Frank Harris, journalist and rogue

Published: March 31, 2010

So begins the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for editor, writer, figure of scandal and friend of Oscar Wilde, Frank Harris.  A new finding aid describing the Clark’s Harris-related material is now available via the Online Archive of California.

Born in Ireland, Harris emigrated to the United States by himself when still a teenager.  After years of adventure and some study in both the States and on the European continent, Harris arrived in London in 1883, where he was appointed as editor of the Evening News. In 1886, he moved to the Fortnightly Review, and in 1894, to the Saturday Review.  During these years in particular, Harris became friends (as well as enemies) with many in the literary and social world of fin de siècle London, including Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and others.

A difficult personality, Harris struggled with financial stability often after this period of success, and moved a great deal, living in the south of France and in London in the years before World War I. In 1915, he returned to New York, where he wrote a number of anti-British articles as well as his volumes of Contemporary Portraits. He was the editor of Pearson’s Magazine from 1915-1922 and got into many clashes with American censors and others who found him and his work offensive. During this period, he also began dictating his sprawling and sexually explicit memoirs, My Life and Loves, which was published in various forms (expurgated and not) after 1922.

In 1923, he settled permanently in Nice with his longtime mistress and companion, Nellie O’Hara, who he married in 1927. He died in Nice in 1931.

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