Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Lafcadio Hearn to Basil Hall Chamberlain

Kobe, 1895.

Dear Chamberlain,
I might one of these days get a job in Loochoo, when the country becomes richer,--and explore ghostology. The ghost-business must be simply immense: it must be immense anywhere that the dead are better housed than the living. Of old I felt sure that if the Egyptian demotic texts were translated, the ghostly side of that literature would be amazing for just the same reason. Well, they have been translated; and the ghost-stories are without parallel. Assyrian ghostology is also very awful; but we don't know much about their necropoles, for whatever those were, they were of perishable stuff.

As I told the Houghton firm I had a volume of philosophical fairy-tales in mind, and wanted to read Andersen again, they sent me four volumes; . . . the old charm comes back with tenfold force, and makes me despair. How great the art of the man!--the immense volume of fancy,--the magical simplicity--the astounding force of compression! This isn't mere literary art; it is a soul photographed and phonographed and put, like electricity, in storage. To write like Andersen, one must be Andersen. But the fountain of his inspiration is unexhausted, and I hope to gain by drinking from it. I read, and let the result set up disturbances interiorly. Disturbances emotional I need. I have had no sensations since leaving Kyushu.
Lafcadio Hearn.

-from The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn by Elizabeth Bisland in 2 volumes (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906) p. 251-52.

No comments: