Again the United States stands almost convicted of being the country par excellence in which native poets and story-tellers are allowed to sink into unmerited eclipse. By his well-tempered eulogy J. P. Collins, writing in the London Nineteenth Century, shames Bret Harte's countrymen, and typifies the mre appreciative and more sustained consideration which American writers seem to find only abroad.
The early enthusiasm which greeted Harte's vigorous stories of the West has been replaced by no less immoderate scorn of their crude scenes and rough action. Abroad it is otherwise., "Even his detractors," writes Mr. Collins, "set Bret Harte in the same constellation with Poe and De Maupassant; and better balanced judges may look in vain for his superior in fire, originality, characterization, and range of power."
Even Americans, if thoughtful, will realize that a hybrid, even as American culture is hybrid, he caught the vigor and rude strength of life in newly settled California. His clear, pointed style has swept the ceremonious diction of the Victorian writers from American fiction; and above all, he express that gaiety and resilience which are the distinguishing American characteristics. Bret Harte is the prophet of humor and humanity, but like most prophets he is honored everywhere but in his own land.