"A proof of really great art is that it is generally true - it seldom falls into the misapprehensions to which minor art is liable." -- Lafcadio Hearn
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (27 June 1850 — 26 September 1904), also known as after gaining Japanese citizenship, was an author, best known for his books about Japan. He is especially well-known for his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Stories and Studies of Strange Things.
"A great many things which in times of lesser knowledge we imagined to be superstitious or useless, prove to-day on examination to have been of immense value to mankind.""Accordingly the Northern races of Europe found their inspiration in the Bible; and the enthusiasm for it has not yet quite faded away.""Any idealism is a proper subject for art.""As a result, the highly civilized man can endure incomparably more than the savage, whether of moral or physical strain. Being better able to control himself under all circumstances, he has a great advantage over the savage.""At last, in 1611, was made, under the auspices of King James, the famous King James version; and this is the great literary monument of the English language.""Broad tolerance in the matter of beliefs is necessarily a part of the new ethics.""But every great scripture, whether Hebrew, Indian, Persian, or Chinese, apart from its religious value will be found to have some rare and special beauty of its own; and in this respect the original Bible stands very high as a monument of sublime poetry and of artistic prose.""But the history of the changes produced by a universal idea is not a history of changes in the individual, but of changes brought about by the successive efforts of millions of individuals in the course of many generations.""But what is after all the happiness of mere power? There is a greater happiness possible than to be lord of heaven and earth; that is the happiness of being truly loved.""Contemporary literature in the West has shown some signs of ethical change.""For this reason, to study English literature without some general knowledge of the relation of the Bible to that literature would be to leave one's literary education very incomplete.""French novels generally treat of the relations of women to the world and to lovers, after marriage; consequently there is a great deal in French novels about adultery, about improper relations between the sexes, about many things which the English public would not allow.""I often imagine that the longer he studies English literature the more the Japanese student must be astonished at the extraordinary predominance given to the passion of love both in fiction and in poetry.""In the world of reality the more beautiful a work of art, the longer, we may be sure, was the time required to make it, and the greater the number of different minds which assisted in its development.""Is woman a religion? Well, perhaps you will have the chance of judging for yourselves if you go to America. There you will find men treating women with just the same respect formerly accorded only to religious dignitaries or to great nobles.""It has been wisely observed by the greatest of modern thinkers that mankind has progressed more rapidly in every other respect than in morality.""It is no exaggeration to say that the English Bible is, next to Shakespeare, the greatest work in English literature, and that it will have much more influence than even Shakespeare upon the written and spoken language of the English race.""It is true that short forms of poetry have been cultivated in the Far East more than in modern Europe; but in all European literature short forms of poetry are to be found - indeed quite as short as anything in Japanese.""Of course, the simple explanation of the fact is that marriage is the most important act of man's life in Europe or America, and that everything depends upon it.""One of the great defects of English books printed in the last century is the want of an index.""Perhaps there is an idea among Japanese students that one general difference between Japanese and Western poetry is that the former cultivates short forms and the latter longer ones, gut this is only in part true.""Some persons have ventured to say that it is only since Englishmen ceased to believe in the Bible that they began to discover how beautiful it was.""The great principle of Western society is that competition rules here as it rules in everything else. The best man - that is to say, the strongest and cleverest - is likely to get the best woman, in the sense of the most beautiful person.""The highest duty of the man is not to his father, but to his wife; and for the sake of that woman he abandons all other earthly ties, should any of these happen to interfere with that relation.""The proverbial philosophy of a people helps us to understand more about them than any other kind of literature.""The subject of Finnish poetry ought to have a special interest for the Japanese student, if only for the reason that Finnish poetry comes more closely in many respects to Japanese poetry than any other form of Western poetry.""The time of illusion, then, is the beautiful moment of passion; it represents the artistic zone in which the poet or romance writer ought to be free to do the very best that he can.""The Western poet and writer of romance has exactly the same kind of difficulty in comprehending Eastern subjects as you have in comprehending Western subjects.""There are two methods for the literary study of any book - the first being the study of its thought and emotion; the second only that of its workmanship. A student of literature should study some of the Bible from both points of view.""There is one type of ideal woman very seldom described in poetry - the old maid, the woman whom sorrow or misfortune prevents from fulfilling her natural destiny.""There was very little suicide among the men of the North, because every man considered it his duty to get killed, not to kill himself; and to kill himself would have seemed cowardly, as implying fear of being killed by others.""To ancient Chinese fancy, the Milky Way was a luminous river, - the River of Heaven, - the Silver Stream."
Hearn was born in Lefkada (the origin of his middle name), one of the Greek Ionian Islands. He was the son of Surgeon-major Charles Bush Hearn (of County Offaly, Ireland) and Rosa Antoniou Kassimati, a Greek woman of noble Cerigote lineage through her father, Anthony Cassimati. His father was stationed in Lefkada during the British occupation of the islands. Lafcadio was initially baptized Patricio Lefcadio Hearn in the Greek Orthodox Church. It is not clear that Hearn's parents were ever legally married, and the Irish Protestant relatives on his father's side considered him to have been born out of wedlock. (This may, however, have been because they did not recognize the legitimacy of the Greek Orthodox Church to conduct a marriage ceremony for a Protestant.)
Hearn moved to Dublin, Ireland, at the age of two, where he was brought up in the suburb of Rathmines. Other members of his family also pursued artistic and bohemian interests. His father's brother Richard was at one time a well-known member of the Barbizon set of artists, though he made no mark as a painter, possibly due to a lack of personal ambition. Young Hearn had a rather casual education, but in 1865 was at Ushaw Roman Catholic College, Durham. He was injured in a playground accident in his teens, causing loss of vision in his left eye.
The religious faith in which he was brought up was, however, soon lost, and at 19 he was sent to live in the United States of America, where he settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. For a time, he lived in utter poverty. He eventually found a friend in the English printer and communalist Henry Watkin. With Watkin's help, Hearn picked up a living in the lower grades of newspaper work.
Through the strength of his talent as a writer, Hearn quickly advanced through the newspaper ranks and became a reporter for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, working for the paper from 1872 to 1875. With creative freedom in one of Cincinnati's largest circulating newspapers, he became known for his florid accounts of local murders, developing a reputation as the paper's premier sensational journalist, as well as the author of sensitive, dark, and fascinating accounts of Cincinnati's disadvantaged. The Library of America selected one of these murder accounts, "Gibbeted," for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime, published in 2008.
Hearn continued to occupy himself with journalism and with out-of-the-way observation and reading, and meanwhile his erratic, romantic, and rather morbid idiosyncrasies developed. While in Cincinnati, he married Alethea ("Mattie") Foley, a black woman, an illegal act at the time. When the scandal was discovered and publicized, he was fired from the Enquirer and went to work for the rival Cincinnati Commercial.
In 1874 Hearn and the young Henry Farny, later a renowned painter of the American West, wrote, illustrated, and published a weekly journal of art, literature, and satire they titled Ye Giglampz that ran for nine issues. The Cincinnati Public Library reprinted a facsimile of all nine issues in 1983.
In the autumn of 1877, Hearn left Cincinnati for New Orleans, Louisiana, where he initially wrote dispatches on his discoveries in the "Gateway to the Tropics" for the Cincinnati Commercial. He lived in New Orleans for nearly a decade, writing first for the Daily City Item and later for the Times Democrat. The vast number of his writings about New Orleans and its environs, many of which have not been collected, include the city's Creole population and distinctive cuisine, the French Opera, and Louisiana Voodoo. His writings for national publications, such as Harper's Weekly and Scribner's Magazine, helped mold the popular image of New Orleans as a colorful place with a distinct culture more akin to Europe and the Caribbean than to the rest of North America. His best-known Louisiana works are Gombo Zhèbes, Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs in Six Dialects (1885); La Cuisine Créole (1885), a collection of culinary recipes from leading chefs and noted Creole housewives who helped make New Orleans famous for its cuisine; and Chita: A Memory of Last Island, a novella based on the hurricane of 1856 first published in Harper's Monthly in 1888. He also published in Harper's Weekly the first known written article (1883) about Filipinos in the United States, the Manilamen or Tagalags, one of whose villages he had visited at Saint Malo, southeast of Lake Borgne in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana. He was little known then and even today he is relatively unknown for his writing about the city outside the circle of New Orleans cultural devotees. However, more books have been written about him than any former resident of New Orleans other than Louis Armstrong. His footprint in the history of Creole cooking is visible even today. A chronicle of Creole cuisine | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
Hearn's writings for the New Orleans newspapers included impressionistic sketches of places and characters and many stern, vigorous editorials denouncing political corruption, street crime, violence, intolerance, and the failures of public health and hygiene officials. Despite the fact that he is credited with "inventing" New Orleans as an exotic and mysterious place, his obituaries on the vodou leaders Marie Laveau and Doctor John Montenet are matter-of-fact and debunking. A selection of Hearn's writings were collected in S. Fredrick Starr's book Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn, published by the University Press of Mississippi.
Harper's sent Hearn to the West Indies as a correspondent in 1887. He spent two years in Martinique and produced two books: Two Years in the French West Indies and Youma, The Story of a West-Indian Slave, both in 1890.
Later life in Japan
In 1890, Hearn went to Japan with a commission as a newspaper correspondent, which was quickly broken off. It was in Japan, however, that he found his home and his greatest inspiration. Through the goodwill of Basil Hall Chamberlain, Hearn gained a teaching position in the summer of 1890 at the Shimane Prefectural Common Middle School and Normal School in Matsue, a town in western Japan on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Most Japanese identify Hearn with Matsue, as it was here that his image of Japan was molded. Today, the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and his old residence are still two of Matsue's most popular tourist attractions. During his 15-month stay in Matsue, Hearn married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a local samurai family, and became a naturalized Japanese, taking the name Koizumi Yakumo.
In late 1891, Hearn took another teaching position in Kumamoto, Kyushu, at the Fifth Higher Middle School, where he spent the next three years and completed his book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894). In October 1894 he secured a journalism position with the English-language Kobe Chronicle, and in 1896, with some assistance from Chamberlain, he began teaching English literature at Tokyo University, a post he held until 1903. In 1904, he was a professor at Waseda University. On September 26, 1904, he died of heart failure at the age of 54.
In the late 19th century Japan was still largely unknown and exotic to the Western world. However, with the introduction of Japanese aesthetics, particularly at the Paris World's Fair of 1900, the West developed an insatiable appetite for exotic Japan. Consequently, Hearn became known to the world through the depth, originality, sincerity, and charm of his writings. In later years, some critics would accuse Hearn of exoticizing Japan, but as the man who offered the West some of its first glimpses into pre-industrial and Meiji Era Japan, his work still offers valuable insight today.
The Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi adapted four Hearn tales into his 1965 film, Kwaidan. Some of his stories have been adapted by Ping Chong into his trademark puppet theatre, including the 1999 Kwaidan and the 2002 Tales of Moonlight and Rain.
Hearn's life and works were celebrated in The Dream of a Summer Day, a play that toured Ireland in April and May 2005, which was staged by the Storytellers Theatre Company and directed by Liam Halligan. It is a detailed dramatization of Hearn's life, with four of his ghost stories woven in.
Yone Noguchi is quoted as saying about Hearn, "His Greek temperament and French culture became frost-bitten as a flower in the North."
There is also a cultural center named for Hearn at the University of Durham.
Hearn was a major translator of the short stories of Guy de Maupassant.
In Ian Fleming's 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, James Bond retorts to his nemesis Blofeld's comment of "Have you ever heard the Japanese expression kirisute gomen?" with "Spare me the Lafcadio Hearn, Blofeld."
Benfey, Christopher, ed. (2009). Lafcadio Hearn: American Writings (Library of America). ("Some Chinese Ghosts" ? "Chita" ? "Two Years in the French West Indies" ? "Youma" ? "Selected Journalism and Letters")
Bisland, Elizabeth. (1906). The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn, Vol. I. New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company.
__________________. (1906). The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn, Vol. II. New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company.
Bronner, Milton, editor, Letters from the Raven: Being the Correspondence of Lafcadio Hearn with Henry Watkin (1907)
Cott, Jonathan. Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn (1991)
Gould, G. M. Concerning Lafcadio Hearn (1908)
Hearn, Lafcadio, Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn,S. Frederick Starr, editor (University Press of Mississippi, 2001)
Hearn, Lafcadio. Lafcadio Hearn's America, Simon J. Bronner, editor (2002)
Kennard, Nina H., Lafcadio Hearn; containing some letters from Lafcadio Hearn to his half-sister, Mrs. Atkinson (New York, D. Appleton and company, 1912) 
Lurie, David. "Orientomology: The Insect Literature of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904)", in JAPANimals: History and Culture in Japan's Animal Life, ed. Gregory M. Pflugfelder and Brett L. Walker, University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Noguchi, Yone. Lafcadio Hearn in Japan (1910)
Pulvers, Roger. Lafcadio Hearn: interpreter of two disparate worlds, Japan Times, January 19, 2000
Starrs, Roy "Lafcadio Hearn as Japanese Nationalist", in "Nichibunken Japan Review: Journal of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies", Number 18, 2006, pp. 181—213.