William Sidney Porter

O. Henry

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O. Henry Biography
The Complete Works
of O. Henry
(William Sidney Porter)
The Four Million
Introduction & Contents
Tobin's Palm
The Gift of the Magi
A Cosmopolite in a Cafe
Between Rounds
The Skylight Room
A Service of Love
The Coming-Out of Maggie
Man About Town
The Cop and the Anthem
An Adjustment of Nature
Memoirs of a Yellow Dog
The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein
Mammon and the Archer
Springtime a la Carte
The Green Door
From the Cabby's Seat
An Unfinished Story
The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock
Sisters of the Golden Circle
The Romance of a Busy Broker
After Twenty Years
Lost on Dress Parade
By Courier
The Furnished Room
The Brief Debut of Tildy
Books by O. Henry
The Four Million
Heart of the West
The Gentle Grafter
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The Four Million

by O. Henry

The Four Million
by O Henry

The title refers to the population of New York at the turn of the 20th century. O. Henry had an affection for the city, which he called "Bagdad-on-the-Subway." He liked to walk around the city at night, studying people's faces and inventing stories about them. He said, "I've got some of my best yarns from park benches, lampposts and newspaper stands."

O. Henry's stories are mostly about ordinary people: shopgirls, clerks, policemen, waitresses. To him, every individual was important. He began The Four Million with this comment:

Not very long ago some one invented the assertion that there were only "Four Hundred" people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen--the census taker--and his larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the "Four Million."

The Four Million contains what is, perhaps, O. Henry's most famous story, "The Gift of the Magi." It is about a young couple who are short of money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. There is an ancecdote about how the story was written:

Often drunk, O. Henry was habitually late with his copy. As the deadline for this Christmas story approached, O. Henry failed to appear. Finally, the desperate editor sent an equally desperate illustrator to search out the writer. O. Henry had written nothing, did not know what he was going to write. The illustrator implored him for at least a clue as to what he should draw. O. Henry thought a moment, then said, "I'll tell you what to do.... Just draw a picture of a poorly furnished room.... On the bed, a man and a girl are sitting side by side. They are talking about Christmas. The man has a watch fob in his hand.... The girl's principal feature is the long beautiful hair that is hanging down her back. That's all I can think of now, but the story is coming." Eventually, the deadline long past, he wrote the story in three hours, helped along by his habitual bottle of Scotch and his agitated editor who waited on O. Henry's shabby couch for the copy.
(Source: The Smithsonian Magazine, January 1997)

Table of Contents

  1. Tobin's Palm
  2. The Gift of the Magi
  3. A Cosmopolite in a Cafe
  4. Between Rounds
  5. The Skylight Room
  6. A Service of Love
  7. The Coming-Out of Maggie
  8. Man About Town
  9. The Cop and the Anthem
  10. An Adjustment of Nature
  11. Memoirs of a Yellow Dog
  12. The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein
  13. Mammon and the Archer
  14. Springtime a la Carte
  15. The Green Door
  16. From the Cabby's Seat
  17. An Unfinished Story
  18. The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock
  19. Sisters of the Golden Circle
  20. The Romance of a Busy Broker
  21. After Twenty Years
  22. Lost on Dress Parade
  23. By Courier
  24. The Furnished Room
  25. The Brief Debut of Tildy

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