Cable's Letters to the Herald
In your issue of the 7th inst. there appears a letter headed New York Literature, part of which alludes to me in terms against which I emphatically protest. Its statements are slanderous and libelous. They do not spare even my trusted friends, but make them, by implication, party to slanders of which they are absolutely incapable. No gentleman could have offered them for publication, and I wonder how you could have thought them worthy of room in your paper. I mean no threat when I say that you would have no just cause for surprise had you heard from me first through an attorney. Not for my sake alone, but for your sake and the sake of my friends slandered with me, you certainly owe me an explanation.
G. W. Cable
Yours of 13th rec'd. I thank you for its tone and hope you will receive my reply in the same reasonable spirit.
My protest must still stand. The matter against which I complain was not news, but gossip. It was an attack upon my private character. It neither contained nor was accompanied privately by any authority for its statements. If it had been true it would keep, for nothing in it required that it be hurried into print. If false it was an outrage against a gentleman, which no retraction could entirely undo.
Moreover it was on its face full of improbabilities. For it charges me with wanton, useless, purblind incivility to my most valued friends. And again, some of the statements concerning my behavior in a friend's house could be well authorized only when they had come first from that friend; but you know whose guest I was and that ought to have been at least cumulative proof to you that no such statement had been made; for that friend is not one who could so far forget himself as to make such complaints against a guest; and a man who could would not be good authority. And still again, it stands to reason that had I in his house last spring behaved with such meanness as is attributed to me in your paper, he could not a few months later have made an engagement with me that made us daily, nightly, constant and only companions for four months.
The name Coleman in your correspondent's letter is either a slip of the pen or a printer's error. While ill at my friend's house last spring (1884) I did not "for nearly 3 weeks almost live on champagne." For a few days while my stomach was in a very delicate condition my physician prescribed champagne with my food in such limited quantity as a medical man would, and I insisted on using it more sparingly than it was prescribed. I was in a house where champagne is not "ordered expressly" for any guest, but where an offer to pay for my champagne would have been about as proper as an offer to pay for my food and lodging. The day I left Hartford I paid for everything I could persuade anybody to let me know of; but had I let my friends have their way I could not have paid a farthing for anything. The statement that I "audited" any memorandum of outlays of any sort--unless to see if I could add some overlooked item--is utterly false. No church in Hartford has asked my aid in any shape. An Art School (as well as I remember) asked me through Hartford friends and acquaintances, to take part in a public reading, and, as my standing contract with my agent requires, I referred them to him, and he consented, but they could not accept the date he gave them. It is ungentlemanly to say of a person's private life "Rumor has it"--thus & so, making the issue turn upon the existence of the rumor instead of upon its truth. But it is preposterous that my companion and friend in our late reading tour should have been made uncomfortable by my "parsimony." All the outlays were made by the traveling manager, except when for the convenience of all concerned I sometimes made small expenditures that the manager would afterward pay back to me, and it was a standing jest between us that I generally had to prevent him cheating himself. The statement that I ordered $5 breakfasts and the like is all absolutely false. Our stay was almost invariably at hotels on the American plan, and as to apartments, I never saw mine until it had been engaged by the manager, and rarely was & never cared to be consulted about it. It is equally false that I rudely declined to join in the "Authors" Readings in New York. I declined, without rudeness, because it fell at a time when I had instructed my agent, on no account and for no pecuniary consideration to make any appointment that would carry me away from home for a single night, as my wife's health did not permit me to leave her side. It is false that I am not a loser by the lack of a just copyright law. I belong to both the English & American copyright leagues, and as far as I know I have contributed to every subscription made in America for their objects. It is false that I was expected in Hartford or elsewhere the Sunday I stopped over in Worcester or that I disappointed anybody. If ever anything was exclusively my private business, that was. It is true that by the letter of my contract I was, under no circumstances to be required to travel much or little or any part of Sunday. What I might have chosen to concede in case of emergency is also my own private affair. It is false that I ever declined to argue the moral propriety of writing novels. That I ever this last season disappointed an audience in the matter of time or attendance is false. It is true that I have been poor. It is false that I am unwilling to help others. It is even false that I "have resolved to make my future secure." How could you suppose your correspondent got that from good authority? It is true that I spend little on myself, and that I would rather not be so poor as I have been; but I give you my word for what it is worth, I would sooner starve than get my living--as your correspondent seems willing to get his--by slandering unoffending gentlemen.
I have written you thus mainly to facilitate you in exacting from him that full explanation and amends which you have so promptly promised. I shall await it with anxiety.
The motives of my public utterances have been impugned all over one half of this country; but the charges were the hot words of people who believed themselves aggrieved, and such as public men are generally subject to. They are false & injurious, yet they spring from a wounded pride in those who make them and I cannot find it in my heart to resent them or do anything but wait patiently for time to disprove them. But it has been reserved, my dear sir, for your correspondent to print in the Boston Herald the first careful slander upon my private character that I have ever known.
Be assured I shall be grateful for all the expedition you may be able to give this distressing affair, and that I hope to remain ever
G. W. Cable
|SOURCE: Arlin Turner, George W.
Cable (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,