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Charles Gayarré

Historian of Louisiana

Charles Etienne Arthur Gayarré (b. January 9, 1805, d. February 11, 1895) was a historian and a writer of plays, essays, and novels. He is chiefly remembered for his histories of Louisiana.

The grandson of New Orleans' first mayor Etienne de Boré, he was born at the Boré plantation in what was at the time a suburb of New Orleans, but has long been incorporated into the city as Audubon Park after seeing service as the site of the World Cotton Centennial Exhibition. A product of the College of New Orleans, Gayarré read law in Philadelphia but returned in 1829 to practice in New Orleans. He was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1830 as a Jacksonian Democrat, was appointed deputy attorney general in 1831, and presiding judge of the City Court of New Orleans in 1833. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1835, but ill health purportedly prevented him from serving: yet the nature of this illness — whatever it was, and I've been quite unable so far to discover it — was not such as to prevent the future nonagenarian from making the arduous crossing to Europe and during his eight-year stay there, from crisscrossing the continent doing historical research.

On his return to Louisiana he was again elected to the state legislature in 1844; a position he abandoned after having being appointed Secretary of State in 1846: he served in this latter capacity for seven years. In 1853 he failed to be elected to the U. S. Congress, but remained active in Louisiana politics as an ally of Slidell in the "Regular Democratic" movement, and in 1856 was elected for a third term to the State House of Representatives. During the Civil War, like most Louisianians, he sided with the Confederacy; in 1863 he proposed that the slaves be emancipated and armed, provided that France and England recognized the Confederacy. After the war, he was for a number of years reporter of the State Supreme Court, while devoting increasing time to his literary pursuits, partly out of necessity, since he'd lost most of his fortune in the war. He would become the father of Louisiana history, influencing and guiding several generations of writers, as Grace King, herself a pupil of his, bears witness in the closing pages of her own history of New Orleans.

Works

In French:

Histoire de la Louisiane (1846)

In English:

History

The History of Louisiana, successive portions under various titles 1847‑1854, assembled into a final comprehensive edition in 1867 (online on this site)

Philip II of Spain (1866)

Novels

Fernando de Lemos, Truth and Fiction (1872)

Aubert Dubayet (1882)

Plays

The School for Politics: A Dramatic Novel (1854)

Dr. Bluff, a comedy in two acts


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Page updated: 18 Jan 06