"The One True Autobiography"
This cheekily immodest account of his life, given in the third person, was written by Frank Harris in 1916 for "Bruno's Weekly" and subsequently reprinted in Frank Harris: In Memoriam.
Frank Harris was born in Galoway[sic], Ireland, over fifty years ago, of Welsh parents. He is proud of the fact that he is pure Kelt without intermixture for as far back as he knows. Till he was twelve years of age, he was educated in Ireland, the last year or so at the Royal School, Armagh. In spite of his ultra-protestant or Black Orange relations, Frank Harris still recounts with glee how he was a Fenian even before he could think. "As a small boy," he says. "I remember reading a proclamation offering five thousand pounds for any information that would lead to the arrest of James Stephens, the Fenian Head-Centre. While my playmates were gloating over the idea of getting this large sum, of money I was only thinking how I could help him away from the 'polis.' The 'Head-Centre' fascinated my fancy!"
At twelve, his father sent him as a boarder to a well-known public school on the Welsh border [Ruabon]. There, for the first time, he met English boys and English sentiment. The school horsefed him ; it was all punishments, he says, nothing human or humane about it except the library. He read madly; morning, noon and night till he knew Scott almost by heart - Charlotte Bronte, Mrs. Gaskell, Thackeray and Reade - and even Dickens, Dickens he never liked. After reading every other novel in the library be read Dickens and the poets.
The fagging system in the school was abhorrent to this born rebel ; he fought it tooth and nail ; but in spite of trouble with boys as well as with the masters, he won prize after prize.
Af fourteen his father disappointed him by failing to give him the nomination to become midshipman in the British Navy and the boy resolved to run away. For weeks he weighed the charms of South Africa (where they had just discovered diamonds) with those of Western America and at length he decided in favor of the Wild West. He came to America and soon made his way to Kansas and drove on the trail as a cowboy to New Mexico. He always declares that whatever capacity of thought he possesses comes from the fact that while his mind was growing he had to solve all the modern problems for himself and without books. "I think first and read afterwards" is his motto.
After a couple of years of wild western life, skirmishes with Indians, mad gamblings, ups and downs of fortune, he met the man Byron Smith, professor of Greek, in the University of Kansas. Professor Smith persuaded him to become a student and he spent the next three years with his mentor and friend at Lawrence, Kansas. When Professor Smith left the University for his health, Harris quarreled at once with the authorities, refusing to come in to morning chapel, and left the University in turn and went on with his law studies. In due time he was admitted to the bar and began the practice of law.
A year later Smith grew worse in Philadelphia and Harris threw up everything and went East to be with him. In another year his friend died Harris returned to Europe to study; first in Paris, later in Heidelberg, Gottingen and Berlin. Than he went from Berlin to Athens where he studied a year. On his way back to America he met Froude in London and gave him a letter of introduction from Carlyle. Almost immediately he was offered the editorship of the "London Evening News" which he brought to success. Then he was offered the editorship of "The Fortnightly Review" which John (now Lord) Morley had just resigned. Seven years later he bought "The Saturday Review" and made it ever famous among English papers by bringing Bernard Shaw on it to write about the theatre; Wells to review the novels ; D. S. McColl (now the head of the TaTit[sic, presumably Tate] Gallery) to write on art; Dr. Chalmers Mitchell now the head of the Zoological Society, to write on Science; Max Beerbohm too, and Arthur Symonds, Ernest Dowson, Herbert Crackanthorpe and Cunningham Graham to do what they could. It is hardly too much to say that Harris picked then, in 1894, nearly all the men who today form public opinion in Great Britain. Shaw has acknowledged his debt to him again and again,and Wells calls him his literary godfather, asserting that Harris, when editing "The Fortnightly" accepted the first article he (Wells) ever had in print.
His later career is a record of the books he has written from the first book of American stories, Elder Conklin published by Macmillan in 1894; Montes, which Arnold Bennett says is "the best short story in English" (1894) ; The Bomb, 1907; The Man Shakespeare,which according to Shaw, established his reputation in 1909 ; The Women of Shakespeare, 1910; Shakespeare and His Love (a drama), 1910; Great Days, 1911; The Veils of Isis ; Contemporary Portraits both last year, 1915 and Oscar Wilde, His Life and Confessions which is now in the press and we have had the pleasure of reading. We think it is his best work, so far perhaps the best biography in the language.