Authors: Max Beerbohm

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English drama critic, essayist, and caricaturist

Author Works

Nonfiction:

Caricatures of Twenty-five Gentlemen, 1896

The Works of Max Beerbohm, 1896

The Happy Hypocrite: A Fairy Tale for Tired Men, 1897

More, 1899

The Poet’s Corner, 1904 (caricatures)

A Book of Caricatures, 1907

Yet Again, 1909

Fifty Caricatures, 1913

And Even Now, 1920

A Survey, 1921 (caricatures)

Rossetti and His Circle, 1922 (caricatures)

Things New and Old, 1923 (caricatures)

Around Theatres, 1924

Observations, 1925 (caricatures)

A Variety of Things, 1928

Heroes and Heroines of Bitter Sweet, 1931 (caricatures)

Lytton Strachey, 1943

Mainly on the Air, 1946, 1957 (enlarged)

Selected Essays, 1958

More Theatres, 1898-1903, 1969

Last Theatres, 1904-1910, 1970

A Peep into the Past, and Other Pieces, 1972

Max and Will: Max Beerbohm and William Rothenstein, Their Friendship and Letters, 1893-1945, 1975

Letters of Max Beerbohm, 1892-1956, 1989

Short Fiction:

A Christmas Garland,Woven by Max Beerbohm, 1912, 1950 (enlarged)

Seven Men, 1919, 1950 (enlarged as Seven Men and Two Others)

Long Fiction:

Zuleika Dobson: Or, An Oxford Love Story, 1911

Drama:

The Happy Hypocrite: A Fairy Tale for a Tired Man, pr. 1890 (one-act dramatization), pr. 1936 (three-act dramatization)

Poetry:

Max in Verse, 1963

Collected Verse, 1994

Biography

Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm (BIHR-bohm) was the youngest child of his father’s second marriage. Julius E. E. Beerbohm’s first wife bore three sons and a daughter; of these children, the most widely known was the celebrated actor Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. With his second wife, who was the sister of his first wife, Beerbohm had four daughters and a son, Max. Max Beerbohm attended Charterhouse School from 1885 to 1890, when he enrolled at Merton College, Oxford; he left there in 1894 without taking a degree.{$I[AN]9810001518}{$I[A]Beerbohm, Max}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Beerbohm, Max}{$I[tim]1872;Beerbohm, Max}

During his undergraduate days at Oxford, Beerbohm seems to have avoided most lectures and all athletics and to have been interested mainly in his position as a young man about campus. He made his initial appearances as writer and caricaturist during this time. His first published caricatures appeared in three issues of the Strand Magazine in 1892, and in 1894 he contributed to the first volume of The Yellow Book. In 1895, he accompanied Beerbohm Tree to America as a secretary. After he returned to London, his first published book appeared in 1896 under the title The Works of Max Beerbohm, which included a bibliography of his writings supplied by his publisher, John Lane. The same year also saw publication of his first book of drawings, Caricatures of Twenty-five Gentlemen. In 1898, George Bernard Shaw retired as drama critic of the Saturday Review and appointed Beerbohm to succeed him, introducing him in phrases that were subsequently often quoted: “The younger generation is knocking at the door; and as I open it there steps spritely in the incomparable Max. . . .” Beerbohm conducted the drama criticisms until his own retirement in 1910.

Beerbohm devoted his time to his drawings (which were shown at the Leicester Galleries and later issued in book form), essays, stories, and criticisms. He put together a number of collections of essays, beginning with The Happy Hypocrite in 1897 and simultaneously published books of his caricatures. Rossetti and His Circle is often considered his best work in that genre. His reputation as a writer and caricaturist thus developed in tandem as the two complementary sides of his highly individualized personality. In 1910, Beerbohm married the talented actress Florence Kahn, who came from Memphis, Tennessee, and had achieved great success in productions of Henrik Ibsen’s plays. After the marriage, the Beerbohms retired to the Villino Chiaro near Rapallo, Italy, where they made their home until their deaths. In 1939, Beerbohm was knighted by George VI. After Beerbohm’s wife died in Italy in 1951, he married Elizabeth Jungman, his secretary-companion and a family friend, in a secret ceremony only a month before his own death on May 20, 1956.

When Beerbohm was making his first appearances in the early 1890’s, Oscar Wilde announced that he had “mastered the secret of perpetual old age.” A courtly wit and satirist, Beerbohm, who had seemed old when he was young, aged gracefully and carried his years as a living legend with cavalier ease. His one novel, Zuleika Dobson, which appeared in 1911, is a classic fantasy subtitled An Oxford Love Story. Almost equally well known are the short stories included in Seven Men, in which the seventh man of the stories is the author himself. Beerbohm ranks next to Charles Lamb among England’s personal essayists, and as a humorist and wit he rivals Wilde. He was the master of an individualized and exquisitely disciplined prose style.

BibliographyBehrman, S. N. Portrait of Max: An Intimate Memoir of Sir Max Beerbohm. New York: Random House, 1960. Behrman sentimentally recounts his personal friendship with Beerbohm during the last four years of the author’s life.Bonaparte, Felicia. “Reading the Deadly Text of Modernism: Vico’s Philosophy of History and Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson.” Clio 27 (Spring, 1998): 335-361. Discusses the connection between Beerbohm and Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico in an effort to show that Vico’s influence on nineteenth century thought has been underestimated. Argues for a reading of Beerbohm from the perspective of Vico’s philosophy of history.Cecil, David. Max: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965. A more complete, objective biography than S. N. Behrman’s (above), drawing heavily on quotations from people who knew Beerbohm and from his personal papers.Epstein, Joseph. “Portraits by Max.” The New Yorker 73 (December 8, 1997): 108-110. In this biographical sketch, the relationship between Beerbohm’s prose and his drawings is discussed; asserts that his draftsman’s line is the perfect visual equivalent of his prose and his prose the perfect verbal match of his line; notes that both his drawings and his writing exhibit painstaking attention to detail, energized by parody and inspired by merry malice.Felstiner, John. The Lies of Art: Max Beerbohm’s Parody and Caricature. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972. Rejecting the superficial studies of the dandy image that belie Beerbohm’s depth, Felstiner traces the evolution of Beerbohm’s comic art which culminates in parody. Illustrations, bibliography.Grushow, Ira. The Imaginary Reminiscences of Sir Max Beerbohm. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984. Focuses more on Beerbohm’s quest for form, his prose and caricatures as reminiscences of imagination. Offers an in-depth look at Seven Men and Rossetti and His Circle.Hall, N. John. Max Beerbohm: A Kind of Life. New Jersey: Yale, 2002. A fun and fascinating portrait of one of the liveliest products of his time.Hall, N. John. Max Beerbohm Caricatures. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997. Examines Beerbohm’s characters. Includes illustrations, bibliographical references, and indexes.Lynch, Bohun. Max Beerbohm in Perspective. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921. One of the earliest serious looks at Beerbohm’s writings and caricatures as being part of the same serious artistic statement. Bibliography, illustrations.McElderry, Bruce R. Max Beerbohm. New York: Twayne, 1972. A helpful general look at Beerbohm’s work from a traditional approach. Contains primary and secondary bibliographies.Mortimer, John Clifford. “‘The Last Civilized Man on Earth’: The Incomparable Max Beerbohm.” The New York Times Book Review 100 (September 3, 1995): 11-12. Notes that Beerbohm, a dandy of the Victorian era, took great pleasure in the vulgarity of the music hall, leading some critics to say he wasted time there that could have been spent writing; discusses Beerbohm’s short story “Enoch Soames,” his novel Zuleika Dobson: Or, An Oxford Love Story, and his caricatures and parodies.Riewald, J. G. Sir Max Beerbohm, Man and Writer: A Critical Analysis with Brief Life and a Bibliography. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1953. A comprehensive, critical overview of Beerbohm’s life and work. Includes a bibliography.
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