Bret Harte Biography
Francis Bret Harte (1836 – 1902) was one of the first of many mid-to late-nineteenth century American writers who specialized in stories of local color. His early education was sparse and irregular. At 18, he traveled from his birthplace, Albany, New York, to the wilds of San Francisco, with his widowed mother. Soon, he met the seekers of fortune who had come West after the discovery of gold in California.
Harte worked in various jobs, but eventually settled on popular magazine work with the The Californian and The Overland Monthly. His initial fame came from the publishing of “The Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” in the 1860s; within a short time, Harte had become the highest paid author in the country and was a contributor to numerous literary and popular magazines. For the first time in American literature, characters from the outskirts of life—drunkards, gamblers, prostitutes, miners—were depicted with sympathy, humor, and humanity. He also met and championed the writing of a young Mark Twain, but later in life, he ridiculed Twain's writing.
Harte moved back east, but eventually, after further literary successes eluded him, he went to Europe where he lived for 30 years. Bret Harte died of lung cancer in 1902.
lustrous – shining, brilliant
whimsical – playful
Klondike – an area in Alaska where the gold fields were; also a tributary of the Yukon River
intangible – indescribable
serenity – peace