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Unreliable Source

In response to:

Louisiana Story from the March 5, 1998 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of my book Degas in New Orleans [NYR, March 5, 1998], Roger Shattuck mentions some things that “Degas may not have noticed…during his stay” in New Orleans, including “the Republican government imposed by the occupiers from the North (including fifty-five illiterate Negro legislators).” Now Eric Foner [Letters, November 19, 1998] writes to correct that claim. Shattuck responds that the information about the fifty-five legislators “comes from Benfey (p. 108), who cites the ‘Creole historian’ Charles Gayarré.” Foner admits that he has not read my book and Shattuck misrepresents it. I make it clear, on the page cited by Shattuck and elsewhere, that Gayarré was an embittered racist and not a reliable source.

Christopher Benfey
Department of English
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, Massachusetts

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