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 which his life would be ordered.
Suddenly, however—and almost by accident—this course was...
(The entire section is 541 words.)