“The wealth of the world is here unworked gold in the ore. The paradise of the South is here, deserted and half in ruins. I never beheld anything so beautiful and so sad.”
Lafcadio Hearn, Life and Letters, 1877.
“the French Quarter houses every vice that man has ever conceived in his wildest aberrations, including, I would imagine, several modern variants made possible through the wonders of science. The Quarter is not unlike… Soho and certain sections of North Africa. However, the residents of the French Quarter, blessed with American “Stick-to-it-tiveness” and “Know-how,” are probably straining themselves at this moment to equal and surpass in variety and imagination the diversions enjoyed by the residents of those other world areas of human degradation.”
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces, 1980.
“I came down here about a month ago and am living in the old French Creole Quarter, the most civilized place I’ve found in America, and have been writing like a man gone mad ever since I got off the train.”
Sherwood Anderson, Letters, 1922, published 1953.
“the French Quarter was a place to hide. I could piss away my life, unmolested there was something about that city, though it didn’t let me feel guilty that I had no feeling for the things so many others needed. it let me alone being lost, being crazy maybe is not so bad if you can be that way undisturbed. New Orleans gave me that.”
Charles Bukowski, Young in New Orleans, copyright 1982
“New Orleans is unremarkable past the French Quarter.”
Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago
“I know all about you degenerates in the Quarter. I ain’t let rooms ten years in the Quarter for nothin’.”
Tennessee Williams, “The Angel in the Alcove”
“I liked it from the first: I lingered long in that morning walk, liking it more and more, in spite of its shabbiness, but utterly unable to say then or ever since wherein its charm lies. I suppose we are all wrongly made up and have a fallen nature; else why is it that while the most thrifty and neat and orderly city only wins our approval, and perhaps gratifies us intellectually, such a thriftless, battered and stained, and lazy old place at the French quarter of New Orleans takes our hearts?”
Charles Dudley Warner, “New Orleans” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, January 1887.
“This town is the first that one of the world’s great rivers has seen rise upon its banks… this wild and desert [sic] place that canes and trees still cover almost entirely, will be one day, and perhaps that day is not far off, an opulent city and the metropolis of a great and rich colony.”
Pierre-Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, A Voyage to North-America, 1722, published 1766.
“One morning-it was December, I think, a cold Sunday with a sad gray sun-I went up through the Quarter to the old market where, at that time of year, there are exquisite winter fruits, sweet satsumas, twenty cents a dozen, and winter flowers, Christmas poinsettia and snow japonica. New Orleans streets have long, lonesome perspectives; in empty hours their atmosphere is like a Chirico, and things innocent, ordinarily (a face behind the slanted light of shutters, nuns moving in the distance, a fat dark arm lolling lopsidedly out some window, a lonely black boy squatting in an alley, blowing soap bubbles and watching sadly as they rise to burst), acquire qualities of violence.”
Truman Capote, Local Color, 1946.
“Outside the window New Orleans, the vieux carre, brooded in a faintly tarnished languor like an aging yet still beautiful courtesan in a smokefilled room, avid yet weary too of ardent ways.”
William Faulkner, Mosquitoes, 1927.
“I alight at Esplanade in a smell of roasting coffee and creosote and walk up Royal Street. The lower Quarter is the best part. The ironwork on the balconies sags like rotten lace. Little French cottages hide behind high walls. Through deep sweating carriageways one catches glimpses of courtyards gone to jungle.”
Walker Percy, The Moviegoer, 1961.
“Much distortion of opinion has existed… respecting public morals and manners in New Orleans. Divested of pre-conceived ideas on the subject, an observing man will find little to condemn in New Orleans, more than in other commercial cities; and will find that noble distinction of all active communities, acuteness of conception, urbanity of manners, and polished exterior. There are few places where human life can be enjoyed with more pleasure, or employed to more pecuniary profit.”
William Darby, A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana, 1816.
“Here one finds the narrow streets with overhanging balconies, the beautiful wrought-iron and cast-iron railings, the great barred doors and tropical courtyards. Many of these fine houses are more than a century and a quarter old, and they stand today as monuments to their forgotten architects. For it must be remembered that New Orleans was a Latin city already a century old before it became a part of the United States; and it was as unlike the American cities along the Atlantic seaboard as though Louisiana were on another continent.
Federal Writers’ Project, New Orleans City Guide, 1938.
“During the greater part of the first half-century in which Louisiana was part of the United States… the more legitimate gayety of the town was concentrated in the Vieux Carre, which, though Spanish in its physical aspects, was still predominantly French in spirit and custom. In that area were located the pits for cock-fighting; the elegantly appointed gambling-houses; the best of the cafes and coffee-houses; the fashionable cabarets and bordellos, which were operated with such circumspection that almost no record of their existence remains; the eating-places which were already developing the cuisine that was destined to spread the fame of New Orleans throughout the world; the ballrooms; and most of the theatres…”
Herbert Asbury, The French Quarter, 1936.
“The banquettes of Royal Street were crowded with the masked and the unmasked, almost everyone moving slowly uptown toward Canal Street. The bars on the corners were already filled. Decorated automobiles rolled past, and now and then more trucks. There was a truck filled with hillbillies, with a little outhouse at the center of it, entitled ‘Dog Patch,’ and another filled with boys and girls in striped suits called ‘The Prisoners of Love.’ Two voluptuous blondes in pale lavender taffety gowns of the Gay Nineties, wearing no masks, but with their faces heavily painted, came swishing down the banquette, each carrying a bottle of bourbon, from which they took drinks from time to time, and conversing in deep bass voices. They were men.”
Robert Tallant, Mardi Gras, 1947.
“The houses’ chief beauty is the deep, warm, varicolored stain with which time and the weather have enriched the plaster. It harmonizes with all the surroundings, and has as natural a look of belonging there as has the flush upon sunset clouds. This charming decoration cannot be successfully imitated; neither is it to be found elsewhere in America.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883.
“My advice to you is to stay for a while in the old section of the city, sit for a time in Jackson Square and let the old world charm you. Give the atmosphere a chance to lull you. Take your time and wander slowly; look twice at the old houses, they are worth it. Talk to the beggars in the street; talk to any one you chance to meet. The natives of the Quarter are pleasant people and they will gladly tell you anything they happen to know.”
Lyle Saxon, Fabulous New Orleans, 1928.