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He eventually met Henry Watkin and found some employment in
his printing business. Hearn also borrowed books from Watkin’s library,
including many utopianists. Hearn eventually found work as a reporter for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, where he
gained a reputation as a sensationalist columnist, especially in the area of
crime writing. A bit later he joined forces with Henry Farny, and the pair
wrote, illustrated and published Ye
Giglampz, an 8-page weekly journal literature and satire.
In 1874 Hearn married Alethea Foley, an African American,
which violated the state’s laws pertaining to interracial marriage. Nominally because of
this marriage, but likely because of some of the satirical items in Ye Giglampz, the Enquirer let him go. He
went to work for the Cincinnati
Commercial, and his popularity prompted the Enquirer to try to rehire him.
In 1877 Hearn left the Queen City for the Crescent City. He
wrote for various newspapers there, and began writing for national publications
(Harper’s, Scribner’s). He spent a decade
in the Big Easy before Harper’s sent
him to the West Indies for two years. (Hearn’s reputation in New Orleans was so
great that his former home has been preserved as a historic place.)
In 1890 Hearn went to Japan as a newspaper correspondent. He
was soon fired, but he found his greatest peace and inspiration in this island
nation. He obtained a teaching position, married the daughter of a local
samurai family and became a naturalized citizen. He held several teaching
positions in Matsue, Kyushu, then Tokyo. At the time, Japan was a relatively
unknown exotic culture. Its popularity increased after the Paris Expo of 1900,
which introduced the world to the arts especially of Japan, Siam and India.
Hearn wrote over a dozen books on Japan, and more were written after his death.