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O. Henry

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O. Henry (1862--1910), born William Sidney Porter, in Greensboro, North Carolina. When he was a young man, O. Henry moved to Texas and worked on a ranch for three years. Later, he moved to Houston, worked for a newspaper for a year, then bought a newspaper of his own in Austin, Texas for $250. He was not pleased with his newspaper's title; so he renamed it The Rolling Stone. For a while, he did the writing and even the illustrations, but couldn't keep it up. The Rolling Stone apparently gathered moss and failed.

O. Henry worked in the General Land Office and later as a bank teller (1891-94). While at the bank, he was accused of embezzling $5,000. At first, he was cleared of the charges, but later they were brought up again. Before he could be convicted, however, he ran away to New Orleans and eventually to Honduras. O. Henry spent several months moving about Central America in the company of the notorious outlaw, Al Jennings. They lived on the money ($30,000) taken by Jennings in a robbery. After a year, O. Henry returned to the U.S., where he was convicted of embezzlement, and served three years in a penitentiary. It was from prison that he sent out his first stories. After his release, O. Henry moved to New York City and, in 1902, became a short story writer on the staff of the New York World. He became one of the most widely read authors of his day. In less than three years he wrote one hundred and thirteen short stories. The World only allowed him the space of one page for a story; most of his stories, therefore, are very short. He was a prolific writer and in his career turned out over six hundred stories.

O. Henry's stories are historically significant because many of them were about the lives of the common people of New York City. His stories are sometimes criticized for sentimentality, thin characters, and his manipulation of the plot. Many authorities also criticize the surprise ending as obvious and forced. Regardless of what critics say, his stories were enormously popular, and his inventiveness earned him an honorable place in the history of the American short story.

On June 5, 1910, after a long illness, O. Henry died of diabetes mellitus complicated by cirrhosis of the liver.

O. Henry stories available on this site:

The Last Leaf

The Ransom of Red Chief

 

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Last modified: June 04, 2015