Skip to main content

Frank Harris: In Memoriam

Fragments of His New York Days

This little pamphlet, published as a commemorative item for American disciples of Harris, collects some articles from Pearson's. Most of them were written by Guido Bruno and consist largely of gushing praise for the late great master.

There are nevertheless one or two interesting items including a reproduction of a sketch of Harris by Joseph Simpson used as the frontispiece. I also much enjoy a piece from December 1920 in which Harris' after-lunch routine is described, including this passage:-

His papers and books necessary for his day's work, carefully gathered up from his bedspread, from chairs and tables in his bedroom, are the very part of his day ; he is looking forward to their perusal and, therefore, he sends them ahead to the safety of his reading table in the drawing room. His glasses are as important to him as his eyes. Everybody who is forced to use two different kinds of eye-glasses (one for reading and another one for all other purposes), knows the painful moments of agony squandered each day hunting up the ever-disappearing reading glasses. Harris sends them ahead to be deposited with his reading material, and right handy they must lay at a certain spot on his table.

Together with his glasses appear his pencils, usually a dozen of them, held together with a rubber band. They are carefully sharpened, with unusually long points, and Harris is as jealous of his pencils, as a bride of the caresses of her groom. No one else must touch them. I believe he would rather purchase a jeweled gold crayon for the visitor, unacquainted with this peculiarity of his, than let him use the innocently asked for pencil.

And, later, from the same piece, after Bruno has asked Harris to respond to the accusation that the Contemporary Portraits must be invented, since no living man could have known so many famous people:-

"But cannot they see that all this is no mere coincident[sic]? That this very thing was the purpose of my life ever since my earliest youth. I have not met these people you choose calling celebrities incidentally, stumbling against them here and there. I made it my business to meet them. I travelled far out of my way to see them, to talk to them. I kept persistently and tenaciously after them. I schemed and used all cunning powers to get at them. Cannot you see?

"I brought these meetings about, and often friendships were the result. It was upon the initiative of most of these people that I met them a second time and a third time, and that intimacy sprang up between us."


Of interest also is a letter dated June 1918 from Shaw to Bruno, and an early (1916) autobiographical note by Harris. However, the volume's overall tone of undiluted hero-worship is grating, even in such a small dose as can be administered in a mere 36 pages.

Selected editions
Privately printed