O. Henry (William Sidney Porter), 1862 – 1910
Born: 11 September 1862, Greensboro, North Carolina
Died: 5 June 1910, New York City
Porter’s father was Dr Algernon Sidney Porter, a physician, his mother died of tuberculosis three years later and father and son moved in with Dr Porter’s mother-in-law. Porter was a wide-ranging avid reader, his favorite book was One Thousand and One Nights. He went to his aunt Evelina’s elementary school and Lindsey Street High School. He worked in his uncles drug store, becoming a licensed pharmacist at 19 in 1881, often sketching the local residents. He moved to Texas in 1882 in hopes of clearing up a chronic cough, living and working on a sheep ranch. He moved to Austin and worked various jobs including pharmacist, bank teller, and journalist, starting to write stories on the side. He played guitar and mandolin and joined “The Hill City Quartet”, a men’s group that sang at local gatherings. He courted Athol Estes, her mother objected, they eloped. He was hired to draft maps for the Texas General Land Office. In 1891 he started work as a teller and bookkeeper at the First National Bank of Austin, the bank had no formal accounting system and Porter’s poor records led to charges of embezzlement. After publishing a humorous weekly at Austin, which didn’t pay enough to live on, he was hired by the Houston Post in 1895, but federal auditors visited his old bank and indicted Porter. Rather than stand trial, Porter fled to New Orleans and then Honduras, he returned when his wife contracted tuberculosis, was arrested, and sent to prison for three years. As a pharmacist, he was given a room in the hospital and never was actually in a cell block, he wrote and sold several stories under pseudonyms, O. Henry being the one that he stayed with. He moved to New York City in 1902, writing 381 stories there. Despite his success he took to drinking heavily, his second wife left him after two years, and he died of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes, and an enlarged heart. His large heart was always obvious to his readers.
O. Henry quotes:
A burglar who respects his art always takes his time before taking anything else.
O. Henry – “Makes the Whole World Kin” in Sixes and Sevens (1911)
A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience.
O. Henry – “The Gold that Glittered” in Strictly Business (1910)
A straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows.
O. Henry – “A Ruler of Men” in Rolling Stones (1913)
All of us have to be prevaricators, hypocrites, and liars every day of our lives; otherwise the social structure would fall into pieces the first day. We must act in one another’s presence just as we must wear clothes. It is for the best.
Bohemia is nothing more than the little country in which you do not live. If you try to obtain citizenship in it, at once the court and retinue pack the royal archives and treasure and move away beyond the hills.
O. Henry – “The Country of Elusion”in The Trimmed Lamp (1907)
Broadway — the great sluice that washes out the dust of the gold-mines of Gotham.
O. Henry – “From Each According to His Ability” in The Voice of the City (1908)
Busy as a one-armed man with the nettle-rash pasting on wallpaper.
O. Henry – “The Ethics of Pig” in The Gentle Grafter (1908)
By nature and doctrines I am addicted to the habit of discovering choice places wherein to feed.
By rights you’re a king. If I was you, I’d call for a new deal.
Delectable chile-con-carne … composed of delicate meats minced with aromatic herbs and the poignant chile colorado – a compound full of singular savor and a fiery zest.
O. Henry – “The Enchanted Kiss”
East is East, and West is San Francisco, according to Californians. Californians are a race of people; they are not merely inhabitants of a State.
O. Henry – “A Municipal Report” in Strictly Business (1910)
He seemed to be made of sunshine and blood-red tissue and clear weather.
He wrote love stories, a thing I have always kept free from, holding the belief that the well-known and popular sentiment is not properly matter for publication, but something to be privately handled by the alienist and the florist.
O. Henry – “The Plutonian Fire” in The Voice of the City (1908)
History is bright and fiction dull with homely men who have charmed women.
O. Henry – “Next to Reading Matter” in Roads of Destiny (1909)
Hospitality in the prairie country is not limited. Even if your enemy passes your way, you must feed him before you shoot him.