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History > General History > Hearn, Patrick Lafcadio Cassimati - iDiary

History > General History

submitted by George Poulos on 26.04.2004

Hearn, Patrick Lafcadio Cassimati - iDiary




Page (29)

July, 1850


Great news arrived today in a letter, written in English, from Dimitri, our Levkas, Greece, church friend.

Dr. Charles Hearn Staff Surgeon, Second Class, British Army Medical Staff, St. George, Grenada Island, British West Indies

June 27, 1850

Dear Dr. Hearn,

Rosa asked me to write you the good news.

Congratulations! Today, you are a Father again!

This morning, June 27, 1850, Rosa had a baby boy. Both are in good health in your two­story, Lefkas Island home where the child was born.

The boy has an olive complexion. He looks more like his Greek Mother than his Anglo­Irish Father!

The baby has a "thumb print" on the palm of his right hand like George Robert's.

As you once explained to me, it is the mark of a Romany (Gypsy). It's a mysterious trait passed down from the Hearn family's ancient origin.

Rosa asked me to arrange to have the baby baptized July 8, 1950. Of course, it will be performed in our parish church of Agia Paraskevi where George Robert was baptized and where you were married last year.

Your new son will be christened "Patricio Lefcadio Kassimati Hearn." (Or, in English, Patrick Lafcadio Cassimati Hearn.)

His body will be immersed three times, face turned toward the East while the priest chants, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost..."

Rosa will make three tiny cuts in the calf of each leg. As you know, the three cuts represent the Trinity: Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.

Like George Robert, Rosa will have Patrick fitted with gold pierced earrings. In the Greek tradition, his hair will not be cut for two years.

Hoping that all is well with you, I am Sincerely, Dimitri


Page (30) From the Virtual Diary of Staff Surgeon Second Class, Dr. Charles Bush Hearn, 32, Lafcadio Hearn's Father:


Dear Diary,

September, 1850

Grenada, British West Indies

Today I had shocking news from Greece in a letter translated from Greek to English by our Church friend, Dimitri:

"Dear Charles,

August 17, 1850, our darling 13­month old son, George Robert, died suddenly.

I put him in his crib at night as usual. The next morning, August 17, he was dead in his crib.

He was growing so well. He was never ill.

I had a birthday party last month for George Robert on his first birthday, July 24, 1850. He was such a happy child. He was just beginning to walk and to say a couple of words in Italian. I always talked and sang lullabies to him in Italian and Romaic. He was a healthy child.

The sudden death of George Robert remains unexplained.

All known and possible causes of his death have been carefully ruled out through autopsy, through death scene investigation and a review of George Robert's medical history by our Doctor.

The doctor's conclusion is that George Robert's type of sudden death is called, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

SIDS is a medical term that describes the sudden death of an infant which remains unexplained.

Our doctor said that SIDS is not new. He told me to read a reference to SIDS in the Bible: Old Testament, 1 Kings 3: 19.

We laid George Robert to rest in a lovely, picturesque cemetery on a hillside overlooking the beautiful blue Ionian Sea. I was in tears during the Greek Orthodox rite.

I am devastated.

Every day I pour my love on baby Lafcadio. I never let our 2 month-old Lafcadio out of my sight. I carry him everywhere.

Please write soon.

Love, Rosa"

Editor's Note: SIDS, in modern times, continues to exist. In the U.S., nearly one American baby every hour of every day dies of SIDS.

It strikes families of all races, ethnic and socioeconomic origins without warning. Neither a parent nor a physician can predict that something is going wrong. Most SIDS victims appear healthy prior to a sudden unexplained death.


Page (31) Rosa continues to grieve for her deceased son, George Robert. She quotes the world's first woman poet who became the most famous poet of all time, Sappho of Greece. Rosa dictates this letter for Charles to her Church translator friend, Dimitri.


Dearest Charles,

I still grieve over George Robert's death.

Yesterday, baby Lefcadio and I visited George Robert's grave.

I spoke to George Robert: "We buried your one year and one month of aged body. From many rain drops, crocuses have blosommed for you and covered your grave. The evening star sheds light on you and is gone at daybreak. You have been weaned from your mammy."

I quote from a famous poem by Greek poetess Sappho, the world's first woman poet, a literary goddess in her time, 610 ­ 580 B. C.

If death be good

Why do the gods not die?

If life be ill,

Why do Gods still live?

Sappho's poems include verses about family feelings for each other. Her works have intense emotions of love, desire, longing and suffering.

She created her poems primarily to the private world of women like me, George Robert's Mother.

At the most Southerly Cape of this Lefcas island is the Cape of Leucata, also known as "Lovers Leap."

There, one can find the fragments of the ruined temple of Apollo Leucatas, famous throughout the ancient world.

It was there that the poetess Sappho committed suicide.


She was a hopeless victim of her love for a friend who ignored her.

She flung herself from the white cliffs of Lefcata into the Ionian sea, 580 B.C.

Well, Charles, that's all for now.

We miss you. Please write soon.


Rosa and Baby Lefcadio

May 30, 1851.


Page (32) Patrick Lefcadio Kassimati Hearn's first birthday party.


Rosa Hearn, 28, writes a letter to her 33 year­old British military surgeon husband, Charles, who is stationed on Grenada Island in the Caribbean Sea.


Rosa's church friend, Dimitri, translates her letter from Greek to English:

Dear Charles,

The afternoon of June 27, 1851, I had a birthday party for our son, Patrick Lefcadio who became one­year old. I invited neighborhood children to the party.

After eating birthday cake that I had baked, everyone went to the lagoon near Levkas City where the children love to watch the rare migratory birds.

The children played on the white sand beach. Patrick Lefcadio waded in the crystal clear waters.

It was a glorious Summer day under the half­tropical blue of the Ionian Sea and sky which is the color of the idea of the divine, the color pantheistic and the color ethical.

You left Levkas before Lefcadio was born. I shall describe him to you.

He is exotic! He has a classic Greek face. There is no trace of your good Irish looks.

His profile is delicate. Patrick Lefcadio's head is remarkably beautiful with a square brow and full above his dark liquid brown, deeply set eyes. He has very long eyelashes!

His complexion is clear and smooth.

He is a bit short for his age, but he has a supple, well­knit body.

His hands are very delicate.

His voice, when he speaks a few words mingling Romaic with Italian, is very soft. He is learning to speak the languages that I speak. He can begin to learn English from you when we are together again.

He is a sensitive child. A good child. Very passionate.

He is a cute boy, very dark, with gold earrings and long hair.

His first haircut will be next year on his second birthday. It's our custom.

I am looking forward to the day when the three of us will no longer be separated.




Page (33) Lefcadio and his Mother, Rosa, have a happy life together


Rosa Hearn, 28, writes another letter to her 33 year­old British military surgeon husband, Charles, who is stationed on Grenada Island in the Caribbean Sea. It's late summer, 1851. Lefcadio is one­year old.


Rosa's church friend, Dimitri, translates her letter from Greek to English:

Dear Charles,

Every day there is new pleasures and new wonders on Levkas Island to enchant Lefcadio.

Last week we took a boat trip with church friends along the coast to the other end of the island.

Levkas Island is deeply wooded, scantily populated with sparse vineyards and olive groves clinging to the steep side of the mountains.

Cruising along this wild, bold background, we reached the legendary Cape Levkatas also known as "the Lady's Cape."

Here, we found the remains of a temple dedicated to Apollo Leukatas where the great poetess Sappho fell to her death into the Ionian Sea.

Lefcadio stood where Sappho once stood. The gentle breeze made Lefcadio cry out for joy when it touched him.

The sheer white cliffs inspire a feeling of awe. This Southernmost cape of this island is famed for its vast view and glorious sunsets.

Tonight, here at home in his cradle, I tell Lefcadio stories that make him tingle from head to foot with pleasure.

And when the pleasure becomes too great, I sing a little lullaby which always brings sleep.

We are having a happy life together. We miss you!

I do not believe that you will be returning to these Ionian Islands. There are rumors that the occupation will end. The Ionian Islanders have long wanted to be free from the British.

The local politicians are eager to unite these Ionian Islands with Greece.

Lefcadio and I should leave this Island to join you. What are your plans for us?



August, 1851


Editor's Note: The British Imperial Army Protectorate Forces occupied the Ionian Islands for 54 years.

On June 2, 1864, the Ionian Islands and Greece signed a treaty proclaiming the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece.

About two and one­half years later, November 21, 1866, 48­ year­ old Surgeon Major Charles Hearn died of malaria aboard HMS Mula cruising from Suez into the Mediterranean Sea. Charles was on his way from his military post in India to his home in Ireland. He was buried at sea.


Page (34) A letter from Paris


Church friend, Dimitri, translates the Paris letter for 29 year­old Rosa Kassimati Hearn. It is June, 1852.

Dear Rosa,

I am Richard Hearn, Lafcadio's uncle.

I live in an artists' colony near the French village of Barbizon, 35 miles South of Paris. We are referred to in the press as "The Barbizon School" of painters.

In the art world, we are a part of the French Realist movement. Unlike most traditional Parisian artists who paint within their studios, we paint in the great outdoors. We are landscape artists.

Well, enough about me!

I want to wish a Happy Birthday to baby Lafcadio on his second birthday, June 27, 1852.

I have a letter from my brother with instructions to get in touch with you.

There are good news and bad news.

First, the bad news: It will not be possible for you to join Charles on the Grenada Military Base in the Caribbean.

The reason is that he has not registered his marriage to you with the London Military Headquarters. That means that, officially, he is single. Therefore, he is not eligible for family living quarters on any British military base.

The good news is that he asked me to prepare your passage to his Mother's home in Dublin, Ireland. He will join you during his next military leave which may be later this year.

I have just returned from Paris where I made arrangements with an agent of the Vienna, Austria, Lloyd Company for your transportation to England and Dublin.

Luckily, the Lloyd Company has an agent on the Ionian Island of Cerigo where I believe you were born.

I am informed that the Cerigo Island Vienna Lloyd Agent, John Cavallini*, will visit your home in Levkas City sometime this month. He will hand you the necessary tickets and money for your journey.

John Cavallini will also give you helpful travel information including your Malta Island stopover. He will assist you with your visa applications for Malta Island and for the British Isles.

You will depart from the Ionian Islands in July, 1852.

You need not be concerned about the language barrier abroad. A Greek interpreter and I shall meet you aboard your ship in the port of Liverpool. We'll travel with you and Lafcadio to Dublin, Ireland.

I am looking forward to meeting my new sister­in­law and nephew.

With warm regards and Bon Voyage, I am

Respectfully yours,

Richard Hearn

Poste Restante

Barbizon, France

June 10, 1852


Editor's notes: Artist Richard Hearn was an intimate friend of the well known Barbizon painter, Jean Francois Millet.

Both 29 year­ olds, John Cavallini and Rosa Kassimati Hearn, are members of prominent Cerigo Island families.

Do not forget the name, John Cavallini! He will reappear in a few years during the surprising turn of events in the life of Rosa Kassimati Hearn!


Page (35) Two year­old Lafcadio and his religious Mother, Rosa, tour Malta churches in July

* Sometimes spelt Kavalini, Cavalinis, or Cavalenes.

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