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Outlines of English and American Literature
Bret Harte
by Long, William J.


Francis Bret Harte (1839-1902) is generally credited with the invention of the local-color story; but he was probably indebted to earlier works of the same kind, notably to Longstreet's Georgia Scenes (1836) and Baldwin's Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi (1853). He had followed the "forty-niners" to California in a headlong search for gold when, finding himself amid the picturesque scenes and characters of the early mining camps, it suddenly occurred to him that he had before his eyes a literary gold mine such as no other modern romancer had discovered. Thereupon he wrote "The Luck of Roaring Camp" (first published in The Overland Monthly, 1868), and followed it with "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" and "Tennessee's Partner."

These stories took the literary world by storm, and almost overnight Harte became a celebrity. Following up his advantage he proceeded to write some thirty volumes of the same general kind, which were widely read and promptly forgotten. Though he was plainly too sentimental and sensational, there was a sense of freshness or originality in his early stories and poems which made them wonderfully attractive. His first three tales were probably his best, and they are still worth reading,--not for their literary charm or truth but as interesting early examples of the local-color story.

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