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 the city; old relations of the priest-explorers; French novels— Hugo, Merimee, About; English literature and American— Thackeray, Dickens, Poe, Irving. The composite of all this, plus a unique and evanescent quality which we call personality, was already finding form in sketches and stories which Cable was writing for himself and for the New Orleans papers. Some of his stories he showed to King, who advised him to send them to Scribner's. One of these, 'Sieur George, was published the following year; others came at intervals. The young artist was not to be hurried; it was not for half a dozen years that enough had accumulated to make a volume. He had grown slowly upon the American consciousness, but the growth had been steady and sound. Old Creole days (1879) was accepted at once as a masterpiece, and there has been no revulsion of feeling. This collection, together with Madame Delphine the sum-total of his really distinctive short stories, owes its charm not alone to quaintness and strangeness of materials. It is as redolent of Cable as The luck of Roaring camp is of Harte. Cable's technique and his atmospheres may have been influenced by the French, but his style,—epigrammatic, Gallic in its swift shiftings and witty insinuations, daintily light, exquisitely pathetic at times, exotic always in its flavour of the old Creole city so strange to Northern readers,—all this is his own. No one has excelled him as a painter of dainty femininity, as a master of innuendo and suggestion, as a creator of exotic atmospheres. Whether his backgrounds are realistically true we do not ask, and whether his characters are actual types we do not care. They are true to the fundamentals of human life, they are alive, they satisfy, and they are presented ever with exquisite art. Old Creole days stands unique, one of the undisputed masterpieces in the realm of the short story. Two distinct schools ruled the short fiction of the seventies, that vital seed-time of a period: the school of unlocalized art, timeless and placeless, as Poe and Hawthorne had written it, and the new ‘local colour’ school of Harte, which was going more and more to extremes. A few there were like Henry James who went on with their work utterly oblivious of the new demand for the violently localized. T. B. Aldrich1
1 See also Book III, Chap. X.
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