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Frank Harris (February 14, 1856 – August 27, 1931) was an Irish author, 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.

Life

Frank Harris was born James Thomas Harris in Galwaymarker, Irelandmarker, February 14, 1856 of Welsh parents . At the age of 12 he was sent to Walesmarker to continue his education as a boarder at the Ruabon Grammar Schoolmarker 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 Kansasmarker. 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 Londonmarker 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 Yorkmarker 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" .

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 Parismarker 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 , 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 Yorkmarker in the mid-to-late 1920s to promote and distribute his works in America. Esar Levine, whose Harris collection is housed at Princeton Universitymarker, was one of his employees and disciples. Married three times, Harris died in Francemarker on August 27 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.

Select bibliography

  • The Bomb (1908). His first novel.
  • Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions (1916).
  • My Life and Loves, complete (1922).
  • The Short Stories of Frank Harris, a Selection (1975). Edited by Elmer Gertz; a representative collection


Portrayal on Film and Television

Cowboy (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.

He is a character in the 1997 Tom Stoppard play "The Invention of Love", which deals with the life of A. E. Housman and the Oscar Wilde trials.

He appears as a close friend of Oscar Wilde in the award-winning play by Moises Kaufman, Gross Indeceny: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.

He appears in the first episode of the 2001 miniseries The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells, rejecting a story from Wells for being too long and too preposterous.

Harris appears as a vampire in Kim Newman's 1992 novel Anno Dracula, as the mentor and vampire sire of one of the novel's main characters.

References

  • 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.


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