1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harte, Francis Bret

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HARTE, FRANCIS BRET (1839–1902), American author, was born at Albany, New York, on the 25th of August 1839. His father, a professor of Greek at the Albany College, died during his boyhood. After a common-school education he went with his mother to California at the age of seventeen, afterwards working in that state as a teacher, miner, printer, express-messenger, secretary of the San Francisco mint, and editor. His first literary venture was a series of Condensed Novels (travesties of well-known works of fiction, somewhat in the style of Thackeray), published weekly in The Californian, of which he was editor, and reissued in book form in 1867. The Overland Monthly, the earliest considerable literary magazine on the Pacific coast, was established in 1868, with Harte as editor. His sketches and poems, which appeared in its pages during the next few years, attracted wide attention in the eastern states and in Europe.

Bret Harte was an early master of the short story, and his Californian tales were regarded as introducing a new genre into fiction. “The Luck of Roaring Camp” (1868), “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” (1869), the later sketch “How Santa Claus came to Simpson’s Bar,” and the verses entitled “Plain Language from Truthful James,” combined humour, pathos and power of character portrayal in a manner that indicated that the new land of mining-gulches, gamblers, unassimilated Asiatics, and picturesque and varied landscape had found its best delineator; so that Harte became, in his pioneer pictures, a sort of later Fenimore Cooper. Forty-four volumes were published by him between 1867 and 1898. After a year as professor in the university of California, Harte lived in New York, 1871–1878; was United States consul at Crefeld, Germany, 1878–1880; consul at Glasgow, 1880–1885; and after 1885 resided in London, engaged in literary work. He died at Camberley, England, on the 5th of May 1902.

A library edition of his Writings (16 vols.) was issued in 1900, and increased to 19 vols. in 1904. See also H. W. Boynton, Bret Harte (1905) in the Contemporary Men of Letters series; T. E. Pemberton, Life of Bret Harte (1903), which contains a list of his poems, tales, &c.