Author: Stephen R. Wetta

ENTRY

Cabell, James Branch (1879–1958)

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.

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