Lafcadio Hearn

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Lafcadio Hearn

Patricio Lafcadio Carlos Hearne (27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904) was a Greek-born journalist, author and academic. He was brought up in Ireland and lived for many years in the United States before moving to Japan, taking Japanese citizenship, and adopting the name Yakumo Koizumi.


  • How sweet Japanese woman is! All the possibilities of the race for goodness seem to be concentrated in her.
    • Letter to Basil Hall Chamberlain, cited from Basil Hall Chamberlain Things Japanese (London: Kegan Paul, 1891) p. 453.
  • Whatever doubts or vexations one has in Japan, it is only necessary to ask one's self: "Well, who are the best people to live with?"
    • Letter to Ernest Fenollosa, August 1891, cited from Elizabeth Bisland (ed.) Life and Letters (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1922) vol. 2, p. 160.
  • Japanese affection is not uttered in words; it scarcely appears even in the tone of voice; it is chiefly shown in acts of exquisite courtesy and kindness.
    • "Of the Eternal Feminine" (1893), cited from Out of the East; and, Kokoro (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1922) p. 79.
  • My friends are much more dangerous than my enemies. These latter – with infinite subtlety – spin webs to keep me out of places where I hate to go, – and tell stories of me to people whom it would be vanity and vexation to meet; – and they help me so much by their unconscious aid that I almost love them.
    • Letter to Ernest Fenollosa, December 1898, cited from Elizabeth Bisland (ed.) Life and Letters (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923) vol. 3, p. 147.
  • Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.
    • Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn.

Out of the East[edit]

Lafcadio Hearn, Out of the East: Reveries and Studies in New Japan (Cosimo, Inc., 2006).

  • It may remain for us to learn … that our task is only beginning; and that there will never be given to us even the ghost of any help, save the help of unutterable unthinkable Time. We may have to learn that the infinite whirl of death and birth, out of which we cannot escape, is of our own creation, of our own seeking;—that the forces integrating worlds are the errors of the Past;—that the eternal sorrow is but the eternal hunger of insatiable desire;—and that the burnt-out suns are rekindled only by the inextinguishable passions of vanished lives.
    • pp. 156–7.

Books and Habits[edit]

Quotations are cited from John Erskine (ed.) Books and Habits: From the Lectures of Lafcadio Hearn (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1921).

  • Any idealism is a proper subject for art.
    • p. 22.
  • The time of illusion, then, is the beautiful moment of passion; it represents the artistic zone in which the poet or romance writer ought to be free to do the very best that he can.
    • p. 23.
  • But what is after all the happiness of mere power? There is a greater happiness possible than to be lord of heaven and earth; that is the happiness of being truly loved.
    • p. 70.


  • Mr Hearn began really to count as a writer only when his Hellenic qualities of mind, stunted at first by the conditions of life in North America, were at last developed among a people distinguished by somewhat of that instinctive feeling for beauty which formed an incomparable element in the genius of ancient Greece. His æsthetic sense luxuriated in a land where fineness of taste is still a common characteristic. Through the gate of their art he entered, not only into the ways of life of the Japanese, but into their moods and their religion.
  • To denounce Hearn is the same thing as a denunciation of Japan. Lafcadio Hearn was as Japanese as haiku.
    • Yone Noguchi Lafcadio Hearn in Japan (London: Elkin Mathews, 1910) p. 20.

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