Henry Harland was born in Brooklyn and attended College of the City of New York and for a short spell Harvard divinity school. His literary career falls into two distinct sections. During the first of these, writing under the pseudonym Sidney Luska, he produced a series of highly sensational novels, written with little regard to literary quality.
But in 1889 Harland moved to London and fell under the influence of the Aesthetic movement. He began writing under his own name and, in 1894, became the founding editor of The Yellow Book. The first novels of this new period, Mademoiselle Miss, Grey Roses, and Comedies and Errors, were praised by critics but had little general popularity. He finally achieved a wide readership with The Cardinal's Snuff-box, which was followed by The Lady Paramount and My Friend Prospero.
Harland died in 1905 at San Remo, Italy, after a prolonged period of tuberculosis.