Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 34. Writers Using English; Charles Étienne Arthur Gayarré

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXI. Non-English Writings I

§ 34. Writers Using English; Charles Étienne Arthur Gayarré

The English-speaking United States knows Louisiana largely through the graceful and charming, though not all equally accurate, stories and essays of G. W. Cable, Kate Chopin, and Grace Elizabeth King. Louisianians themselves, and indeed these writers, are under a particular and special indebtedness to a man whose name has often been mentioned in this chapter—Charles Étienne Arthur Gayarré (1805–95). That Louisiana, says Miss King,

  • lives at all in that best of living worlds, the world of history, romance, and poetry, she owes to him.… As a youth, he consecrated his first ambitions to her; through manhood, he devoted his pen to her; old, suffering, bereft by misfortune of his ancestral heritage, and the fruit of his prime’s vigour and industry, he yet stood ever her courageous knight.… He held her archives not only in his memory but in his heart, and while he lived, none dared make public aught about her history except with his vigilant form in the line of vision.
  • Too great a stress, however, need not be laid upon Gayarré’s passionate provincialism. It is enough to say that in his many historical writings, both French and English, he displayed to a friendly public not only the ascertained facts of those portions of Louisiana history which he investigated but the many charming traditions and romantic legends upon which he came, and which he embedded in his narrative some-what after the manner of Barante’s Ducs de Bourgogne. Of American authors he most nearly suggests Prescott, whose own cycle of studies indeed he touched upon in his life of Philip II of Spain (1866). Besides histories, addresses, and articles he produced comedies—The School of Politics (1854) and Dr. Bluff, or the American Doctor in Russia (1869)—and novels—Fernando de Lemos, Truth and Fiction (1872) and its sequel Aubert Dubayet. The novels contain some excellent descriptions of New Orleans.