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Urban Sketches   By: (1836-1902)

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Urban Sketches by Bret Harte is a captivating collection of stories that offers readers a vivid glimpse into life in the American West during the late 19th century. Although lesser-known than some of Harte's other works, this collection showcases his unique ability to depict the intricacies of human life with both humor and poignant insight.

The book transports us to various urban landscapes, from bustling cities to small mining towns, presenting a mosaic of characters that range from quirky to morally ambiguous. Harte’s keen observations and delightful wit are evident in each story, making them truly enjoyable to read.

One of the standout stories in the collection is "The Stolen Cigar-Case," which humorously explores the materialistic nature of society. Harte effortlessly weaves social commentary with comedy, and the result is a thoroughly entertaining tale. Similarly, "M’liss" is a touching narrative that delves into the life of a spirited young girl growing up in a small mining community. Harte brings both the vibrant setting and the tender emotions of the characters to life with his evocative prose.

What sets Urban Sketches apart is Harte's ability to reveal the complex, often flawed, nature of humanity. Through vivid descriptions and well-crafted dialogue, the characters feel genuinely authentic. Whether it is the cunning gambler or the kind-hearted optimist, Harte humanizes each and every one of them, allowing readers to easily connect and empathize with their experiences.

In addition to its compelling narratives, Urban Sketches provides a remarkable snapshot of the cultural landscape of the American West during that era. Harte’s intimate knowledge of the region and its people enhances the overall reading experience, immersing us in a bygone era and leaving us with a better understanding of its history and way of life.

However, it is worth noting that some readers may find the language and attitudes depicted in Urban Sketches somewhat dated, as they reflect the norms of the time in which they were written. Nevertheless, these aspects can be understood in the context of the book's historical significance, as it offers a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of that era.

Overall, Urban Sketches is a masterful collection of stories that showcases Bret Harte's talent for vividly capturing the essence of the American West and its inhabitants. With compelling narratives, memorable characters, and a keen eye for detail, Harte creates an enjoyable and insightful reading experience. This book is a must-read for those who appreciate engaging tales that both entertain and provide valuable social commentary.

First Page:

URBAN SKETCHES

by Bret Harte

CONTENTS

A VENERABLE IMPOSTOR

FROM A BALCONY

MELONS

SURPRISING ADVENTURES OF MASTER CHARLES SUMMERTON

SIDEWALKINGS

A BOY'S DOG

CHARITABLE REMINISCENCES

"SEEING THE STEAMER OFF"

NEIGHBORHOODS I HAVE MOVED FROM

MY SUBURBAN RESIDENCE

ON A VULGAR LITTLE BOY

WAITING FOR THE SHIP

URBAN SKETCHES

A VENERABLE IMPOSTOR.

As I glance across my table, I am somewhat distracted by the spectacle of a venerable head whose crown occasionally appears beyond, at about its level. The apparition of a very small hand whose fingers are bunchy and have the appearance of being slightly webbed which is frequently lifted above the table in a vain and impotent attempt to reach the inkstand, always affects me as a novelty at each recurrence of the phenomenon. Yet both the venerable head and bunchy fingers belong to an individual with whom I am familiar, and to whom, for certain reasons hereafter described, I choose to apply the epithet written above this article.

His advent in the family was attended with peculiar circumstances. He was received with some concern the number of retainers having been increased by one in honor of his arrival. He appeared to be weary, his pretence was that he had come from a long journey, so that for days, weeks, and even months, he did not leave his bed except when he was carried... Continue reading book >>




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