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Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn (Patricio Lafacadio Tessima Carlos Hearn) was born on June 27, 1850 on the Greek island of Leucadia (known from British occupation as Santa Maura). Abandoned by both his parents at an early age, Hearn was raised by his father's widowed aunt, Sarah Brenane. Lonely as a child, Hearn developed an interest in the otherworldly literature of ghost tales and folklore. After an accident in 1863, when a knotted rope struck him in the face, Hearn lost all vision in his left eye. His aunt, suffering financial losses, withdrew Hearn from school in 1867. After living, destitute, in London, he was given passage money to America, with instructions to reach a relative in Cincinnati, Ohio. After arriving in New York City in 1869, Hearn lived in extreme poverty. Sometime around 1871, he made his way to Cincinnati where he was befriended by Henry Watkin, a printer, who taught him to set type and helped him to find work as a type-setter and proof-reader. Hearn began to make a living as a writer and reporter and earned a local reputation for writing about loathsome crimes in a personal, descriptive style. He continued to work on more literary writing as well, translating contemporary French authors like Gautier and Flaubert. Hearn moved to New Orleans in 1877, where he lived for the next ten years, and where he would publish La Cuisine Creole. Although Hearn himself barely knew how to cook, his interest in Creole culture gave him cause to collect the recipes he eventually published in this volume. At the same time, he began writing for a small daily paper called The Item. Given free rein, he wrote short essays about everyday New Orleans experiences, as well as "fantastics" (dreamy meditative tales) and translations of contemporary French literature. He attracted notice and, in 1881, was asked to become literary editor of the New Orleans Times-Democrat. Hearn left New Orleans in 1887 for the West Indies and Martinique. This was a time of great literary production for Hearn. In March of 1890, Hearn left the United States having received a commission to travel to and write a book on Japan. Once there, he began teaching English and writing widely syndicated article on Japanese life and culture. In 1891 he wed Setusko Koizumi, and they eventually had four children. In 1896 he became a Japanese citizen, legally changing his name to Koizumi Yakumo. Circumstances prevented Hearn from ever returning to the United States and he died of heart disease on the island of Honshu, in September 1904, at the age of 54.