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Charles W. Chesnutt to George Washington Cable, 12 September 1890

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  30 Blackstone Bldg. G. W. Cable, Esq. Northampton, Mass. My dear Mr. Cable:-

Your favor enclosing MS. of "Rena Walden"1 was duly received. I have forwarded it to the "Atlantic", but have not yet learned its fate.2 I thank you very much for your kindly criticism and encouragement, and realize that it is a much better story from having passed through your hands. And while there is still doubtless room for improvement, the final draft , after your and Mr. Gilder's criticisms, can hardly be compared with the crude sketch first shown you.3 I thank you for your faith in the story and in me, and hope that time will justify it.

I am looking forward to the time when your own long literary silence will be broken, which I presume will be by your new new novel.

Sincerely 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. "Rena Walden" was a short story Chesnutt worked on intermittently over ten years, ultimately becoming the novel The House Behind the Cedars (1900). In 1889 and 1890, Chesnutt shared several drafts with George Washington Cable. It was rejected by The Century and the Atlantic Monthly in 1890, and in 1891 by Houghton Mifflin as part of a collection Chesnutt proposed and wanted to title "Rena Walden and Other Stories."[back]

2. Chesnutt informed George Washington Cable of the Atlantic Monthly's rejection in his September 22, 1890, letter.[back]

3. George Washington Cable, on Chesnutt's behalf, had sent the manuscript of "Rena Walden" to Richard Watson Gilder, the editor of The Century, in February 1890.[back]