Friday 27 August 2010

Fantasist Frank

On this day in 1931, the author, editor, memoirist, 'character', irresistible sexual athlete and (by his own estimation) all-round genius and world statesman Frank Harris died, broken down by age and sex (well, he was 75). Though he was certainly a gifted editor, Harris was too slapdash to achieve much else, except what has turned out to be his enduring monument - the four volumes of My Life And Loves, an extremely fanciful account of a life spent being a genius, hobnobbing with absolutely everybody who was anybody, guiding the course of world events and vigorously rogering every woman who crossed his path, or rather threw herself into his path. As Harris himself remarked, 'Memoirs are a well-known form of fiction' (Ford Madox Ford's Memories and Impressions are almost as unreliable, but without the sex). Taken in small doses, the Life and Loves - a work which in my younger days was sought out by every dirty-minded schoolboy - is something of a masterpiece of unconscious comedy. Alexander Trocchi realised this when Maurice Girodias of the Olympia Press commissioned him to write what would be presented to a grateful public as a newly discovered fifth volume of Harris's immortal memoirs. Trocchi apparently had some Harris material to work with, but the volume he produced was essentially an exuberant parody of Frank the Fantasist at his most extravagantly absurd. If you come across it, it's well worth a look.


  1. Hesketh Pearson (who seems to have known everybody who was anybody in the first half of the 20th century) wrote an entertaining biographical sketch of Harris. It is broadly sympathetic, but he stresses repeatedly that Harris was a man completely lacking a sense of humour. Presumably that's what makes "My Life And Loves" (which I haven't read) a masterpiece of unconscious comedy, akin to John Major's brother Terry Major-Ball's autobiography (which I have read, and recommend).

  2. I forgot about "roger" the verb.