Bret Harte

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Harte, Bret

Harte, Bret (Francis Brett Harte) (härt), 1836–1902, American writer of short stories and humorous verse, b. Albany, N.Y. At 19 he went to California, where he tried his hand at teaching, clerking, and mining. In 1868 he helped establish the Overland Monthly, where his short stories and verse first appeared. He gained enormous success with the publication of “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” the first of his picturesque stories of Western local color, and with such later stories as “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” and “Brown of Calaveras.” Although Harte did not develop character and motivation, he had an observant eye and a brisk reportorial style. He was U.S. consul in Germany and Scotland from 1878 to 1885. The remainder of his life was spent near London.


See his letters, ed. by G. B. Harte (1926); biographies by R. O'Connor (1966) and A. Nissen (2000); M. Duckett, Mark Twain and Bret Harte (1964).

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Harte, Bret (b. Francis Brett Harte)

(1836–1902) writer, consular official; born in Albany, N.Y. Moving to California at age 18, he worked at various jobs before becoming a journalist. He became an official of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco (1863–70) but worked at his own writing and coedited the Overland Monthly (1868–70), for which he commissioned some articles by Mark Twain. Harte's stories and poems on western themes helped launch the "local color" movement and he achieved a meteoric national celebrity with his collection of stories, The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches (1870). He moved to the East to be part of the literary world, but his reputation soon faded and he became U.S. consul in Germany (1878–80) and at Glasgow (1880–85). Settling in London for the rest of his life, he continued to write short stories and he hobnobbed with the literati, but he never again knew the success of his San Francisco days.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.