Horatio Alger, Jr. (1832-1899) American author of books for young boys which featured heroes who were born in grinding poverty but who earned success through hard work and determination. The phrase "Horatio Alger story" is used to describe someone who has gone from rags to riches in a similar manner.

"HEAVILY, heavily fell the snow, covering the dark brown earth already hardened by the frost, with a pure white covering. As the rain falls alike upon the just and upon the unjust, so too the snow, God's kindred messenger, knows no distinction of persons, visiting all alike, forgetting none, and passing by none.", Introduction to "The Christmas Gift"

American novelist, born in 1832 to the Rev. Horatio Alger, Sr., in Massachusetts. He was poorly educated; he never really attended school, didn't learn the alphabet until the age of 6, and didn't start reading until the age of 10, at which point his father taught him basic Latin (and rather poorly at that) and English through the Bible; even for his age, this was a piss-poor education. Neverthless, he somehow managed to read what he could, and ended up at Harvard at the age of 16; aside from joining a frat, he seems to have done relatively well there.

He graduated, entered the divinity school, and soon quit in favour of various menial jobs: teacher, newspaper editor, school-master, etc. A few trips to New York won him a favourite charity: homeless young boys, or "street-Arabs", as he called them. A few visits to local shelters gave him the privilege of writing about them from experience, and helped him develop the bootstrap theory common to his novels.

He soon began writing a stories; most of them deal with some sort of poor sod who manages to earn fame, dignity, and wealth through hard work and perseverance. Right. His prose...well the quote above should give you some sort of idea of what you're in for; generally turgid, written for moral worth, and mostly intended for children. Personally, I never understood most of his morals; the lesson of The Saracen Dwarf seems to be that if you're mean to Jewish people you'll be murdered by a swarthy, heathen midget; My First and Last School seems to say that threatening to shoot the Irish is an effective way of leading a classroom. Am I missing something here? Anway, he wrote under scores of pseudonyms, so nobody really knows how much of this drivel is out there.

He is often compared to Charles Dickens, and rightly so; both have the wit and charm of a sack of wet mice. Whatever your opinion of Dickens, if you love him, you'll love the works of the right Rev. Alger. Combine Horatio Alger and a whole lot of LSD, and somehow you end up with Hunter S. Thompson.

Horatio Alger (1834-1899) was one of the United States' most influential and popular writers of the end of the 19th century, even if his didactic moral fables of young poor boys striking it rich through pluck and hard work were more Hardy Boys than Charles Dickens.

Many reference sources about Alger's life, especially those dating prior to the 1970s, are suspect because of Alger's first biography, Alger: A Biography without a Hero (1928) by Herbert R. Mayes. Mayes' biography was highly praised and used as a source of information about Alger for decades. The problem was that Mayes made it all up, crafting a parody of Alger's work that has Alger as the victim of many of the same kinds of melodramatic tragic scenarios that his protagonists starred in. For example, when the charitable Alger attempts to adopt a Chinese boy, the youth is killed by a runaway horse. And when Alger attempts to enlist during the Civil War, he accidentally breaks his arm. Twice. Even when critics couldn't find the diary the work was supposedly based on, Mayes' book was considered an authoritative source until he confessed his prank in the 1970s:
"If Alger ever kept a diary, I knew nothing about it. In any case, it was more fun to invent one. I had no letters ever written by Alger, which was fortunate. Again, it was more fun to make them up, as it was with letters presumably sent to Alger, none of which I had ever seen."
But Alger's real life was more strange than perhaps Mayes could have imagined. Alger didn’t write tales of young boys just because he stumbled upon a best selling formula that appealed to moralists around the country. Alger really liked little boys. He was a pedophile.

Alger was born in Massachusetts, the son of a Unitarian minister. He graduated from Harvard University in 1852 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. After a brief stint as a schoolteacher and magazine writer, he attended Harvard Divinity School, graduating in 1860. In 1864, he was ordained and manned a pulpit in Brewster, Massachusetts, but split town two years later under a cloud of suspicion:
"That Horatio Alger, Jr., who has officiated as our Minister for about fifteen months past has recently been charged with no less magnitude than the abominable and revolting crime of unnatural familiarity with boys.

"Whereupon the committee sent for Alger and to him specified the charges and evidence of his guilt, which he neither denied or attempted to extenuate, but received with apparent calmness of an old offender - and hastily left town on the very next train for parts unknown."

His next stop was New York City, where there were plenty of shoeshine boys and street urchins to befriend. His novel Ragged Dick (hopefully, no pun intended there), the sentimental story of a shoeshine boy made good, was an enormous success, its popularity aided by the social reformers and moralists who cited the work as a positive one. Alger knew a good thing when he saw it, and churned out over a hundred more often laughably horrible copies of this formula over the next three decades.

Alger himself became one of those social reformers, heavily active in causes like the Newsboys' Lodging House and other organizations which aided orphans and runaways. Alger also helped himself to a number of them in his bedroom. Alger, the toast of the town, was often seen at society events accompanied by a couple of his favorites d'jour. No matter how many camping trips he took them on, he somehow always managed to avoid even the hint of scandal.

Sources: britannica.com; Richard Shenkman, I Love Paul Revere, Whether He Rode or Not; Charles Panati, Sexy Origins and Intimate Things

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