November 29, 2011

Birth of Grace King: what I can get

Grace Elizabeth King was born on November 29, 1852 in New Orleans, the third of what became seven children (her birth year has been listed variously as 1851 and 1853, but 1852 seems to be correct).

King, whose own writings include a history of Louisiana and one more specifically about New Orleans, met literary celebrities as varied as Julia Ward Howe, Joaquin Miller, and Mark Twain. Part Creole, she wrote many stories celebrating Creole culture. Among her earliest works was "Monsieur Motte,"  which was originally rejected by Richard Watson Gilder of Century Magazine before being accepted for the New Princeton Review in January 1886 with the help of Charles Dudley Warner. In that story, she paints a vivid picture of New Orleans life:

They were all dressed in calico dresses made in the same way, with very full, short skirts, and very full, short waists, fastened, matronfashion, in front. They all wore very tight, glossy, fresh, black French kid boots, with tassels or bows hanging from the top. With big sun-bonnets, or heavily veiled hats on their heads, thick gloves on their hands, and handkerchiefs around their necks, they were walking buttresses against the ardent sun. They held their lunch baskets like bouquets, and their heads as if they wore crowns. They carried on conversations in sweet, low voices, with interrupting embraces and apostrophic tendernesses : —





King lived to be 79 years old. In 1901, at the age of 49, however, she wrote: "Birthdays come to me now with increasing forceful admonition to enjoy all the pretty things I have and get the most of our time. There is no use waiting for any more future — preparations are all done and over — the future has come, and if this present is the thing for which my whole past has been a preparation, then I had better take what I can get."

*For the information in this post, I turned to Grace King: A Southern Destiny (1983) by Robert Bush.

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