Retrospectives, In Ghostly Japan, Shadowings, Japanese Fairy Tales, A Japanese Miscellany and Kotto.

—Woody Bates, Lafcadio Hearn: Works By and About Him