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O. Henry, pseudonym of William Sidney Porter Biography

(1862–1910), pseudonym of William Sidney Porter, The Rolling Stone, Cabbages and Kings, The Four Million

stories various followed short

American short-story writer, born in Greensboro, North Carolina. Following his mother's death in his early childhood, he was brought up by his grandmother and aunt, before going to Texas at the age of 19. After a series of jobs, he began a newspaper called The Rolling Stone in 1894, which embraced political satire, ethnic humour, and parody of small-town life. The paper collapsed after a year and he was tried for embezzlement; after having skipped jail and gone into exile in Honduras, he returned and was sentenced for five years in 1897. Whilst in Ohio Penitentiary, he began writing stories under a variety of pen-names before he settled on O. Henry. After prison he moved to New York City, where his stories appeared in various well-known magazines. In 1904 he published his first book of stories about Honduras, entitled Cabbages and Kings; this was followed by stories about New York, The Four Million (1906). With his reputation now established, there followed a stream of collections: Heart of the West (1907); The Gentle Grafter (1908); The Voice of the City (1908); Options (1909); Roads of Destiny (1909); Strictly Business (1910); Whirligig (1910); Sixes and Sevens (1911); Stones (1912); Waifs and Strays (1917); O. Henryana (1920). Despite his contrived endings, sentimentality, and repetition, his famous stories such as ‘The Furnished Room’, ‘Mammon and the Archer’, and ‘The Gift of the Magi’ demonstrate a keen eye for detail, and a sympathy for the underdog. Various other posthumous publications appeared including Postscripts (1923), O. Henry Encore: Stories and Illustrations (1939), The Complete Works of O. Henry (1953), and the Collected Stories of O. Henry (1979). His name has been appropriated for the American annual short story prize.

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