Two Years in the French West Indies


Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904) was an international writer best known for his books about Japan. Born on the Greek island of Lefkáda, the son of an Irish father and a Greek mother, he was raised in England, Ireland, and France and immigrated to the United States at age 19. He lived first in Cincinnati, where he landed a job as a journalist, and then moved to New Orleans in 1877, where he wrote for several newspapers. His impressionistic writings about the city caught the eye of editors at Harper’s Magazine, which in 1887 sent Hearn to the West Indies as a correspondent. The first part of this book is an account of Hearn’s “midsummer trip to the tropics,” which took him from New York to the Lesser Antilles, with stops in Saint Kitts, Dominica, Martinique, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad, Grenada, and Saint Lucia. Hearn was captivated by the French-ruled island of Martinique and its people, where he came to live for two years. The second part of the book consists of 14 sketches of the island, all with French or Creole titles. The book includes photographs, drawings, and an appendix that discusses the music of Martinique and reproduces the melody and lyrics of several Creole songs. In 1890, the year this work was published, Hearn traveled to Japan, where he eventually settled, married a Japanese woman, and became a naturalized Japanese citizen.

Last updated: May 18, 2015