May

3

I like to revisit "My Life and Loves" every couple of years. Written in the 1920's, the book is an autobiography of Frank Harris who at different times of his life was a scholar, cowboy, hotel manager, professor, lawyer, adventurer, trader, cattle rustler, and finally the editor of London's "Saturday Review." Harris was a brilliant man with a strong memory for detail, and had a total recall for verse. He was born in 1851 in Ireland to a Naval officer and spent a few years at a public school in Wales. At the age of 13, he won a scholarship and used the money to book passage to America. Landing in America, he got a job constructing the Brooklyn Bridge. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to form several successful business ventures in New York. Saving his money, he landed in Chicago, where he ended up as a desk clerk at a hotel. His passion for detail and profitability, led him to ultimately run the place. His wander lust led him to the plains, where he became a cattle speculator and cowboy. He participated in several cattle drives, ultimately bringing 5000 cattle from Texas to Chicago, just after the Chicago Fire where he made great profits for his own account.

Harris then ended up at the University of Kansas, where studied the classics and law, and also successfully speculated in real estate. Harris passed the bar exam and practiced law for a short time. Eventually, his passion for learning took him to Germany, where he studied for a couple of years, and later Paris. Harris lived a pseudo Bohemian life in Paris, where he partied, wrote, and hung out with notable authors, poets, artists, politicians, speculators, and royalty. He did several tours of the continent, went to Africa, and eventually ended up in London. Harris took junior positions at several newspapers, restoring their bottom lines, culminating with being the editor of the "Saturday Review." His speculations in Consols led to huge losses. He took those losses in stride, and maintained a very heavy social calendar. Harris was a lifelong friend of Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola, Cecil Rhodes, Guy de Maupassant, Emerson, and others too numerous to mention. He described his encounters with all of his friends in great detail, and provided great insight into the culture of the early 1900's. Harris knew everybody, and was described as a boastful rogue with a very voracious sexual appetite. His many descriptions and exaggerations of his seductions led to "My Life and Loves" being banned in most places. Frank Harris was a stand up guy with his friends, passionately defending Oscar Wilde when his scandal became front page news. Harris collected art, being friends with most of the Impressionists, and getting pieces of their work at very low cost.

"My Life and Loves" is a great work, despite the exaggerations and boastful sense of self importance. Harris really understood the classics, and his thorough knowledge of Shakespeare led me at an early age to give further study to the Bard. Frank Harris was an amusing story teller, bon vivant, and had a great sense of wit. He accepted criticism without malice, and always was up for a good debate. Despite the fact that Harris was a total reprobate, he still managed to maintain a sense of dignity, even when he lost his entire fortune and was reduced to penury. Oscar Wilde once quipped, "Frank Harris has been invited to all of the great houses… once."

At the twilight of his life, Harris ended up in Spain, where he wrote the first few volumes "My Life and Loves." His autobiography was meant to restore his bank balance, and also to provide a record of his interesting life. Harris died broke in New York in 1931, surrounded by a collection of fine Impressionist art.

Frank Harris was a very controversial character. His friends staunchly defended him, while his numerous enemies plotted his ruin. He was a seducer of women from a very young age. He was boastful, often to the point of intolerance. However, he had the goods to back up his boasts.

"My Life and Loves" is an autobiography that should be required reading for any speculator. It contains far more lessons for speculation than Lefevre's "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator." In fact, this book should be required reading for anyone who has a love of history, art, and the humanities. "My Life and Loves" is a broad, sweeping book, that could easily be compared to a Cecil DeMille production.


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  1. Mark Washburn on September 2, 2014 4:05 pm

    Was going through my Grandfathers (Frank Healy) things…. Been in storage for over 20 years. I found an original Autobiography of Frank Harris titled The Love Life of Frank Harris…. Dated London - 1931. Not sure what to do with this 355 page document. The typed document is in perfect condition. For its time, the sex scenes are quite…. hmmmm amazing. Would love some input in regards to the value and who would be interested to review the manuscript… . My email is washburncr@gmail.com

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