Edited by Robert B. Bush
Grace King of New Orleans: A Selection of Her Writings
Not as well-known as some of her contemporaries--Mark Twain, George W. Cable, and Joel Chandler Harris, to name a few--author and historian Grace King (1851-1932) was nonetheless highly praised in her own right. She garnered attention from such eminent critics as William Dean Howells, and her work frequently appeared in Harper's and Century Magazine. She published thirteen volumes of fiction, history, biography, and memoir. What contributed to King's critical acclaim, and her continued importance across time was the panoramic view of social and historical New Orleans that she captured in her writing. She was, scholar Robert Bush argues, one of the most talented and perceptive citizens of New Orleans during the post-Civil War period.
In pursuing an intellectual career, King broke with many Old South traditions. She embraced Anglo-Saxon and Creole French cultures. Much of her work is especially interesting for the way in which her view of the southern temper and cultural contribution supplemented that of other writers of the period.
In his introduction, Bush analyzes the breadth of King's work, leading the reader on a biographical journey that clearly establishes King as an important symbol of a bygone era. He then offers selections that cover the full range of her writing: chapters from her autobiography, Memories of a Southern Woman of Letters; her major short fiction, including five uncollected stories and the best of her Balcony Stories; a large portion of The Pleasant Ways of St. Médard, a novel about life during Reconstruction; sections from her historical writings, including New Orleans: The Place and the People; a series of biographical sketches of Mark Twain and others; excerpts from her notebooks; and a group of more than twenty letters. Grace King of New Orleans offers readers a nuanced understanding of King's impressions of the people and places of New Orleans as well as southern life and culture.