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Charles Etienne Arthur Gayarré



Gayarré, Charles Etienne Arthur, American historian and writer of fiction, grandson of Etienne de Bore, the first successful sugar-planter of Louisiana; b. in New Orleans, January, 1805; d. February 11, 1895. Pere Antoine (Antonio de Sedella), famed in Louisiana history, baptized him in St. Louis cathedral, where also, ninety years later, the funeral rites were performed over his remains. Having received his early education in his native city, he went to Philadelphia in 1826 to study law, was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1828, and to that of Louisiana in 1829. Entering the political arena, he was elected to the State legislature in the same year, and subsequently, in 1835, was sent to the Senate of the United States. However, ill-health prevented him from ever performing his duties as senator, and the dictate of his physician kept him in France for eight years. The natural bent of his mind, the historical environment of his youth (Louisiana having just emerged from her colonial existence into American statehood), and personal acquaintance with many of the men who were chief actors on the historical stage, all combined to determine the character of his life-work, which later secured for him the title, "Historian of Louisiana". Having obtained material from public and private archives in France, he published (1846-47) the result of his researches in "Histoire de la Louisiane "—a work which, based as it is on original documents, cannot but be of great value to the student of history. This "Histoire de la Louisiane" is the foundation and substance of the later and more comprehensive "History of Louisiana", which is the great work of his life (4th ed., 4 vols, New Orleans, 1903).

In the "History of Louisiana", the author includes an earlier work, "Poetry and Romance of the History of Louisiana", in which, he explicitly states, he intends to weave "the legendary, the romantic, the traditional, and historical elements" into one narrative, and which contains such flights of imagination as to leave it devoid of critical value. The other parts of the work are more strictly historical in scope and value; yet the vivid style coupled with much personal observation precludes the analytical, dispassionate method, which the modern writer is wont to apply to the treatment of historical subjects. However, inasmuch as Gayarré's book represents an intelligent and systematical compilation of documentary evidence, it is a remarkable achievement for his time, and is even yet an indispensable source of information concerning the history of Louisiana. Other works of his are: "Fernando de Lemos" (1872); "Aubert Dubayet, or the Two Sister Republics" (1882), a historical romance; both works are of local interest. He also contributed a number of historical articles to various magazines.

Anthony F. Isenberg.








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