Alger, Horatio Jr.

Alger, Horatio Jr.

Horatio Alger Jr.

1832 - 1899

Name Variant(s): Horatio Alger

Biographies: The Lives of Horatio Alger, Jr.

          The most trying aspect of studying the life of Horatio Alger is that the majority of his earliest biographies are at worst total fiction, and at best, relatively innocent borrowings from the worst. The difficulties facing the biographers are clear, and one can sympathize with such authors; for upon Alger's death in 1899, his sister Augusta, in accordance with his will, destroyed Alger's diary and all personal correspondence. Despite the dearth of primary information, several writers have tried in the century since his death to write the authoritative Alger biography, relying on fabrication inplace of exhaustive research. Thus, Alger's true life has remained an enigma. In fact, the history of the Alger biography nearly takes precedence over the man himself.
          The initial perpetrator to this century of misrepresentation is Herbert Mayes, who in 1927 was contracted to write the first full biography of the author. After a few days of research, in which a lack of evidence and many close-lipped contemporaries of Alger confounded Mayes, he decided to write instead a parody of Alger that would resemble the tell-all scandal biographies of the time. As Mayes himself confessed later:
          "Here was a project that with scant trouble that I felt I could handle in a matter of months or even weeks. All I had to do was come up with a fairy tale...the going was easy, particularly when I decided to quote copiously from Alger's diary. If Alger ever kept a diary, I knew nothing about it" (Mayes'
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