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Collection Overview

Levine, Esar, 1899-
Esar Levine Collection of Frank Harris
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1908-1976 (mostly 1920-1930)
7 boxes, 2 folders, and 4.8 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-8


The Esar Levine Collection of Frank Harris consists of the writings, correspondence, and printed matter of, and relating to, Frank Harris (1855-1931) as collected by Esar Levine (1899-?), Harris's disciple, agent and friend. Harris, an Irish-born, naturalized American citizen, was a prolific writer and journalist/editor who is perhaps best known for his scandalous autobiography, My Life and Loves, which was censored in America and parts of Europe.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of the writings, correspondence, and printed matter of and about Frank Harris as collected by Esar Levine (1899-?), Harris's American disciple, friend and agent. Harris's personal and editorial/business correspondence with Levine dates from 1920 to 1930 in the collection. There are also letters to Harris and Levine from their mutual business associates, as well as from such notable persons as Otto Kahn, H.L. Mencken, Upton Sinclair, and G.S. Viereck. The collection contains numerous autograph and typed manuscripts of, and/or corrected proofs for, Harris's My Life and Loves (Volumes I to IV), Confessional, and Pantopia, as well as essays, short stories and unpublished material by him. Printed matter consists of photographs, scrapbook pages, contemporary news clippings, magazines, publicity pamphlets, and other ephemera.


The collection basically reflects the order in which the unknown person(s) presumably organized the material prior to the Sotheby's sale.

Collection Creator Biography:

Levine, Esar, 1899-

In 1926, Esar Levine 1 was convicted and imprisoned for trafficking in obscene books as a result of his attempts to assist Frank Harris in the American publication of Harris's autobiography, My Life and Loves, in New York. As an expression of his gratitude to Levine, Harris dedicated the third volume of My Life and Loves as follows: "To Esar Levine, who has suffered imprisonment for his affection to me and devotion to my welfare, I dedicate this third volume of My Life. It is the best I have to give to the best and bravest of friends, and whatever value it has is due in great part to his help and counsel. Frank Harris. Nice, 1926."

According to a footnote in the definitive 1963 edition of My Life and Loves edited by John F. Gallagher, Esar Levine was a "writer and anthologist resident in New York" (p. 842). Levine was born in 1899 and worked at the Frank Harris Publishing Company 2, and, later, at the Panurge Press in New York, where two of Frank Harris's books were published in 1930 — Confessional (a book of essays) and Pantopia (a novel) — the manuscripts of which are included in the collection.

The Levine collection also contains over 100 autograph and typed letters from Frank Harris to Esar Levine which chart their personal and business/editorial relationship between 1920 and 1930. At the time of Levine's earliest letter, Harris was the editor of Pearson's magazine in New York. The final letter in the correspondence series is addressed to Levine's wife, Patsy, and reports on the death of Harris's third wife, Nellie, in 1955, and her subsequent burial in the English Cemetery in Nice, France, alongside her husband, Frank (who had died in 1931). Levine's year of death is unknown [to me]; however, the final news clipping in his scrapbook on Harris is dated 1976.

1Esar Levine's admiration of Frank Harris as a writer can be summed up in the following statement by him: "Whatever one may think of the extreme boldness of James Joyce's huge experiment, Ulysses, or Frank Harris's daring autobiography, My Life, or D.H. Lawrence's extraordinary novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover, no one who knows these men and their earlier work can question their desperate sincerity." (From Esar Levine's Foreword to the first American edition and English translation of Edouard Charles de Beaumont's 1882 work, The Sword and Womankind (Panurge Press, 1929)).

2The Frank Harris Publishing Company was founded in New York in mid-to-late 1920s in order to promote and distribute the works of Frank Harris in America. The names of the young men who worked there are cited together by Frank Harris in his autobiography as follows:

"Fortunately for me, I have found several such disciples: Esar Levine, Ben Rebkhuhn, Raymond Thomson and [Einar] Lyngklip. These young Americans came to my lectures in New York and offered me their services. For years they have helped me in all ways of affection, suffered even fines and imprisonment for me-and no man hath greater love than this! Esar Levine has helped me a great deal with this volume, for he knows my writing better than I do. I think the world will soon recognize-for they are all still in the twenties-that the friendship of these men is to me a title of honor" (page 842 of the 1963 edition of My Life and Loves, edited by John F. Gallagher).

By contrast, in a letter from Nice dated August 22, 1927, Harris disparagingly addressed these same men "To the Trinity, Esar Levine, Ben Rebhuhn & [Raymond] Thomson" and accused them of embezzling money from him: "Remember that all this time the Trinity was dividing up my earnings knowing that I was lame and half-blind and without the money necessary to go to Paris to consult a good oculist — three young men able to work willing to live off — some people would call it by a worse name — the earnings of a half blind old man over seventy, whom they profess to admire and love!"

Another passage in the same letter reads: "Ross [Harris's attorney] has just written to me to say that the Office [Harris Publishing Co.] is abandoned and he can't find the Holy Trinity - Alas! Alas: The 'devoted, tearful, loving' Trinity will soon have to find work in order to live - they've starved the goose that laid the golden eggs!!" The personal and business relationship between Harris and Levine, however, appears to have been patched up by 1929, according to the letters between them that are in the collection.

1855 Born James Thomas Harris on February 14, 1856 1, in Galway, Ireland 1883-1914 Freelance writer, journalist and editor of London-based periodical journals including Evening News (1883-87), Fortnightly Review (1886-94), and Saturday Review (1894-99) 1914 The Veils of Isis and Other Stories published in New York 1916 Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions published in New York 1916-1922 Edited Pearson's monthly magazine in New York 1922 Settles in Nice, on the French Riviera, to write 1922-1925 My Life and Loves, Volumes One and Two of his autobiography, are privately printed in Paris 1923 Contemporary Portraits, Fourth Series published in NY and London (1924) 1924 Undream'd of Shores published in London and New York 1925 My Life, Volume One (expurgated version) published in New York 1926 Joan La Romée (play) published in Nice and New York 1926 Summoned in France and threatened with prosecution on a charge of corrupting public morals with regard to the second volume of his autobiography (charges were later dropped) 1927 Latest Contemporary Portraits published in New York. Married his long-time lover, Nellie O'Hara, three weeks after his second wife's death. 1930 Confessional (book of essays) and Pantopia (novel) published by the Panurge Press in New York 1931 Dies on August 26, 1931, in Nice, France. Bernard Shaw: An Unauthorized Biography Based on First Hand Information, with a Postscript by Mr. Shaw is published posthumously in New York and London. 1955 Nellie Harris dies on March 25, 1955, in Nice, France, and is buried alongside her husband in the English Cemetery there. 1The Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) lists 1855 as the birth year of Frank Harris, which is why the majority of the Harris catalog records in the Princeton University Library system cite 1855 as his birth year. The Concise Dictionary of National Biography and The Oxford Companion to English Literature list 1856 as Harri's birth year, which is the one being used in this collection's finding aid and online manuscript records (MASC).

Collection History


Princeton University Library purchased the collection in early 2000 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Sylvia Yu in 2000. Finding aid written by Sylvia Yu in 2000.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Esar Levine Collection of Frank Harris; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-8

Find More


The Frank Harris manuscripts found in draft and/or proof form in the collection came to print in the following publications: Latest Contemporary Portraits (Macauley, New York, 1927), My Life and Loves (Frank Harris Publishing Company, New York, 1925), Confessional (Panurge Press, New York, 1930), and Pantopia (Panurge Press, New York, 1930).

Books about Harris: Harris, Frank. My Life and Loves (five volumes). Edited and with an introduction by John F. Gallagher. W.H. Allen, London, 1964. Pullar, Phillippa. Frank Harris. Hamish Hamilton, London, 1975. Pearsall, Robert B. Frank Harris. Twayne Publishers, New York, 1970. Root, E. Merrill. Frank Harris. Odyssey Press, New York, 1947. The Playwright and the Pirate, Bernard Shaw and Frank Harris: A Correspondence. Edited and with an introduction by Stanley Weintraub. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982.

Subject Terms:
Authors and publishers - New York (N.Y.) -- 20th century.
Authors, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Censorship -- United States -- 20th century.
Editors -- New York (N.Y.) -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Publishers and publishing -- New York (N.Y.) -- 20th century
Genre Terms:
Harris, Frank, 1856-1931