Complete Poetical Works HTML version

He began trying his pen in The Golden Era of San Francisco, where he
was working as a compositor; and when The Californian, edited by
Charles Henry Webb, was started in 1864 as a literary newspaper, he
was one of a group of brilliant young fellows–Mark Twain, Charles
Warren Stoddard, Webb himself, and Prentice Mulford–who gave at
once a new interest in California beside what mining and agriculture
caused. Here in an early number appeared ”The Ballad of the Emeu,”
and he contributed many poems, grave and gay, as well as prose in a
great variety of form. At the same time he was appointed Secretary
of the United States Branch Mint at San Francisco, holding the
oce till 1870.
But Bret Harte’s great opportunity came when The Overland Monthly
was established in 1868 by Anton Roman. This magazine was the
outgrowth of the racy, exuberant literary spirit which had already
found free expression in the journals named. An eager ambition to
lift all the new life of the Pacific into a recognized place in the
world of letters made the young men we have named put their wits
together in a monthly magazine which should rival the Atlantic in
Boston and Blackwood in Edinburgh. The name was easily had, and for
a sign manual on the cover some one drew a grizzly bear, that
formidable exemplar of Californian wildness. But the design did not
quite satisfy, until Bret Harte, with a felicitous stroke, drew two
parallel lines just before the feet of the halting brute. Now it
was the grizzly of the wilderness drawing back before the railway of
civilization, and the picture was complete as an emblem.
Bret Harte became, by the common urgency of his companions, the
first editor of the Overland, and at once his own tales and poems
began, and in the second number appeared ”The Luck of Roaring Camp,”
which instantly brought him wide fame. In a few months he found
himself besought for poems and articles, sketches and stories, in
influential magazines, and in 1871 he turned away from the Pacific
coast, and took up his residence, first in New York, afterward in
”No one,” says his old friend, Mr. Stoddard, ”who knows Mr. Harte,
and knew the California of his day, wonders that he left it as he
did. Eastern editors were crying for his work. Cities vied with one
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another in the oer of tempting bait. When he turned his back on
San Francisco, and started for Boston, he began a tour that the
greatest author of any age might have been proud of. It was a
veritable ovation that swelled from sea to sea: the classic sheep
was sacrificed all along the route. I have often thought that if
Bret Harte had met with a fatal accident during that transcontinental