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[378] 1863 he had contributed to The Atlantic monthly his Legend of Monte del Diablo, which, with half a dozen other pieces written during the same period, breathed the soul of The sketch Book. Poe had affected him not at all, but he had read much in the French, and he had been from his boyhood a devotee of Dickens. When in 1868, therefore, he found himself editor of the new Overland monthly, which was to be the Atlantic monthly of the Pacific coast, it was not strange that he should have evolved for its second number a short story like The luck of Roaring camp. The time was ready for such a production, and the place was ready: it could have come only during the decade following the war, and, moreover, it could have come only from California.

The story was woven of four strands: first, there was the Dickens sentiment, melodrama, theatric presentation of lowly material; second, there was the French art that had been adapted from Poe—form, finesse, nothing too much; third, there was the unusualness of background, new skies, strange types, presented by one who seemingly had been a part of what he told, a voice of the new spirit of the age in America; and, finally, over it all there was a reminiscence of Irving, that impalpable atmosphere of romance which covers it with the soft haze of remembered things, of the far-off and the idealized. Only the third was new, the ‘local colour’ we have come to call it, that touch of strangeness added to the picture by means of strongly picturesque characters and scenes hitherto unknown to the reader. A mere spice of novelty it was, a detail of stage setting wholly subsidiary to the vital elements of the tale, and yet it was largely this single element that gave The luck of Roaring camp its enormous vogue and that made its author —at least in America—the most influential writer of short stories in a generation.

And yet Harte was an effect rather than a cause. America was ready for local colour. He was the voice that started the avalanche that was bound to come sooner or later. The Civil War had liberated America from provincialism. It had done away with the boundaries of New England, of the South, of New York, of the West. The new emphasis was now upon the nation rather than upon the state or section. The first railroad across the continent was completed in 1868. Now

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