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While I cannot clear up the problems with Mr. Henry’s portfolio, I can clear up some facts that may in turn help his performance. In his piece he wrote about the advice of sittin’ and attributed it to “Jesse Livermore, author of Confessions of a Stock Operator? Mr. Livermore was not this widely read book’s author, nor was this its title.
Jesse Livermore wrote one book, How To Trade in Stocks currently available from Trader’s Press with additional material by Livermore’s modern disciple and biographer Richard Smitten.
The book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, originally published in 1923 (editions available from Fraser, Wiley, and Trader’s Press), was written by one Edwin Lefèvre, a financial journalist. Folks say the novel is a thinly-disguised biography of Jesse Livermore, and provides great insight into his trading techniques. It doesn’t. It is a nice yarn, filled with platitudes about trading strung together to sound profound. But it doesn’t shed much light on how Livermore actually traded. Still, every trader reads it because it is such a lark. Livermore himself apparently didn’t think much of the book.
During his lifetime Livermore was nearly as famous in financial circles as J.P. Morgan. A great body of apocryphal information surrounded this taciturn, secretive man, who made and lost several fortunes speculating.. Lefèvre’s book is a mix of facts that were known about Livermore (he started as a “chalkboard boy” in Boston) and then filled in with fabricated tales of big trades and dubious advice. The book is written in first person, so ever since its appearance folks have assumed Livermore wrote it. But it was more like a penny dreadful or Prophecies of Merlin from 16th century England than an actual biography.
Journalists often called Livermore for comment about what he was doing or what he thought of the market. He wouldn’t say anything, so they’d find somebody to quote saying “Livermore is buying (selling).” Gradually “Livermore” attributions grew a life of their own during market moves. Imagine rumors about Alan Greenspan, George Soros, Warren Buffett, and Paul Tudor Jones all rolled into one and you’d get some idea of the zeitgeist of those pre-market crash of 1929 days and Livermore’s stature.p>For those who are interested in Livermore’s real advice, I recommend his own book. And I wish Mr. Henry good reading, and good luck. br> — James N. Ward /p>
Lawrence Henry replies: Thank you, sir! Fascinating stories about Jesse Livermore. It’s always nice to hear from the pros, but even the pros have to earn their spurs somehow, eh?p> BURIED MEMORIES
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