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O. Henry (William Sydney Porter): Criticism and Reviews

The Internet Public Library features links to criticism about the work of O. Henry.

The O. Henry Page features links to a number of essays of literary criticism of O. Henry's work.

"A Surprise Tribute to O. Henry" is an article by Don Hauptman that reviews the author's style and legacy.

Additional criticism and review of O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)'s works can be found at your local public library.

The following reviews can be accessed online only by an individual who has a current library card through this address.

"An Overview of 'The Gift of the Magi.'"
Critic: Rena Korb.
Short Stories for Students, Gale Research, 1997.

In Korb's essay, "she discusses the varying critical opinions expressed about O. Henry's work, maintaining that such stories as 'The Gift of the Magi' are carefully crafted, achieve the author's intentions, and successfully speak to the audience for which they were written. …"

"'The Gift of the Magi': Overview."
Critic: Wilton Eckley.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1st ed., edited by Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994.

"A prolific writer, O. Henry turned out over 250 short stories between 1899 and 1910. These stories have been widely read and enjoyed throughout the world, and even though in the eyes of some they may not be considered first-rate literature, they have become a significant part of the short story genre. 'The Gift of the Magi,' collected in The Four Million (1906), stands as a clear example of O. Henry's mastery of the sentimental story with the surprise ending. …"

"'A Municipal Report': Overview."
Critic: Samuel I. Bellman.
Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1st ed., edited by Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994.

"One of O. Henry's less familiar stories today, 'A Municipal Report,' (collected in Strictly Business in 1910), was widely appreciated in earlier times, perhaps because of its clever stylistic devices and the odd psychology of its storyline…"

O. Henry Biography
Critic: C. Alphonso Smith.
O. Henry Biography, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1916, 258 p. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 19.

In his essay, "Smith examines some of the predominant themes in O. Henry's fiction."

"A Sleight-of-Hand Master."
Critic: Granville Hicks.
The New York Times Book Review, December 27, 1953, p. 5.

In his review, "Hicks reminisces about his youthful enthusiasm for the stories of O. Henry and his later disillusionment with them."

"O. Henry."
Critic: V. S. Pritchett.
New Statesman, Vol. LIV, No. 1393, November 23, 1957, pp. 697-98.

In his review, "Pritchett discusses the relationship between O. Henry and his fiction."

"O. Henry: Overview."
Critic: William Peden.
Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd ed., edited by Jim Kamp, St. James Press, 1994.

"… O. Henry brought verve, excitement, and humor to the genre. Enormously interested in people, he is capable of swift and compassionate insights into the average person, and his sympathy for the underdog, the little man or woman dwarfed in the maze of contemporary life, to a degree accounted for his enormous popularity…"

"O. Henry's 'Cabbages and Kings.'"
Critic: Stanhope Searles.
The Bookman, New York, Vol. XX, No. 6, February, 1905, pp. 561-62. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 19.

"… Cabbages and Kings is a book of very unusual interest and cleverness. The general popularity will necessarily be limited by the fact that it is essentially a man's book -- above all the kind of man who at some time of his life has felt the nostalgia strong upon him and yearned to slake his thirst with the drinks of home…"

"O. Henry."
Critic: Hyder E. Rollins.
The Sewanee Review, Vol. XXII, No. 2, Spring, 1914, pp. 213-32. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 19.

In his essay, Rollins "discusses some characteristics of O. Henry's short stories."

"The Amazing Genius of O. Henry."
Critic: Stephen Leacock.
Essays and Literary Studies (copyright, 1916, by Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc.; reprinted in Canada by permission of The Canadian Publishers, McClelland and Stewart Limited, Toronto), Dodd, Mead, 1916, pp. 231-66. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism.

"O. Henry's finest work was done (in New York) -- inimitable, unsurpassable stories that make up the volumes entitled The Four Million, The Trimmed Lamp, and The Voice of the City. Marvelous indeed they are. Written offhand with the bold carelessness of the pen that only genius dare use, but revealing behind them such a glow of the imagination and such a depth of understanding of the human heart as only genius can make manifest…"

"O. Henry: An English View."
Critic: A. St. John Adcock.
Waifs and Strays: Twelve Stories, by O. Henry, Doubleday, Page, 1917, pp. 196-204. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism.

"… O. Henry can move you to tears as well as to laughter -- you have not finished with him when you have called him a humourist. He has all the gifts of the supreme teller of tales, is master of tragedy as well as of burlesque, of comedy and of romance, of the domestic and the mystery-tale of common life, and has a delicate skill in stories of the supernatural…"

"O. Henry."
Critic: Carl Van Doren.
The Texas Review, Vol. II, No. 3, January, 1917, pp. 248-59. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 19.

In the review, "Van Doren discusses the essential traits of O. Henry's fiction."

"The Journalization of American Literature."
Critic: Fred Lewis Pattee.
The Unpopular Review, Vol. VII, No. 14, April-June, 1917, pp. 374-94. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 19.

In his essay, "Pattee attacks the popular American literature of his time as epitomized by the works of O. Henry."

"Critical Essay on 'Mammon and the Archer.'"
Critic: Ryan D. Poquette.
Source: Short Stories for Students, Vol. 18, Gale, 2003.

"Although Henry's literary reputation has declined since the early twentieth century, his works are starting to be interpreted by select critics. One of these critics, Kent Bales, notes in his American Writers entry that Henry, like Edgar Allan Poe, included hidden meanings in his fiction…"

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