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.