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AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT, SIGNED OF HARTE'S ACCOUNT OF THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH, "MY EXPERIENCES AS A GOLD DIGGER"] [with:] [CORRECTED TYPESCRIPT OF THE SAME STORY RETITLED IN MANUSCRIPT, "HOW I WENT TO THE MINES"].
[Arford House, Headley, Hampshire, England. 1897]. - 9;7pp. Quarto. Loose sheets. Accompanied by the original brown paper packaging with additional autograph notation by Harte and addressed to Harte, postmarked November 1897. Two tiny stains to the first page of the manuscript, mailing folds. Minor fold separations to first page of typescript, one horizontal mailing fold. Overall very good. In a cloth chemise with red morocco label in gilt, with two modern bookplates, in a blue morocco clamshell case. An extraordinary surviving literary treasure from one of the West's legendary authors, comprising working drafts of Bret Harte's account of his time as a gold digger, probably in the Stanislaus River region in Tuolumne or Calaveras county. Both the manuscript and typescript have holographic corrections in the author's hand. Little is known of Harte's life between his arrival in Oakland in 1854 and his move to San Francisco in 1860 to work for the GOLDEN ERA. His work in the gold-mining regions that figures so prominently in his work occurred during this dark period in his biography, and are of the most interest to Harte scholars. This present manuscript is one of the most important sources for researching Harte's experiences during this mysterious period. This story provides some of the best detail on how Harte first became acquainted with the mines and miners which figure so prominently in his most famous works. "[This sketch] lays no claim to biographical accuracy, and certain improbable incidents were doubtlessly elaborated for the sake of giving point to the narrative. The story employs the first person - with Harte usually a sign of autobiographic tendency. Harte's sisters accepted it as essentially accurate; so did his devoted friend [T. Edgar] Pemberton. The narrative, moreover, has the ring of authenticity; the intimate experiences and petty difficulties of the boy walking to the mines are hardly ones which an elderly gentleman would be able to imagine in London" - Stewart. ^The typescript, the first seven pages of which are present here, has been corrected in manuscript to be nearly identical to the published version. Most notable in both typescript and manuscript are the passages which were entirely deleted from the published version which first appeared in the American periodical, YOUTH’S COMPANION in 1899. The published version numbers approximately 3800 words and Harte's own notation on the packaging indicates the original story was 4500 words. Deleted passages include the first paragraph recounting Harte's experiences with mining and his bad first impression of miners: "I suspect that I never really caught what was then called - 'the gold fever' - an infection to which an imaginative and errant school boy like myself might have been unduly susceptible. I never had the faith of a gold seeker. Even the glamour of emigration to a distant and unknown country did not include the hopeful vision of picking up gold nuggets in the streets of San Francisco.I remember that at first the returning successful or unsuccessful miner as I saw him in the streets of San Francisco, unkempt of hair and beard and patched of trowser, did not strike my boyish fancy as an heroic figure. His implements were not picturesque, and in his kit or outfit the frying pan and the kettle were shamelessly obtrusive.Let any of my youthful readers, unused to manual labor, imagine himself condemned for days, weeks and perhaps even years, to the regular task of digging, shovelling and carrying earth in a wheelbarrow to a dirty stream to be as regularly washed; let him further imagine that his only reward for this toil was just sufficient to procure him the plainest food and he will have some idea of gold digging as practised by at least two-thirds of the mining population of California - even in what was known as its 'flush times.'" Later, Harte wrote of the visual environment in California, especially around the gold mines themselves: "In that absolutely clarified air, it seemed only a few hundred feet away
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2015-03-19           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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