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Outlines of English and American Literature|
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