Born in Albany, N.Y., Francis Bret Harte moved to California with his mother at the age of 17 following the death of his father. He went to work as a printer for the Golden Era in San Francisco and eventually became a contributor as well as assistant editor. In 1864 he moved to the Weekly Californian, where his parodies of other writers' works were an instant success. He also served as secretary of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco from 1864 until 1870.

In 1868 Harte was chosen to be the first editor of Overland Monthly, a magazine that would eventually publish his most famous works, including "The Luck of Roaring Camp" (about a California gold-mining camp), "The Outcasts of Poker Flats," and "Plain Language from Truthful James, or The Heathen Chinee."

Following a brief stint as a professor of modern literature at the University of California, Harte returned to his native state in 1871 and resumed writing. His readers on the East Coast still expected tales of the California frontier, so he began recycling his earlier works and grew stale as a writer. Towards the end of his life, he served in the U.S. embassies in Germany and Scotland and eventually settled in England.

Like Herman Melville and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harte was never a participant in the War but followed it in the newspapers.

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Last modified 16-April-2001