O. Henry is famous in American literature for his ironical stories that are full of hilarity and surprises. He was born William Sydney Porter on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Henry was left motherless at a young age when his mother, Mary Jane, succumbed to tuberculosis. He was then brought up by his father, a doctor, in his grandfather's house.
Always an avid reader, Henry was tutored by his aunt until going to work for his uncle's drug store, where he acquired enough practice to become a pharmacist. A year afterwards, at the age of twenty, he ventured to Texas to improve his health. Henry spent four years living and performing various tasks on a sheep ranch in La Salle County, then took up residence in Austin. Though employed at several different trades, including the pharmacy and journalism, he also took up his own private writing and amused himself by participating in local drama groups. It was also in Austin that Henry met and married Athol Estes, with whom he had two children.
Encouraged by his wife to write, he eventually created the humorous and satirical magazine The Rollling Stone. While he continued to work as a columnist, Henry was accused of embezzlement during a previous banking job, and was imprisoned in 1898. It was during his confinement that he began to release short stories to the public, becoming popularly known under his pseudonym, "O. Henry".
Upon his release from prison in 1901, Henry went to live with his young daughter, his wife having died just before his imprisonment. The year after marked the most productive phase of his career, as well as when he rose to the height of popularity. Now a resident of New York City, Henry wrote hundreds of short stories, well-known for Henry's distinctive witticisms, irony, and twist endings.
It was only a few years, however, before health complications took their toll on this popular author. Paired with heavy alcohol consumption, Henry's health declined quickly. Left alone by his second wife, he died in New York City on June 5, 1910, at only forty-seven years old.
O. Henry is still widely read, and attributed with forming the art of the short story.
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