James Branch Cabell (1879 - 1958) MP

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Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, United States
Death: Died in Richmond, Virginia, United States
Cause of death: Cerebral hemorrhage
Occupation: Writer
Managed by: Diana Carnes
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About James Branch Cabell

James Branch Cabell was the author of fifty-two books, including fantasy and science fiction novels, comedies of manners about post-bellum Richmond, works of genealogy, collections of short stories, essays, and poetry. His best-known book, Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice (1919), was about an eponymous hero who travels to heaven, hell, and beyond, seducing women and even the devil's wife. Denounced by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, it became the subject of a landmark, two-year obscenity case following its publication. The novel eventually was deemed fit to be read, and its subsequent popularity propelled Cabell to literary fame. (1)

For a conservative southern gentleman, Cabell led a life curiously marked by scandal. He matriculated in 1894 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, and during a distinguished undergraduate career he was engaged by the college while an upperclassman to teach undergraduates French and Greek. His reputation, however, was nearly destroyed by a false rumor that he had participated in a homosexual orgy involving the college librarian and a few other members of Cabell's fraternity. This weirdly hysterical piece of campus gossip led to his temporary withdrawal from the college and his abandonment of his courtship of Gabriella Moncure, a young woman whose beguiling unattainability later haunted his novels as Dorothy in Jurgen (1919) and Melior in The High Place (1923).

After traveling in France and the British Isles studying his family's genealogy, James Branch Cabell published Branchiana: Being a Partial Account of the Branch Family in Virginia in 1907. Genealogy became an important part of his subsequent literary work.

last word

  • In her somewhat gossipy posthumously published autobiography, Ellen Glasgow depicted Cabell as a man who was asked to leave the College of William and Mary because his friendship with a professor had been deemed by some at the school as "too intimate"; she also suggested that Cabell was behind the 1901 murder of John Scott, a wealthy Richmonder. It was rumored that Scott was "involved" with Cabell's mother and Cabell was suspected by many Richmonders of the murder.
  • Cabell had the last word on on the nature of Glasgow-Cabell relationship when he wrote about her in his As I Remember It (1955). In the essay "Speaks with Candor of a Great Lady," Cabell wrote of Glasgow: "I did not ever encounter, of course, quite the personage whom depicted in Ellen Glasgow's autobiography, that beautiful and wise volume which contains a large deal of her very best fiction."

Sources

  1. The Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "James Branch Cabell (1879–1958)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. 19 Sep. 2012. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 13 Jan. 2011 <http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Cabell_James_Branch_1879-1958>.
  2. James Branch Cabell Library at VCU

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James Cabell's Timeline

1879
April 14, 1879
Richmond, Virginia, United States
1958
May 5, 1958
Age 79
Richmond, Virginia, United States
May, 1958
Age 79
Richmond, Virginia, United States
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