Frank Harris

Frank Harris (February 14, 1856 – August 27, 1931) was a naturalised American author of British origin, editor, journalist and publisher who was friendly with many well-known figures of his day. Though he attracted much attention during his life for his irascible, aggressive personality, editorship of famous periodicals, and friendship with the talented and famous, he is remembered mainly for his multiple-volume memoir "My Life and Loves", which was banned in countries around the world for its sexual explicitness.


Frank Harris was born James Thomas Harris in Galway, Ireland, February 14, 1856 of Welsh parents. At the age of 12 he was sent to Wales to continue his education as a boarder at the Ruabon Grammar School in Denbighshire, a time he was to remember later in "My Life and Loves". Harris was unhappy at the school and ran away within a year. While running away, Frank Harris discovered his true love.

Emigrating to the US in late 1869, he studied at the University of Kansas. In 1878 he married Florence Ruth Adams, who died the following year. Returning to England in 1882, Harris first came to general notice as the editor of a series of London papers including the "Evening News", the "Fortnightly Review" and the "Saturday Review", the last-named being the high point of his journalistic career, with H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw as regular contributors.

Harris returned to New York during World War I. From 1916 to 1922 he edited the U.S. edition of "Pearson's Magazine". "Pearson's" has been described as "Probably second in fame to "The Strand Magazine", which it imitated ... a heavily romantic publication"Fact|date=February 2007.

Harris became an American citizen in April, 1921. In 1922 he traveled to Berlin to publish his best-known work, his autobiography "My Life and Loves" (published in four volumes, 1922-1927). It is notorious for its graphic descriptions of Harris's purported sexual encounters and for its exaggeration of the scope of his adventures and his role in history. A fifth volume, supposedly taken from his notes but of doubtful provenance, was published in 1954, long after his death.

A 1923 attempt to sell the book in Paris caused it to be seized by French authorities.

The British occultist, mystic, and sexual revolutionary Aleister Crowley lived with him in 1924; according to one sourceFact|date=February 2007, they both shared similar "money troubles" and were "equal hypochondriacs".

Harris also wrote short stories and novels, two books on Shakespeare, a series of biographical sketches in five volumes under the title "Contemporary Portraits" and biographies of his friends Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. His attempts at playwriting were less successful: only "Mr. and Mrs. Daventry" (1900) (which was based on an idea by Oscar Wilde) was produced on the stage.

The Frank Harris Publishing Company was founded in New York in the mid-to-late 1920s to promote and distribute his works in America. Esar Levine, whose Harris collection is housed at Princeton University, was one of his employees and disciples. Married three times, Harris died in France on August 27th 1931, of a heart attack.

Harris appeared as a character in the play Oscar Wilde, written by Leslie & Sewell Stokes, at the Fulton Theatre, New York, 1938, starring Robert Morley.


* "I am, really, a great writer; my only difficulty is in finding great readers."
* "Sex is the gateway to life."
* "Every new language is like an open window that shows a new view of the world and expands your attitude towards life."
* "Casanova! My dear man, Casanova is not worthy to untie my bootstrings."
* "Strong men are made by opposition - like kites, they go up against the wind."
* "What hope is there for humanity, save in confession and reform; in truth and in love."
* "You've never seen the mouth of the Thames at night, have you? It's a scene from wonderland; houses like blobs of indigo fencing you in; ships drifting past like black ghosts in the misty air, and the purple sky above never so dark as the river, the river with its shifting lights of ruby and emerald and topaz, like an oily, opaque serpent gliding with a weird life of its own..."-"Harris unsuccessfully encouraging Oscar Wilde to go abroad and avoid the risk of a trial. "

Select bibliography

*"The Short Stories of Frank Harris, a Selection" (1975). Edited by Elmer Gertz; a representative collection
*"The Bomb" (1908). His first novel.
*"Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions" (1916).
*"My Life and Loves", complete (1963). Harris's autobiography in its first publication as a single book, with many typographical errors corrected and copious footnotes provided by editor John F. Gallagher.

Portrayal on Film and Television

Cowboy (film) (1958) is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel "My Reminiscences as a Cowboy". Harris is played by Jack Lemmon.

He is seen as a minor character in "The Trials of Oscar Wilde" (1960) played by Paul Rogers.

On television, Harris was played by Leonard Rossiter in a 1978 BBC Play of the Week: "Fearless Frank, or, Tidbits From The Life Of An Adventurer".

Harris was also featured in an episode of "The Edwardians" (1972) played by John Bennett.


* "Frank Harris" (1975) by Philippa Pullar.
* "Frank Harris" (1970) by Robert Brainard Pearsall. New York: Twayne Publishers. In Twayne's English Authors Series. LCC 74-120526, Dewey 828.9/H314p.
*"The Playwright and the Pirate, Bernard Shaw and Frank Harris: A Correspondence" (1982), edited and with an introduction by Stanley Weintraub. The Pennsylvania State University Press.

External links

* [ Extensive website by Alfred Armstrong]
* [ Extended bibliography at]
* [ Esar Levine's Harris collection at Princeton]
* [ Biographical sketch, Crowley diary quotes]
* [ Frank Harris Collection] at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin

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