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O. Henry was the pen-name of William Sydney Porter. He was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. As a child, he was always reading. He read everything from classics to dime novels. His favourite reading was One Thousand and One Nights.
In 1879, he started working as a bookkeeper in his uncle's drugstore and in 1881, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed as a pharmacist. At the drugstore, he also showed off his natural artistic talents by sketching the townsfolk.
Henry's most prolific writing period started in 1902, when he moved to New York City. While there, he wrote 381 short stories. He wrote a story a week for over a year for the New York World Sunday Magazine. His wit, characterization and plot twists were adored by his readers, but often panned by critics. He went on to gain international recognition and is credited with defining the short story as a literary art form.
O. Henry stories are famous for their surprise endings, to the point that such an ending is often referred to as an "O. Henry ending." His stories are also well known for their witty narration. Most of O. Henry's stories are set in his own time, the early years of the 20th century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with ordinary people: clerks, policemen, and waitresses. The O. Henry Award is a prestigious annual prize given to outstanding short stories.
This collection of twenty-five short stories includes some of O. Henry's finest works. The book title, The Four Million, is attributed to the population of New York City in the early 1900s, and many of the stories are set there. O. Henry's empathetic tales give names and faces to everyday people, bearing out his belief that everyone is worth noticing. The collection includes one of his most famous stories, "e;The Gift of the Magi."e; The poignant piece tells of a young, poor couple who try to come up with surprise Christmas presents for each other, even though neither can afford much. This is an unabridged version of the American author's short story collection, which was first published in 1906.