Synopses & Reviews
Max Beerbohm was widely celebrated as the wittiest mind of his age. And it was a very long age indeed: he became famous in the mid-1890s and remained so until his death in 1956. His wit manifested itself in both prose and caricature, and his writings and drawings are keenly interesting. Max's life, however, was relatively uneventful, and of interest, he said, only to himself. This biography of Beerbohm, the first in forty years, enlivens his story by quoting him whenever possible, and the result thanks to Max himself is a scintillating and entertaining book.
John Hall moves quickly through Max's history: schoolboy; college undergraduate; London caricaturist, journalist, and critic; Edwardian social butterfly; married man and self-exile to Italy in 1910, where he produced numerous books, essays, and caricatures; and, from 1935 to 1956, occasional BBC radio broadcaster. Hall notes that although all Max's work during his fifteen early years on the London scene concerned contemporary art and life, after his "retirement" in 1910 his writings and drawings harkened back to the late-Victorian/Edwardian era and even to the Pre-Raphaelites; he became, he said, an "interesting link with the past."
This book, like Beerbohm's work, highlights his connection with various eminences over three eras: Algernon Swinburne, J.A.M. Whistler, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and many others. Written in an idiosyncratic, opinionated, lively, quirky style, it is just the kind of biography of which Max might have (for the most part) approved.
"This intriguingly conceived biography reads like a familiar letter, i.e., it will be referenced often for its facts, observations, charm, inviting style, sense of fun and whimsy, and contagious affection for its subject....Hall has written a perceptive and winning biography that should not be overlooked." Library Journal
"In the first biography of Beerbohm in 40 years, Hall's sound research and well-marshaled quotes bring his subject back to life: the 'ex-Arcadian' and exquisite personality whose work, if minor, still repays reading." J.Y. Yeh, The Village Voice
Includes bibliographical references (p. -271) and index.
About the Author
N. John Hall is Distinguished Professor of English, Bronx Community College and the Graduate School, City University of New York.
Table of Contents
A small brother -- Schoolboy -- Oxford character -- The divinity -- Aesthete triumphans -- A better model -- Butterfly -- Around theatres -- Most salient phenomenon -- Yet again -- Hosts and guests -- Max in love -- The mystery -- A married couple -- An Oxford love story -- A dreadful talent -- Inspired lunacy -- Memories -- Cráeme de la cráeme -- The golden drugget -- The divine singer -- An end of essays -- A terrible monstrifier -- Representations -- Radio days -- Royalty -- Kindred writer -- A Chekovian story -- Scared cow -- The case against -- Necrology -- Ministering angel -- An ending -- Today.