author of The Lady Paramount and The Cardinal’s Snuff-Box
Henry Harland was born and educated in Connecticut and New York City—not St. Petersburg, as some online biographies mistakenly aver. He spent one year at Harvard Divinity School and worked for several years in a New York legal office before committing himself full-time to writing.
Harland’s literary career falls into two distinct periods. In the earlier period, the Protestant-born Harland published ten sensational popular novels—potboilers, really—set in the immigrant Jewish neighborhoods of New York City, and penned under the allegedly Jewish name of Sidney Luska. In fact, Harland has been called, in this guise (and not without some irony), “the first Jewish-American novelist.” [cf, The Collected Essays of Leslie Fiedler, Vol. 2; Stein and Day, 1971], The same critic also called Harland (not without some justice), “an inveterate poseur.
When Harland moved with his wife first to Paris then to London, he abandoned his Jewish literary persona and became involved in so-called “Aesthetic” and ”fin-de-siecles“circles. Now publishing under his own name, Harland’s work was by this time more polished and self-consciously literary. With Aubrey Beardsley and John Lane, Harland published (1894-1897) the influential Yellow Book quarterly of essays and stories, which included contributions from such leading writers of the day as Henry James, Harland’s friend and literary hero. (N.B.: The Victorian web has an excellent page on The Yellow Book.0
Harland and his wife were received into the Catholic Church in 1897, and most of Harland’s work from that time on reflects his newfound passion for Catholic faith and culture, especially of the aristocratic Italian variety. It is offerings from this latter portion of Harland’s output, now largely out of print and displaying his mature literary style and glittering evocation of an idealized bygone era, that Idylls Press is offering in new, inexpensive editions.
Harland, in poor health most of his adult life, died in San Remo, Italy in 1905.