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George Washington Cable

CABLE, George Washington, author, born in New Orleans, Louisiana, 12 October, 1844. On his father's side he springs from an old family of colonial Virginia. The Cabells originally spelled the name Cable, and their ancient coats of arms introduce the cable as an accessory. His mother was of old New England stock. The family removed to New Orleans soon after the financial crisis of 1837, and for a time the father prospered in business. In 1859 he failed, and died shortly afterward, leaving the family in such straitened circumstances that the son was obliged to leave school and seek employment as a clerk. He was thus engaged until 1863, when, though very slight and youthful in his appearance and but nineteen years of age, he volunteered in the Confederate service, joining the 4th Mississippi cavalry. He employed the leisure of camp-life in study, but saw his share of active service, and is described as a good and daring soldier. He was wounded in the left arm, and narrowly escaped with his life. Returning penniless to New Orleans, after the overthrow of the Confederacy, he began to earn a living as an errand-boy in a mercantile house, and varying fortune sent him to Kosciusko, Mississippi, and subsequently, after he had studied civil-engineering, to the Teche country, where he was attached to a surveying expedition on the levees of the Atchafalaya. There he caught the malarial fever peculiar to the region, and did not fully recover for two years. During this time he collected material that has since done good literary service. He began writing for the New Orleans " Picayune" over the pen-name of "Drop Shot," contributing critical and humorous papers and occasionally a poem, and he was soon regularly attached to the editorial staff, which connection was abruptly ended all his refusal, from conscientious motives, to write a theatrical criticism.

Once more he became a clerk and accountant, this time for a cotton-dealer, and retained his place until 1879, when the sudden death of the head of the house threw him out of employment. But in the mean time his sketches of ere-ole life, published in "Scribner's Monthly" (now the " Century") proved so successful that he determined to give all his time to literature, he has opened a new field in fiction, introducing to the outside world a phase of American life hitherto unsuspected save by those that have seen it. His rendering of the Creole dialect, with its French and Spanish variants, is full of originality, and his keen powers of observation have enabled him to depict the social life of the Louisiana lowlands, Creole and Negro, so vividly that he has given serious offence to those whose portraits he has drawn. He has been the means through his publications of effecting reforms in the contract system of convict labor in the southern states. He has successfully entered the lecture-field, reading selections from his own writings, and unaffectedly singing to northern audiences the strange, wild melodies current among the French-speaking Negroes of the lower Mississippi. Mr. Cable's published works are "Old Creole Days" (New York, 1879); "The Grandissimes" (1880); "Madame Delphine" (1881); "Dr. Sevier" (Boston, 1883); "The Creoles of Louisiana" (New York, 1884); " The Silent South" (1885). He has also prepared for the government elaborate reports on the condition of the inhabitants of the Teche and Attakapas country in western Louisiana.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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