James Branch Cabell (1879-1958)

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This page is currently under construction. Please check back for updates. 05/26/2017.

Biographical Sketch

James Branch Cabell was born April 14, 1879 in Richmond, Virginia to Robert Gamble Cabell (1847-1922) and Ann Harris Branch Cabell (1859-1915). [1]

Cabell attended the College of William and Mary, and in his third year was recognized for his academic achievements with the Corcoran Scholarship. The last few months of his W&M career concluded with a "scandal", as the result of local gossip and imagination. These rumors were spread by some in Williamsburg and was later recounted by Ellen Glasgow in her book The Woman Within, which stated "the leading middle-aged intellectual of the village, or so I was told, had exercised a pernicious influence on some of the students [drunkenness and homosexuality]." She further intimated the faculty of the college didn't properly investigate the incidents. These rumors harmed those named, personally and professionally, especially William & Mary Librarian Charles Washington Coleman (1862-1932). Coleman resigned in an effort to separate himself from the tales, but returned to the college and was reinstated. He shortly left the college permanently to work at the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. [2]

Cabell graduated with a B. A. from William & Mary on June 23, 1898. [3]

After college, he worked as a reporter in with the New York Herald for two years and then the Richmond News for one year. He also worked in the office of a West Virginia coal company. He published his first book Eagles Nest, in 1904. [4]

In 1901, Cabell's name was attached to another incident in which he was tried by the court of public opinion. On November 13, 1901, John Scott, a cousin of Cabell and allegedly his mother's lover, was murdered. No suspect was ever charged with the murder, and later analysis suggests it was another family member who commited the crime. [5]

From the Dictionary of Virginia Biography:

"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. His most comprehensive project, however, is the sprawling, eighteen-volume collection known as the Biography of the Life of Manuel (1927–1930), of which Jurgen is a part. Comprised of novels, essays, and poetry, it traces the life of Manuel, Count of Poictesme (a fictional French province, pronounced "pwa-tem"), and generations of his descendants. While some of Cabell's novels — especially those that are science fiction and fantasy—have achieved cult status, his work fell out of favor beginning in the 1930s. By the time of his death in 1958, he was known primarily as the author of the scandalous Jurgen."

James Branch Cabell died May 5, 1958 and is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. [6]

"Tell the rabble my name is Cabell.”
―James Branch Cabell The Quotable Cabell

Materials in the Special Collections Research Center

References

  1. U. S. Find A Grave Index 1600s-Current, "James Branch Cabell" (1820-1861), Memorial #157, record added January 1, 2001, accessed through Ancestry.com May 19, 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=157.
  2. William L. Godshalk, In Quest of Cabell Five Exploratory Essays (New York: Revisionist Press, 1975), 17, 19.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Charles Slack, "Lost & Found, Biographer hopes to restore the reputation of James Branch Cabell", Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 2, 1993, p. 61.
  5. Edgar MacDonald, James Branch Cabell and Richmond-in-Virginia (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983), 113-118.
  6. U. S. Find A Grave

External Links / Further Reading

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Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.