Pullar apparently discovered Frank Harris while preparing her engaging history of culinary voluptuosity, Consuming Passions...

READ REVIEW

FRANK HARRIS: A Biography

Pullar apparently discovered Frank Harris while preparing her engaging history of culinary voluptuosity, Consuming Passions (1971). While this is in many ways an admirable biography, one does wonder why she chose to write the life of a man for whom she has so little empathy. Granted that Harris was an easy man to dislike--too easy. The booming fin de siècle editor of the Fortnightly Review, friend of Shaw, Wilde, Beerbohm and H. G. Wells, Harris achieved the notoriety he craved with the publication of My Life and Loves, that mendacious pornographic fantasy of endless seductions of shopgirls and parlor maids. Pullar has meticulously researched Harris' private and public life--no small task since he was a gregarious bon vivant and ambitious social climber. She sees him, in the last analysis, as a boor, a noisy parvenu who wanted to ""think great thoughts, feel great feelings"" but was in fact an insecure poseur who fell far short of his self-created myth of ""anti-Puritan hero."" His vaunted conquests were the titillations of a flatulent old man; ""unloved and unloving,"" he filled his life with his performances and his vanity. Yet one feels Pullar has underestimated the extent to which Harris, and his literary confrères, had set themselves the formidable task of slaying the Victorian dragon. Pullar recognizes Harris' critical insight and his generosity to Wilde and many lesser authors, but she is hard put to see any redeeming features in his audacity, his scorn or his assumed ruffianism. She may be, as she claims, the first to discover the ""melancholy introvert,"" the hypochondriac with his stomach pump, but the crusading spirit of the man who worked so hard to offend the philistines escapes her.

Pub Date: March 1, 1976

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1976