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...
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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.