Frank Harris

Frank Harris books and biography


Frank Harris

Frank Harris by Alvin Langdon Coburn.
Frank Harris by Alvin Langdon Coburn.

Frank Harris (February 14, 1856 - August 27, 1931) was an Irish-American author, editor, journalist and publisher who consorted with many well-known figures of his day.



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 his three volume memoirs "My Life and Loves" (1923-1927). Harris was unhappy at the school and ran away within a year.

Emigrating to the US in late 1869, he studied at the University of Kansas. In 1878 he married Florence Ruth Adams; she 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 latter being the highpoint 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 Britain's Pearson's Magazine. Pearson's has been described as "Probably second in fame to The Strand Magazine, which it imitated ... a heavily romantic publication"[citation needed].

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 between 1922 and 27). It is notorious for its graphic descriptions of Harris's purported sexual encounters and for its exaggeration of the scope of his adventures, his prowess and his role in history. A dubious fifth volume, supposedly taken from his notes, 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 source[citation needed], 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), 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. Harris married three times. He died in France on August 27th 1931, of a heart attack.


  • "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 and best novel.
  • Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions (1916). The best of Harris's biographical works which, while not entirely accurate, conveys very well its author's great regard for his friend.
  • 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.


  • Frank Harris (1975) by Philippa Pullar. Of all the biographies this is the most accurate and comprehensive
  • 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.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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