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Charles W. Chesnutt to George Washington Cable, 15 April 1890

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  30 Blackstone Bldg, Cleveland, O. My dear Mr Cable:-

I return you Mr. Gilder's letter. I would , merely from curiosity, (and I think pardonable curiosity in this instance), like to hear what Mr Edwards says about that story.1 I don't press the charge of plagiarism, for it may have happened just as I have said, and as Mr. Gilder, quoting me, repeats. Mr Edwards is justly entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

I hope Mr Gilder will ask for my story, and that he may find it available. This Edwards matter might very naturally predispose him a little in my favor, and added to your favorable suggestions may float the story into the desired haven.

I hope you were not very badly disappointed in the paper on Southern schools,2 and that you may at least find in it and the accompanying documents something useful in the discussion of the problem.

I have heard something about Mr Smiley's proposed "Negro" conference at Lake Mohonk. Whenever you get time to write me a line or two, I would be glad to know whether the conference will materialize or not, and whether or not Mr Smiley has accepted the suggestion you made to him, or what he has to say about it.

Very truly yours, Chas. W Chesnutt.

Correspondent: George Washington Cable (1844–1925) was a reporter, novelist, and critic. He began his career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, writing nearly one hundred columns in two years. After working on a collection of journalistic essays based mostly on historical accounts, Cable turned to writing short stories, novellas, and novels, typically set in New Orleans. In the 1880s, Cable began lecturing, writing essays, and forming organizations focused on social reform, specifically in the areas of Black rights and prison conditions, and in 1885 he moved to Northampton, MA. Cable and Chesnutt met for the first time in Cleveland, on December 21, 1888, at the Congregational Club's Forefather's Day celebration, where Cable was the principal speaker. They began corresponding immediately, and in mid-1889 Cable offered to employ Chesnutt as his secretary in Northampton, MA; Chesnutt declined. Cable visited the Chesnutt home in the fall of 1889, and for two years, their correspondence was frequent, typically about Cable's political efforts on race issues, Chesnutt's writings, or recent publications. After 1891, they corresponded only occasionally.

1. In February 1890, The Century published a short story by Harry Edwards entitled "How Sal Came Through." Chesnutt noted the story's similarity to his story "How Dasdy Came Through," which had appeared three years earlier in Family Fiction. Chesnutt noted this possible plagiarism in a February 5, 1890, letter to George Washington Cable. Cable wrote to The Century editor, Richard Watson Gilder, about the matter. In April, the editor of Family Fiction also noted the similarity, writing to Chesnutt about the "close resemblance" (April 28, 1890). Edwards, in a reply to Gilder, denied any knowledge of Chesnutt's story. On May 9, Cable forwarded this reply to Chesnutt, and on May 15 Chesnutt wrote the Family Fiction editor that he did not want to charge Edwards with plagiarism. [back]

2. The idea for an article about Southern schools seems to have been first discussed when Cable met with Chesnutt in Cleveland in November 1889. Chesnutt mentions working on it in several letters to Cable: December 30, 1889; February 3, 1889; and February 18, 1890. He encloses it with his March 29, 1890, letter. Neither a published nor manuscript version of the article has been located.[back]