Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
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.
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...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
After the death of his father, George Washington Cable left school at the age of twelve and worked in a warehouse. During the years he should have been in college he was a Confederate soldier. Ever eager to learn, he read incessantly while in the service. After the war he was a reporter for a short time, then a clerk for a cotton firm while continuing to publish personal essays signed “Drop Shot” for the New Orleans Picayune. In 1873, he met Edward King, who carried copies of his stories to the editors of Scribner’s Monthly. In October of that year Cable’s first story was published, and his first novel was published the following year. Desiring to be closer to literary circles, Cable left the South and settled with his family in Northampton, Massachusetts. He loved the energetic atmosphere of the North, and much of what he wrote about the South after the move lacked the clarity and fire of his earlier work. During a return trip to the South in 1925, Cable died, leaving stories of a period which would never be again.
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
George Washington Cable was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 12, 1844. Ancestors of his mother, Rebecca Boardman Cable, had lived in New England since the seventeenth century and had moved to Indiana in 1807. The background of his father, the elder George Washington Cable, dates back to pre-Revolutionary times in Virginia. The elder Cable lived in Virginia and Pennsylvania with his parents before moving to Indiana, where he married Rebecca in 1834. The Cable family migrated to New Orleans in 1837, where George, their fifth child, was born.
In the 1840’s, the Cables lived a comfortable existence, owning several household slaves until the father’s business failed. Through the 1850’s, the elder Cable worked at a series of jobs until, weakened in health, he died on February 28, 1859. Because young George’s older brother, along with an older sister, had died of scarlet fever, his father’s death required him, not yet fourteen, to leave school to support the family. Until the third year of the Civil War, he held his father’s former position as a clerk at the customhouse.
Slight in size—only five feet five inches and weighing one hundred pounds—and deceptively youthful in features, Cable enlisted in the Confederate Army on October 9, 1863, three days before his nineteenth birthday. Incurring two slight wounds during his service, he was discharged in 1865.
After the war, Cable worked as an errand boy, as a store clerk, and, until malaria stopped him, as a rodman with a surveying party on the Red River. In 1868, he became a bookkeeper for two cotton firms in New Orleans. He married Louise Stewart Bartlett on December 7, 1869, and soon fathered the first of a large family of children. At one time, he worked simultaneously for the cotton house of William C. Black and Company, the New Orleans Cotton Exchange, and the National Cotton Exchange.
Newspaper work provided Cable’s first opportunity to see his writing in print. While continuing as an accountant, he worked for newspapers as a freelance contributor and then as a full-time reporter. For eighteen months, beginning February 27, 1870, he wrote the column “Drop Shot” weekly, and then daily, for the New Orleans Picayune. While working for the Picayune, his research into Louisiana history at city hall, the cathedral, and the Cabildo, former seat of colonial government, led him to factual stories later to be shaped into fiction. In addition, his newspaper reports on contemporary local affairs interested him in reform on civic, regional, and national levels.
Appearing in Scribner’s Monthly, Cable’s stories were based on his knowledge of the people and activities of New Orleans and of events in Louisiana history. Six of the stories appearing in Scribner’s Monthly and a seventh story, “Posson Jone’,” which was published in Appleton’s Journal, were later collected as Old Creole Days, published by Scribner’s. His first novel, The Grandissimes, also based on the people and history of Louisiana, was serialized in Scribner’s Monthly over a twelve-month period and then published in book form in 1880. Next came the novella Madame Delphine, first printed in Scribner’s Monthly as a three-part serial, and then published in book form in 1881.
In 1881, Cable gave up his position as an accountant, depending for the rest of his life on lectures and public readings of his fiction to supplement his income as a writer. One of his...
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The New Orleans into which George Washington Cable was born in 1844 was the most multiethnic city in the United States. The Creole majority was descended from early French and Spanish inhabitants. Acadians, also known as Cajuns, established themselves there after arriving from Canada’s eastern provinces. Blacks, free and slave, did the work, and the Mississippi River, the nation’s most traveled highway during the early 1800’s, daily brought new arrivals from points north.
Cable’s father died when George was fifteen, necessitating his taking a job. By 1861, Cable was in the grocery business. In 1863, with the Union occupation of New Orleans, the Cables relocated to Mississippi, where George joined the Confederate Army. He was wounded twice in battle. Returning to New Orleans after the war, Cable took various jobs and struggled against malaria. In 1869, he married Louise Stewart Bartlett, with whom he had six children.
Cable’s literary career began as a writer for the New Orleans Picayune, in which his column, “Drop Shot,” was popular. By 1872, he was writing a series of sketches about New Orleans history and life for the Picayune, basing his tales on materials from historical archives. These sketches capture Southern life with a verisimilitude similar to that of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Reynolds Price.
In 1873, a journalist for Scribner’s magazine met Cable and, intrigued by his sketches, took several of them to editors for Scribner’s in New York, who earlier had rejected a book compiled from Cable’s “Drop Shot” pieces. In October, 1873, Cable’s “’Sieur George” appeared in Scribner’s. Cable’s writing career began to flourish. Old Creole Days was a resounding success, establishing Cable’s reputation. Stories such as “Jean-ah Poquelin” expose authentically Southern loyalties, secrecy, deceptions, and decadence.
The publication of Madame Delphine and The Grandissimes placed Cable among America’s leading writers. In 1884, he undertook a four-month reading tour with Mark Twain. He continued writing during the first two decades of the twentieth century, producing thirty volumes in all. Cable explores American identity from the viewpoint of a Southerner who is critical of the South’s racism.