HARTE, FRANCIS BRET. Born in Albany, New York, August 25, 1836; died in Camberley, England, May 6, 1902. The life of Bret Harte spanned the picturesque period of the building-up of the great West, particularly of California in the years immediately succeeding the rush to the gold fields. Harte was still a lad when he went to California and though he had himself received but a common-school education, he began life in California as a teacher, leaving this occupation for mining, printing, carrying express, or whatever work he could obtain, until he formed an editorial connection with the "Golden Era" of San Francisco. This gave him the opportunity to develop and exercise his original talent and his stories, sketches, and poems soon began to attract attention. He edited in turn "The Californian," a weekly paper in which his "Condensed Novels" were published, and "The Overland Monthly," whose second number was distinguished by "The Luck of Roaring Camp." During the four years in which he was connected with the "Overland Monthly" much of his most characteristic work, including the humorous poem, "Plain Talk from Truthful James," appeared in its pages. From this period the course of his life changed completely. He removed to the Atlantic Coast and in 1878 was appointed United States Consul to Crefeld, Germany. Two years later he was transferred to the consulate at Glasgow, Scotland, where he remained five years and upon his retirement took up a permanent residence in England. Most of the work upon which his fame rests was done prior to his entry into the diplomatic service. The pioneer life of the West lives in his stories and poems with their sharply delineated types, their racy humor, their sentiment and pathos.

This biographical note is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.



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