Bret Harte: Opening the American Literary West (Oklahoma by Gary Scharnhorst

By Gary Scharnhorst

Bret Harte was once the best-known and highest-paid author in the United States within the early 1870s, but his vexed makes an attempt to earn cash by way of his pen resulted in the failure of his marriage and, in 1878, his departure for Europe. Gary Scharnhorst’s biography of Harte strains the growing to be advertisement charm of western fiction and drama on either side of the Atlantic in the course of the Gilded Age, a improvement during which Harte performed a vital role.

Harte’s pioneering use of California neighborhood colour in such tales as "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" challenged genteel assumptions approximately western writing and helped open jap papers to contributions through Mark Twain and others. the recognition of Bret Harte’s writings used to be pushed mostly by way of a literary marketplace that his western tales helped create.

The first Harte biography in approximately seventy years to be written totally from basic assets, this ebook records Harte’s own relationships and, additionally, his negotiations with numerous publishers, brokers, and theatrical manufacturers as he exploited well known curiosity within the American West.

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Still, the very survival of the Overland seemed unlikely when the August 1868 number, only its second issue, was put into production in mid-July. In his account of the genesis of the magazine, Roman claimed he had convinced Harte that “the early California gold diggers and their mining camps” were “comparatively new ground” for fiction, though Harte had been tapping this fertile vein of local color off and on since 1860. ” For the second issue Harte wrote a subtle parody of the gospel accounts of the Nativity set in a mining camp, a nineteenth-century precursor of Monty Python’s Life of Bryan, featuring a mixed-blood prostitute named Cherokee Sal, an ironic Virgin indeed, who gives birth to a transcendentally blessed child named Tommy Luck.

In “The Haunted Man,” the Scrooge-like hero is repeatedly visited by phantoms who transport him to various sites and ask him what he sees. ” he finally replies. “Of course it’s very moral and instructive, and all that. ” Apart from some of the poetry and his condensed novels, Harte later collected few of his writings for the Californian. The magazine aimed to be more “high-toned” than the Golden Era, and as a result what Harte contributed to its pages—virtually none of it fiction except the condensed novels—tended to be either too topical or too local in its appeal.

Anton Roman, the San Francisco publisher who had hired Harte to edit Outcroppings, decided to launch a hightoned monthly magazine modeled on the Atlantic in Boston, to be named the Overland Monthly. And he offered Harte the chance to edit it. chapter 2 The Overland Monthly From “The Luck” to “The Prodigal” FROM the start, Harte and Roman had very different ideas about what the magazine should be. ” On his part, as Roman reminisced thirty years later, Harte “entertained serious doubts of the success of such an enterprise,” much as he had questioned the commercial viability of the anthology of California verse Roman had commissioned two years earlier.

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