Lafcadio Hearn

Eyridiki Sellou | Nov 9, 2022

Table of Content


Lafcadio Hearn (Lefkada, 27 June 1850 - Tokyo, 26 September 1904) or Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (English: Patrick Lafcadio Hearn), also known by his Japanese name Yakumo Koizumi (Japanese: 小泉八雲) of Irish-Greek descent who received Japanese citizenship in 1896, best known for his books on Japan, particularly his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. In the United States, Hearn is also known for his writings about the city of New Orleans, based on his ten-year stay in the city. He is considered one of Japan's most important writers.

The relatively short life of Lafcadio Hearn can be divided into three major periods of roughly equal length: the "European" (1850-1869), the "American" (1869-1890) and the "Japanese" (1890-1904).

Europe (1850-1869)

Hearn was born in Lefkada, from where he took his name, on 27 June 1850. He was the son of the surgeon Major Charles Bush Hearn (from County Ophaly, Ireland) and Rosa Antoniou Kasimatis, a Greek of noble birth from Kythera by her father Antonio Kasimatis. His father served in Lefkada during the British occupation of the Ionian Islands, where he was the highest ranking surgeon in his regiment. Lafcadio was baptized Patricio Lafcadio Hearn in the church of Agia Paraskevi in Lefkada, but it appears that in English he was called Patricio Lafcadio Tessima Carlos Hearn. Hearn's parents married in a Greek Orthodox wedding on 25 November 1849, a few months after his mother had given birth to the couple's first child and Hearn's older brother, George Robert Hearn, on 23 July 1849. George Hearn died on 17 August 1850, two months after the birth of Lefkadian. The house where the young Lafcadio lived in Lefkada still exists.

A complex series of disputes and events resulted in Lafcadio Hearn, at the age of two, moving from Greece to Ireland, where he was abandoned first by his mother (who left him in the care of her husband's aunt), then by his father and finally by his father's aunt, who had been appointed his guardian.

In 1850 Hearn's father was promoted to Second Class Service Surgeon and transferred from Lefkada to the British West Indies (in the Caribbean). As his family did not approve of the marriage and were concerned that the relationship might damage his career prospects, Charles Hearn did not inform his superiors about his son or his pregnant wife and left his family behind. In 1852 Charles Hearn arranged to send his son and wife to live with his family in Dublin, Ireland, where they received a cold reception. Charles Hearn's mother, Elizabeth Holmes Hearn, found it difficult to accept Rosa Hearn's Catholicism and her lack of education (she was illiterate and spoke no English). And Rosa found it difficult to adopt a foreign culture and the Protestantism of her husband's family and eventually came under the care of Elizabeth's sister, Sarah Holmes Brennan, a widow who had converted to Catholicism.

Despite Sarah Brennan's efforts, Rosa suffered from homesickness. When her husband returned to Ireland on medical leave in 1853, it became clear that the couple had become estranged. Charles Hearn was posted to the Crimea, again leaving a pregnant wife and child in Ireland. When he returned in 1856, seriously wounded, Rosa had returned to her home in Kythera, Greece, where she gave birth to their third son, Daniel James Hearn. Lefcadio had been left in the care of Sarah Brennan.

Charles Hearn applied to have his marriage to Rosa annulled, on the basis that her signature was missing from the marriage contract, which made it void under English law. On being informed of the annulment, Rosa immediately married Giovanni Cavallini, a Greek citizen of Italian origin, who was later appointed by the British as governor of Antikythera. Cavallini made it a condition of the marriage that he give up custody of both Lefkadius and James. Thus James was sent to his father in Dublin and Lefcadio remained in the care of Sarah Brennan (Brennan had disowned Charles because of the annulment of the marriage). Neither Lefcadio nor James ever saw their mother again, who had four children by her second husband. Rosa was eventually committed to the Public Asylum in Corfu, where she died in 1882.

Charles Hearn, who had left Lefcadio in the care of Sarah Brennan for the past four years, has now appointed her as his permanent guardian. He married his childhood sweetheart, Alicia Goslin, in July 1857, and left with his new wife for a posting to Secunderabad, India, where they had three daughters before Alicia's death in 1861. Lefkadius never saw his father again: Charles Hearn died of malaria in the Gulf of Suez in 1866.

In 1857, at the age of seven, and despite the fact that both his parents were still alive, Hearn became the permanent ward of his great-aunt Sarah Brennan, who divided her residence between Dublin in the winter months, her husband's estate at Tramor on the coast of Southern Ireland and a house in Bangor, North Wales. Brennan also employed a tutor during the school year to provide basic education and the fundamentals of Catholic doctrine. Hearn began to explore Brennan's library and read a lot of Greek literature, particularly mythology.

In 1861 Hearn's aunt, knowing that Hearn was moving away from Catholicism and at the urging of Henry Hearn Molinet, a relative of her late husband and a distant cousin of Hearn's, enrolled him in the Ecclesiastical Institute, a Catholic ecclesiastical school in Yvetot, France. Hearn's experiences at the seminary confirmed his lifelong belief that Christian education consisted of "conventional dullness and ugliness and filthy rigor and sulkiness and jingoism and terrible distortion of children's brains." Hearn became fluent in French and would later translate into English the works of Guy de Maupassant, who coincidentally attended the school shortly after Hearn's departure.

In 1863, again at Molyneux's suggestion, Hearn enrolled at St Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, a Catholic theological school, now the University of Durham in north-east England. In this environment Hearn adopted the nickname Paddy, to better fit in, and was the first student in the English Exposition for three years. At the age of sixteen, in Ashaw, Hearn injured his left eye in an accident in the schoolyard. The eye became infected and, despite visits to specialists in Dublin and London and a year of sick leave from school, he went blind. Hearn also had increased myopia, so his injury left him with permanently impaired vision, forcing him to carry a magnifying glass for close-up work and a pocket telescope to see anything at close range (Hearn avoided glasses, believing they would gradually weaken his vision further). The iris was permanently faded and made Hearn nervous about his appearance for the rest of his life, making him cover his left eye when conversing and posing for profile photos so his left eye was not visible.

In 1867 Henry Moline, who had become Sarah Brennan's financial manager, went bankrupt with her. There was no money for tuition and Hearne was sent to the East End of London to live with Brennan's former maid. She and her husband had no time or money for Hearn, who wandered the streets, spent his time in workhouses and generally lived an aimlessly uprooted life. His main intellectual activities consisted of visits to libraries and the British Museum.

America (1869-1890)

No American writer of the nineteenth century lived a stranger life.

By 1869 Henry Moline had regained some financial stability and Brennan, at 75, was an invalid. Deciding to stop spending on the nineteen-year-old Hern, she bought a one-way ticket to New York and instructed Hern to go to Cincinnati, find Molineux's sister and her husband, Thomas Cullinan, and have their help to live. When he met with Hearn in Cincinnati, the family didn't have much to give him. Cullinan gave him $5 and wished him luck. As Hearn would later write, "I dropped in to begin life penniless on the sidewalk of an American city."

For some time he was impoverished, living in stables or warehouses in exchange for chattel work. Eventually he became friends with the English printer and commoner Henry Watkin, who employed him in his printing press, helped him find various odd jobs, lent him books from his library, including the Utopians Fourier, Dixon, and Noyes, and gave him a nickname that stuck with him for the rest of his life, The Raven, from Poe's poem. Hearn also hung out at the Cincinnati Public Library, which at the time had about 50,000 volumes. In the spring of 1871 a letter from Henry Moline informed him of Sarah Brennan's death and Moline's appointment as sole executor of the will. Although Brennan had named him as the beneficiary of an annual annuity when she became his guardian, Hearn received nothing from the estate and never heard from Molineux again.

On the strength of his talent as a writer, Hearn took a job as a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer, working for the paper from 1872 to 1875. Writing with creative freedom for one of the largest newspapers circulating in Cincinnati, he became known for his gruesome descriptions of local murders, cultivating a reputation as the paper's leading sensationalist reporter, as well as the author of sensitive descriptions of some of Cincinnati's disadvantaged individuals. After one of his murder stories, The Tanyard Murder, had run for months in 1874, Hearn cemented his reputation as Cincinnati's boldest reporter, and the Enquirer raised his salary from $10 to $25 a week.

The Library of America (a non-profit publisher of American literature) chose one of these murder accounts, Gibbeted, to include in its 2008 review of two centuries of American True Crime.

In 1874 Hearn and a young Henry Farney (1847-1916, French-born painter and illustrator), later a famous painter of the American West, wrote, illustrated and published an eight-page weekly magazine of art, literature and satire called Ye Giglampz. The work was considered by a twentieth-century critic to be "Perhaps the most exciting long-running project undertaken by Hearn."

The Cincinnati Public Library reprinted a copy of the nine total issues in 1983.

On June 14, 1874, Hearn, 24, married Alithia (Mattie) Foley, a 20-year-old African American woman, an act that violated Ohio's anti-miscegenation law at the time. In August 1875, responding to complaints from local clergy about his anti-religious views and pressure from local politicians offended by some of his satirical writings in Ye Giglampz, the Enquirer fired him, citing his illegal marriage as the reason. He took a job at rival paper The Cincinnati Commercial. The Enquirer offered to rehire him when his stories began to appear in the Commercial and his circulation began to increase, but Hearn, angered by the paper's behavior, refused. Hearn and Foley separated, but tried to reconcile several times before divorcing in 1877. Foley remarried in 1880.

While working for the Commercial, Hearn agreed to be carried to the top of Cincinnati's tallest building on the back of a bell repairman, Joseph Rodriguez Weston, and wrote a half-horrifying, half-comic account of his experience. Also at the same time, Hearn wrote a series of descriptions of Cincinnati's Bucktown and Levi's neighborhoods " of the few pictures we have of black life in a frontier town in the post-Civil War period." He also recorded countless song lyrics that he heard black musicians of the time sing.

In the autumn of 1877, recently divorced from Mattie Foley and restless, Hearn had begun to neglect his newspaper job to translate into English the works of the French writer Gaultier. He was also becoming increasingly disillusioned with Cincinnati, writing to Henry Watkin, "It's time to leave Cincinnati when they start calling it the Paris of America." With the support of Watkin and Cincinnati Commercial editor Mirat Halstead, Hearn left Cincinnati for New Orleans, where he initially wrote correspondents for the Commercial in his Gateway to the Tropics column.

Hearn lived in New Orleans for nearly a decade, writing first for the Daily City Item, beginning in June 1878, and later for the Times Democrat. As the Item was a four-page publication, Hearn's editorial work dramatically changed the character of the paper. He began at the Item as a news editor and then expanded to include book reviews of Francis Brett Hart and Emile Zola, summaries of pieces in national magazines such as Harper's, and journalistic articles quoting Buddhist and Sanskrit texts. As an editor, Hearn created and published nearly two hundred prints of everyday life and people in New Orleans, making the Item the first Southern newspaper to introduce sketches and giving it an immediate circulation boost. Hearn stopped carving the woodcuts after six months, when he found the strain too much for his eye.

In late 1881 Hearn took an editorial position at the Times Democrat in New Orleans and worked translating articles from French and Spanish newspapers, as well as writing articles and reviews on subjects of his choice. He also continued his work translating French writers into English: Gerard de Nerval, Anatole France, and especially Pierre Loti, a writer who influenced Hearn's own writing style.

Hearn also published in Harper's Weekly the first known article (1883) about the Filipinos in the United States, the Manilamen or Tagalogs, one of whose villages he had visited in St. Malo, Louisiana.

His vast number of writings on New Orleans and its environs, many of which have not been collected, concern, among other things, the city's Creole population and its special cuisine, the French Opera, Louisiana Voodoo and Black Music.

Hearn's writings for national publications such as Harper's Weekly and Scribner's Magazine helped establish New Orleans' reputation as a city with a distinct culture, more akin to that of Europe and the Caribbean than North America.

Hearn wrote enthusiastically about New Orleans, but he also wrote about the city's decline, "a dead bride crowned with orange blossoms."

Hearn's writings for the New Orleans newspapers included impressionistic descriptions of places and characters and many articles denouncing political corruption, street crime, violence, intolerance and the failures of public education and health officials. Although credited with "inventing" New Orleans as a place of exotic and mystery, his obituaries of voodoo leaders Marie Leveau and Dr. John Montaigne were pragmatic and demystifying. Hearn's collections of writings on New Orleans have been collected and published in many works, beginning with Creole Sketches in 1924 and most recently (2001) in Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lefkadian Hearn.

Hearn's best-known books in Louisiana are:

At the time he lived there, Hearn was little known, as he still is today for his writings about New Orleans, except to local culture enthusiasts. However, of those who have lived in New Orleans, more books have been written about Louis Armstrong alone than about Hearn.

Harper's sent Hearn to the French West Indies as a correspondent in 1887. He spent two years in Martinique and, in addition to writing for the magazine, he wrote two books: Two Years in the French West Indies and Yuma, the Story of a West Indian Slave.

Japan (1890-1904)

No other country's face is more like Greece's than Japan's.

In 1890 Hearn went to Japan on an assignment as a newspaper correspondent, which was quickly terminated. In Japan, however, he found a home and his greatest inspiration. With the help of Basil Hall Chamberlain (an English professor at the University of Tokyo), Hearn obtained a professorship in the summer of 1890 at the Shimane Prefectural School in Matsue, a city in western Japan on the coast of the Sea of Japan.

During his fifteen-month stay in Matsue, Hearn married Setsu Koizumi (1868-1932), daughter of a local samurai family, with whom he had four children, Kazuo (1893-1965), Iwao (1897-1937), Kiyoshi (1900-1962) and Sujuko (1903-1944).

The Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and his old residence are two more of Matsue's most popular tourist attractions.

In late 1891 Hearn moved to Kumamoto, Kyushu, where, with Chamberlain's help, he secured a professorship at the Fifth Senior School. He lived in Kumamoto for the next three years and completed his first book on Japan, Glimpses of Unknown Japan (1894).

In October 1894 he was hired as a reporter for the English-language newspaper The Kobe Chronicle.

In January 1896 Lafcadio Hearn was naturalized as a Japanese, taking the name Yakumo Koizumi, and in August, with some help from Chamberlain, he began teaching English literature at the Imperial University of Tokyo, a job he held until 1903.

In 1904 he was a professor at Waseda University in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

On 26 September 1904 he died of cardiac arrest at the age of 54. His grave is in Zoshigaya Cemetery, Toshima, Tokyo.

A small funeral procession carried his body to the old Koboupera church. In front were the Buddhist banners, behind were two small children carrying live birds in small cages to be set free, symbolizing the escape of the soul from its shackles. Following were the people carrying the coffin, further behind were the priests with their bells and food for the deceased, while the procession was closed by the family and friends of the deceased. On the plaque set up by his students was the following text:

To Lafcadio Hearn, whose pen was mightier even than the sword of the glorious nation he loved, a nation whose greatest honour was to receive him into its arms as a citizen and offer him, alas, the grave.


The first anthologies of Whitey Hearn's journalistic work in New Orleans, all posthumous editions, are:

His first books, during the American period of his life, are:

All of Lafcadio Hearn's books in Japan were written in English. These are:

Excerpts of the above works under the collective title The Land of Chrysanthemums were published in translation by George Kalamantis by "Kedros" (1998)

A year after his death, the first anthology of his texts, unpublished or not anthologized in a previous book, was published:

Excluding the collection of Creole recipes and the dictionary of Creole proverbs, the twenty preceding books formed the first twelve volumes of Lafcadio Hearn's Answers, sixteen volumes in all, published in 1922, edited by Elizabeth Byland. The last four volumes contain the correspondence and a biography of Lafcadio Hearn. In 2014, three volumes of Lafcadio Hearn's works were published for the first time in Greek by the World Fund for Cytheraic Heritage.


Lafcadio Hearn was one of the first, and most respected, translators of French literature in the United States, translating works by Theophilus Gaultier, Anatole France, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Pierre Loti, Emile Zola and others, and was among the first notable translators of the Japanese literary genre of haiku.

In the late 19th century Japan was still largely unknown and exotic to Westerners. However, with the introduction of Japanese aesthetics, particularly with the 1900 Paris World's Fair, Japanese style became fashionable in Western countries. Thus Hearn became known worldwide for his writings on Japan. In later years some critics would accuse Hearn of idealizing and exoticizing Japan, but his work is of historical value because he provided the West with some of the first pre-industrial descriptions of Japan in the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

The Japanese poet Yone Noguchi (1875-1947) said of Hearn: "His Greek temperament and his French culture froze like a flower in the North.

In Ian Fleming's 1964 novel You Only Live Two Times, James Bond counters Bloffeld's nemesis comment "Have you ever heard of the Japanese expression 'kirishute gomen'?" with the response "Never mind the Lafcadio Hearn, Bloffeld".

Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi adapted four of Hearn's stories in his 1965 film Kaidan (Ghost Stories).

Hearn's life and work were featured in A Midsummer Day's Dream, a play that toured Ireland in April and May 2005, produced by the Storytellers' Theatre Company and directed by Liam Halligan. It is a detailed dramatisation of Hearn's life, including four of his ghost stories.

The first museum in Europe for Lafcadio Hearn was inaugurated as the Lafcadio Hearn Historical Centre at the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Lefkada, on 4 July 2014. The museum includes first editions, rare books and Japanese collectibles. It is housed in a renovated room on the ground floor of the building of the Lefkada Municipality Cultural Centre. With the help of photographs, texts and exhibits, the visitor can navigate through the important moments of the impressive life of Lafcadio Hearn, as well as the cultures of Europe, America and Japan of the late 19th and early 20th century through the open mind of Hearn's lectures, texts and stories. The municipalities of Kumamoto, Matsue, Shinjuku, Yaishu, Toyama University, the Koizumi family and others from Greece and Japan contributed to the creation of the Lafcadio Hearn History Center. The ceremony was attended by the Ambassador of Japan, the Educational Attaché of the Irish Embassy, the great-grandson of Lafcadio Hearn, Bon Koizumi and his wife Soko, the Director of the American College and the internationally renowned sculptor Masaki Noda, whose sculpture adorns the grounds of the Spiritual Centre.

There is also a cultural centre named after Hearn at Durham University in north-east England.

In Japan, three main museums for Lafcadio Hearn are located in Matsue, Kumamoto and Yaishu.


  1. Lafcadio Hearn
  2. Λευκάδιος Χερν
  3. ^ "Lafcadio Hearn". Britannica. Retrieved 18 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b Hirakawa, Sukehiro (29 March 2007). Lafcadio Hearn in International Perspectives. Global Oriental. p. 17. ISBN 978-90-04-21347-0.
  5. Το ιαπωνικό όνομα του Λευκάδιου Χερν, Γιάκουμο Κοϊζούμι, σημαίνει «εκεί όπου γεννιούνται τα σύννεφα»[11][12][13].
  6. Στο YouTube μπορείτε να παρακολουθήσετε ένα ιαπωνικό ντοκιμαντέρ που μετέδωσε το NHK το 1994 για τη ζωή και το έργο του Λευκάδιου Χερν, δημοσιευμένο από τον Μπράντφορντ Χερν, δισέγγονο του αδελφού του Λευκάδιου Χερν, Ντάνιελ Τζέιμς Χερν[27]: Japanese language documentary on Lafcadio Hearn.
  7. Την ίδια χρονιά, το 1887, βρισκόταν στη Μαρτινίκα και ο Πωλ Γκωγκέν, δίχως όμως οι δύο μεγάλοι καλλιτέχνες να συναντηθούν[56][57].
  8. Και ο δισέγγονος του Λευκάδιου Χερν, Μπον Κοϊζούμι, σε διάφορες ευκαιρίες έχει μιλήσει για τις ομοιότητες που υπάρχουν ανάμεσα στο Ματσούε και τη Λευκάδα[58].
  9. Ο Λευκάδιος Χερν, όπως άλλωστε και οι περισσότεροι σύγχρονοί του, αποκαλούσε τα χαϊκού χόκκου, διότι ακόμη δεν είχε ευρέως διαδοθεί η αυτονομία του νέου λογοτεχνικού είδους, που περίπου εκείνη την εποχή συντελείτο από τον Ιάπωνα ποιητή Μασαόκα Σίκι (1867-1902)[67].
  10. ^ [1][collegamento interrotto]
  11. ^ Adelphi, Titolo mancante per url url (aiuto). URL consultato il 2 settembre 2020.
  12. ^ [2]
  13. «Reseña biográfica de la página web del Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum de Shimane».

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