In December of 1926, I made my first journey to England, in
the company of two older friends—Crosby Gaige, a prominent
New York theatrical producer with bookish tastes, and his
wife, Hilda, who fiercely admired the distinguished actor
Sir Gerald du Maurier. Mrs. Gaige knew when we sailed, on
the Majestic, that Sir Gerald was closing in Frederick
Lonsdale's "The Last of Mrs. Cheyney" at St. James's Theatre
on the Saturday the ship was due to dock at Southampton.
From the boat, she radioed to London, asking for seats for
the final performance. The boat train reached London late in
the afternoon; the Gaiges scarcely had time to register in
their hotel and I in mine before we all met to gulp a hasty
dinner and take a taxi to the theatre. After the
performance, we went back to see Sir Gerald. It used to be
said of Sir Gerald that he did not so much act as behave
on the stage; he performed with an air of absentmindedness,
as if he were thinking all the time of other, and more
agreeable, things than the ones he was professionally
concerned with at the moment—of tooled-leather bindings,
perhaps, or a lovely still-life, or maybe just of what would
be waiting for him for supper when he got back, with relief,
to Cannon Hall, where he lived. His dressing room was a
suite, and his dresser offered us a drink in the salon while
we waited for Sir Gerald to appear. Actually, I remember the
period of waiting more vividly than the meeting itself,
because I became engrossed in a series of six caricatures by
Max Beerbohm that were hanging on one wall. The caricatures
themselves, entitled "Long Choosing and Beginning Late,"
were arresting, and the story they told in the legends—in
Max's calligraphic handwriting—was even sensational. How
sensational I did not know till many years later. They told
a singular love story, projected into an era following a
Bolshevik revolution in England in 1972. Max imagines Edward
Windsor, then the Prince of Wales, as an old gentleman
failing in love with and eventually marrying—against the
stern opposition of the bride's parents—the daughter of a
boarding-house keeper, named Flossie Pearson. In one of the
caricatures, Flossie's father is shown taking a very poor
view of the match; he had hoped for better for Flossie. Mrs.
Pearson tries to cheer him up, but without much success.
Love conquers all. While Mrs. Gaige was staring in
trancelike suspension at the door through which Sir Gerald
was to emerge, I started copying on a pad the legend Max had
written under the final caricature, commemorating the
ceremony at which the Prince and Flossie were united.
But before I could get going on Max's forecast of how the
London Times would comment on this improbable
marriage, Sir Gerald came in. He had a quick eye, and he saw
what I was doing; I was embarrassed, as if I had been caught
reading one of his letters. Sir Gerald responded with
murmured appreciation when he was told that we had rushed
from the docks at Southampton to his final performance. In
the lacquered conversation that ensued, I managed to insert
a query about Max's caricatures. "Oh, amusing, aren't they?"
said Sir Gerald absent-mindedly. "I bought them in the
Leicester Galleries, where they first were seen, in 1923.
Kicked up quite a storm, you know." I wanted to inquire
about the nature of the storm, but Mrs. Gaige was imploring
Sir Gerald to come to America and telling him what a
reception he would find there. Sir Gerald managed to convey
simultaneously the impression that there was nothing in the
world he would rather do and the impression that there was
nothing in the world he was less likely to do.
I kept looking at the caricatures. "Do you know Max
Beerbohm?" I asked Sir Gerald.
"Oh, rather," he said. "Forever."
By this time, other people had begun to stream in, and we
got up to go.
In the summer of 1929, I was in London again, and again at
St. James's Theatre. The Lunts were playing in an adaptation
of a Central European comedy called "Caprice." Mrs. Lunt had
Sir Gerald's dressing room, and I had the hope, when I went
back to see her after the performance, that I would be able
to get another look at Max's caricatures. There they were!
Sir Gerald had left his dressing room intact, against his
next engagement. I was far more at ease with Miss Fontanne
than I had been with him, and I sat down before "Long
Choosing and Beginning Late" to read and copy what the
London Times would one day have to say about the
wedding of Edward Windsor and Flossie Pearson:
An interesting wedding was quietly celebrated yesterday
at the Ealing Registry Office, when Mr. Edward Windsor
was united to Miss Flossie Pearson. The bridegroom, as
many of our elder readers will recall, was one time
well-known as "heir-apparent" of the late "King" George.
He has for some years been residing at "Balmoral," 85,
Acacia Terrace, Lenin Avenue, Ealing; and his bride is
the only daughter of his landlady. Immediately after the
ceremony the happy pair travelled to Ramsgate, where the
honeymoon will be spent. Interviewed later in the day by
a Times man, the aged mother-in-law confessed
that she had all along been opposed to the union,
because of the disparity between the ages of the two
parties—the bride being still on the sunny side of
forty. "I had always," she said, "hoped that my Flossie
was destined to make a brilliant match." Now that the
knot was tied, however, the old lady was evidently
resigned to the fait accompli. "I believe," she said,
"that Mr. Windsor will make a good husband for my girl,
for I must say that a nicer, quieter gentleman, or a
more pleasant-spoken, never lodged under my roof."
Five years later, I was once more in London. Sir Gerald had
just died, and I was eager to find out what had become of
those caricatures. I sought out Sir William Rothenstein. I
knew that Sir William was one of Max's closest friends. In
"Enoch Soames," Max describes Rothenstein's irruption into
Oxford when he himself was still an undergraduate, at
Merton. "He was Paris in Oxford," Max says, in rapturous
recollection. Sir William was a small, mercurial man—though
not quite as small as Max liked to draw him. It was on this
1934 visit to London that I bought from Sir William a lovely
pastel of Max standing on the terrace outside his workroom
in Rapallo, not working. (I have had it hanging in all my
own workrooms ever since.) Before that, however, Sir William
invited me to the Athenaeum Club for lunch. There I told my
host about having seen in Sir Gerald's dressing room Max's
caricatures of the Prince of Wales and Flossie Pearson, and
asked him if he knew what had become of them. Sir William,
with an I-could-an-if-I-would air that was very tantalizing,
slid off into some private grievance.
"Are the caricatures in private hands?" I inquired. "Did Sir
Gerald sell them?"
"I believe he did," Sir William said. "Yes, I believe they
are in private hands. In any case, they are inaccessible."
"What about the storm over them when they were first
exhibited?" I asked.
At this, Sir William's eyes lit up; where there was a storm,
he was in his element. "Oh, terrific!" he said. "Max had to
withdraw them. Du Maurier was lucky to have bought them in
time. Max was accused of all sorts of things in the press.
We've laughed and laughed over it together since."
By this time, my host was in such a jolly mood that I
ventured to threaten him. "If you won't tell me where those
caricatures are," I said, "I will write to Beerbohm myself
to ask him."
Rothenstein made, for him, a large gesture. "Of course you
may write to him," he said. "He won't answer. Max never
If I could not force Sir William to tell me where the
caricatures were, I could at least, I thought, repair to the
British Museum to calibrate the storm, and this I did. It
had indeed been considerable. The caricatures whose final
legend I had copied in Sir Gerald's dressing room in 1926
came in for a hurricane of fury when they were shown in the
Leicester Galleries in 1923. Hannen Swaffer, a drama critic
but not a humorist, headed a diatribe in the Daily
Graphic "The End of Max Beerbohm," a prophecy that Max
deflated by not ending. There were, elsewhere, suggestions
that Mr. Beerbohm "was either a stealthy Bolshevist or a
shameless bounder." In the same exhibition, Max had included
a caricature of Edward Windsor's late grandfather, revealing
him in Heaven, an overfed, haloed angel strumming a lyre.
"Dastardly attack on Royalty," "teutonically brutal,"
"infamous bad taste," and, conversely, "an offence to good
taste" were some of the tempestuous words flung at Max. Max,
I learned, withdrew the royal caricatures. "It seemed," he
said in a letter he wrote to the Leicester Galleries, "that
they were likely to be misunderstood by the general public
and to worry it." The last thing Max wanted to do was to
I did not carry out my threat to write to Beerbohm himself
to find out what had happened to the Windsor caricatures. In
fact, twenty years passed and Sir William was nine years
dead before I found out. In the summer of 1954, two years
after Max and I became friends and two years before he died,
I was in Rapallo on one of many visits I paid him. I was
staying at the Excelsior Hotel, and, since Max was
eighty-two and not inclined to receive callers in the
evening, I usually spent the hours between four and six in
the afternoon with him. One hot August night, some American
friends who were staying in nearby Portofino invited me to
join them for dinner there, and I accepted. I summoned
Charlie, the local chauffeur who drove for me in Rapallo, to
take me to Portofino. On the way, Charlie told me that I was
lucky I was going there, because the Duke and Duchess of
Windsor were aboard a yacht in the bay; if my luck held, he
said, I might catch a glimpse of them, for they came ashore
every night to dine. My luck did hold. After dinner that
night, my friends and I walked to the esplanade, curving
like a horseshoe around the little bay, and sat on the
terrace of a café having drinks. Presently, Charlie's wish
for me was realized. The Duchess and her hostess were
striding purposefully along the quay. The hostess, a round
little woman, was very bouncy, and the Duchess, walking
beside her, was equally brisk. Following them, at some
distance, was the Duke, alone and walking wearily. He
carried his jacket strung across his sagging shoulders; he
looked like a tired commuter trudging to make the local that
would presently take him back to the same old bungalow. I
remembered, of course, the caricatures in du Maurier's
dressing room; the romance of this same Duke with Flossie
Pearson; the great storm; my interview with Rothenstein,
when he wouldn't tell me—though obviously he knew—where
those caricatures were. And now I wondered whether Max, whom
I intended to ask about them the following day, would he
less reticent than Sir William.
The next day, when I rang the doorbell of Max's home, the
Villino Chiaro, at four, Miss Jungmann, his secretary,
opened the door. She was in a state of breathless
excitement. "Max is on the terrace!" she said. "We are going
to have tea on the terrace!" Behind her excitement lay the
fact that it was her constant effort to get Max to leave his
tiny living room and move about a bit. That day, the weather
was so fine that he had gone there after lunch and was there
even now. I followed Miss Jungmann through the house and up
the outdoor staircase that led to the terrace, and there
found Max, his straw hat on his head and his cane in one
hand, lounging against the parapet and looking out over the
Gulf of Genoa, as he had been doing in my workrooms at home
since 1934. I lounged beside him. I told Max that the scene
was familiar to me, that I had bought him and it from Sir
William Rothenstein in 1934. I added that since his figure
in the drawing was diaphanous, I had been seeing through him
for years. Max laughed, and began to reminisce about
Rothenstein. "Will was a propulsive character, don't you
know. He had a propulsive mental activity. My caricatures of
him were cruel, I am afraid. He knew they were, and yet he
took it manfully." Max reflected for a moment, in
wonderment, on this cruelty. "As a writer, I was kindly, I
think—Jekyll—but as a caricaturist I was Hyde. I always
preferred the society of painters to that of writers: Walter
Sickert, William Nicholson, Wilson Steer. Writers, including
myself, don't you know, like to make an effect, put their
best foot forward. But painters are another story. Steer,
for example, had no interest whatever in the impression he
made; he was just interested in painting. One day, Sickert
said to me, 'Your caricatures [Max always emphasized the
last syllable in pronouncing this word, and the "t" sounded
very precise and pure] of dear Will and of Oscar Wilde were
so deadly. I know how Oscar feels about them—he can't bear
them—but doesn't Will resent them? Isn't he angry? ' 'More
frightened,' I said to Walter, 'than angry.' But I loved
Will; he was so kind. No one took such trouble over young
artists, to help them; there was nothing he wouldn't do. But
Max leaned over the parapet, looking across the gulf. I
encouraged him to say what he was thinking of Oscar.
"Well, in the beginning he was the most enchanting company,
don't you know. His conversation was so simple and natural
and flowing—not at all epigrammatic, which would have been
unbearable. He saved that for his plays, thank heaven. My
brother Herbert produced Oscar's play 'A Woman of No
Importance.' During rehearsals, at the Haymarket Theatre, we
used to go to a little bar around the corner where they
served sandwiches. Oscar asked for a watercress sandwich.
When the waiter brought it, it seemed to Oscar excessive. 'I
asked for a watercress sandwich,' he said to the waiter—oh,
in the friendliest manner possible, smiling at him as if
asking for, and being sure of, the waiter's sympathy—'not
for a loaf of bread with a field in the middle of it.'"
As an illustration of Wilde's imperturbability in the midst
of his terrible debacle, Max repeated a story told him many
years before by Lewis Waller, a matinee idol of the time.
Waller was walking down Piccadilly with Allan Aynesworth,
another accomplished actor. Both of them had suddenly found
themselves out of work; Waller had been playing Sir Robert
Chiltern in "An Ideal Husband" and Aynesworth Algernon in
"The Importance of Being Earnest." The outbreak of the Wide
scandal had closed both plays. The two actors were deep in
talk about the source of their abrupt unemployment when, to
their horror, they were hailed cheerily by their disemployer,
riding blithely down Piccadilly in a hansom cab. They
returned his greeting pallidly, hoping Wilde would ride on,
but he didn't. He got out and came up to them. "Have you
heard," he inquired, "what that swine Queensberry has had
the effrontery to say?" Writhing with embarrassment, they
both protested that no rumor of the Marquis's allegation had
reached their chaste ears. "Since you haven't heard it, I’ll
tell you," said Wilde, with the eagerness of a tutor avid to
fill in a gap in folklore. "He actually had the effrontery
to say"— and he fixed his eye on Waller—"that 'The
Importance of Being Earnest' was a better-acted play than
'An Ideal Husband'!" He smiled radiantly, waved, got back
into his hansom, and rode off down Piccadilly, leaving his
Max then spoke of his friends Ernest and Ada Leverson. He
used to see a lot of them in their large, comfortable London
house. Ada Leverson—the Sphinx, she was called—was a staunch
friend to everyone who wrote or painted anything. She has
survived best, perhaps, as having been the only person in
London who would receive Wilde after his return from Reading
Gaol. Max said that she deserved credit for this, but that
no one ever gave any credit to poor Mr. Leverson, who
consented to let Wilde stay in his house. The Sphinx, Max
said, cared only about the opinion of the artistic set, but
"Mr. Leverson had larger responsibilities. He was a
prominent figure in the City and had much more to lose." On
the morning of Wilde's return from prison, Max continued,
Mrs. Leverson had to get up very early, for the train was
arriving at ten o'clock. She was in an agony of
apprehension—how to greet this broken figure whom she had
known, and received in her house, as the most sought-after
lion in London. By the time she reached the station
platform, she was in a panic. The train came in; the Sphinx
stood there wishing she were more sphinxlike. Wilde
descended. He ran to her, smiling—a schoolboy greeting a pet
aunt after a dreary semester—threw his arms around her, and
crowed with appreciation, "Sphinx! Oh, Sphinx! Only you,
only you in all the world, would know exactly what hat to
wear at ten o'clock in the morning!" Ada had no worries
"But, you know"—Max's eyes darkened with regret, and his
brow furrowed—"as Oscar became more and more successful, he
became . . ." Max paused, as if he couldn't bear to say it,
but he did say it. "He became arrogant. He felt himself
omnipotent, and he became gross not in body only—he did
become that—but in his relations with people. He brushed
people aside; he felt he was beyond the ordinary human
courtesies that you owe people even if they are, in your
opinion, beneath you. He snubbed Charles Brookfield, the
actor who played the lackey in 'An Ideal Husband'—he was a
wonderful, unfailing actor in small parts, and was said to
be an illegitimate son of Thackeray, you know—and Brookfield
never forgave him, Brookfield was vindictive; Brookfield
hated Oscar, and it was Brookfield who did him in—supplied
evidence against him. And I myself— It did give me a turn—"
I waited to hear what had given Max a turn. He told me.
"One day, I found myself in the office of the police
inspector who had arrested Oscar. I don't know why; perhaps
I went there to get news of Oscar or to find out whether
there might be some amelioration—I don't know. This police
inspector had offended Oscar when he arrested him." Max's
voice thickened in imitation. "'Gruss misdemeanor!' the
inspector kept shouting, and the gross mispronunciation
grated on Oscar. There I was in his office. The walls were
covered with a grisly collection of criminal souvenirs—oh,
knives and pistols and bludgeons, all the implements of
crime—and there among them, as though it were evidence
against the inspector's latest malefactor, was one of my own
caricatures of Oscar. I hadn't realized till that moment how
wicked it was. I felt as if I had contributed to the dossier
against Oscar; it gave me quite a turn. How did I come to do
it? My hand did it, don't you know."
Max looked ruefully at his hand, resting on the sunny
parapet. His eyes had an expression of pain and
bewilderment, as if he could neither understand nor explain
the dichotomy in his art and in his nature. After a moment,
he looked up; the furrows in his brow disappeared and he
returned, as to a green pasture, to Will Rothenstein. "I
used to stay with Will. It was wonderful to stay with the
Rothensteins at Far Oakridge, in Gloucestershire. I finished
there one of the stories in 'Seven Men'—'Maltby and
Braxton.' You are perhaps familiar with it?"
I was familiar with it: it is a study in the pathology of
social climbing, as demonstrated by two newly arrived
novelists Max invented. Maltby had had a great success with
a novel called "Arid in Mayfair," Braxton simultaneously
with "A Faun on the Cotswolds." Braxton went in for fauns
and Maltby for aristocrats. They are both—Braxton in his
gruff, churlish way, and Maltby in his bland, ingratiating
one—madly snobbish. The great prize is to be asked to the
"almost blatantly immemorial" country house of the Duke of
Hertfordshire, Keeb Hall. At a party at which both are
present, the Duchess invites Maltby; she wants to invite
Braxton, but Maltby tells her that Braxton would be offended
by the invitation and she forbears. The story is the account
of the horrendous weekend, made disastrous for Maltby by his
sense of guilt, as represented by Braxton's spiritualized
presence, which Maltby can't get away from. Three of Max's
favorite non-imaginary caricature subjects arc there also:
Henry Chaplin, the Marquis de Soyeral, Arthur Balfour. The
last tries to help Maltby through his final horror but
without much success. The experience is so eroding that,
after it, Maltby has to leave England. He settles at Lucca,
where Max meets him and gets the story. Maltby is quite
happy. He has married his elderly landlady, and he expresses
to Max his felicity in the last lines of the story:
Maltby looked at his watch. He rose and took tenderly
from the table his great bunch of roses. "She is [he
says of his wife, in an ecstasy of snobbery] a lineal
descendant . . . of the Emperor Hadrian."
I asked Max who had been the models for Maltby and Braxton.
He would not tell me, though he said that Thomas Hardy had
always insisted that they were H. G. Wells and Arnold
Bennett. "When I had finished the story, I told the
Rothensteins that I had done so and that I had used their
demesne for local color," Max said. "Thereupon they both
insisted—Will and Alice, Alice perhaps even more
clamorous—that I read it aloud to them after dinner. Will
was electrically attentive, but dear Alice fell asleep. I
read and read, and Alice slept and slept. When I was
approaching the end, I felt that something had to be done to
spare Alice the embarrassment of having slept through a
masterpiece." Max gave me a quick look that was the
equivalent of a wink. "Therefore, when I got near the end, I
began to read very loud. I bellowed, and Alice, startled,
woke up. She came in for the kill, don't you know. She was
most enthusiastic. She had, indeed, loved the story, so she
insisted that I read it again. But my throat was hoarse from
shouting and I forbore."
I asked Max whether he hadn't been disturbed by Lady
"No," he said quietly, "because I knew the story was good."
I spoke of Rothenstein's three-volume "Men and Memories,"
the final volume of which is dedicated to Max, and he was
pleased that I had enjoyed them. He recited to me a poem he
had written about Rothenstein, first explaining to me how
resilient Rothenstein was in mood—"always matching your own,
don't you know." Max recited the poem with spirit:
POEM ON A CERTAIN FRIEND'S REMARKABLE FACULTY FOR
"How do you do?" Will asked of me.
"Very well, thanks," said I. Said he,
"Yes. I invariably find
Abundant health in all mankind."
Next morning, "How d'you do?" asked Will.
I told him I was rather ill.
"Alas," his voice toll'd like a bell,
"Mankind was ever far from well."
After we had laughed over the poem, Max felt a twinge of
conscience. "Perhaps I shouldn't have told you this," he
said. "It will hurt pour Will." I don't think that Max had
forgotten, even momentarily, that poor Will had long since
died; Max had read the eulogy at Will's memorial service. It
was probably that he did not wish, even in fun, to ruffle
the memory of his dead friend.
Miss Jungmann summoned us to tea, and gave instructions to
the young Italian servant girl who was setting the tea tray
on a little table under an umbrella in front of Max's study,
which opened on to the terrace. Max put his hat and cane on
a chair. At tea, I described to Miss Jungmann and Max the
scene I had witnessed in Portofino the night before. Max
chuckled when I remarked on how energetic the Duchess looked
and how weary the Duke.
"Sometimes he seems to have become a butt," said Miss
"Not as bad," said Max tolerantly, "as being an if."
I planted my next remark carefully. "Isn't it odd," I said,
"that at one time the Duchess's mother ran a boarding
"Did she? Did she really?" said Max. "Did you know a
countryman of yours—a radio artist, I believe he
This diversion pulverized my plant so thoroughly that I did
not even bother to amplify on Woollcott's occupations. When
Max found that I had indeed known him, he went on, "I met
him in England during the war. He was brought by Thornton
Wilder. I looked forward eagerly to meeting Mr. Wilder. I
wished to hear him talk. But Mr. Woollcott talked all
the time and Mr. Wilder never said anything, and I began to
wonder—you know, I began to wonder whether Mr. Wilder
could talk. But then Mr. Woollcott left, and Mr. Wilder
did, and most enchantingly."
I began to re-mine. "Those caricatures you drew of the
Prince of Wales," I said. "I saw them first in Sir Gerald du
Maurier's dressing room in St. James's Theatre."
Max remembered that du Maurier had bought them, and was much
interested to hear that I had seen them.
I then told him that in 1934 I had pumped Sir William
Rothenstein about them, with no result.
Max was extremely interested.
I said that Max had, in that fantasy, been prophetic.
"It is amusing, isn't it?" he said. "No matter how fantastic
one is in art, life always goes you one better!"
Miss Jungmann was seized with a bright idea. "Do you mind,
Max, if I show Queen Victoria's book?"
Max didn't mind.
Miss Jungmann rose and went into the study to fetch it.
"Have you read Queen Victoria at all?" Max asked me.
I confessed I hadn't.
"Whatever may be said of Queen Victoria's style," Max went
on, "it has to be admitted, I think, that no one ever,
before or since, has written like her." Miss Jungmann
appeared with the book. It was "More Leaves from the Journal
of a Life in the Highlands." It is dedicated
"But wait," said Miss Jungmann. "There is another
dedication!" She turned the page, and there, scrawled in
pen, in a slashing schoolgirl handwriting, with great
the never-sufficiently-to-be-studied writer whom Albert
looks down on affectionately, I am sure—
From his Sovereign
"Do you know," said Miss Jungmann, "Max studied the Queen's
handwriting and copied it exactly. She wrote exactly so.
And, do you know, a lady came here once and I showed her
this and she believed—she really believed—that the
Queen had given this to Max and written the dedication. She
was so awed she could hardly speak."
I stared, fascinated, at the Queen's handwriting. It was
Miss Jungmann got up. "It is time for your nap, Max," she
said. "I'll just make our guest comfortable in your study,
and he can see for himself what you have done to pour Queen
Max rose, smiled at me, and said he looked forward to my
next visit. He put on his straw hat and took his cane, and
started to cross the flagged terrace. Halfway to the
staircase leading down to his bedroom, he turned and came
back. He removed his straw hat and gave me a quizzical look
in which there was an aspect of pity. I saw that he was
enjoying himself. "Those caricatures," he began, "those
Flossie Pearson caricatures you were asking poor Will
about"—he made it seem as if I had been asking poor Will a
few hours ago—"they were bought up by the Royal Family,
don't you know. It is not generally known, but they are at
Windsor. The tenants keep them behind a panel in the drawing
room. I am told that when they have people they are cozy
with, they take them out from behind the panel and show
them. I hope that, unlike this lady on a historic
occasion"—he made a flicking gesture toward Queen
Victoria—"they are amused." He restored his straw hat
at its customary jaunty angle, and went hack toward the
Miss Jungmann ushered me into Max's study. Before settling
down with the Queen, I had a look around. In this room, Max
had written most of "Seven Men," finished "Zuleika Dobson"
(he had started it when he was a boy), written most of his
maturest essays, and drawn a great many of the innumerable
caricatures that are scattered all over the world, in
private and public collections, concealed in palaces and
exposed in libraries, art galleries, universities—in
Blenheim, at Harvard, and in Merton College, Oxford, where
there is a room devoted to Max. The study was a square room
of modest size, with blue-painted walls. Max's nursery had
had blue-painted walls, and his rooms in Merton, and he had
brought his color scheme here. On the walls hung a series of
caricatures done by Max in imitation of the style of the
great Italian caricaturist Carlo Pellegrini—"Ape," as he
signed himself—whom Max revered as a master of the craft.
The caricatures were imitations, but the legends were Max's
own. Original Pellegrini drawings cut out of "Vanity Fair"
had hung in Max's rooms in Merton, and later in those he
occupied in his mother's house in London. When Max was
tired, he said—especially after an exhibition of his
drawings—and had no ideas for new caricatures, his hand
still wanted to draw, and he pacified it by allowing it to
produce these Pellegrini forgeries. One of those in the
study was of the young Disraeli in his dandiacal period;
Max's legend is "A Well Known Dandy, Who Afterwards Followed
a Less Arduous Calling." (Max had a quartet of subjects whom
he never let alone: King Edward VII, George Moore, Balfour,
and Disraeli.) There was a square wooden table in the center
of the room, and on the left, near the door to the terrace,
the drawing table on which Max had dune his caricatures. To
be drawn by Max came to be the insigne of arrival, but it
had its penalties, too. Christopher Hassell, in his
biography of Sir Edward Marsh, tells with what excitement
Marsh received the news that Max had expressed the wish to
draw him. But some of Max's subjects—Arnold Bennett, H.G.
Wells, Oscar Wilde, the Marquis de Soveral—were restive
under the penalties. Mrs. Shaw, in a fury, tore in two a
caricature Max had done of G.B.S. and threw the pieces into
the fire. Max was aware of the restiveness, and he once said
of his drawing table, "This unassuming piece of furniture
has given much offense." Logan Pearsall Smith tells how
Edmund Gosse consoled him when Max had Smith on his list:
"I feel it my duty to tell you [Gosse wrote Smith] that
something has happened to you that sooner or later
happens to us almost all. Max has got you! We don't like
it, and you won't like it, but you must pretend, as we
all do, that you like it. You can console yourself, at
any rate, with the thought that it will give enormous
pleasure to your friends."
Gosse was doubly right. Though at Max's next show I
found all the other drawings laughable beyond words, the
caricature of myself I considered the only failure of
the exhibition. Not that I minded in the least; I simply
saw nothing funny in it; and was greatly surprised,
though pleased, of course, as well, that it gave, as
Gosse predicted it would give, so much pleasure to my
Three of the walls were lined, halfway up, with plain
white-painted wooden bookshelves. I sampled some of the
books. They were mostly presentation copies of books by the
great and lesser and forgotten authors who were Max's
contemporaries—George Moore, Arnold Bennett, Oscar Wilde, G.
S. Street, George Meredith, Herbert Trench, Edmund Gosse,
Siegfried Sassoon, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, G. M.
Trevelyan, Henry Arthur Jones, Richard Le Gallienne, Stephen
Phillips. I looked through "Herod, a Tragedy," by Phillips,
who was once rampantly successful but is now a forgotten
dramatist. Rothenstein tells, in his memoirs, of the time
that Richard Le Gallienne had, during the height of
Phillips' success, suddenly gone to America. Someone asked
Max why Le Gallienne had made this sudden departure. Said
Max, "He is waiting for Stephen Phillips to blow over." The
poor man did indeed blow over; he knew the sudden declension
of popularity and took refuge in drink. But here was one of
his great successes, with an inscription to Max in the style
of a man who is well aware that he can afford to be modest.
For many of these books, Max had amused himself by drawing
what he called Misleading Frontispieces. They are mostly in
color, and they do mislead you. If you believed, for
example, Max's title page for George Moore's "Memoirs of My
Dead Life," you would think you were in for the
reminiscences of a hero of the cricket field. There were two
odd volumes—"The Poetical Works of Thomas Henry Huxley" and
"The Complete Works of Arnold Bennett." I didn't know that
Huxley had written poems, and I wondered how all the works
of Arnold Bennett could be contained in this narrow volume.
Was it on microfilm? I started to remove the "Complete
Works" to find out by what miracle of compression they had
been so compactly assembled. The book resisted me; I saw
then that it and the "Poetical Works" were only part of the
wooden partition. The spines had been so cunningly
fabricated that I tried to take the books out again after I
knew that they weren't there. It was a relief, though, to
find out that I wouldn't have to read "The Poetical Works of
Thomas Henry Huxley." I found it hard to keep from browsing.
It seemed that all the authors of my youth, whom I used to
take out of the Elm Street Public Library, in Worcester,
Massachusetts, were here in person, near and tangible: they
had been generous; they had given their works away; they had
taken the trouble to write affectionate dedications; and Max
had taken the trouble to mislead their readers into paths
the authors had not chosen. He certainly misled readers of
the Queen, with whom I now settled down on the sofa.
Before examining what Max had done to the Queen, I thought
I'd better see what the Queen had done for herself. I was
fascinated. I couldn't stop reading—not even for Max's
forgeries, scattered all through the book in the Queen's
handwriting. I saw quickly what Max had meant; certainly no
one had ever written like this, before or since. On the
surely acceptable theory that nothing she does can fail to
be interesting, Victoria describes in detail all the
minutiae of her daily life during her travels in Scotland.
She has a nice feeling for nature, for the colors of earth
and sky, and she sets down her observations prettily. She
reads, she writes, she sketches, she plays the piano with
the Princess Beatrice. She rides her pony. She drives in her
carriage. And always, everywhere and every minute, she
misses Albert. When it is a nice day, she grouses about it.
What business has a day to be nice when Albert isn't there
to take in its niceness When the weather is bad, she finds
it "provoking;" this is an affront not to Albert but to
herself. The poignancy of her loss stabs her in unexpected
places. She suffers a minor accident while out driving:
Almost directly after the accident happened, I said to
Alice it was terrible not to be able to tell it to my
dearest Albert, to which she answered: "But he knows it
all, and I am sure he watched over us." I am thankful
that it was by no imprudence of mine, or the slightest
deviation from what my beloved one and I had always been
in the habit of doing, and what he sanctioned and
Once, her irritation with the weather is assuaged by the
memory of Albert's advice on such occasions:
A thick, misty, very threatening morning! There was no
help for it, but it was sadly provoking. It was the same
once or twice in former happy days, and my dear Albert
always said we could not alter it, but must leave it as
it was and make the best of it.
She decides then to leave it as it is, and has breakfast
with "our three little ones." She misses Albert acutely when
she has a good breakfast:
Excellent breakfasts, such splendid cream and butter!
The Duchess has a very good cook, a Scotchwoman, and I
thought how dear Albert would have liked it all. He
always said things tasted better in smaller houses.
On a little safari over the Scotch hills, she sees some
We saw eight stags together at a distance. Oh! had
dearest Albert been here with his rifle!
From all her journeys the Queen returns to Balmoral with
manifest relief. She always tells the time of her return, to
the minute, and she invariably says that she returned
"safely," as if she had reached Balmoral after running a
gantlet. In Mr. Brown, her gillie, the Queen has managed to
create an extraordinarily diverting character. There are
many references in "More Leaves" to General Ponsonby, her
chief equerry. Max later lent me a book by this general's
son, Sir Frederick Ponsonby—"Recollections of Three Reigns."
Sir Frederick had the same job with King Edward VII that his
father had had with Queen Victoria. It is a very
entertaining and honest book. Sir Frederick devotes several
pages to Mr. Brown. He doesn't believe for one moment what
many blasphemers among the Queen's subjects believed that
she was secretly married to Mr. Brown. A privately printed
pamphlet of the time entitled "Mrs. John Brown," with the
Queen as its heroine, he dismisses as "scurrilous." The
possibility that the Queen was in love with Mr. Brown and
that Mr. Brown reciprocated her emotion he does admit, but
he insists that if it was so, the tidal passion was
unconscious, certainly suppressed. But that Mr. Brown's
tremendous influence with the Queen was a nuisance to
everybody he does not deny. Mr. Brown was an absolute
autocrat with the other servants, and equally temperamental
with higher-ups. History, as set down by the Queen herself
in "More Leaves," does record that whatever else Mr. Brown
might have been, he was one thing
unquestionably—accident-prone. The Queen never feels safe
unless Mr. Brown is sitting on the box of any equipage that
is conveying her, yet the number of upsets and wrong roads
and serious mishaps that the vehicle encounters even with
that ballast is astonishing. Perhaps it is no wonder,
considering Mr. Brown's knack for misfortune, that the Queen
emphasizes the safety element in her perennial returns to
Balmoral. Mr. Brown is a Scot, and wears native costume even
when he is at home. This is too bad, because on one occasion
Brown wounds his leg painfully by cutting it with his wet
kilt. The Queen is "much distressed" over the bad behavior
of Mr. Brown's kilt. On another occasion, more serious, the
whole carriage—the Queen is travelling in a sociable this
time—is overturned, and the Queen's thumb is injured in the
fall. "I thought at first," she writes, "it was broken, till
we began to move it." Another time, Mr. Brown falls through
A dull morning, very mild. Had not a good night. Up at a
quarter-past eight, breakfasting at a quarter to nine (I
had packed my large boxes with papers etc., with Brown,
before breakfast on Monday, as all the heavier luggage
had to he sent on in advance), and at a quarter past
nine left Balmoral with Beatrice and the Duchess
of Roxburghe. . . . Brown on the rumble of the landau,
his leg now really fairly well, but he looks pulled.*
*When we went on board the "Thunderer," August 52, at
Osborne, Brown had fallen through an open place inside
the turret, and got a severe hurt on the shin. He
afterwards damaged it again, when it was nearly healed,
by jumping off the box of the carriage, so that when he
came to Balmoral about a fortnight afterwards, it was
very bad, and he was obliged to take care of it for some
days previous to the fresh journey.
At one point, the Queen, evidently a little tired of
constantly saying "Mr. Brown was on the box," advises her
readers that henceforth, unless she specifies to the
contrary, they may assume that Mr. Brown was on the
box and so feel the security that she enjoyed herself. Along
with his predilection for accidents, Mr. Brown appears to
have only the most rudimentary sense of direction. He
appears to have a dependable instinct for the wrong road.
Sometimes he goes off on a road that isn't a carriage road
at all but a cart road. Although he is on the box, the Queen
cannot ignore the fact that progress is very bumpy; she is
considerably shaken about. On trains, compartment doors
stick and Brown has a terrible time opening them.
The book ends with a heartfelt tribute from the Queen to Mr.
Brown, and a poem:
A truer, nobler, trustier heart,
More loyal, and more loving, never beat
Within a human breast.
Having, for once, been diverted from Max by another author,
I now turned to his emendations.
The Queen, in her Maxian phase, had taken the trouble to
copy out on the flyleaf, in her own handwriting, "Some
Opinions of the Press" on her book:
Cuts deep. . . . Had Marie Bashkirtseff sat on a throne
for a good long time she might have done something like
this—but we can think of no one
Not a book to leave lying about on the drawing-room
table nor one to place indiscriminately in the hands of
young men and maidens. . . . Will be engrossing to those
of mature years. —Spectator.
Romantic . . . Strange . . . Enigmatic . . . Where's our
Queen Mary the noo?—Scotsman.
Bin readin' Vic's latest. Perfickly scrumptious,
doncherthink ?—"Eve" in the Tatler.
A style as pure as her Court, and we cannot give higher
praise than that.—Windsor Mercury.
The Queen has two collies, of whom she is almost as fond as
she is of Mr. Brown. On one journey she writes, on her own:
Dear good Sharp* was with us and out each day, and so
affectionate . . .
*A favourite collie of mine.
There is a full-page lithograph of Sharp. Beneath it the
incorrigible forger has written:
Such a dear, faithful, noble friend and
companion, and for whom Albert had the greatest respect
and over Noble, the other friend's photograph:
Never shall I cease to mourn this dear, good
servant. His early decease plunged us all in the
deepest grief. It was most heartbreaking and
To divert the Empress Eugenie after the loss of her son, the
Queen takes her to a little cottage, Glen Gelder Shiel.
There is a full-page photograph of the Shiel and the trees
surrounding it. Beneath this is written, at least in Max's
This picture is now inexpressibly saddening to me
to see. The tree that I have marked with a cross [there
is a firm, black-inked cross over that tree] died last
year. Knowing how much I liked that tree, they
sent me some chips of the poor dear trunk after
it had been felled. These I have painted black and they
are a great pleasure.
At the very end, Max has had the effrontery to add to the
lines of the poem the Queen wrote to Mr. Brown:
Uncouth he was,
But not the less a courtier withal.
And, beneath that, there is a drawing of Mr. Brown, wearing
the lethal kilt, bearded, and with a great expanse of
tartaned behind, just lifting himself up painfully from the
ground after some unhappy miscalculation.
Perhaps the most famous caricature that Max ever drew was of
Queen Victoria and her son Edward. It is captioned "The
Rare, the Rather Awful Visits of Albert Edward, Prince of
Wales, to Windsor Castle," and shows the future Edward VII,
then nearing sixty, frock-coated, obese, standing abject and
chastened, with his hands behind his back, in a corner of a
drawing room of his mother's house. In the foreground sits
the Queen, now a very old lady and also very fat, and
frighteningly formidable. But there is a difference in the
two fatnesses; that of the Prince is the efflorescence of
overindulgence, that of his mother an accretion of
righteousness. Victoria's hands are crossed over a
handkerchief in her lap. Her heavy-lidded eyes are closed,
as if to shut out the awful spectacle of her son's
profligacies. The blubbery back of Edward's neck, forced out
of his collar, ends abruptly and somewhat trivially in the
bald dome of his head. The head is an anticlimax to such a
back-of-the-neck. From the tension with which his hands are
clasped behind him you feel that the Prince is praying, "O
God, will I ever get out of this room!" But the Queen has
had her say and is just sitting there, and you feel that she
will be sitting there, locked in an outrage too deep for
utterance, forever. There is the aging Prince, with so many
pleasant things waiting for him outside this room—enormous
meals, women, games, shooting, practical jokes, trips to
Marienbad, to Paris (where he was adored), the whole
palpitating world—if only he could get at them, if only that
implacable little old lady who has been haranguing him would
open her eyes. But her eyes won't open; they are clamped
shut eternally against the horrors of her eldest son's
Max initiated the pastime of royalty-baiting long before the
birth of the Angry Young Men. He indulged in it
unremittingly, in caricature and in prose, all his life. The
last caricature he ever made—with the exception of one of
George Moore—was one he did of Edward VII, in 1955. Showing
it to me in the Villino one day, he was moved to comment on
the sharpness of the nose, as on a phenomenon his caricature
had made him notice for the first time. "The noses of fat
men do not follow suit with the rest of them as they age,"
he said. "The noses become, if anything, sharper, thinner."
But Max, even when he was a young man, was not an angry
young man. He was a civilized young man. His needling of
royalty was acute, uncompromising, anal funny, but it was
I had earlier been told that a poem of Max's, written for
private circulation among his friends during the reign of
King George V and Queen Mary, had delayed his knighthood for
twenty years. Max loved writing and drawing things for
private publication or private circulation. Fond of privacy
for himself, he sought it for his work as well. Perhaps Max
wanted to undermine his knighthood; perhaps, in some
unconscious way, he was trying to fulfill an ambition be had
expressed in an essay when he was twenty-three—never to be
knighted. The poem is called "Ballade Tragique à Double
Refrain," and it is actually a one-act play:
A room in Windsor Castle
(Enter a Lady-in-Waiting and a Lord-in-Waiting)
Slow pass the hours, ah, passing slow;
My doom is worse than anything
Conceived by Edgar Allan Poe:
The Queen is duller than the King.
Lady, your mind is wandering,
You babble what you do not mean;
Remember, to your heartening,
The King is duller than the Queen.
No, most emphatically, no,
To one firm-rooted fact I cling
In my now chronic vertigo:
The Queen is duller than the King.
Lady, you lie. Last evening
I found him with a rural dean
Talking of District Visiting. . . .
The King is duller than the Queen.
At any rate he doesn't sew;
You don't see him embellishing
Yard after yard of calico. . . .
The Queen is duller than the King.
Oh, to have been an underling
To (say) the Empress Josephine.
Enough of your self-pitying;
The King is duller than the Queen.
The Queen is duller than the King.
Death, then, for you shall have no sting.
(Stabs her, and as she falls dead produces phial from
breast-pocket of coat)
Nevertheless, sweet friend strychnine, The
King—is—duller than—the Queen.
(Expires in horrible agony)
In the summer of 1923, the future Duke of Windsor was about
to pay his annual visit to the Duchy of Cornwall. Someone at
Court suggested to him that on his way he should visit
Thomas Hardy. The Prince agreed to do so, and, in due
course, lunched with Hardy and his wife. Max heard about
this. Again, he wrote a poem, this one, a Hardy parody,
called "A Luncheon":
Lift latch, step in, be welcome, Sir,
Albeit to see you I'm unglad
And your face is fraught with a deathly shyness
Bleaching what pink it may have had.
Come in, come in, Your Royal Highness.
Beautiful weather?—Sir, that's true,
Though the farmers are casting rueful looks
At tilth's and pasture's dearth of spryness—
Yes, Sir, I've written several books—
A little more chicken, Your Royal Highness?
Lift latch, step out, your car is there,
To bear you hence from this ancient vale.
We are both of us aged by our strange brief nighness.
But each of us lives to tell the tale.
Farewell, farewell, Your Royal Highness.
It was not until the next day that I was able to discuss
with Max his collaboration with the Queen and his verses on
royalty. I was returning to America, and Miss Jungmann had
arranged a farewell lunch for me at the Villino. Again the
weather was flawless, and when I rang the bell, Miss
Jungmann opened the door. "Max is in the Vining Room!" she
said triumphantly. "We are going to have lunch there. He
loves it there." I followed Miss Jungmann through the house,
up the stairs, past the terrace, and to a tiny auxiliary
outdoor area, which she called the Vining Room, just above
the terrace. Beneath the canopy of a vine from which white
grapes were hanging, Max, straw-hatted, was sitting at a
table doing a London Times crossword puzzle. He got
up to greet me, putting his hat aside.
It was a halcyon day, and we had a gay lunch. We began
talking about Victoria's prose style.
"It is rather nice, in the book, don't you think," said Max,
"that when the Queen is asked to write her name in Sir
Walter Scott's diary, which is shown her, she refuses to do
it—she considers it a 'presumption'? I thought that
I asked Max whether King George and Queen Mary had ever read
the "Ballade Tragique à Double Refrain."
"Yes," he said dryly. "Kind friends sent it them."
"How did they like it?" I asked.
"They were vexed," he said, with an innocent look at me.
I asked him whether it was true that this ballade had
delayed his knight-hood for twenty years.
He said he did not know.
Considering how he had treated the successive British Royal
Families, I said, it was a wonder he had been knighted at
all; in fact, I wasn't sure that his residence in Italy was
Max chuckled; his shoulders shook. "You must remember," he
said quietly,' "it was British royalty."
"That is so," Miss Jungmann said, looking at me seriously.
"There are no people in the world like the English. I am a
foreigner—I am a German and I can say it. I had a job in the
Foreign Office during the last war—I believe told you. I
shall never forget the day Dresden was bombed. I can't tell
you the pain that was felt there in the Foreign Office.
Pain! It was a massive bombing, you remember. It had to
be done, but no one was happy about it. Just the contrary.
I'll never forget the atmosphere in the Foreign Office that
day, overcast with gloom. That could happen only in England.
Only the English are like that!"
Max began talking about King Edward VII. "For some reason,"
he said, "he spoke English with a heavy German accent, very
guttural." Max imitated the King's speech; it sounded like
Weber and Fields. "When he was still Prince of Wales and
living at Marlborough House, Sir Sidney Lee, the
Shakespearean scholar, came to the Prince with a proposal.
It was on the eve of the publication of the Dictionary of
National Biography. It was Sir Sidney's idea that the Prince
ought to give a dinner to those responsible for the
completion of this monumental work. The monumental work had
escaped the Prince's attention, don't you know, and Sir
Sidney had painfully to explain to him what it was. The
Prince, you know, was not an omnivorous reader. Sir Sidney
managed to obtain his grudging consent. 'How many?' asked
the Prince. `Forty,' said Sir Sidney. The Prince was
appalled. For-r-ty!' he gasped. 'For-r-ty wr-ri-ter-rs! I
can't have for-r-ty wr-ri-ter-rs in Marlborough House! Giff
me the list!' Sir Sidney gave it him, and the Prince, with a
heavy black pencil, started slashing off names. Sir Sidney's
heart sank when he saw that the first name the Prince had
slashed was that of Sir Leslie Stephen. He conveyed, as
tactfully as he could, that this was a bad cut, since
Stephen was the animating genius of the whole enterprise.
Reluctantly, the Prince allowed Sir Leslie to come.
Eventually, Sir Sidney put over his entire list. The dinner
took place. Among the contributors present was Canon Ainger,
a distinguished cleric whose passion was Charles Lamb, on
whom he was considered a very great authority indeed. He had
written the articles on Charles and Mary Lamb for the
Dictionary. Sir Sidney sat at the Prince's right and found
it heavy weather, don't you know. The Prince must have found
it heavy going also; to be having dinner with forty writers
was not his idea of a cultivated way to spend an evening.
His eye roamed the table morosely, in self-objurgation for
having let himself in for a thing like this. Finally, his
eye settled on Canon Ainger. 'Who's the little parson?' he
asked Lee. 'Vy is he here? He's not a wr-ri-ter!' 'He
is a very great authority,' said Lee, apologetically, 'on
Lamb.' This was too much fur the Prince. He put down his
knife and fork in stupefaction; a pained outcry of protest
heaved from him: 'On lamb!'"
Thinking of Edward put Max in a benign mood. "My brother
Herbert produced a play about Mme. de Pompadour," he said.
"The incidental music for it was written by a composer of
the time named Edward German. You know, in those days the
incidental music was quite a factor. The audience was
affected by it; I was affected. When I listened to
it, my heartstrings were twanged at. When it began to throb,
I throbbed. People sobbed; I sobbed. King Edward expressed a
wish to see my brother's production, and Herbert met him
afterward. The King said not a word about the production, or
the play. All he wanted to know was who had written the
incidental music, which had greatly moved him. Herbert was a
bit miffed. 'German,' he replied to the King's question.
'Oh, a German,' said Edward. 'Yes. Yes. I know many
Ger-r-mans wr-rite music, but which German?' Not,'
said Herbert, becoming a bit desperate, 'a German but
Sir Edward German, the composer. His name is German.' Edward
couldn't take it in; his gutturals thickened in vehement
inquiry. Lady Tree intervened, but to no avail. It got worse
and worse. It was never cleared up."
Max remembered that someone had had the cruelty to insert in
an Address from the Throne the phrase "guerrilla warfare."
The King's struggle to master this phrase was convulsive.
Max imitated how it sounded—a consonantal chaos. The phrase
was mercifully deleted.
I asked Max whether he cared at all for music that was not
"Anything above Puccini is above me, too," he said, "but I
do love Puccini."
I asked whether he had any Puccini records.
"Unfortunately," said Miss Jungmann, "we have no
Max took the deprivation more lightly than Miss Jungmann
did; he was in a wonderful mood, and he began to tell, with
tremendous gusto, and acting it out, about a shattering
experience his friend Logan Pearsall Smith had once endured,
when he found himself sitting next to Queen Victoria's son
the Duke of Connaught at a lunch party. It was the day of
the return of the captured German fleet to Scapa Flow,
during the First World War; the lunch was to commemorate the
great occasion. "When you are with royalty," Max began, "you
are not supposed to start a subject, you are supposed to
wait for them to start it and then you fall in. Logan knew
this; he sat and sat through course after course, munching
away in silence, waiting for the Duke to say something. The
Duke didn't. Either he had no subject on which he wished to
discourse or, if he did, he wasn't inclined to divulge it to
Logan. The silence got on Logan's nerves; he decided,
finally—he was American, you know; no Englishman would have
done it to take the plunge, and he was careful to make it
what he considered a safe and conservative plunge. 'Well,
Sir,' he heard himself saying, 'this is a historic day.' The
effect on the Duke was devastating; whatever might have been
drifting through his own mind had collided with something. A
remark had been made; he had heard something, though not the
remark. He turned on Logan; in a voice somewhat thunderous,
he demanded, 'What did you say?' Now that he was embarked on
this line, there was no way for Logan to retreat. 'I said,
Sir,' he repeated stoutly, 'that this is a historic day.'
This time, the Duke did hear it—a remark so bizarre, so
startling, and, above all, so unasked for." Max leaned
forward and whispered Logan's remark to himself as the Duke
had done; you could see that the vast implications of it
were churning in Max's mind as they had churned in the
Duke's. It was barely audible, Max's whisper: "A historic
day? A historic day." Emboldened, Logan repeated it out
loud: "Yes, Sir, this is a historic day." Max, who was
inside the Duke's mind, kept revolving it, turning it over,
munching it; his lips kept forming and re-forming the words
inaudibly. Then a light began to glow in his eyes and a
smile to form on his lips. You could tell the moment when
the Duke made the molten connection between the remark and
the event; they fused suddenly, and this illumination gave
the Duke the thrill of creation. "At last," Max went on, "he
had a subject; he had it firmly entrenched, and was only too
proud to introduce it, don't you know. He turned to Logan
and hosed him with it. He lavished upon the anonymous
commoner the full flavor of his intuition. 'THIS,' he said,
'IS A HISTORIC DAY!'"
Max went on talking about Smith. He said that Smith's
experience with the Duke might have been harrowing but that
Smith had submitted Max himself to an experience that was
not so much harrowing as humiliating. Smith was the son of
American Quaker parents from Germantown, Pennsylvania. They
were rich—the family owned a successful bottling plant—and
were both internationally famous as applied salvationists.
Smith's father had applied salvation so intimately to his
female communicants in England that a hue and cry arose
among the pious and he retired into the shadows of
contemplation, but Logan's mother went on to the end,
effulgent, preaching and writing. Her inspirational books
were best-sellers. Logan settled down in London and devoted
himself to literature. His greatest success was with a
little book called "Trivia," which consists of small,
exquisitely polished paragraphs of worldly wisdom and
disillusion. Max had done a caricature of Smith. Its legend
reads, "The Author of 'Trivia' Submitting His Latest MS. to
Of 'The London Mercury' (Mr. Logan Pearsall Smith, Mr. J. C.
Squire, Mr. Edward Shanks)." The caricature shows Smith
watching the two editors. He has just submitted the
manuscript to Mr. Squire, who is handing it ceremoniously to
Mr. Shanks. The manuscript is the size of a postage stamp.
One day, when Max was working for the Saturday Review,
Smith gave him, for his edification, a small brochure
written by his mother—"How Little Logan Was Brought to
Jesus." It appeared from it that little Logan had originally
not been with Jesus. He was somewhat restive and rebellious
as a child; his mother had to bring him. Max received the
book gratefully and promised to read it. He had a date at
the Athenaeum Club for lunch, which he kept. In a cab, after
lunch, he realized with horror that he had left the history
of Logan's conversion at the club. He made a special trip to
the club the next day to report his loss to the hall porter.
The latter was lofty and elegant. Max flattered himself that
he had a way with club hall porters—deferential, and with a
hint of geniality restrained only by Max's own sense of
decorum before the remote and august. He had always made a
particular effort with the Athenaeum's hall porter, and felt
that he had succeeded in winning his respect. Max reported
his loss. "And what was the book, Mr. Beerbohm?" the great
man inquired. Max, since he had no alternative, answered,
"'How Little Logan Was Brought to Jesus.'" In that moment,
Max recalled, something happened between the porter and
himself. He lost status. The work of years of careful
deference was undone. The porter merely said that he would
inquire, but the intimacy was gone and the respect was gone.
A few days later, Max returned. The porter handed him the
book in a gingerly manner. It was carefully wrapped up and
tied with string, so that the porter himself could handle it
safely. Max knew that his day at the Athenaeum was over.
We started to leave the Vining Room. Max's eye caught the
season's first gardenia in the flower border. We stopped to
admire it. Miss Jungmann, with Max looking on approvingly,
pointed out for me the acanthus, lemons, figs,
bougainvillaea, geraniums. We stopped for a moment on the
terrace, near the parapet. There was a great tree across the
road before us. "Do you notice," said Max, "that on the side
facing us it spreads its branches way back, leans
backward—like Swinburne? There arc the leaners-forward, you
know, and there are the leaners-backward. Balfour was a
leaner-forward, but Swinburne was a leaner-backward, like
Max stared at the tree, as if by looking at it he was again
seeing Swinburne. From Swinburne his eyes wandered to the
sea. He stared at it as if he were trying to extract from
its tranquil, gleaming surface the answer to the riddle of
those twin darknesses from which we emerge and toward which
we move. I remembered a description by Max, at the end of
one of his essays, of himself, staring at another sea, on
the coast of Sussex. The essay starts innocently enough: a
nine-year-old architect is working rapturously and
meticulously at constructing a sand cottage. Max is full of
admiration at the completed work; other children come up and
give their grudging admiration. Presently, the tide comes in
and destroys the cunning fabrication:
The unrestful, the well-organised and minatory sea had
been advancing quickly. It was not very far now from the
cottage. I thought of all the civilizations that had
been, that were not, that were as though they had never
been. Must it always be thus?—always the same old tale
of growth and greatness and overthrow, nothingness?
To Max's surprise, the boys shout with joy as the cottage is
demolished, and finally the architect himself joins in their
I myself was conscious of a certain wild enthusiasm
within me. But this was less surprising for that I had
not built the cottage, and my fancy had not
enabled me to dwell in it. It was the boy's own
enthusiasm that made me feel, as never before, how
deep-rooted in the human breast the love of destruction,
of mere destruction, is.
The spectacle arouses in Max a more intimate and fearsome
speculation still: Is the English polity safe? Might it not
share the fate of that cottage: He won't let himself think
about it. "I waived the question coming from that
hypothesis," he writes, "and other questions that would have
followed; for I wished to be happy while I might."
(This is the third of a series of seven articles.)