VCU Libraries Gallery

Cabell's Writing

Richmond author James Branch Cabell is most known for his controversial Jurgen (1919), one of several satirical fantasies he authored set in the mythical French province of Poictesme (Pwa-tem). Filled with double entendre, and satirical humor, Jurgen was considered indecent by some. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice attempted to bring a prosecution for obscenity and the two year long case brought Cabell national fame.

Throughout the 1920s, Cabell was highly regarded by his literary peer. H.L.Mencken, Sinclair Lewis and others praised his works. His medieval romanticism and fantasy were in fact thinly disguised commentary on the social norms of his times.

As the 1930s approached and the realism of writers like Ernest Heminway and John Steinbeck came into vogue, Cabell's writing voice fell out of favor with the reading public. His escapist themes, a perfect fit for the culture of the Roaring '20s, did not enthrall readers living harsh realities of the Great Depression and the New Deal. The literary critic Alfred Kazin wrote that "Cabell and Hitler did not inhabit the same universe." Cabell continued to write and publish. By the end of his life he had authored some 52 volumes of work. 

Today some recognize James Branch Cabell as one of the first contemporary writers from the South. Like his friend and fellow RIchmond writer Ellen Glasgow (1873-1945), Cabell satirized what he saw as the South's contradictions. Others, noting Cabell's unique blending of classical myths and legends with his own imagination, consider him a pioneer of fantasy writing. His work has been admired by a diverse group of writers including Carl Van Vechten, Margaret Mitchell, Edmund Wilson, Robert Heinlein, James Blish, and Neil Gaiman. 

Cabell's works

  • The Eagle's Shadow (1904)
  • The Line of Love (1905)
  • Branchiana: Being a Partial Account of the Branch Family in Virginia (1907)
  • Gallantry (1907)
  • The Cords of Vanity (1909)
  • Chivalry (1909)
  • Branch of Abingdon, Being a Partial Account of the Ancestry of Christopher Branch of "Arrowhattocks" and "Kingsland" in Henrico County, and the Founder of the Branch Family in Virginia (1911)
  • The Soul of Melicent (1913)* Later published as Domnei: A Comedy of Woman-Worship (1920)
  • The Rivet in Grandfather's Neck (1915)
  • The Majors and their Marriages, with Collateral Accounts of the Allied Families of Aston, Ballard, Christian, Dancy, Hartwell, Hubard, Macon, Marable, Mason, Patterson, Piersey, Seawell, Stephens, Waddill, and Others (1915)
  • The Certain Hour (1916)
  • From the Hidden Way (1916)
  • The Cream of the Jest (1917)
  • Beyond Life (1919)
  • Jurgen (1919)
  • The Judging of Jurgen (1920)
  • Figures of Earth: A Comedy of Appearances (1921)
  • Taboo (1921)
  • Joseph Hergesheimer (1921)
  • The Jewel Merchants (1921)
  • The Lineage of Lichfield: an Essay in Eugenics (1922)
  • The High Place (1923)
  • Straws and Prayer-Books (1924)
  • The Silver Stallion (1926)
  • The Music from Behind the Moon (1926)* revised and republished in The Witch-Woman (1948)
  • Something About Eve (1927)
  • The Works of James Branch Cabell (also known as Biography of the Life of Manuel; 18 volumes, 1927-1930)
  • Ballads from the Hidden Way (1928)
  • The White Robe (1928)* revised and republished in The Witch-Woman (1948)
  • Sonnets from Antan (1929)
  • The Way of Ecben (1929)* revised and republished in The Witch-Woman (1948)
  • Townsend of Lichfield (1930)
  • Some of Us (1930)
  • Between Dawn and Sunrise: Selections from the Writings of James Branch Cabell (edited by John Macy, 1930)
  • These Restless Heads: A Trilogy of Romantics (1932)
  • Special Delivery (1933)
  • Smirt (1934)
  • Ladies and Gentlemen (1934)
  • Smith (1935)
  • Preface to the Past (1936)
  • Smire (1937)
  • The Nightmare Has Triplets (1937)
  • Of Ellen Glasgow, an Inspired Portrait (with Ellen Glasgow, 1938)
  • The King Was in His Counting House (1938)
  • Hamlet Had an Uncle (1940)
  • The First Gentleman of America (1942)
  • The St. Johns (with A.J. Hanna, 1943)
  • There Were Two Pirates (1946)
  • Let Me Lie (1947)
  • The Witch-Woman: A Trilogy about Her (1948)
  • Quiet, Please (1952)
  • As I Remember It (1955)