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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Grace Elizabeth King (1852–1932)

IN 1886 there appeared in the New Princeton Review a story called ‘Monsieur Motte,’ which attracted instant attention in this country as in England, and subsequently in France, and announced that America had a new writer who would add distinction to its literature. The story dealt with a certain social phase in the life of New Orleans; it had a touch of Gallic quality, and was a subtle reading of Creole character and of the negro race also; but otherwise it had the note of universality which is found in all genuine original literature.

The writer was Grace Elizabeth King of New Orleans, the daughter of William M. King, during his life a prominent lawyer, and before the war a sugar planter in Louisiana. Miss King passed her childhood in the city and upon her father’s plantation, and was educated in the French schools of New Orleans. It is evident from her writings that she was a keen observer of country and city life, and a close student of human nature. New Orleans, when she was a child, had more affiliations with Paris than with New York, and her education was decidedly French; indeed, it may be said that her sympathy for French literature and her comprehension of it were so strong and native, that when lately she made a considerable sojourn in the French capital she did not seem to be in a foreign atmosphere. To her knowledge of French she added an almost equal facility in Spanish; so that she was well equipped for both the investigation and interpretation of the history and romance of Louisiana.

Her first success was followed by several short novels and stories: ‘Bonne Maman,’ ‘Earthlings,’ ‘Balcony Stories,’ some of which were collected in a volume called ‘Tales of a Time and Place.’ The ‘Balcony Stories’ were exquisite and subtle creations, and revealed in the author an art, a finish in form, and a refined literary quality which we are accustomed in criticism to call Parisian. No better work in this sort has been done by any modern writer.

It was natural that Miss King, who was an enthusiastic and accurate student, should be attracted to the dramatic and romantic history of the lower Mississippi. The first results of this study were a life of Bienville, the founder of New Orleans; a school history of Louisiana, in collaboration with Professor Fichlin of Tulane University; and a volume on New Orleans, a sort of personal tribute to her beloved city. Her ‘De Soto and his Men in the Land of Florida’ appeared in 1898, and her ‘Stories from History of Louisiana’ are another result of her interest in historical research. Her latest volume, ‘Pleasant Ways of St. Médard,’ was published in the United States in 1916, and in England in 1917. The reader of this LIBRARY will find a number of her essays on French writers, as Baudelaire, Mérimée, and Michelet, which reveal her wide and critical acquaintance with French literature. Her fiction has a background of culture not always descernible in our short-story writers of the past generation.

The short stories of Miss King reveal a rare literary artist, and many of them a power of depicting passion and the actualities of life transmuted into ideal pictures by her genius of sympathy. They would be marred unless given entire; and we have preferred to present in this volume a brilliant description of an episode in American history, which has never been so picturesquely and adequately set forth.