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University of Texas at Austin

Frank Harris:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Harris, Frank 1855-1931
Title: Frank Harris Collection
Dates: 1888-1955
Extent: 10 boxes (4.2 linear feet), 1 galley folder
Abstract: The Harris collection is composed of personal correspondence to and from Harris, as well as manuscripts, legal documents, account books, and financial papers. Also present are a number of lists, notes, interviews, and personal papers. The collection contains works and correspondence written by people associated with Harris.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-01846
Language: English and French
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases, 1957-1974 (R189, R2722, R3350, R5180, R6495)
Processed by: Chelsea Dinsmore, 2002

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

James Thomas Harris was born in Galway, Ireland, in 1856, the fourth of five children. After the early death of their mother, Harris was raised largely by his siblings before his father, a commander in the British Coast Guard, sent him to school in Wales. Harris ran away from school in 1871 and sailed to America.
Between 1871 and 1872 Harris worked as a bootblack, construction worker, hotel clerk, and possibly as a cowboy. He traveled from New York to Chicago and ended up in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1872, where two of his brothers had settled. While Harris worked in his brothers' butcher shop and attended lectures at the University of Kansas he met and was influenced by Byron Smith, a promising young classics professor with an interest in Karl Marx. Harris placed enough importance on his association with Smith to change his name as an indication of a sort of rebirth. From that time on he was known as Frank Harris.
Harris briefly returned to England in 1875 before leaving for Europe where he began an educational tour. He began at the Sorbonne in Paris, and then moved on to Heidelberg, Göttingen, and Munich. In 1878 he married Florence Adams, of Brighton. Following her death ten months later, Harris took an extended tour of Italy, Greece, Austria, Russia, and Ireland.
Upon returning to England Harris actively pursued a writing career. After publishing a few reviews and articles he gained the post of editor at The Evening News in 1883. Three years later, he was appointed editor of the Fortnightly Review, a leading and respected journal. Harris married a wealthy widow, took a fine house, and entertained lavishly. He made a brief, unsuccessful foray into politics in 1889 as the Conservative candidate for South Hackney. While Harris enjoyed his success, wealth, and notoriety, he never really fit into the upper crust Victorian society he had entered. He and his wife legally separated in 1894 (they never divorced), the same year Harris was fired from the Fortnightly Review.
Harris' reaction to this change in fortune was to purchase the Saturday Review and turn it into a first rate literary magazine. He published his first book of short stories 1895. Despite the success of his book and magazine, Harris's personal financial situation was declining. In 1898 he sold the Review and, after failing in the hotel and restaurant business, published his second book of short stories in 1900. Over the next several years Harris pursued editorial jobs, traveled, and wrote. He attained some acclaim for The Women of Shakespeare (1911) and Oscar Wilde (1916). At the same time he was gaining notoriety as a German sympathizer and a man of loose moral character.
In 1914 Harris sailed to America with Helen (Nellie) O'Hara, his mistress since 1898. In America Harris continued writing, published two volumes of Contemporary Portraits, and edited the American Pearson's magazine. In 1921 he and Nellie became American citizens and shortly thereafter returned to Europe. Harris published the first volume of his autobiography in Berlin, however the volumes were seized by customs officials when he tried to bring them into France. In 1923 Harris and Nellie settled more or less permanently in Nice. He continued to write and publish short stories, and produced two more volumes of Contemporary Portraits. In 1927 his second wife died and he married Nellie O'Hara.
The remaining years of Harris' life were spent in ill health and reduced circumstances. He published On the Trail: Being My Reminiscences as a Cowboy and his final novel Pantopia in 1930. That same year he contracted to write a biography of George Bernard Shaw, based on his personal knowledge of the man and with Shaw's agreement. Harris died in 1931, shortly before the Shaw biography was published.

Scope and Contents

The Frank Harris Collection, 1888-1955, comprises a large amount of correspondence, as well as manuscripts, passports, and legal documents. The collection is organized into five series: Series I. Works, 1911-1931 (1.5 boxes); Series II. Correspondence, 1888-1931, (3 boxes); Series III. Personal Papers, 1909-1954, (.5 boxes); Series IV. Helen O'Hara Harris, 1914-1955 (4 boxes); and Series V. Third Party Works and Correspondence, 1903-1955 (1 box). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
Series I contains typescripts for the fifth volume of Harris' autobiography and The New Commandment as well as hand written and typescript versions of several short stories. Notes and fragments are also present for biographies of George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. A complete list of Harris' works present in the collection is available in the Index of Works at the end of this guide.
The large Correspondence series is largely composed of personal letters to and from Harris, though many of Harris' business deals were tied up with personal matters and thus the letters are hard to classify. Correspondents of particular interest include Reginald Caton, Henry Davray, Helen O'Harris, George Bernard Shaw, Reginald Turner, and Louis Wilkinson. Some of the correspondence is written in French. A complete list of correspondents in this series is available in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide.
Series III, Personal Papers, is made up of account books, financial papers, legal documents, and passports. Also present are a number of lists, notes, and interviews.
The Helen (Nellie) O'Hara Harris series is made up of a few works by O'Hara and a great deal of correspondence, mostly to her. The few letters from O'Hara are interfiled. Her correspondents include many of the same people who wrote to her husband, as well as Harold Auer, Curtis Brown, Edward Root, Abe Tobin, and Lady Warwick. A complete list of correspondents in this series is available in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide. Additionally there are a few personal papers, including legal documents, passports, and diaries.
The final series is made up of works and correspondence written by people associated with Harris. A complete list of works present in this series is available in the Index of Works and a complete list of correspondents in this series is available in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide.
Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are five Vertical Files of printed works by Harris, critical commentary of Harris' work, and newspaper clippings. The Literary Files of the Photography Collection hold 20 photographs of Harris, Nellie and various other friends and family. Other materials associated with Harris may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:
  • Beerbohm, Max
  • Bennett, A.
  • Bermondsey Book
  • Browning, O.
  • Craig, E.G.
  • Crowley, Aleister
  • De la Ramée, L.
  • Dilke, C.W.
  • Douglas, Alfred Bruce, Lord
  • Dowden, E.
  • Dreiser, Theodore
  • Dunsany, Edward John
  • Galsworthy, John
  • Garnett, E.
  • Gosse, E.W.
  • Hubbard, E.
  • Huddleston, S. (Lake Collection)
  • LeGallienne, Richard
  • Mansfield, K.
  • Maugham, William Somerset
  • Mencken, Henry Louis
  • Meredith, G.
  • Moore, George
  • Morley, Christopher Darlington
  • Morley, John
  • Murry, John Middleton
  • Orpen, William, Sir
  • Parker, Gilbert, Sir
  • Pater, W.H.
  • Queensberry, P.S.D.
  • Richards, Grant
  • Roché, H.P. (Lake Collection)
  • Russell, George William
  • Schreiner, Olive
  • Shaw, George Bernard
  • Sinclair, Upton Beall
  • Swinburne, A.C.
  • Tyndall, John
  • Tyrrell, R.Y.
  • Watts-Dunton, T.
  • Wells, Herbert George
  • Whistler, J.A.M.
  • Wilde, Oscar
  • Yeats, William Butler

Index Terms


Auer, Harold C.
Bruno, Guido, 1884-1942
Caton, Reginald Ashley, 1897-1971
Cochran, Evelyn
Davray, Henry D., 1873-1944
Dowling, Allan, 1903-
Goldman, Emma, 1869-1940
Harris, Helen O'Hara
Holland, Vyvyan Beresford, 1886-1967
Kennerley, Mitchell, 1878-1950
Macedo, Elizabeth B. de.
Pearson, Hesketh, 1889-1964
Pollock, Granville A.
Roots, Edward Merrill, 1895-1973
Ross, Arthur Leonard
Ross, Robert Baldwin, 1869-1918
Scully, Frank, 1892-1964
Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
Tobin, A. I.
Turner, Reginald, 1869?-1939
Vallentin, Antonia, 1893-1957
Vernon, Madeleine
Warwick, Frances Evelyn Maynard Grayville, Countess of, 1861-1933
Wilkinson, Louis, 1881-1966
Young, Filson, 1876-1938


Compagnie Generale
Curtis Brown Ltd.
Perowne & Co.


Authors, English
Authors, English, 20th century, Biography
Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900

Document Types

Galley proofs
Legal documents

Frank Harris Collection--Folder List