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Frank Harris (1856-1931)

This part of the site is dedicated to the notorious author and editor Frank Harris, whose My Life and Loves scandalised Britain, Europe and America in the 1920s. Notwithstanding his reputation as a rogue and womaniser, he was an entertaining writer and individual who was always his own man.

Introduction to Frank Harris

Frank Harris was an infamous character of the late 19th and early 20th century. He made his name as a journalist and author, becoming a key figure of the literary and political scene. He was a friend of Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, and amongst many others he also knew H. G. WellsMax BeerbohmWinston ChurchillAleister CrowleyGeorge Moore and Arnold Bennett.

He was notably outspoken and candid, which did not suit the tenor of the times, but it was the publication of his autobiography My Life and Loves which finally destroyed his reputation. This work immediately scandalised the society of his day with its unshrinking depiction of sexual matters, and it has remained one of those works like The Story of 'O' or Venus in Furs which are known better for their erotic content than for any other qualities.

Harris is one of those ambiguous figures of history of whom there are so many contradictory reports that to divine the truth is more a matter of psychological than historical analysis. He was a man whose talents were outstanding, but who was disabled by his own flaws from making full use of them. A man who idealised Jesus, Goethe, and Shakespeare, but played the role of rake and bounder so well that the role was almost universally mistaken for the man. A man who nearly became a Conservative M.P., yet who entertained romantic anarchist fantasies and talked of blowing up Gladstone with a bomb.

These pages attempt to document Harris, what he said and wrote, and what has been written about him, to bring him to a new public, and foster a balanced and sympathetic understanding of him. There are too many purported heroes being noised from every corner of the 'net: let us instead sing of one who was undoubtedly not a hero, but that greater treasure, a remarkable individual.

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A somewhat facetious question, perhaps, to which the answer is firmly in the negative, yet Frank Harris was at one time numbered among those who agitated for a war against Germany. Articles he published in the Saturday Review in the 1890s were so virulent that Wilhelm II himself was perturbed by them. Harris's later opposition to the war, as expressed in his 1915 book England or Germany… continue reading
The estimable Rogues Gallery YouTube channel has begun the herculean task of giving viewers a tour of My Life and Loves. At the time of writing volumes 1 and 2 have received their delightfully entertaining treatment. Subscribe to the channel to catch the entire series. Frank Harris is in fine company with the many other dubious individuals they have covered, from Samuel Pepys to Rasputin,… continue reading
What follows is apparently an unpublished draft by Frank Harris, one of his "Contemporary Portraits", this of the poet George Sylvester Viereck. It is to be found amongst the papers of Elmer Gertz that are lodged in the Library of Congress. A correspondent sent it to me in 2006(!) and I have only just got round to putting it online. Viereck was a strange, perverse character who did not help… continue reading
The archive of the Spectator magazine has a reproduction and transcript of what is probably Frank Harris's first printed article, a review of E. Freeman's Some Impressions of the United States (1883).  In My Life and Loves, volume 2, Frank describes how he wrote it: ... after reading Freeman with great care and finding that indeed he was the very type of an arrogant, pompous… continue reading
I just came across this passage in volume 1 of My Life and Loves, and felt it should be more widely appreciated. Here's how Frank Harris taught himself French, in a week. I first spent five whole days on the grammar, learning all the verbs, especially the auxiliary and irregular verbs by heart, till I knew them as I knew my Alphabet. I then read Hugo’s Hernani with a dictionary in another… continue reading