Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Swordfish to Tanning >> Tales of the Argonauts

Tales of the Argonauts

harte, impres and bar

TALES OF THE ARGONAUTS, The. 'The Tales of the Argonauts' is a volume of short sketches collected and published by [Francis] Bret Harte in 1875; but the title is sometimes loosely applied to all this author's soiries of early California. Nothing in the 'Tales of the Argonauts' proper quite equals in merit 'The Luck of Roaring Camp,' 'The Out casts of Poker Flat' and 'Tennessee's Partner,' which had appeared in an earlier collection; but 'An Iliad of Sandy Bar,' 'How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar,> and some others have been deservedly popular. The Argonauts are of course the gold-seekers of 1849 and the years immediately following. These adventurers came from all quarters of the globe and all ranks of society, and they had in common only the possession of the Strength and determina tion necessary to reach the new C,olchis. Here they lived, at first, wholly free from the con ventional restraints imposed by an organized society, and each man' showed himself for what he was. Many of these primitive social con

ditions still existed when Harte went to Cali fornia in 1854, and they made a great impres sion on the observant boy. He did not use them in literature, however, until be was able to look back on them in the light of a man's experience. Californians objected that his pictures were unreal; but they give the im pression of essential truth to life an impres sion not spoiled by his persistent habit of showing the good elements in even the lowest and most debased characters. Harte occasion ally seems to have adopted some of the less fortunate devices of Dickens, but his manner was chiefly his own. He lacks literary finish, though he was painstaking in regard to style; but in these early tales he has a sure command of humor and pathos, and a complete mastery of his unique material.