Skip to main content

Charles W. Chesnutt to George Washington Cable, 5 August 1898

Textual Feature Appearance
alterations to base text (additions or deletions) added or deleted text
passage deleted with a strikethrough mark deleted passage
passage deleted by overwritten added text Deleted text Added text
position of added text (if not added inline) [right margin] text added in right margin; [above line] text added above the line
page number, repeated letterhead, etc. page number or repeated letterhead
supplied text [supplied text]
archivist note archivist note

I see it announced that you have returned from your very pleasant and I trust profitable visit to England, of which I have read much here and there.1 Your reception was a well-earned tribute to a rare order of genius as well as to a representative American author.

When I saw you a year ago I told you, I believe, of several stories which the Atlantic had accepted for publication.2 One of them appeared in the July number, and made a very good impression, bringing a letter of praise from a very distinguished author, whose name I am forbidden to mention just at present,3 and drawing out a column notice in the August Bookman, as well as other letters from critics, newspapers and readers. The August Atlantic announces in a very flattering way another story for September, and others still to follow; and I have other publication schemes on foot of which I can not yet speak positively, and therefore will not specify.4 I hope to follow up the good impression made by this story, and if I can accomplish anything of permanent value in literature, I shall attribute no small part of it to the inspiration of your friendship and recognition, which, though our meetings have been rare, I have always cherished as one of the pleasantest things of a life which has not been altogether pleasant.

  CHAS. W. CHESNUTT, 7861024 SOCIETY FOR SAVINGS BLD'G. Cleveland, O. 189 -2-

My daughters were much improved by their year at Smith, and will return next month. They had hoped to get on the campus, but the nearest they could come to it was Stone House, which I understand is a very nice place.5

I shall be glad if you will give my regards to Mrs. Cable, and believe me,

Respectfully and cordially yours, Chas. W. Chesnutt. Mr. Geo. W. Cable, Northampton, Mass.

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. While Cable was lecturing in England, a few articles were published about his reception. The Chicago Inter Ocean remarked that Cable was likely "in a mood to find such a cordial reception, especially gratifying, for at has been with him one of those depressed periods which all successful authors encounter now and then when... they drop, in a measure, out of sight, and have almost to make their careers over again." Periodicals also circulated direct quotes from Cable, like "Mr. Cable's Report" in the Literary World, and many others, such as "Mr. Cable in England" in the Critic, reprinted and excerpted from London serials ("In Literary Fields," The Sunday Inter Ocean 27, no. 115 [July 17, 1898]: 32; "Mr. Cable's Report," The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature 29, no. 16 [August 6, 1898]: 248; "Mr. Cable in England," The Critic: A Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts 32, no. 851 [June 11, 1898]: 387.).[back]

2. Chesnutt reported that the Atlantic Monthly had accepted "The Wife of His Youth" and "The March of Progress" in a letter to Cable on February 20, 1897.[back]

3. Walter H. Page, in his letter on June 28, 1898, enclosed a letter from James Lane Allen, American local color author, that praises Chesnutt's "Wife of His Youth": "I went through it without drawing breath—except to laugh out two or three times. It is the freshest, finest, most admirably held in and wrought out little story that has gladdened—and moistened—my eyes in many months."[back]

4. This Atlantic Monthly announcement has not yet been located. "Another story" is probably a reference to "March of Progress," which did not appear in the Atlantic Monthly for September 1898. Walter H. Page switched this story for "Hot-Foot Hannibal," which appeared in the January 1899 issue. "The March of Progress" appeared in The Century, January 1901. Chesnutt's "other publication schemes" includes the possibility of The Conjure Woman's publication.[back]

5. In an unlocated letter, dated April 12, 1897, Chesnutt solicited Cable for advice about where his daughters, who would begin to attend Smith College in the fall 1897, might find rooms near the campus, as the college was located in Northampton, MA, where Cable lived (George Washington Cable, Charles W. Chesnutt, Matthew Wilson, and Marjan A. van Schaik, "The Letters of George Washington Cable to Charles W. Chesnutt." Modern Language Studies 36, no. 2 [2007]: 31.).[back]