Bret Harte was an American author and poet, best remembered for
his accounts of pioneering life in California. Born in Albany, New
York, he moved to California in 1854, later working there in a number
of capacities, including miner, teacher, messenger, and journalist.
first literary efforts, including poetry and prose, appeared in
The Californian, an early literary journal edited by Charles Henry
Webb. In 1868 he became editor of The Overland Monthly, another
new literary magazine, but this one more in tune with the pioneering
spirit of excitement in California. His story, "The Luck
of Roaring Camp," appeared in the magazine's second edition,
propelling Harte to nationwide fame.
word of Dickens' death reached Bret Harte in July of 1870, he
immediately sent a dispatch across the bay to San Francisco to
hold back the forthcoming publication of his Overland Monthly
for twenty-four hours, so that he could compose the poetic tribute,
Dickens in Camp. This work is considered by many of Harte's admirers
as his masterpiece of verse, for its evident sincerity, the depth
of feeling it displays, and the unusual quality of its poetic
expression. The spirit of Dickens breathes through the poems and
stories of Bret Harte just as the spirit of Bret Harte breathes
through the poems and stories of Kipling.
to pursue his literary career, he traveled back East, to New York
and eventually to Boston, where he continued writing poems, sketches,
and stories capturing the excitement of his earlier years in California.
an established literary figure, he was appointed to the position
of United States Consul in the town of Krefeld, Germany in 1878
and Glasgow in 1880. In 1885 he settled in London. During the
thirty years he spent in Europe, he never abandoned writing, and
maintained a prodigious output of stories that retained the freshness
of his earlier work. He died in England in 1902 and is buried
in his autobiography four years after Harte's death, Mark
famously insults Harte, characterizing him and his writing as
insincere. He gives light respect to "Luck of Roaring Camp"
but also criticizes the miners' dialect, claiming it never existed
outside of the story. Twain reserves his most damning statements
for Harte's personal life, especially after Harte left the West.