Writers in the West: Brett Harte

Troy Muenzenberger

Life and Experiences

Francis Bret Harte was born in Albany New York on August 25, 1839. Harte would travel to California where he would work many different jobs including a miner, school teacher, express messenger, printer and journalist. In San Francisco Harte would write for The Californian where he would work with greats such as Mark Twain, Charles Warren Stoddard and Prentice Mulford. Later, Harte was appointed secretary of the United States Branch Mint at San Francisco. This position would allow him much time to pursue writing. He would retain the office until 1870. In 1878, Harte was appointed United states consul at Crefeld, Germany until he was transferred to Glasgow, Scotland in 1880. (Galloway 1). Harte would later reside in London until his death. Harte would die of throat cancer in Camberely, England on May 6, 1902.


Harte's first short story would be a series of Condensed Novels published in the weekly Californian newspaper. The story would be reissued in book form in 1867. Harte was a master of short stories and released over 40 of them(Galloway 1). "The Luck of Roaring Camp"(1870) would give Harte widespread fame throughout the United States(Merriman 5). Harte was very good at the genre of gold rush fiction, which he captured the corruption and greed in a nostalgic pose with the the experiences he had in California. Harte, after his fame throughout the 1870's, would not satisfy most readers throughout the rest of his career. In 1878 Harte's new job of consul had to become his source of income. Harte's final movement to England as a consul in Glasgow Scotland would the last major event of his life. While Harte continued to write, most people were sick of his writings and did not read his many stories or articles.

Historical Significance

Harte may have not been the most popular author of his time, but he was important to history none the less. Harte will remain a very vivid insight into the mining communities of the west with his stories of the gold rush, and the Native American presence in the west. Harte also had an influences on the lives of many other famous authors of the time such as Mark Twain. Harte would publish many different types of writings through out his life such as poetry, political essays, satire, and parodies of other author's work. While he would neither be a man of fame or fortune, he still can give us insight on the tough times in the west, and how different types of writing were developing at the time.

Work Cited


  1. Galloway Scott,"Central California Poetry Journal." Journal Page 6103 /Bret Harte. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.solopublications.com/jurn6103.htm>.
  2. Merriman, C.D. "Bret Harte." - Biography and Works. Search Texts, Read Online. Discuss.The Literature Network, 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.online-literature.com/bret-harte/>


  1. N.d. Photograph. FORT TUMBLEWEED-GATEWAY TO THE OLD WEST. Fortumbleweed.net, 1996. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://forttumbleweed.net/>.
  2. N.d. Photograph. The Old West. Fine Art America. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-old-west-dan-turner.html>.
  3. N.d. Photograph. Bret Harte. Nndb.com, 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nndb.com/people/827/000093548/>.
  4. N.d. Photograph. Where Billy the Kid Grew Up. American Consumer News, 28 July 2008. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.americanconsumernews.org/2008/07/where-billy-the-kid-grew-up.html>.