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R O S C O E L. B U C K L A N D Western Washington State College Jack Hamlin: Bret Harte’s Romantic Rogue Jack Hamlin may have had his prototype in “Cherokee Bob,”a well-known gambler in California, and he may also have been an idealized composite of gamblers Bret Harte had seen in mining camps and towns.1 Whatever may have been his model, Harte observed in the gambler, and developed inJack Hamlin, a dashing hero for sentimental romance, a rogue for comedy of manners, and possibly a projection of unfulfilled desire. Certainly Harte was not attempting to establish a biography the reader could reconstruct from the twenty stories in which Hamlin appears.2He was not concerned with the chronological or geographical precision of the historical romance; he was creating local color out of the flush times of California. His chronology varies from story to story as he needed it to provide the time sequence of plot or to give the appearance of truth, as in the opening of a tall tale. His geography, especially in his later years, was reconstructed from his recollections of names of towns and 'M. W. Shinn, “Cherokee Bob, the OriginalJack Hamlin,”Overland Monthly, LXVIII (December, 1916), 539-43. All references to Cherokee Bob are drawn from this article. For a discussion of Harte’s knowledge of gamblers, see Henry Child Merwin, The Life of Bret Harte (Boston, 1911), 168-180. 2Hamlin appears briefly in “The Idyll of Red Gulch” (1869), “The llliad of Sandy Bar”(1870), “How Santa Claus Came to Simpson’s Bar”(1872), “A Passage in the Lifeof Mr.John Oakhurst”(1875), “The Fool of Five Forks”(1874), “Found at Blazing Star”(1882), “A Knight Errant of the Foothills”(1889), “A First Family of Tasajara” (1891), and “The Bell Ringer of Angels” (1894). He takes a hand in “An Heiress of Red Dog”(1878?), “An Apostle of the Tulles” (1896), “The Three Partners”and “A Ward of Colonel Starbottle’s” (1890), and Gabriel Conroy (1875). He is a central figure in “Brown of Calaveras” (1870), “A Sappho of Green Springs” (1890), “A Protégée of Jack Hamlin’s,” “Mr. Jack Hamlin’s Medita­ tion,”“A Mercury of the Foothills,”and “The Convalescence ofJack Hamlin” (all 1901). Bibliographical data are drawn from Joseph Gaer, ed., Bret Harte: Bibliog­ raphy and Biographical Data, California Literary Research Monograph #10, 1935; and from George R. Stewart, Jr., Bret Harte: Argonaut and Exile (Boston, 1935). Where I have not been able to determine dates of publication or composition, I have listed stories in the chronological sequence indicated by Gaer. 112 Western American Literature camps, mountains, valleys and rivers to catch a spirit of romance and comedy. Friends of Hamlin appear again and again, and allusions to events in other stories tempt the reader into building elaborate cross references which simply do not work out. Hamlin’s vital statistics are most uncertain. An analysis of the chronology ofGabriel Conroy reveals that Hamlin died in 1854, as a result of long-standing lung fever aggravated by hard riding, emo­ tional involvement in other people’s problems, getting shot in the leg, and discovering that the woman he loved had been killed in an earthquake. Yet in “An Heiress of Red Dog,”he is in good health in the spring of 1854 and for some years after. He is still dissipating, in “A Ward of Colonel Starbottle’s,” after 1854. He befriends the apostle of the Tulles in 1854. He is dallying with the wife of Brown of Calaveras sometime before 1857. He is hale, hearty, dashing, and brave, in “The Three Partners,” in 1861, and he is playing poker at Simpson’s Bar when Santa Claus comes there in 1862. He is playing draw poker at Wingdam in “Found at Blazing Star,” sometime in “186—.” Whatever the date of his death, he did not die in the manner of Cherokee Bob — riddled with the bullets of townsmen irate over his running off with a carpenter’s wife. Hamlin first appears, very briefly, in “The Idyll of Red Gulch,” written for the Overland Monthly (December, 1869) where he is referred to as a gambler...


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