Through January, we’re publishing year-in-review highlights from FY2020. Download a full PDF of this year’s Annual Report to read more!
Writer Lafcadio Hearn was a citizen of the world. Born in 1850 in Greece to a Greek mother and Irish father, he spent his childhood in Dublin and was schooled in France and England before coming to the United States at the age of 19. In 1887 he spent two years in Martinique as a correspondent for Harper’s Weekly before moving to Japan, where he spent the rest of his life, marrying a Japanese woman, Koizumi Setsu, and becoming a Japanese citizen. In Japan, Hearn is famous for his ghost tales and other stories of Japanese culture.
Hearn is far less recognized in the United States, where he is primarily remembered for “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things,” a curious combination of ghost stories and insect studies. However, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library holds the finest Hearn collection ever assembled, including nearly 300 letters, 25 groups of manuscripts, more than 30 notebooks, and innumerable periodical appearances and translations, all donated by avid book collector Clifton Waller Barrett as part of a comprehensive collection of American literature. As professor Rodger Steele Williamson of Japan’s University of Kitakyushu noted after spending several months working with the Hearn collection, “it holds a true wealth of resources for a visiting Hearn scholar.”
Those riches were on display in spring of 2020 in “Lafcadio Hearn: Glimpses of Invisible Worlds,” an exhibition curated by graduate student Kathryn Webb-Destefano showcasing the Hearn collection and offering a glimpse into Hearn’s life and the “invisible worlds” that inspired him. The exhibition included lithographs, photographs, manuscripts, books, original drawings, memorabilia, and more. One section of the exhibition, focusing on “Kwaidan,” included editions of the book, the original manuscript, and unpublished watercolor illustrations (shown below) by Hearn’s son Kazuo Koizumi meant to accompany the work.