Online Introduction

Highlights of Foreign Travel
by Henry Howard Harper

Here’s a short book on the ups and downs of cruise-packages, or at least one of them: from America to the Mediterranean in 1925, by Henry Howard Harper.

He states that he was requested to write something about the trip, and chose to concentrate on those little things that happen to travelers that everybody else forgets to tell you, or were just his own unexpected adventures.

It is quite funny in parts. The illustrations by Haydon are very good. I have to agree with his assessment of Jerusalem as the Promised Land, as un-PC as that may be.

Even basic information about Henry H. Harper is hard to come by. After serious searching this is what I can tell you about him. He was born in 1871 and died in 1953. He lived in New York for a while as an adult, where he married Marguerite Rogers Young. Harper was a avid bibliophile, and he was one of the founders of the Bibliophile Society of Boston, along with Nathan Haskell Dole, among others, in 1901. Dole was the President and he was the treasurer for several years.

His wife’s father, James Carleton Young, of Minnesota, was a world famous bibliophile, too, and had the largest collection of Fielding materials in the world. He also bought Émile Zola’s library after his death.

Later on, Harper and his wife had one of the largest collectons of Dickens’ material themselves. As a result, Marguerite and Henry Harper co-wrote Romantic Mr. Dickens: a Comedy-Drama in Three Acts, Cedar Rapids: Torch Press, 1941.

He and his wife co-authored a couple of other books. Harper alone wrote for years and years: novels, articles, poetry and plays. He edited and/or authored works on Robert Louis Stevenson, Voltaire, Dickens, Lamb, Eugene Field, Henry Fielding, Henry James and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. There were a couple of books about books, manuscripts and book-collecting, as you’d expect. He also wrote about his travels to Mexico as well as the trip mentioned in this book, although it took place several years earlier, investing in a ranch there (and he was not thrilled with Mexico but the book got positive reviews in The American Stationer, Volume 67, 1910, p. 35.) There’s another book by him called Letters from Palestine, which I imagine grew out of this cruise, too.

In 1927 he and Dole wrote the introduction and notes for The Attic Tragedies: Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, in 3 volumes. He and Dole didn’t like books just for their covers, and their literary tastes crossed all eras and genres. The Bibliophile Society put out at least three huge collections of literary extracts: little mini-libraries by themselves: ranging from 20 to 30 or so fat books per collection. Nathan Haskell Dole was the editor-in-chief.

The Bibliophile Society’s members included Henry Cabot Lodge, J. Pierpont Morgan, George W. Vanderbilt, and other of that upper-crust ilk, according to an article about a Meeting of the Bibliophile Society, at a dinner in Boston, in the New York Times, March 15, 1908. So Harper was very well connected.

Allen J. Hubin, the author of Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749-2000, has a listing online for Henry Howard Harper, stating that he was born in LaCrescent, Minnesota and died in Pinehurst, North Carolina, but I can find nothing else saying this. His wife was from Minnesota, for sure, according to the entry for her father, James Carleton Young, in the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, VOL XVII, New York: James T. White, 1920. In this it states that his daughter was married to “Henry Howard Harper of New York City.” Mr. Hubin is from Minnesota, and hangs out at the University of Minnesota Library a lot, so he has access to material that the rest of us don’t. I’ll write him and ask! (and let you know what I hear.)

Allen got back to me, and so did his friend, John Herrington, a British librarian who states:

“There is an Ancestry family tree for Henry Howard Harper, born La Crescent, Houston, Minnesota 10 July 1871, died Pinehust, North Carolina 4 March 1953. Lived Massachusetts on 1900-1930 censuses, the New York on 1940 census. On 1900/1910 census he is a publisher, on 1920/1930 census a farmer. No occupation in 1940.”

I then found an article about his wife’s debut and birthday party aboard a steamer for Europe, when she was seventeen, an item under “Affairs at Washington,” in National Magazine, Volume 40, Chappell Publishing Company, Ltd., 1914; pp. 523-524. There is a picture of her with her mother. picture at seventeen with the article about it, in the

The town of La Crescent, is not that far from Minneapolis, so I wonder if they knew each other before he went to New York? Who knows, but the silence about it all is curious.

They had a son, Captain Laurence Rector Harper, (1918-1944) pilot of a bomber plane, which was shot down over Germany, in WWII, and no one survived but a Sgt. Mott who ended up as a prisoner of war. He graduated from Yale in 1940, and was in law school but dropped out to join up.

There was also a daughter, and the family, Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Harper and Miss Harper, were listed in the Blue Book of Boston, living at 100 Boylston St, at the Westminster, Copley Square, in Boston, in 1908. He was also a member of the Boston Art Club that year.

The most personal information to be found on H. H. Harper, is in a piece he wrote called “Notes on Country Life.” This a long article about the joys and perils of farming in the Tenth Year Book of the Bibliophile Society, Boston, Mass, 1911. He talks about how he ended up owning a farm 100 miles from Boston. He adds:

In some households — my own, for instance, — there have been wide differences of opinion upon the matter of a summer residence in the country. When I first talked of buying a farm Mrs. Harper remarked, rather sarcastically, that I already had a ranch in Mexico, and another “somewhere out in the wilds of Arkansas,” and that these rural possessions ought to be enough to satisfy anybody.

According to a one line snippet in the New York Times, dated March 6, 1953, he died of a heart atttack at the age of 81.There is so little online about him that I am wondering if H. H. Harper was related to the New York Harper Publishing family in some way. That would explain the paucity of data, because private matters of the rich-and-not-infamous stay private (especially when you are connected with the publishing business!)

That’s all I can tell you about him and his. You will certainly learn more about him by reading this book on his travels. I like the guy, based on this, and his article about farming. See what you think, click below: