A Letter by Bret Harte
Bret Harte (1836-1902) was a prominent author of western regional literature, also known as local color fiction. He is best known for his humorous and poignant vignettes about life in the American West, including “The Luck of the Roaring Camp” (1917) and “The Outcasts of Poker Flats” (1917), tales influenced by his own experiences working in a California mining camp as a young man. Harte’s stories and poems were popular with East Coast readers, and he left California and returned to New York, his birth state, in 1871.
In 1880 Harte was appointed United States Consul at Glasgow, Scotland. The letter in the Frellsen Fletcher Smith Collection is handwritten on stationary bearing the stamp of the Consulate of the United States of America at Glasgow. In his letter, dated May 20th, 1884, and addressed to Mrs. Douglas Murray, Harte expresses his regrets about not being able to visit the Murrays during his upcoming travels to London, England. The abbreviations “30th wk.” and “22nd wk.” refer, respectively, to the week of the 30th and the week of the 22nd. In 1885 Harte retired to London, where he died of throat cancer in 1902.
The letter is available for viewing in the Frellsen Fletcher Smith Collection, housed on the fourth floor of the Prescott Memorial Library.
--Dr. Dorothy Dodge Robbins, Department of English, Louisiana Tech University
A Transcript of the Letter
May 20th, 1884
Dear Mrs. Douglas Murray,
Just a line to say that, not being able to visit London before the 30th wk., how much I regret to lose the opportunity of paying my respects to you and your husband on the 22nd wk.
Yours very truly,