S. N. Behrman
The New Yorker
 February 13, 1960: 40-86

The second time I saw Max Beerbohm, it was on his home grounds—in the Villino Chiaro, on the Via Aurelia, in Rapallo. In the summer of 1952, on the eve of his eightieth birthday and four years before he died, I had visited him at a mountaintop hospice, outside Rapallo, where he was spending the hottest weeks. I had since been corresponding with his secretary, Miss Elizabeth Jungmann, who reported faithfully on how he was feeling and what he was reading and doing; and I had received occasional letters from Max himself. In one of them, he wrote:

Elizabeth is as wonderfully kind and good and delightful as ever. I have had a return or two of gout—or rather of what is diagnosed as "symptomatic gout," which sounds less important. Elizabeth found the other day in the garage an unpublished MS. which I had entirely forgotten, and I read it aloud the other day into a microphone imported by Douglas Cleverdon of the B.B.C., and it will figure in a Christmas programme. I was glad to find that I didn't seem to have lost the knack of microphony. . . . I have become conscious that this letter consists of a single paragraph, without one break in the dullness of it all. Forgive this fault.

As Max did not own a car, there was plenty of room in his garage for forgotten manuscripts. The garaged piece was "Hethway Speaking." I presently read it. Hethway is an imaginary character whom Max invented for the purpose of satirizing the quirks of real people represented to be Hethway's friends—William Morris, Algernon Swinburne, George Meredith, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Carlyles. William Morris, for instance, comes into the drawing room of Hethway's house, where the poor man has fancied himself perfectly comfortable, and immediately starts redoing it a la Morris. I wrote to Max to tell him how funny I thought this salvaged piece was, and how grateful we should all be to Miss Jungmann for haunting garages. I insisted that Hethway was more real than Hethway's real friends, and that Max was boasting when he claimed to have invented him. Max wrote back:

We laughed inordinately over your doubts about the unreality of Hethway. I am so glad my description of William Morris's visit to him gave you such pleasure. The thought of him [Morris] has always slightly irritated me. Of course he was a wonderful all-round man, but the act of walking round him has always tired me.

Confident that, not being an all-round man, I would present no pedestrian problems to Max—in an essay, he had said that taking any sort of walk was uncongenial to him, for walking automatically stops all activity of the brain—I checked in at the Excelsior in Rapallo, for the second time, in the summer of 1953. I was met at the station by Charlie, an English-speaking driver whom Turco, the hotel's concierge, had assigned to me on my first visit. Charlie had once lived in Pittsburgh, and missed it acutely. The ravishing Ligurian coast did not console him in the least for whatever it was that he missed in Pittsburgh. Turco, whom I addressed as Il Presidente, because he was president of an association of concierges, greeted me at the Excelsior, and after I had had a telephone conversation with Miss Jungmann, Charlie drove me to the Villino—down the hill to the promenade that skirts the sea, past the cafés and bandstands, and then up the steep hill of the Via Aurelia, to No. 47. The motor traffic on the Via Aurelia is terrifying; tremendous trucks go up and down it incessantly on their way to and from Genoa. The traffic did not permit Charlie to stop in front of the house, which is on the far side of the road; he had to go almost to the top of the hill, where there is a place to turn, and then come back to Max's iron gate. Charlie had to huddle his car very close to the gate to allow the trucks to pass by. Charlie knew the house; he used to drive occasionally for Lady Beerbohm, who died in 1951. He opened the gate for me, and told me to walk up the stone steps and ring the bell. I asked him to return at six. It was now four, and I had been invited to tea. I walked up the flower-bordered steps and rang. Over the door hung a curiously designed octagonal crystal lamp—a gift, I found out later, from Gordon Craig. A girl of about seventeen opened the door, bobbed, and said that the Signora would be in in a minute. I followed her into a tiny hall. Just as in Swinburne's hall when Max called on him at No. 2, The Pines, the past was the present. The young girl walked into a little library off the hall, meaning me to follow her, but I was drawn—as Max had been drawn when he went to Putney to call—by a girl with amorous hair; only she wasn't by Rossetti, she was by Max. It was Elizabeth Siddal. In a small, curved lunette at the top of the back wall, she stood in an attitude of calm abeyance between Swinburne and Rossetti; Swinburne, whose hair was rather longer than Miss Siddal's, was reaching across Miss Siddal to flourish an admonitory forefinger against the Gibraltar of Rossetti's chest, exhorting the later, far from emaciated Dante to do something of which Rossetti manifestly took a poor view. Miss Siddal was staring at Swinburne as at an object hitherto unclassified; Rossetti's look at Swinburne was so concentrated and inimical that it would have put off anybody in the world but Swinburne. Was Swinburne exhorting him to do right by Elizabeth, or what? Only Max knew.

Miss Jungmann came in and greeted me warmly. I admired the picture in the lunette. "Max is unhappy about Rossetti's hair," said Miss Jungmann. "It has faded, and he is always saying that he must touch it up." We both looked at the embattled trio. "Do you know," she said, "Florence told me this. When Max published his book of caricatures 'Rossetti and His Circle,' the people around here somehow heard about it, and Max for a time achieved a kind of local celebrity. They thought—they were sure—it must be about Colonel Giovanni Raffaele Rossetti, who was an Italian naval hero of the First World War. And then they found out it wasn't about their naval hero at all, and they lost all interest in Max, to his great relief. Max," she went on, "is dressing up for you. He is putting on his shade-of-primrose suit." She then ushered me into a little library. The room was filled with the thunder of the passing trucks. I asked Miss Jungmann how Max stood it; I said that it reminded me of a remark made by Gustav Mahler when he was taken to see Niagara Falls—"Endlich fortissimo!" "Max doesn't hear it," Miss Jungmann said, "and yet if as much as a teacup clinks unexpectedly in a room he is in, he jumps as if a cannon had gone off!" She showed me the treasures in the little library. There were two water colors, in oval frames, of Max's grandparents, in eighteenth-century clothes and with powdered hair. They were both very handsome. Miss Jungmann told me a little of Max's family history. Max's father, who had emigrated from Germany to France when he was eighteen, had lived for several years in Paris. He was so impressive in appearance that he had earned the sobriquet of "Superbe Homme." "You know, Max's father was horn in 1810. Think of it!" Miss Jungmann said. She showed me, on another wall, a black-and-white drawing by Max of his sister Dora Margaretta, who became a nun, in her habit. "Max adored her," said Miss Jungmann. "She was very worldly." Then, there was a large wash drawing of Carlyle striding along the Chelsea Embankment, his face writhing with dyspepsia and introspection. On another wall was a flamboyant wooden signboard showing the Elizabethan comic actor Dick Tarlton as the Harlequin, wearing a suit of red, green, and yellow lozenges. He was dancing and waved a belled stick; he dominated the room. "This is the change I told you last summer that I was making," said Miss Jungmann, with modest triumph, waving a hand toward a little living room off the library. "I broke it through! So you can see everything, both rooms, in the mirror—there! It took some time for Max to get used to it, but he approves of it now." The rooms composing this enlarged vista were both so tiny that I couldn't help thinking that it was an ideal house for a miniaturist. We walked into the living room, and I looked at the mirror on the far wall—a perfect circle in a wide-trellised gilt-and-ebony frame. It was a convex Regency mirror, and it did indeed gather up everything in both rooms in a curved embrace. The curtains of the living-room windows curled toward it, as if impelled by a kind of tropism, and so did the walls. Miss Jungmann made me stand dead center, and there I beheld myself, diminished but with a somewhat disturbing clarity of outline.

Max came in from his bedroom, which adjoined the room we were in. He was wearing the full complement of the shade-of-primrose suit, which I had met first the year before, on Montallegro—a double-breasted gray flannel suit with a primrose sheen. While he was greeting me, I was conscious afresh of the quality of his voice and of his speech, which had a way of endowing the sound of the English language with lost overtones from a more leisurely past. I complimented him on looking well and, since he had put it on for me, on the elegance of his suit.

His hand flicked across the soft rolled lapels of his vest, cut in a low V. "I like plenty of room," he said. "They do not cut them like that any more. Gives the chest plenty of breathing space, don't you know."

Since we were standing in front of the mirror, I made some comment on that—how it infoliated the images and focussed them, as in a burning glass.

"Well, you see, it is convex," Max said. "There is no poetry in a straight mirror—just a reproduction of life. But what one sees in a convex mirror is a complete picture, a composition, an intérieur. By miniaturizing, it concentrates and essentializes. It hung in my nursery, this mirror. Then, when, as a young man, I occupied rooms on the top floor of my mother's house, I had it moved up there. It has been with me ever since. My father bought it at the Paris International Exhibition of 1867. It seems to me that during my childhood I was half asleep, but as I grew a bit older, this mirror began to fascinate me. I began to think of all that it had seen since my father bought it; he used to have it in his rooms. And then, when I reached the age of twenty-one—the age of reminiscence, of seasoned reminiscence—I began to see this mirror as a collaborator, with memories of its own, a temps perdu of its own. I began to write a novel about it, an autobiographical novel called 'The Mirror of the Past.' I wanted to corporealize all the backs the mirror had seen leaving my room. I have it somewhere, the fragments of that novel."

I proposed to Miss Jungmann that we go at once to the garage.

Max chuckled. "No, the fragments are in London—aren't they, Elizabeth?" he said. "But it became too involved, you know, too complicated. I couldn't understand it myself. But some character sketches I made for it—oh, it was more than forty years ago; I put them by, don't you know—I have read over the B.B.C., and people seemed to like them."

Miss Jungmann went out to make tea. Max settled himself in his armchair in front of a tiny, cheerful fire. He asked me whether I had read Virginia Woolf's diary. I said I had, and he began talking about it. Her acute and incessant concern with what reviewers felt about her work was distasteful to him. The perpetual concern with herself was distasteful to him. "Rossetti allowed his life to be ruined by, among other things, an adverse review of his work," he said. "A pity he—and Virginia as well—couldn't have taken to heart Turgenev's view of such matters." I expressed a wish to take it to heart, too, if he would only tell me what Turgenev's view was. Max waved a hand. "You'll find it in Henry James," he said. "Turgenev appreciated that criticism is a delightful pastime for the critics—that, even, it may be delightful to their readers. But, he says, it has nothing whatever to do with the artist, nor with the process by which art is achieved. A pity poor Virginia couldn't have remembered that! It would have spared her so much." He stopped for a moment, apparently saddened. He went on, "And then this stream-of-consciousness business! All of us have a stream of consciousness; we are never without it—the most ordinary and the most gifted. And through that stream flows much that is banal, tedious, nasty, insufferable, irrelevant. But some of us have the taste to let it flow by, not to capture it, not to amber it on the written page, to spare communicating it. But then I always felt in Virginia an absence of vitality. And, indeed, her end was the abdication of vitality. When you think of Benjamin Haydon! He was a painter, and full of work and projects, and yet at the end of each day he had the vitality to sit down, don't you know"—Max's hand began to scribble fast in the air—"and write those immense diaries, which are so fascinating to read."

I might have suggested to Max that it was odd to pose Haydon's vitality against Virginia Woolf's anemia, since Haydon had committed suicide also, but I didn't, because when Max said this I didn't know of Haydon's suicide.

I asked Max, in my turn, whether he had read the Shaw-Campbell correspondence, lately published. Max said he had begun it but had found it too nauseating to go on with.

I told Max that by giving up he had missed a delicious line of Mrs. Pat's, when she says to G.B.S., "Joey, you're brain-proud!”

Max admitted that that was good—a kind of jewel of understatement. He then said that he had done a series of four caricatures, in water color, of Shaw's pursuit of Stella, as he called Mrs. Pat. (I saw them later. They are very funny. In one of them, Shaw is leaping over a piano in chase of his beloved. Stella, a balloon in lavender, ducks coyly under this leap.) In his placid, unhurried voice, Max went on to dissect one sentence out of Shaw's vast ceuvre that, he said, "unnerved" him. I have never seen a man unnerved with such unclouded serenity. The sentence was from "Maxims for Revolutionists," and had been often and admiringly quoted: "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches." "The arrogance of it, don't you know," said Max, without resentment. "He himself so manifestly can! Of course, it is simply untrue. Many teachers have done moving and delightful things—Lewis Carroll and A. E. Housman, for example. But even those who haven't—if they teach well, if they inspirit the young they are perhaps more valuable than those who have done the moving and delightful things. But then G.B.S. had been talking rot for more than fifty years. Will anyone ever write a book on the vast amount of nonsense uttered with such brilliance and panache by G.B.S.?"

I drew Max back to the character sketches that he had written for "The Mirror of the Past" and had delivered with such success over the B.B.C. I made some comment on the viability of these prose pieces, which could be delivered, unaltered, nearly half a century later, over a medium undreamed of when they were written. I asked what some of them were, and why he had not published them years ago.

Max waved his hand, and said, "Oh, they were all friends of mine, don't you know, and I thought they might give offense to their subjects—George Moore, Irving the younger, Yeats, Hall Caine, Nat Goodwin . . ." At the evocation of Goodwin, Max's face showed pleasure. "He was a most amusing companion, Nat Goodwin. I met him in America, you know, when I went with my brother on the first of his American tours. I went as Herbert's press representative. I wasn't very good, I'm afraid. I wrote all my formal communications to the press in longhand. I have never had the secret knack of typewriters. Typewriters can't spell, you know. I was too slow. Herbert replaced me, but he allowed me to stay on a while. But Nat Goodwin! He owned a house at Shooter's Hill that my brother rented at one time, and I used often to spend weekends with Nat. He was married at that time—Nat never did such things for long—to Maxine Elliott. Her sister Gertrude married Johnston Forbes-Robertson. Nat was orotund in speech—like Coquelin." Max leaned forward in his chair and became orotund. "'My Love for my wife Maxine,' he would say, 'amounts to I-DOLATRY!' And yet, with the idolatry, he managed to retain detachment also, don't you know, as far as his judgment of acting went. Maxine was beautiful. I have never seen eyes like hers; the whites of her eyes were not white but brilliant blue. But"—Max's voice dropped to the whisper of a confidence, as if he were wary of being overheard disparaging the talent of a lady whose hospitality he had accepted—"Maxine was not really a very good actress. Now, Gertrude was really a fine actress." Max's voice boomed into orotundity again; ordinarily soft-spoken, he didn't mind being loud as long as he was quoting. "Nat used to say, 'Gertrude, on the stage, is great; Maxine, my wife, is not great . . . but . . . she touches on greatness.' He was a passionate theologian. His favorite book appeared to be Paley's 'Evidences.' He would insist to me on the truth of Paley's 'Evidences' with truculence, as if I had contradicted him—a David without a Goliath, don't you know. He was a great partisan, also, of the Sermon on the Mount. He defended it vehemently in the face of no opposition whatever." Max's voice became very loud, declamatory. "'THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT,' he would insist, 'is ab-so-LUTE-ly ALL RIGHT!' But he had a non-theological side, too. He was a great singer of Negro songs. One, which I would never tire of hearing, was about a man, broke in Memphis, who remembers suddenly that he has a sweetheart, solvent, in Nashville. Nat's eyes used to gleam with sentiment and avarice while he sang this song." Max leaned forward in his chair and sang:

"I guess I'll have to telegraph my baaby. . . .
I want that money badly. . . .
I thank de Lawd who gave us Western U-u-u-nion. . . ."

In the middle of Max's aria, Miss Jungmann came in with the tea. She also brought strawberries.

"From our garden," she said proudly.

"I always say," said Max, with a quick, sly look at me, "that things from gardens just haven't got that special something which you find in things bought in a shop, have they?"

I asked Max what he remembered of his American tour with Herbert. He remembered a great deal, and he began to tell me.

On the sixteenth of January, 1895, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the resplendent English actor-manager, who was then forty-one, set sail from England for the first of his numerous American tours. He took along with him as his press representative his half brother Max Beerbohm, still an undergraduate at Oxford. The offer was a windfall for Max; it couldn't have come at a better moment, because he had just been having a madly Platonic, and hopeless, love affair with the child star of the Tivoli Music Hall, Cissie Loftus, and was glad of an excuse to get away from London. He was to find alleviation for his bruised emotions over Cissie in America, because he fell in love again, this time with a member of Herbert's company, Kilseen Conover. Miss Conover was a very pretty and rising young ingénue; in London, Max had listened to little jokes about her at the Garrick Club, where she was referred to as "Kill-Scene Conover." Whether this meant that she enervated the scenes in which she appeared, or wantonly "stole" them for herself, Max did not know. He twitted her about it, later, when he fell in love with her.

Julius Ewald Edward Beerbohm, the father of Herbert and Max, had married, at the age of about forty, Constantia Draper. They had four children: Ernest, Herbert, Julius, and Constance Marie. When Constantia died, Julius, then about fifty, married Eliza, Constantia's sister. They had five children: Matilda Helen, Gertrude and Marie Agnes (twins), Dora Margaretta, and Max, the youngest. Two of Max's half brothers, Herbert and Julius, were flamboyant characters, and Max adored them both. They were much older than he was, and he followed their careers with the fascination of a child reading "The Arabian Nights." Max instinctively shrank from bigness, but he made an exception of Herbert. Herbert liked big things, Max little things. Writing of his brother in a memorial volume he edited after Herbert's death, he said:

I do believe he took as much pride in my little career as I took in his big one. "Big" is a word that attaches itself in my mind to so much concerning Herbert. His body was big, and his nature big, and he did so love big things! Mountains cathedrals, frescoes, Shakespeare, summer skies, Wagnerian opera—his spacious temperament welcomed everything of that sort. Things on a small scale, however exquisite, did not satisfy him.

Max didn't care for His Majesty's Theatre, which Herbert built and which was the apple of his eye. Max thought it much too big; he liked small theatres, and much preferred the Haymarket. He told me a story of Herbert's taking a famous contemporary manager, Sir Squire Bancroft, to see his theatre. Sir Herbert was lavish with money; Sir Squire Bancroft was the opposite. In a glow of pride, Herbert stood Sir Squire across the street to let him look at His Majesty's in all its magnificence. "There'll be an awful lot of windows to wash," said Bancroft, leaving poor Herbert somewhat dashed.

Max's brother Julius gave Max even more to wonder at. "Herbert was (then and always) a hero to me," Max once wrote. "But, let me add, Julius was a god." Their father had founded a successful trade paper, Beerbohm's Evening Corn Trade List: it recorded the movements of ships and cargoes in the corn trade. The elder Beerbohm took on young Julius as a clerk, but Julius couldn't stick it. At the age of twenty-three, he went off to Patagonia, where he resided for two years among the local ostrich hunters. He wrote a book in two volumes about his adventures there—"Wanderings in Patagonia." On his return to London, he went in for finance and wrote poetry. He was known to his friends as Poet. One of his poems is a threnody on the death of Cecil Rhodes, whom he idolized. Julius's career in the financial world was characterized by an unerring instinct for failure. For one thing, he was absent-minded; Constance Collier, Sir Herbert's leading lady at His Majesty's and for a time Max's fiancée, tells in her memoirs that once Julius put down a deposit to buy a hotel near Marienbad and then, diverted by another gleam of fool's gold, forgot all about it. At one time, Julius was involved in a scheme to drag the Nile, with the idea of finding Pharaoh's jewels. But Pharaoh, as it turned out, had concealed them too cunningly. Julius was a compulsive gambler; whenever he did make any money, he lost it gambling in Dieppe and on the Riviera. According to a contemporary description, he had "a long yellow mustache, blue eyes, a languid manner, a nonchalant air, smart clothes, drawling speech, and imperturbable deportment." He had what is called "a crowded life" and was loved by everybody. Max worshipped Julius because, he said, he was "so cool and calm and elegant." There is a curious contrast in the temperaments of the two batches of the elder Julius Beerbohm's children: those of his first marriage ran to the grandiose; those of his second marriage ran to contemplation.

I asked Max where Herbert got the name Tree.

"Well," said Max, "when he first went on the stage, he had the fantasy, which became actual, that he would one day be a star. I don't suppose he could imagine the gallery, after a triumphant performance, shouting with enthusiasm for 'Beerbohm, Beerbohm!' He had the prescience, don't you know, to supply a shoutable monosyllable."

While Max was at Charterhouse, his prep school, Herbert had the lease of the Haymarket Theatre. Max has said, "My body was at Charterhouse. My soul was in the Haymarket." As an undergraduate at Oxford, Max was able to wield the pleasant patronage of inviting his friends up to London, getting free seats for Herbert's performances, and taking them backstage afterward to introduce them to his volatile and magnetic older brother. At Oxford, Max wrote an essay on Oscar Wilde, which had been accepted by a magazine called the Anglo-American. Wilde was delighted. "No other undergraduate could have written it," he said. "You must take up literature. You have a style like a silver dagger." Max brought the silver dagger with him to America, but, unfortunately, he seldom pointed it at the theatrical columnists. In spite of Max's hero-worship and Herbert's affectionate indulgence, the business arrangement between them on this American tour did not work out very well. Max not only communicated with the press in longhand but also answered all of Herbert's letters, including the fan mail, the same way. His handwriting was exquisite and his sentence structure cunningly architectural. Those who received his letters must have been pleased with them, but, owing to the unconscionable time it took Max to polish his dagger, many correspondents and many newspapers remained uncommunicated with. Max loved his brother, and before he became a drama critic he loved the theatre, but he had two other loves as well—the writing of prose essays and the drawing of caricatures. His attitude toward the professional duties he owed his brother was relaxed. Herbert found it necessary to dismiss Max from his post and to engage someone less fastidious. Prodigality was one of Herbert's notorious characteristics, and he continued to keep Max with him and to pay him his salary. Max took his lucrative demotion in his stride.

Perhaps Herbert would have been well advised to take with him as his press agent on this first American tour a writer less famous than his brother. It is conceivable that Herbert, who had risen with incredible speed to the top of a profession that thrives on sensationalism, was misled by the fact that Max was himself already an established sensationalist. As Horace Gregory wrote in his biography of James McNeill Whistler, Max "had come down from Oxford to London, and had captured the town." He was already famous as an essayist and caricaturist, and also as a dandy. He regarded dandyism as a form of courtesy; it was something, he felt, to gladden the eye of the beholder. In 1894, Aubrey Beardsley introduced Max to Henry Harland, who was then in the process of founding the Yellow Book, and Harland thought it worthwhile to ask Max for a contribution to the first number. Max contributed a bombshell. Sitting tranquilly in his room in Merton College, Oxford, the year before, Max had written an essay that was to rock literary circles in London to their foundations. The explosive essay, when it appeared in the Yellow Book, was called "A Defense of Cosmetics." A well-known humorist of the time, Barry Pain, was so shaken by it that he momentarily mislaid his sense of humor. As Max had begun to frequent the Café Royal, during his London sojourns, Pain, upon the publication of this scandalous essay, lumped Max with the other decadent denizens of that café and blasted it with the withering remark, in his newspaper column, "A whiff of grapeshot would do no harm there."

Punch's poet went to town:


How would the little busy bore
Improve on Nature's dower,
And praise a painted Lois more
Than maidens in their flower!
How deftly he dabs on his grease,
How neatly spreads his wax;
And finds in dirty aids like these
The charm that Nature lacks.
In barber-born, cosmetic skill,
"Art" would be busy too;
And folly finds some business still
For popinjays to do!

The popinjay was relaxed about this attack and other fulminations directed at his essay. He had expected the barrage; he had courted it; he had known, sitting there in the armchair his father bought him when he went up to Merton College, in 1890, exactly what he was doing. Max included this essay in his first published volume, "The Works of Max Beerbohm," under the more veracious title "The Pervasion of Rouge." The fact is that Max, far from being a defender of cosmetics, had no use for them at all. If Barry Pain had kept his temper under better control and read Max's incendiary essay consideringly before he began whiffing grapeshot, he would have discerned that Max's defense of rouge was somewhat halfhearted; the essayist was merely recording, somewhat regretfully, its pervasion. It would never have remotely occurred to his sisters or his mother, Max told me, to apply it, and had they done so, he would have been saddened, even outraged. Up to that time, only women of the streets resorted to rouge. "Fashion," says Max in his essay, "has made Jezebel surrender her monopoly of the rouge-pot."

Max was devoted all his life to the unassisted complexions of unfashionable English girls; the natural English female complexion of those early days aroused in him, in long retrospect, a memorial dithyramb. Over the tea and strawberries, Max enlarged on this sort of complexion. "It was a delicate ruse pink, don't you know, and rouge would only have blemished it," he said. "In those days, the houses were very irregularly heated; the downstairs library might be quite warm and the hall outside freezing cold. The ladies moved from room to room, and their complexions had to guess the next temperature they would encounter. It was this act of guessing that kept their complexions suspended, don't you know, between the lovely pink, the lovely rose."

I accused Max of acquiring an initial reputation on false pretenses.

Max replied mildly, "It was just an exercise in euphuism. Still, as far as anyone in literature can be lynched, I was."

Feelings ran high in those days. The Westminster Gazette, referring to the drawings by Aubrey Beardsley that were also published in the first issue of the Yellow Book, suggested "an Act of Parliament to make this kind of thing illegal." Beardsley was badly mauled by the critics, and, in a memorial essay on Beardsley, Max tells, with approval, how Beardsley did them in:

Most of the qualified art-critics, also were very angry. They did not know what to make of these drawings, which were referable to no established school or known method in art. Beardsley was not at all discouraged by the contempt with which his technique was treated. On the contrary, he revelled in his unfavourable press-cuttings, knowing how little they signified. I think it was in the third number of the Yellow Book that two pictures by hitherto-unknown artists were reproduced. One was a large head of Mantegna, by Philip Broughton; the other, a pastel-study of a Frenchwoman, by Albert Foschter. Both the drawings had rather a success with the reviewers, one of whom advised Beardsley "to study and profit by the sound and scholarly draughtsmanship of which Mr. Philip Broughton furnishes another example of his familiar manner." Beardsley, who had made both the drawings and invented both the signatures, was greatly amused and delighted.

Max's undergraduate success was similar to that achieved by Edward Sheldon somewhat later. In 1893, Sir William Rothenstein was sent up to Oxford by the publisher John Lane to do a book of lithographs of university celebrities. Lane's idea was that he should do dons; Rothenstein insisted on including a few undergraduate celebrities. Naturally, he drew Max, who was himself already well known for his caricatures and writings. (In his memoirs, Rothenstein describes Max, at their first meeting, as "rather tall," by which he must have meant that Max was tall in comparison with himself. In the innumerable caricatures that Max was to do of Rothenstein, the latter is always minuscule, a Lilliputian among Gullivers. There is only one caricature in which there is anyone smaller than Rothenstein, and that is one in which Rothenstein's brother Albert is included. Max puts Albert under a table and William on top of it, so that he can argue on terms of equality with the painter Wilson Steer, who is sitting.) After Rothenstein had finished his Oxford lithographs, he found that John Lane had commissioned Max to do a book of Oxford celebrities also; Max wrote to Rothenstein to apologize for Lane, but said he felt confident that "there is room for both of us." Once Max had launched his bombshell in the Yellow Book, he relaxed. He wanted notoriety only in order to coast on it. He coasted till he got to America—or, specifically, Chicago—when he took a long look at his spangled past and a controlled one at his future.

Herbert's company opened in New York and moved on to Chicago. The journey to Chicago was a fateful one for Max. Passing through the sleeping car reserved for the unmarried ladies of the company, he was hailed by Kilseen Conover and another young actress, Una Cockerell. They looked very pretty in their nightgowns and were eating fruit out of hampers. Miss Conover gave Max an apple and Miss Cockerell threw him a banana. In London, once, I visited Miss Cockerell's uncle, Sir Sydney Cockerell. This entrancing gentleman was in bed. He was over ninety when I went to see him, and the extraordinary vigor of his mind and his vitality made me reflect that perhaps a lifelong preoccupation with the arts can be a powerful factor in longevity. Sir Sydney had been William Morris's and Ruskin's secretary when he was young, had made a pilgrimage to Tolstoy, and, as his books reveal, had made an art of friendship with the great spirits of his time. The chief devotion of his later years was to the Fitzwilliam Museum, at Cambridge, of which he was curator. He was perhaps the closest friend of Bernard Shaw; he was instrumental in getting Shaw to write "St. Joan," and he spoke words from "Pilgrim's Progress" at Shaw's funeral. We talked about Max. Speaking of Max's drawings, Sir Sydney said, "There is no one like Max. He is in a class apart. At his best, his perception is unique and beautiful." The first time he had ever seen Max, Sir Sydney said, was when he had gone to Paddington Station to see his niece off on the boat train for Herbert's first American tour. He saw a young man, dressed to the nines, walking abstractedly up and down the platform. He had never seen a young man so exquisitely dressed. That was Max. Sir Sydney didn't meet him till many years later. And when he did, he bought three of Max's drawings for the Fitzwilliam. But Max didn't know anything about Sydney Cockerell on the night he got the banana and the apple, and it was then that he fell in love with Miss Conover. As he wrote his close friend Reginald Turner at the time, they rode around in Chicago in hansom cabs holding hands, and Max asked Miss Conover to marry him. She gave him no reason to believe that she wouldn't.

In Chicago, Herbert, who was adventurous, put on Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People." The reaction of the first audience was mixed, even tumultuous. Max did not capitalize professionally on the controversial aspects of this reaction, however. He did not stay for the end of the performance. Instead, he did something that theatrical press agents do not ordinarily do. Leaving the impassioned audience to come to terms with Ibsen and his brother in its own way, he went back to his room in the Blackstone Hotel, made himself comfortable with pen and ink and paper, and wrote an essay on Walter Pater, which he first called "Be It Cosiness" and later called "Diminuendo." In this essay, Max polishes Pater off quickly, and devotes the rest of the essay to himself. The title is meant to convey that after the awful, dizzying summit scaled in the Yellow Book essay the rest of his life must necessarily be a prolonged anticlimax. This anticlimax he welcomes; he defines its contours, and begins at once to make himself at home within them. On his arrival in Oxford as a freshman, in 1890, he begins, he encountered Pater himself in Ryman's, where he went to buy an engraving. "I think," he says, "I nearly went down when they told me that was Pater." Max records that he later tried to draw Pater and failed; he could never really do funny caricatures of people unless he admired or, at least in some grudging way, liked them. And he cared no more for Pater's literary style than he did for his personal appearance:

Not that even in those more decadent days of my childhood [when Max was writing this, he was twenty-three] did I admire the man as a stylist Even then I was angry that he should treat English as a dead language, bored by that sedulous ritual wherewith he laid out every sentence as in a shroud—hanging, like a widower, long over its marmoreal beauty or ever he could lay it at length in his book, its sepulchre. From that laden air, the so cadaverous murmur of that sanctuary, I would hook it at the beck of any jade. The writing of Pater had never, indeed, appealed to me, αλλ αιει having regard to the couth solemnity of his mind, his philosophy, his rare erudition, τινα Φωτα μαγαν και καλον εδεγμην. And I suppose it was when at length I saw him that I first knew him to be fallible.

After gracefully interring Pater in the cerements of a few of his own sentences, the young press agent goes on to inter his own past and to peer down the vista of his future. Actually, Max told me, he overcame his original repugnance to the author of "Marius the Epicurean" sufficiently to attend several of his lectures. Evidently, for Pater, giving lectures was a form of self-communion; he whispered them. At one of Herbert's supper parties, Max met, for the first time, Oscar Wilde. By way of break-in, he asked Wilde, "Did you hear Pater at Oxford? I couldn't." "I overheard him," said Wilde. In "Diminuendo," Max writes that Oxford, like Pater, is a visual disappointment ("On aurait dit a bit of Manchester through which Apollo had once passed"); the charms of the traditions he expected are obsolescent ("The townspeople now looked just like undergraduates and the dons just like townspeople"); the improvement in the train service between London and Oxford has made the latter a kind of suburb of the former, and when he looks at London, though he finds it "fascinating to watch the ways of its children," he is sure that "modern life" could not be for him. He contemplates, in a few elegiac paragraphs, the excessive and turbulent and incessantly amorous life of the Prince of Wales, and is saddened by the reflection that a life so busy must connote an interference with thought. "I do not suppose," he writes, "that, if we were invited to give authenticated instances of intelligence on the part of our royal pets, we could fill half a column of the Spectator. In fact, their lives are so full they have no time for thought, the highest energy of man."

Chicago does not usually evoke searing introspection, but it did in Max; ignoring completely the audience reaction to "An Enemy of the People"—a serious lapse on the part of a drumbeater for a theatrical enterprise—he casts a rueful glance at his own spotted past:

Once, in the delusion that Art, loving the recluse, would make his life happy, wrote a little for a yellow quarterly and had that succès de fiasco which is always given to a young writer of talent. But the stress of creation soon overwhelmed me. Only Art with a capital A gives any consolations to her henchmen. And I, who crave no knighthood, shall write no more. I shall write no more. Already I feel myself a trifle outmoded. I belong to the Beardsley period. Younger men, with months of activity before them, with fresher schemes and notions, with newer enthusiasm, have pressed forward since then. Cedo junioribus. Indeed, I stand aside with no regret. For to be outmoded is to be a classic, if one has written well. I have acceded to the hierarchy of good scribes and rather like my niche.

Miss Jungmann removed the tea things; the three of us had already disposed of the strawberries. I looked around the tiny circumference of Max's present niche—a living room no bigger than a few strides in each direction, and furnished with the convex mirror, a small beige-upholstered armchair that Max sat in, a small tea table beside the chair, two straight chairs, a small dining-room table, a small fireplace, and above it a white-painted mantelshelf on which there stood two photographs and a delicate bronze figurine of a girl with averted head. I encouraged Max to talk more about his American visit. In Chicago, he said, he had enjoyed the fires. Max was devoted to fires—rampant ones in the outdoors and more controlled, indoor ones, such as the tiny, brisk one in the grate before us. In an essay on domesticated fires, he says that they are "to your room what the sun is to the world," and continues, "Doubtless, when I began to walk, one of my first excursions was to the fender, that I might gaze more nearly at the live thing roaring and raging behind it; and I daresay I dimly wondered by what blessed dispensation this creature was allowed in a domain so peaceful as my nursery." Chicago, he recalled—he had earlier recalled it in "The Works," published more than half a century before—provided him with a magnificent ungrated fire. Most of all, Max liked the American attitude toward fires, so different from the English one and so compatible with his own. In his essay "An Infamous Brigade," he reproaches the fire department of his home town for its destructive attitude toward fires. Chicago wins his enthusiastic approbation:

Americans, as yet inferior to us in the appreciation of most fair things, are far more spirited than we are about fires. Many years ago, when all Chicago was afire, the Mayor, watching it from the Lake-Side, exclaimed in a loud voice, "Who will say now that ours is not the finest city in all the world?" l remember, too, that some years ago, on the eve of my departure from Chicago, a certain citizen, who was entertaining me at supper, expressed his great regret that they had not been able to show me one of their fires. And indeed it must he splendid to see those twenty-three-story buildings come crashing clown in less time than was required to build them up. In Chicago, extinction is not attempted. Little value is set on bricks and mortar. A fire is enjoyed; then the building is reproduced and burnt down again at leisure. But we, who pull down, year by year, old inns and almshouses, because they are obsolete in usage, despite their prettiness and their tradition, we, in London, suffer to be saved any wharf or warehouse, however beautiful its encircling flames, however hideous it.

Max had an agreeable memory of a New York fire, too. After his press-agentry, he and Herbert, he told me, were staying at the old Waldorf. One of the actors in the company, who lived in a more modest establishment, was burned out. He burst into Herbert's apartment to report on the experience. Everybody had rushed out of the burning building carrying souvenirs, but this actor, in his excitement, had forgotten to take one. He joined the crowd of spectators on the sidewalk, and, since he now saw that the firemen were demolishing everything, he thought he'd help them out by breaking in a bow window; while he was at it, he dragged out an armchair that, he told Herbert, would do admirably for a prop in one of his productions. Herbert inquired gravely whether it was singed. "No," said the actor. "Just wet." Max went on to tell me he had been interested in an American book that described how frequently our theatres burned down during this period. "There was no parallel in England," said Max, "because we didn't choose to burn our theatres down."

Max told me that he had had a good time in America, especially after he lost his job. Relieved of the necessity of writing professional letters, he wrote professionally. He sold two pieces to Vanity Fair and two to a short-lived magazine published in Chicago. He got twenty-five dollars apiece for them. He also sold several caricatures. Nobody bought "Diminuendo;" it was, he said, much too "stark." He went with Herbert to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Herbert read to the Harvard boys—Hamlet's fourth soliloquy in the voice of Falstaff, and Falstaff's "honor" speech in the voice of Hamlet—but the main thing besides the reading that Max could remember of that occasion was that all the undergraduates parted their hair in the middle. One of them he used as a model for Mr. Dover, the American Rhodes Scholar in "Zuleika Dobson," which he began to write in 1898 and did not finish until 1911. In Boston, also, Joseph Jefferson, the fishing buddy of Grover Cleveland and the perennial Rip van Winkle, came to call on Max and Herbert, and of this little visit Max remembered that Jefferson kept his hat on the whole time. His eyebrows went up in mild consternation when he told me of this solecism committed by Jefferson's hat, and I did my best to muster an answering expression of shock. In New York, Max met Clyde Fitch, who took him to see Edward Harrigan, of Harrigan and Hart; Max remembered Harrigan's walk, "as if threading his way among broken bits of glass, don't you know—at once comic and extraordinarily graceful." Max greatly liked Fitch, and they became friends. Max wrote in a letter to someone at the time, "He loves my writing, which is a bond. I have never seen or read anything of his, which is awkward." One memory he put in the category of the grotesque. He was approached by an American impresario to give a lecture tour. The impresario was quite insistent. Max handled him. He made a strict counter-proposal. He undertook to give one lecture but stipulated that it must take place at Castle Garden. In addition, there must be no more than twelve people present. The impresario refused to meet this demand, and the whole deal fell through. But the American recollection that gave him the greatest pleasure was of "a triumph of commercial misjudgment." It concerned the Paul M. Potter adaptation of George du Maurier's "Trilby." Herbert, of course, could not go to any shows, since he was playing. In pursuit of a vestigial duty remaining from his original job, Max was sent by Herbert to see "Trilby," as his play scout, and to report on it. Max's report was unequivocal; the play was absolute nonsense and was bound to be a resounding failure were Herbert so ill-advised as to produce it in London. A lucky instinct kept Herbert ill-advised. On his last day in America, having nothing else to do, he went to sec "Trilby" himself. He bought the play at once, and later, playing Svengali, made a huge success in it. It was from the vast profits of "Trilby" that Herbert was able to build himself a vast theatre—Her Majesty's. "He was luckier," said Max, "than poor Chapman, the publisher who turned down 'East Lynne' because his reader, George Meredith, had turned in an adverse report on it. But we were both right—Meredith about 'East Lynne' and I about 'Trilby.'" With the stubbornness of a drama critic, Max held to his view. "Trilby" only demonstrated, as far as he was concerned, that a play could be simultaneously rubbish and a tremendous hit.

In Baltimore, Herbert asked Max to go out front and bring a distinguished fellow-countryman of theirs backstage. This was Rudyard Kipling. Max obediently introduced himself to Kipling. Kipling said, with some surprise, "You are Max Beerbohm! So young to have a style!" This was graceful enough, but it did not alter a lifelong aversion that was to have tragic reverberations for Max, that haunted him even in his little niche in Rapallo. Perhaps of all the big things in the world that Max could not abide, the one he could abide least was the idea of a big England, and a big England meant British imperialism; perhaps that was what was behind the only virulent relationship in his life—his relationship with Rudyard Kipling. Max was as passionately English as he was passionately anti-chauvinist, but the Boer War revolted him. (Oddly, Shaw supported the Boer War; he felt that the Boers were backward and the British somehow forward, and that this gave the British the right to annihilate the Boers.) Max thought that Kipling, who was the minnesinger of the national orgy, had put his powers to the service of unholy ends. In 1901, Max published a large album of cartoons under the title "The Second Childhood of John Bull." It is as bitter as Daumier—unique in that way among Max's productions as a caricaturist. The first two cartoons set the tone of the collection. The first is called "The Ideal John Bull, 1901." "I'm going to see this thing through" is the caption. It shows the traditional indomitable, stocky little figure striding along with a no-nonsense walking stick, one hand in his pocket, the stiff upper lip in an inexorable uncurve. The second is called "The Real John Bull, 1901," and shows Johnny, his silk hat wrinkled, his cheeks rubicund with wine, his body flabby, cringing with bland ingratiation, invoking (by rote) bygone glories and getting them cockeyed. The caption reads:

Ah, well, but I ain't doin' so badly neither. There's Boney under lock and key at St. Helena. An' Drake he have stopped that there Armada. An' Burgoyne's goin' to teach them Colonists a lesson. Just you wait. What I say is "Old England's old England still," etc. etc. etc.

There is a wicked drawing reflecting Max's pain at the debauches of misplaced patriotism that swept the British public after the newspaper announcements of victories that were not victories. Johnny is lying on the ground with a whiskey bottle, and is being given severe glances by figures representing the other European countries. Johnny is, in short, blotto. The first part of the caption reads:

J. B.: "What I shay ish thish. A man'sh ash young ash 'e feelsh, an' ash dignified."

Below this Max appends a sober quotation from an imaginary historian:

"We are often taunted with being a phlegmatic and unemotional race; but the nature and the extent of the recent rejoicings will convince even our neighbours, etc., etc."

The insularity, the Philistinism, the indifference to art, the cruelty and callousness engendered by the hysteria of a war blundering along on a momentum of guilt are anatomized in other relentless cartoons. When John Bull is drunk, he is disgusting, and when he is sober, he is callous, but he has one moment when he is all smiles and approval; that is when he is congratulating the minnesinger of the national orgy—Rudyard Kipling. John, well fed again and rosy again, is drawing on a long-stemmed pipe. An obsequious puppy is on its forelegs before him, yielding him true obeisance. Kipling, a short pipe jutting out below the hedge of his mustache, is flourishing a sudsy beer mug. The caption, the longest in the book, reads:

DE ARTE POETICA. J. B. to R. K. "Yes, I've took a fancy to you, young feller. 'Tain't often I cottons to a Pote, neither. 'Course there's Shakespeare. 'E was a wonder. 'E was (sentimentally). 'Swan of Avon' I calls 'im. Take 'im for all in all we shall not look upon 'is like agin. And then there was Tennyson—'im as wrote the ode to Balaclavy. 'E was a mastermind too, in his way. So's Lewis Morris. Knows right from wrong like the palm of 'is 'and, and ain't afraid to say where one begins and t'other ends. But most potes ain't like that. What I say is, they ain't wholesome. Look at Byron! Saucy 'ound, with 'is stuck-up airs and 'is stuck down collars and 'is oglin o' gals. But I soon sent 'im to the right about. 'Outside' said I, and out 'e went. And then there was that there friend of his, went by the name o' Shelley, 'ad to go too. 'E was a fair caution, was Shelley. Drownded hisseif in 'a I-talian lake, and I warrant that was the fust bath 'e ever took. Most of 'em is like that—not wholesome, and can't keep a civil tongue i' their 'eads. You're different, you are: don't give yourself no 'aughty airs, and though you're rough (with your swear-words and your what-nots), I will say as 'ow you've always bin very civil an' respec'ful to myself. You're one o' the right sort, you are. And them little tit-bits o' information what you gives me about my Hempire—why Alf 'Armsworth 'imself couldn't do it neater, I do believe. Got your banjo with you tonight? Then empty that there mug, and give us a toon."

When I was a child, on Providence Street, in Worcester, Massachusetts, Rudyard Kipling was a very great name indeed. My elders were avid for culture, and one of them gave me a copy of "The Light That Failed," by Kipling. I read it with awe. Many other people in Worcester read it with awe. The demand for it at the Worcester Public Library on Elm Street was terrific. Several years ago, after reading Max's review of the play made from "The Light That Failed," in his "Around Theatres," I read "The Light That Failed" again—this time with incredulity. The hero, Dick Helder, has made his reputation as a painter of war scenes in the Sudan, when General Gordon was embattled at Khartoum; his two buddies are war correspondents, terribly he-man. After a day with his sweetheart, Maisie, Dick longs to join them for "man-talk." When they have exhausted their man-talk, they have sofa-pillow fights. When they hear that there may be trouble again "down there," they salivate with anticipation; the sights, the smells, the mere thought of war put them in a state of ecstasy. In his essay on the dramatization of "The Light That Failed" by a playwright who used the pseudonym George Fleming, Max ambushes this rampant virility of Kipling's. Because "George Fleming" is the pseudonym for a woman, he hazards the opinion that "Rudyard Kipling" is also; he starts his review, under the heading "Kipling's Entire," as follows:

"George Fleming" is as we know, a lady. Should the name Rudyard Kipling, too, be put between inverted commas? Is it, too, the veil of a feminine identity? If of Mr. Kipling we knew nothing except his work, we should assuredly make that conjecture. A lady who writes fiction reveals her sex clearlier through her portrayal of men than through any other of her lapses. And in Mr. Kipling's short stories, especially in "The Light That Failed" . . . men are portrayed . . . from an essentially feminine point of view. They are men seen from the outside, or rather, not seen at all, but feverishly imagined. . . . "My men—my men!" cries Dick Helder when a regiment of soldiers passes his window. He is not their commanding officer. He was at one time a war-correspondent. . . . He had always doted on the military. And so has Mr. Kipling. To him, as to his hero, they typify, in its brightest colours, the notion of manhood, manliness, man. And by this notion Mr. Kipling is permanently and joyously obsessed. That is why I say that his standpoint is feminine. The ordinary male fictionist has a knowledge of men as they are, but is preoccupied by a sentiment for women as he supposes them to be. . . . Mr. Kipling is so far masculine that he has never displayed a knowledge of women as they are; but the unreality of his male creatures, with his worship of them, makes his name ring quaintly like a pseudonym. . . . Writing of George Sand, Mr. Henry James once suggested that she, though she may have been to all intents and purposes a man, was not a gentleman. Conversely, it might be said that Mr. Kipling, as revealed to us in his fiction, is no lady. But he is not the less essentially feminine for that.

On the whole, Max praises Miss Fleming; he thinks she has caught Miss Kipling entire. But he misses terribly two lines of the original. In one, Dick Helder says of his sweetheart "Maisie's a bilious little thing," and the other is a heart-rending cry of the hero: "When Dick, after blindness has overtaken him, ecstatically yells to the soldiers who have been ordered to fire the machine-gun on some skirmishing Arabs, 'Give 'em Hell, men—oh, give 'em Hell.' Sad not to have heard that noble heart-cry uttered on the stage—a heart-cry so inalienably characteristic of the Kipling hero."

Max pursued Kipling inexorably. In "A Christmas Garland," his book of parodies, caricaturing in prose the manner in which seventeen then famous authors would write a Christmas story, he starts "P.C., X, 36," the Kipling one, with a parody of the "Barrack-Room Ballads":

. . . 'Ustle 'im, shake 'im till 'e's sick!
Wot, 'e would, would 'e? Well,
Then yer've got ter give 'im 'Ell,
An' it's trunch, trench, truncheon does the trick.   —Police Station Ditties.

The culprit who gets the truncheon is Santa Claus, who is arrested, by Judlip, the police constable, as he is corning up out of the chimney, on the suspicion that he is a German. Kipling's obsession with technical minutiae is parodied in Max's description of Judlip's sigh:

Now, when Judlip sighs the sound is like unto that which issues from the vent of a Crosby boiler when the cog-gauges are at 260° F.

It is a slow Christmas Eve for Judlip. He complains, "'Avant 'ad so much as a kick at a lorst dorg. Christmas Eve ain't wot it was." But with the advent of Santa Claus, emerging from a chimney pot, things look up:

Judlip's voice clove the silence. "Wot  are yer doin' hup there?"

The person addressed came to the edge of the parapet. I saw that he had a hoary white beard, a red ulster with the hood up, and what looked like a sack over his shoulder. He said something or other in a voice like a concertina that has been left out in the rain.

"I dessay," answered my friend. "Just you come down, an' we'll see about that."

Santa Claus was ill-advised to come down.

He didn't like the feel of Judlip's knuckles at his cervical vertebrae.

"Wot wos yer doin' hup there?" asked Judlip, tightening the grip.

"I'm S-Santa Claus, Sir. P-please, Sir, let me g-go . . ."

The captive snivelled something about peace on earth, good will toward men.

"Yuss," said Judlip. "That's in the Noo Testament, ain't it? The Noo Testament contains some uncommon nice readin' for old gents an' young ladies. But it ain't included in the librery o' the Force. . . . Hup with that sack, an' quick march!"

I have seen worse attempts at a neck-wrench, but it was just not slippery enough for Judlip. And the kick that Judlip then let fly was a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

"Frog's-march him!" I shrieked, dancing, "For the love of heaven, frog's-march him!"

C. E. Carrington, in his "Life of Kipling," refers bitterly to the steady barrage Max levelled at Kipling:

Max Beerbohm published very little, and while he protested so prettily that his muse was no bigger than the servant-girl's baby, the literary world learned to wait expectant for each of his tiny little pronouncements, for Max had charm and talent. No one could deny, or did deny, that his work was polished, his wit penetrating—more penetrating with pencil than with pen. For fifty years anything spoken or written or depicted by Max called forth a shrill chorus of delight from the reviewers, and the present writer supposes himself almost the first to utter an unkind word about this incomparable master of the smirk and titter. Max was, as a rule, gentle, except when he touched upon one topic. He hated Rudyard Kipling. He set himself to destroy Kipling's reputation and, later, to assure the world that it had been destroyed, with no small degree of success among the literary coteries, but with no visible effect upon Kipling's ever-growing fame and influence in wider circles. At least nine caricatures, two critical articles, and a ferociously malevolent parody of Kipling's style have been recorded as the work of Max Beerbohm, and while he discharged these arrows, Kipling, for thirty years, remained entirely unmoved by them.

There are two misstatements in Mr. Carrington's summary, of which he was probably unaware when he made them. The first is that Kipling was unmoved by Max's attacks. When David Low wrote to Kipling asking to caricature him, Kipling refused, because, according to Low, he was still exacerbated by a caricature Max had done of him twenty years before, and on this ground he repelled all caricaturists. The second is that Max hated Kipling. As we sat by the fireplace, I told Max how extravagantly idolized Kipling was on Providence Street, and of my disillusioning experience in reading "The Light That Failed" after I had read his review in "Around Theatres." I hoped that he would talk about his relationship with Kipling.

A truck thundered by; I thought perhaps he had not heard me, because he made no comment on my remark. Instead, he told me about the chair in which he was sitting—that it was the same chair his father had given him when he went up to Merton. "Florence had it re-covered, and now Elizabeth has had it re-covered again—always with material similar to that which covered it in Oxford," he said. "It is really a very comfortable chair in which to sit and gaze at the fire. I deplore the passing of fireplaces. In flats, you can't usually have a fireplace; a house, no matter how tiny, with a fireplace in the living room encourages conversation and companionship. In my mother's house, we always sat in front of the fireplace—my mother and sisters and I—and we had endless conversations about people and books and things. When I was a dramatic critic, I used to tell them about the plays I had seen and they used to tell me about the books they had read which I hadn't the time for because I was constantly seeing plays."

I then got the feeling that he had heard my remark about Kipling, that the subject was painful to him, and that he didn't want to talk about it.

We sat in silence for a moment before the murmuring fire. Looking up at the mantelshelf, I studied the bronze figurine of the girl with averted head. I asked Max whether she had been with him in his rooms at Merton, too.

"Yes," he said. "My father bought her in Paris—at the same time that he bought the mirror."

Miss Jungmann put a rug around Max's knees. She asked him if he was tired. He smiled at her and at me. "Not yet," he said. I offered to go. Max refused my offer. Miss Jungmann said she had a small errand to do, and excused herself. "Show our visitor your two photographs," she said as she turned to go out. "They are Max's household gods—rather, goddesses. He can't bear to have them out of reach." Miss Jungmann left us.

"Oh, yes," said Max. "Will you please reach me them, there?"

I took from the mantelshelf the two photographs, a little larger than ordinary postcards. I gave them to Max, and he sat looking at them as if he had never seen them before. "I always keep them by me," he said. "Look. . . ." One showed two lovely girls in white, standing on a lawn beside a low wall on which there are huge urns. It is night. Above them are great beech trees, part of their slender trunks and their foliage white in the moonlight. "Gordon Craig bought this in London in 1929 and gave it to me," Max said. "It had been in the library of Augustus Hare. It is a country house, Buttles, which Hare used to visit before the wars came, when the world was civilized. Now, I am told, in the drawing room of that house they play billiards!" Max looked up at me from the photograph—a commiserating look, to ease the shock, to show me that he felt as bad about it as he imagined I did. "But aren't they lovely? It is after dinner, probably, and the house is full of people, and perhaps they were bored and wanted to get off by themselves to gossip or to exchange romantic confidences. Aren't they lovely? Isn't it lovely? Vanished. That life and that era—vanished."

He paused a moment longer over the two girls and then gave me the other photograph. This was a study in pure joy: a little girl of three or four is standing beside a priest in full canonicals. The priest has just told her a funny story and the little girl's freckled, pug-nosed, homely face is crinkled with laughter; she is giving herself up to laughter without a let. You feel that she will go on laughing and laughing, and will laugh again whenever she remembers what the priest has said to her; the priest himself is smiling, revelling in the success of his joke. I asked where this photograph had come from. "Oh," said Max, "it is a photograph from a book about Huysmans; it is the Abbé Mugnier with the little daughter of the Countess de Castries. I never look at it without its cheering me up. How happy she is! How happy they both are!"

Max took a farewell glance at the little girl and handed that photograph to me. His cheek muscles worked. "You spoke to me of Kipling," he said. He stopped for a moment. As rarely happened, his tranquillity was gone; he was tense. "When first I met him, in Baltimore, he received me so nicely," he said. "He was charming. And later, in Herbert's dressing room, so sympathetic, so kind. And then—you know—his books kept coming out, and occasionally I was asked to review them. I couldn't, you know, abide them. He was a genius, a very great genius, and I felt that he was debasing his genius by what he wrote. And I couldn't refrain from saying so. It went on and on. Friends of his and mine kept telling me that he was pained and shocked by what I wrote, but I couldn't stop. You know, I couldn't stop. As his publication increased, so did my derogation. He didn't stop; I couldn't stop. I meant to. I wanted to. But I couldn't."

Max was suffering at this time from a severe inflammation of the lower lid of his left eye. He was very sensitive about it; he thought that it might be offensive to those who talked to him. As he leaned forward in his chair, he was still tense, and his eye seemed to water. He gripped the arms of the Merton chair as if to sustain himself against the pain of the memory induced by his feud with Kipling—as one instinctively grips the arms of the seat in an airplane during a sudden, violent dip. He went on, seeming determined, now that he had started, to tell the whole story. "After that meeting in Baltimore, I saw him twice. Once in a hansom. I was in another hansom, and we passed each other in the Strand. He saw me and he knew that I had seen him. But as the hansoms passed, we each of us averted our eyes. Then, some years later, I saw him again, in White's Club. There was a table between us, and, looking across it, over the heads of the diners, I caught his eye. He was looking at me. I wished to get up. I very much wanted to go over to him and to say, 'Mr. Kipling, I admire you. I admire your very great genius. If I have written harshly of you, it is because I do not believe you are living up to the possibilities of your genius.' I so much wished to do this. But I didn't. Why didn't I do it? Why didn't I unbend? Why did I go on persecuting him? And now he is dead and it is too late."

There was a silence. Max was still bent forward. His hands still clutched the arms of his chair. His eye was still watering. "But it had to be so. I had to do it. He was a great genius who didn't live up to his genius, who misused his genius. . . ."

Miss Jungmann came back. She looked at Max. He sank back in his chair. "Now, Max," she said. "You are tired. You must have a rest."

I rose to go. I asked Max not to get up, but he did. I walked out of the room dead center, conscious that the mirror, which had seen so many exits over so many decades, was miniaturizing and essentializing my back.

Miss Jungmann saw me out through the little hall, and we said good night under Gordon Craig's lamp. I apologized for staying so long.

"No," she said. "I think it's good for Max. Your visits are therapeutic."

She peered out at Charlie, his car jammed against the rubble wall of the Villino. She called to him, in Italian, to back up to the gate. "Charlie thinks that I am Max's daughter," she said. "All the tradespeople do, too. Don't disillusion him!" She waved to me as I got into the front seat beside Charlie.

"Very nice lady, the old gentleman's daughter," said Charlie. "Speaks very good Italian."

I asked Charlie to drop me at the  little bistro down the road from the Villino, which is the hero of Max's essay "The Golden Drugget." Charlie protested. "This is no place for you," he said. I suppose he meant that it was much too lowly for a guest of the Excelsior. But I overrode him. I asked him to wait, and went inside, sat at a zinc-topped table, and ordered a Cinzano.

Max wrote his essay in England in 1918. He had gone back to England to live for the duration of the war; he returned there in 1939 also. From England he remembered the kindly light shed from this humble little bistro on a dark night:

Primitive and essential things have great power to touch the heart of the beholder. I mean such things as a man ploughing a field, or sowing or reaping; a girl filling a pitcher from a spring; a young mother with her child; a fisherman mending his nets; a light from a lonely hut on a dark night. . . .

These words are written in war time and in England. There are. I hear, "lighting restrictions" even on the far Riviera di Levante. I take it that the Golden Drugget is not outspread nowanights across the high dark coast-road between Rapallo and Zoagli. But the lonely wayside inn is still there, doubtless; and its narrow door will again stand open, giving out for wayfarers its old span of brightness into darkness, when peace comes.

The light from the hostel on dark nights, Max says, offered a promise that "you will find here a radiant company of angels and archangels." Max never tested it; he never once went inside. I did. I saw no angels, of any degree, but it was consoling, just the same, to sit here. I thought of the two girls in white whispering romantic confidences under spreading beech trees, of the laughing little girl and the smiling priest, of Max struggling, in unregretful remorse, to resolve in his own mind his feud with Kipling. As any great humorist must be, Max was incessantly and acutely aware of pain and sorrow, of the evanescence of human life, of the savagery and the impulse to destructiveness that are beneath everything and from which, somehow, we must try to pull ourselves up. Though he himself, as he wrote somewhere, was "thickly veneered," he nevertheless knew, since he belonged to the human race, that he had only lately emerged from the cave. Some of the most casual and lightly begun of his essays modulate into this tragic awareness, and none more poignantly than this one. I paused, as Max does at the end of "The Golden Drugget," "to bathe in the light that is as the span of our human life, granted between one great darkness and another."

(This is the second of a series of articles.)

Copyright © 2009