For the first two years of its existence, the Overland displayed at least as much interest in Chinese culture as in any other single subject, if we can judge from the quantity of articles devoted to the topic. In the magazine's first twenty-four numbers, under the editorial guidance of Harte himself, fifteen substantial articles were published on the language, folkways, and industries of the Chinese or on political questions concerning their presence in California. By the time that Harte's "Plain Language" appeared in volume five, the magazine and its contributors seem to have exhausted what they had to say about the Chinese, offering no new articles in that volume. Lacking the context of such articles, new readers of the Overland nonetheless would have found a few cues directing them to a satiric reading of the poem; with the help of the earlier articles, established readers could hardly have missed Harte's intended tone.
This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at American Literary Realism, published by University of Illinois Press. Copyright restrictions may apply. www.press.uillinois.edu/journals/index.html. DOI: 10.1353/alr.2010.0008
Penry, Tara. (2010). "The Chinese in Bret Harte’s Overland: A Context for Truthful James". American Literary Realism, 43(1), 74-82.