Bret Harte Biography

Bret Harte was an American writer, poet and journalist. This biography of Bret Harte provides detailed information about his childhood, life, writing career, achievements and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: August 25, 1836

Nationality: American

Famous: Poets Editors

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

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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.

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Childhood & Early Life
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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.
Major Works
  • 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.
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How To Cite

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- Bret Harte Biography
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Bret Harte

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