Birthday: August 25, 1836
Died At Age: 65
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Francis Brett Hart, Francis Brett Harte
Born in: Albany, New York, U.S.
Famous as: Author & Poet
Spouse/Ex-: Anna Griswold
father: Henry Harte
children: Francis, Griswold, Jessamy and Ethel
Died on: May 5, 1902
place of death: Camberley, England, UK
U.S. State: New Yorkers
Who was Bret Harte?
Bret Harte was an American writer; poet and journalist who’s most famous works were those involving the portrayal of the figures of Californian Gold Rush. He was named after Francis Brett, his great grandfather but he made one small change and preferred to spell his name ‘Bret’. His father was a wealthy trader and a founding member of the New York Stock Exchange. His school level education was erratic in nature and before long he dropped out in order to become a writer. He went to California and worked in a variety of jobs which gave him an insight into the way of life in the state during the gold rush. He worked for the newspaper ‘Northern Californian’ as an assistant editor but his stand on an incident forced him to leave the city since his personal safety was at stake. He worked as a writer for ‘The Atlantic Monthly’ and also helped in establishing ‘The Californian’, before becoming a founding member of ‘The Overlord Monthly’. One of his most famous stories, ‘The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches’ was published in ‘Overlord Monthly’. Later on, he was given a contract worth $10000 per year by ‘The Atlantic Monthly’ and it was an unprecedented amount offered to any writer at the time.
Childhood & Early Life
Francis Bret Harte, better known as Bret Harte, was born on 25 August 1836 in Albanay, New York, United States. His father, Henry Harte, was Jewish immigrant and a prosperous merchant who went on to become one of the founding members of the New York Stock Exchange.
He grew up in New York and in 1845 the family moved to Brooklyn. His school level education was irregular. There is very little information about his education but he was an avid reader and writer from an early age. Hs poem ‘Autumn Musings’ was published when he was just 11.
He moved to California in 1854 and started working as a miner, which gave him an insight on the dynamics of life in a camp. Three years later he was employed as a journalist by the weekly publication ‘Northern Californian’ and during his time with the publication he became well acquainted with local issues.
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During his time at ‘Northern Californian’, he took an editorial stand against the killings of Indians in 1860 and was consistent in his stand against the treatment meted out to Mexicans. Following his reporting and stand on the killings, he received threats to his life and he decided to leave the paper. He quit his job and shifted base to San Francisco.
In 1860, he was appointed as the editor of a San Francisco based newspaper ‘The Golden Era’ and during his time at the publication, his first set of ‘Condensed Novels’ was published in which he wrote parodies of some of the better known works of such luminaries as Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo.
In 1863, he contributed his first story to the American publication ‘The Atlantic Monthly’ and the following year he collaborated with Charles Henry Webb to create a literary publication titled ‘The Californian’. During this period, he continued to write parodies and his parody of Sherlock Holmes in the story ‘The Stolen Cigar-Case’ was particularly well received.
He was appointed the editor of the recently launched literary publication ‘The Overland Monthly’ in 1868 following his work on stories on Spanish legends. One of his most well-known works, ‘The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches’ was published in ‘The Overlord Monthly’ two years after he became the editor. The poem ‘The Heathen Chinee’ was also published in the same year and he became a well-known literary figure across the world.
In 1871, at the peak of his career as a writer, he was given a contract by ‘The Atlantic Monthly’ worth $10,000 a year. It was an unprecedented yearly fee for a writer at the time. It did not, however, prove to be the roaring success that he had hoped and the following year, he found himself without a contract. He could not find much work over the next few years and spent time working in advertising and the lecturing circuit.
In 1880, he was made the United States Consul in Glasgow, Scotland and five years later he made London his permanent home. He continued to write extensively but did not get the same recognition as he had received in the past. He spent the rest of his days in Europe but he lived alone and used to send money to his family in the United States.
His most important work was ‘The Luck of the Roaring Camp’ published in ‘Overlord Monthly’ in 1870. It is one of his most famous works and made him known all over the world.
Personal Life & Legacy
On August 11 1862 he got married to Anna Griswold. The couple had four children - Griswold, Francis, Jessamy and Ethel.
He died on 5 May 1902 due to throat cancer at the age of 62 in Camberley, England.