HARTE, BRET. 1836-1902.
Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Bret Harte"), being his short story "The Mermaid of Lighthouse Point", 21 pp, 4to, [England], , ink on thick, lined paper, with numerous corrections and emendations, brad-bound, laid into cloth dropback box with morocco title label, light soiling and toning to leaves, some chipping to title label and wear at the corners of box.
Bret Harte is best known as the masterful chronicler of the mining camps and pioneers in California life, as the author of The Luck at Roaring Camp and The Outcasts of Poker Flat. "The Mermaid of Lighthouse Point" weaves many of these themes into a more fanciful tapestry. A lonely lighthouse keeper in Northern California catches a glimpse of what he thinks is a mermaid swimming in the sea. He comes to realize that she is actually an albino woman from the local Indian tribe, and in his fantasy begins to dream of living with her in the sea and in the lighthouse. As he slowly comes to know her, his reverie is sharply broken, when she disappears with group of prospectors leaving on a ship. He asks his friend Jim where has she gone, and he "made a gesture seaward which seemed to encompass the whole Pacific". Written near the end of his life, the story has a dream-like quality that stands out among Harte's stories.
Harte's mermaid story first appeared in two parts in the Illustrated London News, September 1-8, 1900 and the Saturday Evening Post, September 22, 1900, and was collected in Under the Redwoods (Houghton Mifflin, 1901). The present manuscript shows minor deviations from the printed text, but with extensive holograph corrections and emendations throughout.