Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Harris, Frank (1856–1931)
Author:
Graffin, Walter
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Best known for his unreliable autobiography My Life and Loves (1922, 1934, 1963), with its exaggerated accounts of his lusty affairs, Harris was a formidable and controversial literary figure in England and America between the 1880s and the 1920s. As editor of many magazines, including the Saturday Review (1894–1898), he championed writers such as Shaw and Wilde. In My Life and Loves, he tells of hearing Whitman's 1877 Philadelphia lecture on Paine and being greatly impressed by Whitman's honesty and simplicity, going on to praise his courage for writing about sexuality. Among his other works, Harris published five volumes of Contemporary Portraits (1915–1927). In Third Series (1920) he says that "Prayer of Columbus" is Whitman's best poem, that his writing excels because it speaks to the soul via the language of the flesh, and that the poet was the greatest American—superior even to Lincoln.

Bibliography

Harris, Frank. Contemporary Portraits. Third Series. New York: the author, 1920.

———. My Life and Loves. 1922. Ed. John F. Gallagher. New York: Grove, 1963.

Pullar, Philippa. Frank Harris: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976.


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