Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) has long been marginalised as a failed Victorian Romantic whose writings on Japan were poetic but inconsequential; as a person, he emerges as a one-dimensional neurotic.
In this new study, based on a wealth of hitherto unpublished sources, as well as a fresh reading of Hearn's writings, Paul Murray reveals a multi-faceted character of considerable depth, intelligence and literary skill.
This is a book, therefore, that will appeal on many levels. The story of Hearn's life makes fascinating reading; his fantastic journey took him from conception outside marriage on a Greek island to a protected upbringing in Dublin; from a Gothic education in England to Cincinnati in the United States where, as Paddy Hearn, he established himself as a journalist of the macabre par excellence.
In New Orleans, in the 1860s, he transformed himself into Lafcadio Hearn, litterateur and a man of the South. Finally after two years in the West Indies, he spent the last fourteen years of his life in Japan - arriving in 'the land of the gods' in the spring of 1890.
Although it was always to be an ambiguous relationship with his adopted country, Hearn gave to the world some of the most valuable and enduring insights into Japanese society and culture that continue to stand the test of time.
For students of the Anglo-Irish tradition, a little explored strand of Hearn's heritage, this book is also essential reading, providing substantial insights into Hearn's mastery of the literary horror genre.
Equally, students of Japan will want to understand, for the first time, the make-up and motivation of one of its greatest ever Western interpreters.