Francis Bret Harte, better known as Bret Harte (1836-1902) was an American author and poet who was born in Albany, New York. Bret Harte went to California in 1854, and during the ensuing three years was successively a schoolteacher and gold miner. In 1857 he became a typesetter on the Golden Era, a San Francisco newspaper, and four years later began to contribute poems and short fictional sketches to that journal. Bret Harte was subsequently appointed staff member of the Californian, San Francisco, to which he contributed a series of parodies satirizing the works of various popular authors of the time. In 1868 he helped establish and became editor of the Overland Monthly. Many of his most popular stories, including The Luck of Roaring Camp, The Outcasts of Poker Flat, Miggles, and Brown of Calaveras, were published in the Monthly, as was comic poem Plain Language from Truthful James which is also known as The Heathen Chinese.
These works by Bret Harte, which have come to be regarded as classics of American folk literature, are notable for their descriptions of the lusty, humorous, and sometimes tragic life of the mining camps and towns of California in the second half of the 19Th century. A collection of his stories, published in 1870 under the title The Luck of Roaring Camp and other Sketches was greeted with acclaim throughout the United States.
Bret Harte subsequently went to New York City, where he was commissioned to write for the Atlantic Monthly, but the quality of his contributions was far below the standard of his earlier writings. The ensuing decline in his popularity, along with his extravagant lifestyle, soon left him almost broke. Friends obtained for him an appointment as United States consul at Crefeld, Prussia, Germany, in 1878; two years later Bret Harte was transferred to Glasgow, Scotland, where he remained until 1885. Although he continued to write while serving in these positions, he did not produce any works comparable to his early stories; from 1885 until his death he was a hack writer in London. Additional notable stories of Bret Harte include: Mrs. Skagg's Husbands (1873) and Tales of the Argonauts (1875).