O. Henry

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O. Henry was the pseudonym of the American writer William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910). O. Henry's short stories are well known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings.

Contents

Life

Early life

William Sidney Porter was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. His middle name at birth was Sidney; he changed the spelling to Sydney in 1898. His parents were Dr. Algernon Sidney Porter (1825–1888), a physician, and Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Porter (1833–1865). They were married April 20, 1858. When William was three, his mother died from tuberculosis, and he and his father moved into the home of his maternal grandmother. As a child, Porter was always reading, everything from classics to dime novels; his favorite works were Lane's translation of One Thousand and One Nights, and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.[2]

Porter graduated from his aunt Evelina Maria Porter's elementary school in 1876. He then enrolled at the Lindsey Street High School. His aunt continued to tutor him until he was fifteen. In 1879, he started working in his uncle's drugstore and in 1881, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed as a pharmacist. At the drugstore, he also showed off his natural artistic talents by sketching the townsfolk.

Move to Texas

Porter traveled with Dr. James K. Hall to Texas in March 1882, hoping that a change of air would help alleviate a persistent cough he had developed. He took up residence on the sheep ranch of Richard Hall, James' son, in La Salle County and helped out as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook and baby-sitter. While on the ranch, he learned bits of Spanish and German from the mix of immigrant ranch hands. He also spent time reading classic literature. Porter's health did improve and he traveled with Richard to Austin in 1884, where he decided to remain and was welcomed into the home of the Harrells, who were friends of Richard's. Porter took a number of different jobs over the next several years, first as pharmacist then as a draftsman, bank teller and journalist. He also began writing as a sideline.

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