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Selected Stories


established, and Harte was appointed its first editor. For it, he
wrot e most of what still remains valid as literature–THE LUCK OF
ROA RING CAMP, THE OUTCAS TS OF POKE R FLA T, PLAIN LA NGUAGE
FROM
TRUTHFUL JAMES, among others. The combination of Irvingesque
2
romantic glamor and Dickensian bitter-s weet humor, applied to
picturesquely novel mat erial, with the addition of a trick ending,
was fantastically popular. Editors began to clamor for his
stories; the University of California appointed him Professor of
recent literature; and the ATLANTIC MONTHLY oered him the
practically unprecedent ed sum of $10,000 for exclusive rights to
one year’s literary output. Harte’s star was, briefly, in the
ascendant.
However, Harte had accumulat ed a number of debts, and his editorial
policies, excellent in themselves, but undiplomatically executed,
were the cause of a series of arguments with the publisher of the
OVERLAND MONTHLY. Fairly assured of profitable pickings in the
East, he left California (permanently, as it proved). The East,
however, was financially unappreciative. Harte wrote an
unsuccessful novel and collaborated with Mark Twain on an
unremunerative play. His attempts to increase his income by
lecturing were even less rewarding. From his departure from
California in 1872 to his death thirty years later, Harte’s
struggles to regain financial stability were unremitting: and to
these eorts is due the relinquishment of his early ideal of ”a
peculiarly characteristic Western American literature.” Henceforth
Harte accepted, as Prof. Hicks remarks, ”the role of entertainer,
and as an entertainer he survived for thirty years his death as an
artist.”
The final period extends from 1878, when he managed to get himself
appointed consul to Crefeld in Germany, to 1902, when he died of a
throat cancer. He left for Crefeld without his wife or son–
perhaps intending, as his letters indicate, to call them to him
when circumstances allowed; but save for a few years prior to his
death, the separation, for what ever complex of reasons, remained
permanent. Harte, however, continued to provide for them as
liberally as he was able. In Crefeld Harte wrote A LEGEND OF
SAMMERS TANDT, VIEWS FROM A GE RMAN SPION, and UNSER KA RL.
In 1880
he transferred to the more lucrative consulship of Glasgow, and
ROB IN GRAY, a tale of Scottish life, is the product of his stay
there. In 1885 he was dismissed from his consulship, probably for
political reas ons, though neglect of duty was charged against him.
He removed to London where he remained, for most part, until his
death.
Bret Harte never really knew the life of the mining camp. His
mining ex periences were too fragment ary, and consequently his
portraits of mining life are wholly impressionistic. ”No one,”
Mark Twain wrote, ”can talk the quartz dialect correctly without
learning it with pick and shovel and drill and fuse.” Yet, Twain
added elsewhere, ”Bret Harte got his California and his
Californians by unconscious absorption, and put both of them into
3his tales alive.” That is, perhaps, the final comment. Much could
be urged against Harte’s stories: the glamor they throw over the
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