Our Views: Louisiana’s wet past

Perhaps south Louisiana will be drying out as you read these words, but this month’s rains have had us checking our skin for mildew — and thinking about earlier rainy seasons in Louisiana that were immortalized by Lafcadio Hearn.

Hearn, an eccentric 19th century writer, was the son of a British military doctor and a Greek woman. He traveled widely in search of a place to call home, and in the New Orleans of the late 1800s, he found a place that seemed to welcome unconventional people with open arms. In the Crescent City, Hearn wrote a series of newspaper articles attempting to explain what made New Orleans so special. His stories of the city helped create its international reputation as a city of exotic intrigue.

Here’s a Hearn period piece about New Orleans in wet weather:

“The dampness of New Orleans upon a wet day impresses one as something phenomenal. You do not know in the North what such dampness is. It descends from the clouds and arises from the soil simultaneously; it exudes from the woodwork; it perspires from stone. It is spectral, mysterious, inexplicable. Strong walls and stout doors cannot keep it from entering; windows and doors cannot exclude it. You might as well try to lock out a ghost. Bolts of steel and barriers of stone are equally unavailing, and the stone moulders, and the steel is smitten with red leprosy . . . Fire is the only remedy possible against this invasion of moisture and mildew, and fires are absolutely necessary in all bedrooms almost all through the winter.”

Were he able to revisit south Louisiana, we suspect that the late Lafcadio Hearn would arrive with an umbrella in hand.