I was in New York City earlier this week. On Tuesday, I made a point of having lunch at Pete’s Tavern, which calls itself “The Tavern O. Henry Made Famous.” That’s because O. Henry is said to have written “The Gift of the Magi” at a certain booth inside. At least that’s one story. About half a block south is a residential building at 55 Irving Place, where O. Henry once lived. A plaque on an exterior wall insists that he wrote “The Gift of the Magi” there.
So nobody knows for sure where O. Henry scribbled his world-famous Christmas story. There are other discrepancies as well. Some sources say that his editor was present, urging him to meet a deadline. Others don’t. In my recent Wall Street Journal article on O. Henry, I sidestepped these minor controversies:
Several legends surround the writing of “The Gift of the Magi,” but all agree that Porter cranked it out under deadline pressure in just two or three hours.
The most interesting fact is the one that nobody disputes–the one about O. Henry writing his tale so quickly. Wouldn’t you like to compose a classic Christmas story before noon today? Put it on your to-do list.
At Pete’s Tavern, by the way, I had a cheeseburger and a Coke and watched the end of a World Cup game between Uruguay and Mexico. The burger was big, the Coke was refreshing, and the soccer match was a draw.