S. N. Behrman
The New Yorker
 March 12, 1960: 59-108

Before going to Rapallo in June of 1954, for one of several long visits I made to see Max Beerbohm in the last few years of his life, I carried on a brisk correspondence with Max and his secretary, Miss Elizabeth Jungmann, about projects for a film version of Max's novel "Zuleika Dobson." It all began because Miss Audrey Hepburn had expressed an "interest" in playing Zuleika. When a fabled young woman like Miss Hepburn expresses an interest in anything filmable or dramatizable, it is exactly as if Juno, on the summit of Olympus, had lightly pressed a push button. Earthlings go scurrying; it has the instant effect of lifting a work of literature to the status of a "property." Other people had taken an interest in "Zuleika Dobson" long before Miss Hepburn. From a popular point of view, it has survived better than anything else Max wrote; if people know nothing else of Max's, they do know "Zuleika." It has been a success as a Penguin book in England and in the Modern Library here. Among its eminent admirers have been Lord David Cecil, who has said that it distills the quintessence of Oxford; William Empson, who has said, in praise, that it ranked Max among the "ambiguous" poets; and E. M. Forster, who has said that it has a "beauty unattainable by serious literature . . . it is so funny and charming, so iridescent, yet so profound." But the combined interest of these distinguished men did not have the galvanizing effect of Miss Hepburn's gentle coo. Miss Hepburn liked it because all the undergraduates kill themselves for her. Actresses love to be loved—especially in public—and you can't ask for a greater tribute than to have an entire university jump into a river for love of you.

I had myself had a long flirtation with Zuleika thirty years before I met Max, having done some exploratory work on a musical version with George and Ira Gershwin. She eluded us. With a view to dramatizing the novel, Wolcott Gibbs, an unregistered Maximilian, had held an option on it for years, but he had been stymied by the problem, as I had been, of how to get Max's delicious side remarks into a dramatic frame. While the activity set off by Miss Hepburn was bubbling, Max wrote various letters to me on the subject. In one, he said:

I do not at the moment know just how Zuleika stands since the retirement of Wolcott Gibbs. Two or three suitors have forthcome, and I have left all negotiations in the hands of my brother-in-law and of an English friend, Selwyn Jepson, the novelist. . . . I have never in my brightest youth or my noblest prime been able to deal with any matter involving the simplest sum in arithmetic. I shall soon, I expect, know what has been happening and whether Zuleika is still—as it were—unmarried.

Longing to see you in humdrum Rap,


When I arrived in Rapallo that June, I was met at the station by Miss Jungmann. After I had got installed at the Excelsior Hotel, we drove to Max's home, the Villino Chiaro, on the Via Aurelia. On the way, Miss Jungmann said breathlessly, "I wonder how you will find him! I'm worried about his health. He's so frail." The winter had been a hard one in northern Italy, and Max had suffered from various minor ailments. Besides, his heart was not strong. Miss Jungmann told me with pride that although the house had been very cold, she could assure me that Max himself had never felt cold. "Sometimes, when he is sitting there in his chair, and I am trying to make him comfortable," she said, "he will take my hand and press it without saying anything. It makes up for everything." I could believe it. Miss Jungmann's devotion to Max's well-being and comfort was the animating principle of her existence; it was unremitting. Her life, however, was far from easy. She had a twenty-four-hour-a-day job; she slept listening, and when she heard Max moan in the night she would go to see what was wrong. Usually it was only that he was suffering what he called "the stringencies of a nightmare." From the beginning, Miss Jungmann had felt about my visits that they were "good for Max;" the word she sometimes applied to them was "therapeutic," and in this, I felt, there was a quality of desperation. Miss Jungmann hadn't been away from the Villino overnight since 1952, when she made a journey to London to arrange for an exhibition of Max's drawings at the Leicester Gallery. Even when she went to Rapallo to shop, she was haunted by anxiety.

I could see that Miss Jungmann couldn't wait to get back to the Villino. I had wired her from Paris not to meet me, but Max, she told me, had insisted. "I left him happily doing the Times crossword puzzle," she said as we approached the Villino. "Last night, we had such a delightful evening. He read me a most beautiful passage from Henry James's 'Partial Portraits.' As a special celebration for your arrival, we are going to have lunch on the terrace."

At the Villino, Miss Jungmann made for the kitchen and I went through the house and climbed the outer staircase to the terrace. Max was sitting under the umbrella by the little table, with his straw hat on, reading the Times. He was wearing his shade-of-primrose suit, with black patent-leather pumps and white socks. He stood up to greet me. By now he was almost eighty-two, but I thought he looked better than I had ever seen him before. We walked, as of habit, across the parti-colored flagstones to the parapet, and stood looking out across the Gulf of Genoa and at the backward-leaning, Swinburnian tree, now in full leaf and flourishing.

Turco, the concierge at the Excelsior, had told me that during the summer months there was to be inaugurated a three-times-a-week airplane service between London and Rapallo. I ventured into a fantasy with Max on this. "Tell you what, Max," I said. "You and I will take the Friday plane. It will bring us into London at about five, in good time for dinner. Where would you like to have dinner? Then we'll go to a play—and you won't have to review it! Won't it be nice for you to see a play without antagonizing the author? Then we'll go to the Savoy Grill for supper. For once, Max, shake off this pose of valetudinarianism and give yourself a time!"

Miss Jungmann joined us.

"Max and I are going to London," I said. "Friday's plane."

Miss Jungmann demanded to be taken along.

"Shall we take Miss Jungmann?" I asked Max.

Max suggested that she be given the option.

A new Italian servant, a girl of about twenty, brought in apéritifs. We sat down under the umbrella and began sipping them. I told Miss Jungmann that I thought Max was looking better than I had ever seen him, and this made her happy. I teased her. "Tell me, Elizabeth," I said. "After working for so many years for a really great man, the successor of Goethe, a writer on the heroic scale, like Gerhart Hauptmann, isn't Max, with his little effusions, something of a comedown?"

"Gerhart adored Max," said Miss Jungmann. "He told me. 'Elizabeth,' he said, 'Mr. Beerbohm is special.' Oh, yes, though they couldn't converse, he understood Max. He knew. So did Margarete. So did Benvenuto."

I found out that these were Hauptmann's wife and son. I asked about Benvenuto and what he was up to.

"He is a contemporary," said Miss Jungmann definitively.

Max leaned forward in his chair. "It's true," he said. "I couldn't speak a word of German, and Herr Hauptmann didn't know a word of English. My wife, Florence, adored him, and he adored her, too. I did a caricature of Hauptmann. . . ."

I knew this caricature: Hauptmann, Goethe in plus fours, doing a metronomic walk along the shingle at Rapallo, his handsome, noble face uplifted to let the wind blow through his hair.

"Oh, he loved your caricature, Max," said Miss Jungmann.

"Well," Max said, "when Hauptmann was living in Rapallo, he used to give these wonderful dinner parties. He was lavishly hospitable. I used to come with Florence. There were great crowds of celebrities always, mostly visiting Germans. To them, Hauptmann wasn't just a writer, you know, he was a kind of god. And, of course, being a god, he was omniscient, and, since he was omniscient, there was no question he could not answer. He was asked all sorts of things by his worshippers, covering a limitless range, and I never knew him not to answer, with amplitude. Thomas Mann used to come. He used to call Hauptmann 'The President of the Republic of Letters.' That's how Hauptmann was regarded, and that is how he regarded himself. Elizabeth once told me that an unpleasantness occurred between Mann and Hauptmann. Mann published 'The Magic Mountain,' and the character of Peeperkorn—Have you read 'The Magic Mountain'?"

I said I had, and I remembered vaguely that the character of Peeperkorn, if I was not mistaken, was something of a windbag.

"That's what Hauptmann thought," said Max, smiling. "And he had a strong feeling that he was Peeperkorn, though Mann denied it."

It had been a happy inspiration on the part of William Rothenstein to introduce the Beerbohms to the Hauptmanns, in 1926. Hauptmann was a perfect host, Max a congenital guest. The fact that Hauptmann couldn't speak English and that Max couldn't understand much German was an advantage; it gave Max ample opportunity, while Hauptmann was expounding, to ruminate privately in English, which he did understand. Florence Beerbohm felt for Hauptmann the adoration of an actress for a playwright, which can he intense—at least before she appears in one of his plays. In his memoirs, Rothenstein records Hauptmann's notion of how a writer should live:

Hauptmann's views on life were large and generous. Artists, he held, should live proudly, as Dürer and the great German craftsmen had lived, putting on fur-lined gowns and gold chains as it were at the end of each day's labour. We had neither fur-lined gowns nor gold chains; but every day we sat down to a table glistening with silver and glass. We drank choice Rhenish and Mosel wines out of great Venetian glasses; huge salmon were handed round, boar's head or saddle of veal, dish following dish. . . . Never before had we fared so richly.

Max had an equally clearly defined notion of how a guest should live; he has told about it in one of the best known of his essays, "Hosts and Guests," and it can have been seldom that two men held views so ideally complementary as Max and Hauptmann. "In every human being," Max writes, "one or the other of these two instincts is predominant: the active or positive instinct to offer hospitality, the negative or passive instinct to accept it. And either of these instincts is so significant of character that one might well say that mankind is divisible into two great classes: hosts and guests."

Having established this great human division, Max goes on to substantiate it. "Lions do not ask one another to their lairs," he says, "nor do birds keep open nest." He traces from prehistoric and Biblical times the history of hospitality. He gets to the Borgias, in Italy, and to the Macbeths, in Scotland:

I maintain that though you would often in the fifteenth century have heard the snobbish Roman say, in a would-be off-hand tone, "I am dining with the Borgias tonight," no Roman ever was able to say "I dined last night with the Borgias."

To mankind in general Macbeth and Lady Macbeth stand out as the supreme type of all that a host and hostess should not be. Hence the marked coolness of Scotsmen toward Shakespeare, hence the untiring effort of that proud and sensitive race to set up Burns in his stead.

After a scholarly historical survey, Max gets down, as he always does, to himself. He himself was a born guest, and he has the courage to tell an embarrassing story to prove it:

In my school, as in most others, we received now and again "hampers" from home. At the mid-day dinner, in every house, we all ate together; but at breakfast and supper we ate in four or five separate "messes." It was customary for the receiver of a hamper to share the contents with his mess-mates. On one occasion I received, instead of the usual variegated hamper, a box containing twelve sausage-rolls. It happened that when this box arrived and was opened by me there was no one around. Of sausage-rolls I was particularly fond. I am sorry to say that I carried the box up to my cubicle, and, having eaten two of the sausage-rolls, said nothing to my friends, that day, about the other ten, nor anything about them when, three days later, I had eaten them all—all, up there, alone.

Thirty years have elapsed, my schoolfellows are scattered far and wide, the chance that this page may meet the eyes of some of them does not much dismay me; but I am glad there was no collective and contemporary judgment by them on my strange exploit. What defence could I have offered? Suppose I had said, "You see, I am so essentially a guest," the plea would have carried little weight. And yet it would not have been a worthless plea. On receipt of a hamper, a boy did rise, always, in the esteem of his mess-mates. His sardines, his marmalade, his potted meat, at any rate while they lasted, did make us think that his parents "must be awfully decent" and that he was a not unworthy son. He had become our central figure, we expected him to lead the conversation, we liked listening to him, his jokes were good. With those twelve sausage-rolls I could have dominated my fellows for a while. But I had not a dominant nature. I never trusted myself as a leader. Leading abashed me. I was happiest in the comity of the crowd. Having received a hamper, I was always glad when it was finished, glad to fall back into the ranks. Humility is a virtue, and it is a virtue innate in guests.

Of course, Max goes on to say, a guest has sometimes, out of sheer pride, to assume the role of host, and, equally, a host must on occasion be a guest. The trouble with this is that a born host doesn't like to be a guest. It doesn't suit him; it makes him uncomfortable:

He does not adjust himself. He forgets his place. He leads the conversation. He tries genially to draw you out. He never comments on the goodness of the food or wine. He looks at his watch abruptly and says he must be off. He doesn't say he has had a delightful time. In fact, his place is at the head of his own table.

That is the place that, in those expansive Hauptmann days, Max allowed the latter-day Goethe to occupy. Of course, Hauptmann came occasionally to the Villino. Florence understood German and translated their guest's gravest remarks, so that Max could ponder them. But what Max enjoyed most was the lavish Hauptmann dinners, where the food and wines were wonderful, where German worshippers asked questions that required interminable answers, and where Max could be, at last and luxuriously, a sheer guest.

It was a happy lunch on the terrace that day. Max was in wonderful form, and kept telling story after story.  "You have told me you were a friend of Sibyl Colefax," he said to me. "Well, she was a very dear friend of mine for a great many years. She kept writing to me that I must see a friend of hers who wished to call upon me here in Rapallo, a countryman of yours, Mr. James Hazen Hyde. He had a house in Paris, and Sibyl kept writing to me how beautiful this house was. She was ecstatic about the wonders of this house. She wrote me—you remember how indecipherable her handwriting was?—about the miscellaneous works of art Mr. James Hazen Hyde's Paris house contained: Japanese wallpapers, paintings, ormolus, jades. Well, I do not consider myself a fancier in such matters, but since Sibyl was so eager that I receive him, I wrote to her and said that I would. Something over ten years ago, the day came! Mr. James Hazen Hyde was in Rapallo, and an appointment was made. It was a winter's day, I remember, and at the destined hour I tiptoed to the window to observe the arrival of Mr. James Hazen Hyde.  He came in the shiniest and most ambitious motorcar I have ever seen. From it emerged a footman who was sitting beside the chauffeur, beyond a glass harrier, and he was magnificently dressed. He opened the door of the saloon, and from it emerged Mr. James Hazen Hyde himself. He was encircled in a great-coat with a tremendous wide collar of astrakhan. I was dazzled. I thought, Oh dear, how can I receive a magnifico like this in my poor little house? Why did Sibyl do this? I watched. The footman, preceding Mr. James Hazen Hyde, walked up the steps and pressed the doorbell. Luisa, who served us then, opened the door. Then I observed something that faintly disconcerted me. Luisa began to help Mr. James Hazen Hyde off with his coat, as was her custom, but Mr. James Hazen Hyde's footman quickly intervened. He helped Mr. James Hazen Hyde remove his coat. Moreover, once it was removed, Mr. James Hazen Hyde did not give it to Luisa, who was waiting to receive it; he gave it to his footman to hold, as if Luisa were not worthy to be custodian, however briefly, of so regal a garment. I felt for Luisa, who was left with nothing to do. I crept back to my chair to receive, as well as I could, Mr. James Hazen Hyde. He entered. I rose to greet him. He sailed at once, as if he had prepared them, into his introductory remarks, calculated to put me at my ease. He said"—Max's voice rose into what was, for him, a kind of bellow, to approximate the American resonance—"'Sir Max, I have in my life had five valets. One was Italian, one was French, one was Japanese, one was Malayan—but, Sir Max, the BEST valet I have ever had WAS AN ENGLISHMAN!' His manner of conveying to me that I need not fell inferior just because I was English rather put me off, don't you know, and from that high summit the rest of our interview was, I am afraid, a declension."

I had noticed before that Max wore a handsome scarab ring. I now asked him about it.

He extended his hand so that I could have a better look at it. "It is pretty, isn't it?" he said. "My friend Reggie Turner brought it back to me from Egypt. Scarabs! There was a man in London, a clergyman, the Reverend W. J. Loftie, who wrote a book about scarabs—two books, I believe . . ."

I could see that Max was wound up for a clerical recollection. He was, I knew, sympathetic to clergymen.

"He was a great authority on gravel," Max went on. "He liked scarabs, but his great passion was gravel. He was a chaplain somewhere, but he lived for gravel. He was constantly excavating the substrata of old buildings and old churches to find out what was beneath them. He was on the Saturday Review for a while. He published articles, and even, I believe, a book, about gravel. But there was a still greater authority in London on gravel even than the Reverend W. J. Loftie. He was the acknowledged master of gravel, and Loftie knew, as everyone interested in gravel knew, that his great work was coming from the publishers soon. For this the Reverend W. J. Loftie waited, hoping, praying that his own more modest endeavors would be noticed in it. One day the book arrived. Loftie was knee-deep in an excavation beneath some church, but he had arranged that the Master's book he delivered to him, no matter where. He opened the volume, with trembling hands, to the index." Max's hand riffled feverishly through the index. "There it was, his name—'Loftie, the Rev. W. J.' His heart leapt and then sank. Because after his name was written, in smaller type, 'Strange error of . . . ' He looked up the page where his name appeared in the body of the book, and found that, according to the author, he had made a wrong deduction from certain of his observations about London gravel. At the Savile Club, of which he and I were both members, there was nothing we could do to alleviate this disaster to his pride."

Max stopped for a moment. Disappointments of this sort always moved him. He went on, "And, do you know, I wonder whether the rest of Loftie's career, its deterioration, did not stem from this disappointment. Years passed. One day, the Savile Club reverberated with scandal. What do you think had happened?" Max asked me this question as if I were a member of the Savile and would share the incredulity of the other members. "The Reverend W. J. Loftie had been diverted from gravel long enough to seduce a parlormaid, and he had found it expedient to give up the Church. He was left alone with his major passion. Aleck Ross came into the club and was told the shattering news. 'Oh,' he said. 'Poor Loftie, W. J.—the strange error of.'"

From the Savile Club, Max took me to dinner with him at Bernard Shaw's flat, in Adelphi Terrace. "G.B.S., you know, loved prizefighters," he said. "He had a deep regard for prizefighters. One night, he invited me to Adelphi Terrace to meet a great countryman of yours in that field—Mr. Tunney. Charming man, delightful man. Not at all what you would have expected. I mean, you would never have guessed his profession from his conversation. It was so literary, you know. The windows of G.B.S.'s flat looked out over the river, and the sun was setting. Do you know"—Max leaned forward—"Mr. Tunney took me by the arm and led me to the windows and compelled my attention to the beauties of the sunset? I had never—no, I think I had never before met anyone so militantly aesthetic. I felt I could not reach his level, I could not match his appreciation. When he left, I felt he must have an impression of me as somewhat soulless."

Max didn't want me to have this impression. He leaned forward just a little more and made a confidential comment to me on the incident. When Max reached the climax of a story, the little pauses, the little intakes of breath, were not hesitations, they were the beautifully timed dynamics of crescendo. "You know," he said, "I cannot be considered a coarse person . . . and yet . . . you know . . . I had to strain every nerve . . . to meet . . . that sensitivity!"

Miss Jungmann said that Max must take his nap, and suggested that I take a nap, too. She said she would make me comfortable in the Casetta—a tiny guesthouse on the hillside behind the Villino. Being less interested in naps than Miss Jungmann was, Max asked her to bring me—against the possibility that I might want to read in the Casetta—a two-volume book he had himself greatly enjoyed, "The Life of Monckton Milnes," by James Pope-Hennessy. He opened the first volume to the description of a meeting between Henry Adams and Swinburne (Adams was sure he had met a new type) and waited while I read it, chuckling in anticipation because he knew I would find it funny. He was not disappointed. He leafed through the second volume. He began to ruminate on the footnotes. "The footnotes!" he said. "How swift mortality is in footnotes; in them mortality hurtles by, don't you know. People are born, live their lives, and die in a footnote." He looked up at me from the page with his innocent, inquiring look. "Did you know that J. A. Roebuck, the radical M.P. 1801-79 . . . but there! He's gone! In footnotes the hearses are always at the double trot, aren't they?" He reached for a pencil and quickly sketched a rocking hearse, drawn by horses racing at breakneck speed. "Poor Roebuck," he murmured to himself while he was sketching. "So unseemly to rush him off like that."

Then, at Miss Jungmann's prodding, Max and I walked through the cool sunshine to the pair of staircases at the edge of the terrace. I was to go up; Max was to go down. Max was still so buoyant that he stopped at the parting of the ways. "You know," he said, "when Florence was alive, the Casetta was her domain. She did it up and used it for a study, and she abdicated it when we had guests. Desmond MacCarthy used to stay in the Casetta. Once I prepared a little surprise for him." Max paused a moment to give me time to adjust myself for the surprise. "We had a friend, a poet and playwright named Herbert Trench. He managed the Haymarket Theatre for a while. He wrote some charming lyrics, but sometimes he overextended himself. He wrote a long poem called 'Apollo and the Seaman.' When I was reading it—I don't know how or why—I found myself mentally converting it into Cockney. Later, I actually did convert it into Cockney; I had to put 'h's before vowels, and it meant also excising a great many 'h's. It required great manual dexterity and manual skill." (It was the only time I ever heard Max boast.) "It took a long time, but I did it and left it on Desmond's bed table in there." Max smiled in recollection. Here was a job of work that suited Max perfectly, since it was arduous and time-consuming and had as its objective the entertainment of one person—Max's notion of a sizable public. "Desmond was quite taken aback, don't you know. He came to me with the book, wondering what had happened to our friend Trench. He understood the Seaman, all right, but Apollo's speech seemed to him strange." Elated by a sense of achievement, Max smiled and started downstairs.

I walked up to the Caserta and went in. It consisted of a large, dark sitting room, with a kitchen and a bedroom and a bath off it. I walked across the sitting room to a door on the opposite side and, with some difficulty, opened it. I stepped out onto a dirt road. A farmer was walking a donkey hitched to a haycart past the house. He nodded and smiled at me, and I smiled hack. The difference between this road and the Via Aurelia, below, was the difference between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. This was a road, Max had told me, that Byron and Shelley and, before them, the travelling English milords of the eighteenth century had used on their way to the sea. From it, Max said, one could see the same sights they saw; Shelley, driving down it for the last time, could see the bay in which he drowned. The road was drowsing there, unaware of having moved into another epoch, and its spell was such that I found it difficult to believe that motorcars existed at all. I could not resist taking a walk on it and had just started when I heard Miss Jungmann calling me from the doorway. I returned. In her hand she was holding an immense volume magnificently bound in red morocco.

"What is that little brochure?" I asked.

"Wait," she said. "I'll show you. But first let me make you comfortable."

She led me to the sitting-room sofa, made me lie on it, and then fetched a blanket and covered me with it. "The Casetta is chilly," she said. "Yes, there is no use pretending. It is chilly. But I think you'll be warm enough with this." She put the great book on a table beside me. "I thought you might want to look at this—the Festschrift volume of tributes given to Max by his friends and admirers to commemorate his eightieth birthday. I think you will enjoy it. But first you must take a nap. First you must rest."

I said I would try.

"I'll call you for tea," she said.

Miss Jungmann was gone. I was tired. I stretched out on the sofa, but I found I couldn't sleep. I opened the great Festschrift volume. The first thing that greeted my eye was a superb full-page colored drawing of Max by Ronald Searle, the Punch cartoonist. It shows Max in a toga, with a laurel wreath on his head, at a rakish angle—the same angle at which he habitually set his straw hat. Max was the only man in the world, I thought, who could look rakish in a laurel wreath, and Ronald Searle perhaps the only man who could make him do it. Max's arms are bare, and, anachronistically, he is smoking a cigarette in a long holder. He looks infinitely bored, presumably at the echoing plaudits that, around the civilized world, greeted his eightieth birthday. The caption beneath the drawing reads, "Max Accepts with Resignation His Place Among the Classics."

I turned the vellum pages covered with tributes, in verse and prose, from the most distinguished stars in the British literary firmament. I couldn't, after that, settle down for a nap. I got up and made a tour of the little house. I sat at the desk, which was between the sofa and the window. I opened a drawer. It was full of letters addressed to Lady Beerbohm. I closed the drawer. In one of the pigeonholes was a photograph. I took it out and looked at it. The photograph was by Sarony, of New York. It was the picture of an extraordinarily lovely girl, dressed in the fashion of the nineties. I turned it over. On the back was written, in pen, in a flowing hand, "Kilseen Conover." I looked at the girl again. So this was Kilseen Conover! I stared at Kilseen, the young actress Max had fallen in love with sixty years back. One could easily see why Max had felt as he had about Kilseen. He had written rapturously from America about her to Reginald Turner, who was Max's closest friend. Max and Turner carried on a steady correspondence from 1892, when they met in Merton College, at Oxford, until Turner's death in 1938.

My thoughts travelled hack, by way of association, from Kilseen and Turner to a caricature bearing the legend "Are We As Welcome As Ever?" Max drew it in 1911. It shows five men, one of them Turner's father, entering Buckingham Palace, in full evening dress. Four of the men are grotesquely convex and one quite attenuated—even, as far as his stomach is concerned, concave. Their expressions are frowning, apprehensive, saturnine. As this was the year in which the House of Lords was gelded of its power, through the passage of the Parliament Bill, an American interpreter of Max said the caricature represented five disgruntled members of the Lords burdened by their sense of loss of power. Once, I had mentioned this interpretation to Max, who took a certain pleasure in being misunderstood, and he had chuckled. At the time, he was holding the volume in which this caricature appears, "Fifty Caricatures," on his knees. "Not at all," said Max. "It was indeed in 1911 that the House of Lords had to endure a curtailment of prerogative. But also this was not long after George V replaced King Edward VII as the chief tenant of the Palace. These five men, all of them Jewish financiers, are friends of Edward coming for the first time to see the new King George V, and being somewhat apprehensive, don't you know." Well they might have been! King Edward, like some other very rich men, was always in need of money. He liked financiers because they made it possible for him not to think about money. He spent a great deal of time abroad, in Paris and Biarritz, and particularly in Marienbad, his favorite haunt, and he was charged, not unnaturally, a king's ransom for his accommodations. While the King was abroad, his expenses at home did not diminish; his palaces had to be staffed as if he were in residence, and he was in no position to rent them. The first of the apprehensive figures in Max's caricature is Sir Ernest Cassell, who advised the King on investments. The advice he gave must have been very costly to the giver, because, in spite of it, the King owed Sir Ernest a vast sum of money when he died. There was no one who saw more of the King or was closer to him than Sir Ernest Cassell. The Marquis de Soveral, a witty diplomat from Portugal, whom Max often caricatured, and who was so ugly that he was known as the Black Monkey, was asked by the King whether he had yet seen "The Importance of Being Earnest." "No, Sir," said the Black Monkey, "but I do know the Importance of Being Sir Ernest Cassell." In Max's drawing, when these five men, with Sir Ernest in the lead—the four others are two Rothschilds, Lord Burnham, and the Baron Maurice de Hirsch—make their doleful way into Buckingham Palace to pay their respects to the new monarch, they know in advance that they are migrating from the Gulf Stream into Baffin Bay. The new monarch made no pretense of cosmopolitanism and did not need money. He was severely English; he stayed home; he lived within his means. Max's 1911 caricature conveys in advance the gelid reception the quintet will get as the little cortege passes the candelabraed mirrors in the Buckingham Palace vestibule. In their minds, they are as doleful as when they were walking behind the coffin containing the remains of their dead friend, the great bon vivant.

The most convex of the five men is Turner's father, Lord Burnham. He was the proprietor of the Daily Telegraph and a great pioneer in English journalism. He also owned the Gaiety Theatre. He was one of the celebrated men of his time. The Prince of Wales visited him every year at Hall Barn, his country place near Beaconsfield. The family name was Lawson, and the Lawsons were of obscure origin. The elder Lawson, Max told me, was very clever and made a great fortune. Turner was an illegitimate son. It is not known who his mother was. He became very curious about his mother's identity, and he was about to engage in research on the subject when he was gently advised by his solicitor not to try to find out anything about her. Max's affection and tenderness for his own mother were intense, and years after Turner's death he reflected sadly on the tragedy of a man whose mother couldn't be inquired about.

Though Turner's maternal origin is subject to dispute, there is one fact about him that is indisputable; he was regarded by all who knew him as the most engaging companion in the world, and the most loyal friend. Max pays tribute to him in an essay called "Laughter." "His face," says Max, "is a great part of his equipment." It became part of Max's equipment, too, for he drew countless caricatures of Turner. He drew countless ones of Lord Burnham also. In Max's bedroom in the Villino, there was a little mural he had painted; in it, among others, were King Edward VII, Winston Churchill, Kipling, Pinero, Lord Burnham, Reggie Turner, all mysteriously walking in the same direction. The caricatures of the last two run to noses: Reggie's bulbous, dispersed, as wide, almost, as his generosity; Lord Burnham's capable of serving, by itself, as the figurehead for a Roman galley, sharp, finlike, and, to use one of Max's favorite words about strenuous people, "propulsive."

Until Turner inherited money, he was rather meagrely provided for himself, but he was generous to others even when he couldn't afford it. Later, when he did come into money, he was generous even though he could afford it. He was one of those rather rare well-to-do men who do not plead poverty when you happen to mention that you are hard up; he had money, wasn't in the least ashamed of it, and was glad of the opportunity to be liberal to his friends—an opportunity that was seldom denied him. He was constantly giving presents—not only books, cuff links, handkerchiefs (some of these were so lovely that, Max said, they made him long for a head cold so he could flourish them), field glasses, travelling cases, chocolates, eau de cologne, umbrellas, and shirts, but even, when his imagination failed, just plain money—simple, unaffected checks. When Max got married, Turner sent him a staggering check; at least, Max and his bride were staggered by it. The amount is not specified in Max's rhapsodic letter of thanks, but the young couple were bowled over.

Though Turner was an incessant novelist, nothing at all would be known about him today were it not for the fact that he exists in Max's caricatures and in the memoirs of the famous people he enchanted in his lifetime. Arnold Bennett and H. G. Wells were devoted to him. In "The Vagrant Mood," Somerset Maugham, who has all his life been a connoisseur of amusing people, says flatly, "Reggie Turner was on the whole the most amusing man I have known." "His wit had the lightest butterfly touch," says Harold Acton, "and fluttered its wings from what he left unsaid as well as from what he said. . . . He was one of the kindest and wittiest of men." He is the character Algy in D. H. Lawrence's novel "Aaron's Rod." Turner was the only one of Oscar Wilde's friends who saw him through to the end; he was with Oscar when he died. A mot of his had cheered Wilde up a few days before his death. Reggie had come in on the dying man to find him terribly depressed. Oscar described a dream he had just had: "I dreamt that I had died and that I was supping with the dead." "I am sure," said Turner, "that you must have been the life and soul of the party."

Like many people who make a pastime of gaiety, Turner was a sad man, with a deeply tragic personal life. He was possessed also of one of the most engaging of social gifts; he was a marvellous mimic. He did Gladstone, Henry Irving, Walter Pater, Lord Morley, and English clergymen in Italian railway compartments. He made rather a specialty of ecclesiastics, lawyers, and poets, with a leaning toward poetasters. Max describes his rare faculty in the essay "Laughter":

His voice, while he develops an idea or conjures up a scene, takes on a peculiar richness and unction. If he be describing an actual scene, voice and face are adaptable to those of the actual persons therein. But it is not in such mimicry that he excels. As a reporter he has rivals. For the most part, he moves on a higher plane than of mere fact: he imagines. he creates, giving you not a person, but a type, a synthesis, and not what anywhere has been, but what anywhere might be—what, as one feels, for all the absurdity of it, just would be. He knows his world well, and nothing human is alien to him, but certain skeins of life have a special hold on him, and he on them. In his youth he wished to be a clergyman; and over the clergy of all grades and denominations his genius hovers and swoops and ranges with a special mastery. Lawyers he loves less; yet the legal mind seems to lie almost as wide-open to him as the sacerdotal; and the legal manner in all its phases he can unerringly burlesque. . . . Nor are his improvisations limited by prose. If a theme call for nobler treatment, he becomes an unflagging fountain of ludicrously adequate blank-verse. . . . Nothing can stop him when once he is in the vein. No appeals move him. He goes from strength to strength while his audience is more and more piteously debilitated. . . .

You would never, everyone agrees, want to stop Reggie once he got going. What did stop him was his own writing, yet he kept writing. He was one of those men who talk like angels and write like pedestrians. He turned out one novel after another, year in and year out. He was rueful about their failure. "With most novelists," he said, "it's their first edition that is valuable, but with mine it's the second. It doesn't exist." Some of his titles were: "Imperial Brown of Brixton," "The Steeple," "Samson Unshorn," "Count Florio and Phyllis K.," and "Cynthia's Damages." Though these books never succeeded with the public, they certainly succeeded with Max. "Usually," Max has written, "the good talker is a dead failure when he tries to express himself in writing." Max himself was an exception, and he fondly thought that Turner was, too. Max is always inquiring how Reggie is getting on with his current novel, is sure that it's much better than Reggie thinks it is, and, when it arrives and he has read it, is always delighted. Reggie's anxiety about Max's verdict on his books was so acute that he couldn't settle down to anything till he'd heard from Max. Turner realized very early that Max himself was a unique and an exquisite artist in prose, so he kept mailing his packages, endured agonies of waiting until he had heard the verdict, and, when it came, and it was favorable (it was never not favorable), retired to his room and wept. It was Turner in whom Max confided about his love affairs. Turner saw him through his first romance, with Cissie Loftus, the first of four actresses with whom Max was, at varying periods, to fall in love.

The vaudeville addicts in this country in the opening decades of the century, those fanatics who would never miss a Monday afternoon at the Palace in New York or at Keith's or the Orpheums of Boston and Philadelphia, had their counterparts in the music-hall devotees of London. The English music halls were less formal, more relaxed, than our vaudeville houses. Through the famous promenade at the back of the stalls at the Empire strolled the daughters of joy, and you could relax with them from a too tense study of the artists on the stage. William Rothenstein, in his memoirs, tells about meeting the American poet Richard Le Gallienne in the promenade at the Empire just after Le Gallienne had published a book, which irritated many of his contemporaries, called "The Religion of a Literary Man." (Max quoted to me a reviewer who said of this book that the style was "a curious blend of the New Testament and the Daily Telegraph." "Why," inquired Max, "does the man's very name sound ungrammatical?") Evidently, the price of admission at the English music halls gave you the privilege of walking around, glass in hand, and getting chummy with the artists. Max did a drawing of Richard Le Gallienne, with an immense mop of hair, like a seventeenth-century wig, smelling a rose and standing near the footlights looking up at one of the divas. He seems to be considering whether it's worthwhile to throw the rose. Beside him is a table with a brandy bottle on it, and behind him are two ladies who look very much as if they had followed him from the promenade. Max has caught them all: the two uncertain ladies, with hard, computing faces; the actress, her hands somewhat defiantly on her hips, as if challenging the poet to action. But Le Gallienne just goes on smelling his rose and perhaps adding to his concept of the religion of a literary man. Le Gallienne, says Rothenstein, was "a little self-conscious at being found in this equivocal haunt, and explained he had rather be lying on his back in an orchard, looking up at the sky through blossoming trees." Why he did not indulge his preference, he did not say; he merely stated it. The English music halls attracted a more literary and artistic crowd than did our vaudeville houses; Arthur Symons, Ernest Dawson, Herbert Home (biographer of Botticelli and architect of the Savoy Hotel), Oscar Wilde, Selwyn Image, Walter Sickert, and Max were habitues. It was at one of the famous English halls, the Tivoli, that Max first saw, and fell in love with, "the mimetic marvel," as she was billed in the advertisements, Cissie Loftus. When Max encountered Cissie, she was a little girl of sixteen, who had made a sensation singing songs and doing imitations.

The griefs and ecstasies of Max's love affair are recorded in a long series of letters he wrote to Turner. As Cissie was a mere child, though already famous when Max first saw her, he constantly refers to her in these letters as Mistress Mere. In the fantasy he wrote later, "The Happy Hypocrite," the heroine with whom the hero-villain, Lord George Hell, falls in love is also a music-hall artist, and her name is Jenny Mere. The White Child and Small Saint are other pseudonyms Max provides for Cissie. Max had many chances of meeting Cissie and talking with her, but for a very long time he was too shy; he risked it only after he had gone through agonies of pain and foreboding. Night after night, Max went "au Tivoli" to see Cissie, building up the minutiae of memory to last him until her next appearance. Max permits himself, in the privacy of his correspondence with Turner, to indulge in all sorts of fantasies about Cissie. She imitated, with exquisite delicacy, popular singers of indelicate songs; Max is riven by the thought of these ribaldries' emerging from the lips of innocence. Max's passion for Cissie was epistolary; it was sincere and deep, and Max was absorbed in it, but it is evident that he extracted from the letters he wrote to Turner the vicarious delights of a rendezvous. How long this passion would have lasted without Turner to write to about it, one cannot tell. But Turner was also a writer, and would appreciate the chimes and changes of the serial novel Max was spinning for him about Mistress Mere. He kept up the correspondence that kept up Max. Max got, as he always got from Turner, many more than the few words of sympathy he asked for, and went to the Tivoli to indulge again in the pleasures of self-laceration. Max finds the adulation of the crowds for his sweetheart unbearable; he wishes she could perform just for himself, and he is exacerbated by the suspicion that possibly Mistress Mere understands the suggestive references in the songs she is singing.

An invitation to Max to come to America from his half brother Herbert Beerbohm Tree gave him a chance to forget Cissie Loftus and to acquire a new passion to write to Turner about. That was Kilseen Conover. Max returned to London before Herbert did; Kilseen came back with the company in May of 1897, and Max picked up where he had left off with her. For a while, everything was promising. Then Kilseen went on tour. She and Max corresponded steadily, and Max missed her frightfully, and she missed him frightfully. But as the tour lengthened, the correspondence waned, and the love affair with Kilseen expired of inanition. Max then fell in love with another member of Herbert's company who was playing in London, a stellar member this time—Constance Collier. In her autobiography, "Harlequinade," Miss Collier tells of her first sight of Max. It was at one of Herbert Beerbohm Tree's famous supper parties in the Dome of his own theatre—His Majesty's—the Dome being an enormous dining room Herbert built under the eaves to entertain his friends and some of the more distinguished members of his audience after the performance of a play. Max was there, "smiling that insidious smile of his, bowing gently to his partner while his great eyes stared dreamily ahead." Constance Collier was one of the most beautiful women in the English theatre, tall and a superb actress, and is supposed to have been the model for Zuleika Dobson. I asked Max about this, and he told me she was not; the actual model was a girl he had known who died of consumption. But Max, fearful that I would go back to New York, where Constance Collier was then living, and destroy this myth, implored me, "Please, don't say anything about this. Let her think that she was!" I promised. To her dying day, Constance Collier thought that she was the model for Zuleika.

At first, Max's courtship of Constance seemed to go swimmingly. Max's mother and sisters adored her, and she adored them. Max and Constance were ideally happy. They became engaged. And then Constance, too, went on tour—Max's girls were always going on tour—and the engagement was broken. I met Miss Collier once in London after my first visit to Max in Rapallo. Miss Collier was full of curiosity and asked me all sorts of questions about him. I teased her. "How could you have been engaged to an exquisite man like Max and broken off your engagement?" I asked. Her eyes looked far off into the past. "Well, you know," she said, "Herbert sent me on tour. The leading man was tall and very handsome. We got to Manchester, and— well, you know how things are on tour." But the breaking of his engagement with Constance really devastated Max. He didn't at all blame Constance; in fact, he thought that she was right, since he lacked a driving ambition and was therefore futureless. And then, after all these failures, he met the fourth actress, Florence Kahn. Miss Kahn did not go on tour. Max knew then that all his stumblings through the forest of romance had been providentially designed to give him the ultimate happiness that he found with Florence and that he shared with her till her death.

Sitting in the diminishing light of the Casetta—I had long since given up the pretense of trying to take a nap—I wondered how often Max still thought of Cissie and Kilseen and Constance. From what I knew of Max, I suspected that they strolled through his thoughts very often. I went back to the desk and took out Kilseen's photograph again. I was staring at it when I heard Miss Jungmann's step on the flags outside. I put Kilseen hastily back in her pigeonhole.

Miss Jungmann came in. "Did you have a good nap?" she asked.

"Let's just say I feel rested," I answered.

"Good!" she said. "Poor Max! He couldn't sleep, and he's hurt his hand again. Come. We'll have tea."

I found Max in his old Merton chair in the living room, staring at his left hand. There was a purplish discoloration on it. It often happened to him that if he struck his hand while he was reaching for a book on the tea table beside his chair, a bruise would appear. Miss Jungmann had put pads on the edges of his armchair, but they did not help much. Max kept looking at the bruise—it seemed to be spreading while he looked at it—as if in self-reproach for having added to the ugliness in the world. He glanced up at me almost apologetically. "No matter what I do, if my hand strikes anything at all, these bruises come," he said.

I made light of it, of course.

"Hasn't Max got beautiful hands?" asked Miss Jungmann.

They were beautiful—the fingers strong, and square at the tips. I said as much. Max looked at his unbruised right hand; he extended the spatulate forefinger. "That," he said, "is the executive forefinger. It had to be strong or I should have been unable to draw all those caricatures, don't you know." Max spoke of his forefinger as if it were a faithful assistant who had never let him down.

"It used to be much more of a temptation to draw caricatures in the world I knew and which has now gone," Max said. "There was so much more variety in the appearances of people. They walked, and they walked slowly, so you could observe them. There were whiskers without mustaches and mustaches without whiskers, and there were so many amusing things mustaches could do and did do. Men wore beards of different shapes and different cuts; they wore their hair in varied styles; and they took much more care about their dress, and there were so many ways of dressing, which expressed individuality. Elizabeth, will you be so good—could I just have the 1907 volume, the Methuen? I had it by me just before. What have I done with it?"

Miss Jungmann explained that since it was so large, she had put it away. She now fetched it and put it on Max's knees. I sat down beside him.

I told Max that this volume, called "A Book of Caricatures" and published by Methuen in 1907, was the only book of his caricatures I did not own—that I had been unable to obtain it in America. I knew that, with the possible exception of "Rossetti and His Circle," it was considered by art critics to contain the cream of his work in the field of caricature. I noticed that his copy had on the flyleaf the inscription, in pen: "To Mama, with love, Max, 1907." It is a large book; the drawings are beautifully reproduced on cream-white stiff paper, with wide margins, and interleaved with guard sheets bearing the titles in Max's handwriting. He stopped at the first drawing, "Mr. Sargent at Work." It shows the huge figure of John Singer Sargent, in evening dress, rushing violently, with a dripping paintbrush in each hand, at an ermined model. In the foreground, three musicians—a violinist, a violist, and a cellist—are supplying mood music. Max called my attention to the hirsute variations among the three musicians. He looked up from the drawing to talk about Sargent. "You know, he and Henry James were alike in this when they talked," he said. "They seemed to chop the sentences out of themselves, with a great preliminary spouting, as of whales." Max began to heave and spout. "And when you met them at dinner parties, you felt an air of embarrassment about both of them, as if they'd never been out of an evening. And they dined out every night. Whenever I went out, there they were. One night, I was sitting across the table from James; my parody of him, in 'A Christmas Garland,' had just appeared. The lady at James's right asked for his opinion on something or other. He pointed straight at me. 'Ask that young man,' he said. 'He is in full possession of my innermost thoughts.' But James was always gentle to me; he was very nice about that parody. Edmund Gosse wrote me a charming letter about it." The letter is quoted in Evan Charteris's "Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse":

Henry James bas been eating his dinner here with us, and I am anxious to let you know that he started the subject of your Christmas Garland, and discussed it with the most extraordinary vivacity and appreciation. He was full of admiration. I told him that you had a certain nervousness about his acceptance of your parody of him, and he desired me to let you know at once that no one can have read it with more wonder and delight than he. He expressed himself in superlatives. He called the book the most intelligent that has been produced in England for many a long day." But he says you have destroyed the trade of writing. No one, now, can write without incurring the reproach of somewhat ineffectively imitating—you! 'What could be more handsome? And alas! my dear Max [and here Gosse must have sighed, remembering Max's parody of himself in that same volume], what can be more true?

Max continued, "But Sargent! One night, at some dinner, he was asked about portrait painting. He began to heave and pant, but he did get out an amusing definition. 'Oh— Portraits—A portrait painting—'" Max finally gasped it out: "'A portrait is a painting where there's always something not quite right about the mouth.'"

Max turned the page, to a caricature of Lord Althorp: a tremendous orb of a cravat, like a great pearl eardrop; above the vast cushion of the cravat a tall cylinder of stiff collar, with Lord Althorp's mustache resting on it; and then a residue consisting of a sublimely supercilious head.

I remarked on the beautiful shape of Mount Cravat.

"People of that class dressed that way in those days," said Max. "Lord Chesterfield, for example—he wore a cravat like that. In both cases, I drew the cravat first—it was the salient thing—and the rest of the caricature exhaled corollarily from it."

He next stared at Lord Ribblesdale, and Lord Ribblesdale displeased him. "Oh dear," he said, "oh dear." He reached for a pencil. He began to redraw Lord Ribblesdale. "Lower part of the face utterly incorrect—nose wrong, too. . . ." He changed pencils to get a finer point, and performed a delicate operation on Lord Ribblesdale's nose. His irritation with himself increased. "Eyelids also . . . the eyelids . . . they weren't . . ." He changed pencils to get a finer point, and did a delicate operation on Lord Ribblesdale's eyelids. He stared at the result. He took comfort. "And yet, you know, on the whole—though the drawing here and there is wrong, it is, on the whole, a good spiritual likeness."

At Winston Churchill he stared in desolation. "Very poor drawing," he said. "Beyond redemption. I drew him again a few years later. That was even worse. No, I never succeeded with Winston."

Signor Tosti showed up, the composer of "Good-Bye"—a very funny little gray-haired, gray-bearded man in a billycock bat, with great, protuberant eyes, who was grinning amiably. "Not good," Max said. "I did him well afterward. He was Queen Victoria's favorite composer, you know."

Max wasn't happy, either, when he came to Count Benckendorff, the Russian Ambassador to London, though I laughed aloud at my first meeting with this distinguished diplomat. Count Benckendorff, if you get to know him better, might entertain you in other ways, but when you first meet him, suddenly, this way, through Max's eyes, he is simply funny. "His chin should recede more," said Max, and with his pencil he somewhat unceremoniously forced the Count's chin into recession.

At Professor Ray Lankester, Max stared with affection and contrition. He forgot me and expressed a belated apology to Ray. "Dear Ray," he said, looking at the strangely disordered expanse of face, the cheeks like protoplasm in an unsettled state. "Dear Ray. He was rather hurt by this. And good heavens, I don't wonder. I only wonder that he so quickly forgave me. I wish he were alive. He was one of the most delightful men I have ever known."

He turned the page, and there was one of the oldest and dearest friends of his youth, the painter William Nicholson. When Max was a young man-about-town in London, he was always dropping into Nicholson's studio, in Appletree Yard. Max used to leave his silk hat there, and Nicholson stacked his paintbrushes in Max's silk hat. Robert Graves, who became Nicholson's son-in-law, told, in an eightieth-birthday tribute addressed to Max and delivered over the B.B.C., of looking at a collection of discarded hats in his father-in-law's studio and coining upon Max's. "It was a certain superbly glossy top hat," Graves said. "I had the curiosity to look at the lining. Inside was your visiting card. It commemorated your abandonment of London club life when you went to live in Italy. You had written:

"Once I used to perch on Max Beerbohm's pate,
But now he's become Italianate;
So here in contempt and disregard
I moulder for ever at Appletree Yard."

Now, in the Nicholson caricature, we were confronted by a gloved, wasp-waisted, dour character in a choker collar that made his eyes pop out, so that he looked like some strange fish in a suddenly electrified aquarium. Max looked lovingly at this odd creature. I said that Nicholson had done better by him than Max had done by Nicholson. Nicholson painted a portrait of Max when Max was a young man; it is a study in beauteous elegance—jeunesse dorée in full fig. Max did not defend himself. "Mrs. Nicholson used to say," he told me, "'Oh, Max, you're so good on my husbandat his worst!' I re-member when this volume arrived. I was in Portofino, and the Baroness von Hutten came with her little boy. The child recognized the Baroness's friend Nicholson. 'Kann man sehen,' he said, 'dass die Karikatur auch Kunst ist!'"

Only one drawing gave Max complete satisfaction, and that was of Lord Tweedmouth. "This is the best drawing in the book," said Max, looking happy. He did nothing to improve the drawing of Lord Tweedmouth. And indeed, though I hadn't the faintest idea who he was or what he did (he had, I later learned, a long, imposing political career), I instantly experienced a warm feeling toward Lord Tweedmouth.

The great promontory of Reginald Turner's nose jutted suddenly before us. I have never seen such a nose; it was bigger than Lord Althorp's cravat, and not so shapely.

"How did your friend Turner feel about that?" I asked.

"Oh, well, you know," said Max, "when you exaggerate as much as that, there can be no offense in it."

We then came upon H. G. Wells—"prophet and idealist, conjuring up the darling Future." Wells, all head and eyes, is talking to himself, zoning Utopia, but his remarks are being overheard by an unattractive female with glasses, holding a mathematical symbol in one hand and a baby in the other. The baby is wearing glasses, too, and is evidently to be consigned to a day nursery in Utopia, where he, or she, will be given a number.

Max kept looking at Wells and remembering him. "I walked into the Savile Club one day and saw H. G. lunching alone in the bow window," he said. "I had just finished reading 'Love and Mr. Lewisham,' and I had been so taken by it that I felt that I must speak to H. G. about it. I went up to him and told him— 'The quarrel of the young couple,' I remember saying to him, 'I thought exquisite.' Do you know . . . Do you know . . . H. G.'s eyes filled with tears. People used to say to me that H. G. was vindictive. I never saw that. He was always extraordinarily nice to me, perhaps because of that encounter in the bow window of the Savile."

A caricature captioned "Sir William Eden Revisiting Paris" somewhat mystified me. Sir William is about twelve feet tall, and he is staring, with angry defiance, at a gnomelike figure who is floating in a miasmic cloud and reaching out a clawlike hand to tear at him. "Oh," said Max. "The gnome is Whistler. Whistler did a portrait of Lady Eden. Sir William didn't like it and wouldn't pay. Whistler sued him. We were all on Whistler's side, because we knew that Sir William was very rich and we felt that he could pay without feeling it and then give the portrait, don't you know, to somebody he didn't like for a wedding present. But Whistler lost the suit."

When Max's hero and friend Sem, the French caricaturist, came along, Max was as pleased as if Sem had just come into the room. "Oh, Sem!" said Max in welcome. Sem has a very elegant little figure, with an enormous head. His eyes, though shut, are penetrating; he is drawing caricatures inside his head. Max began to talk about Sem with joy. Max's hands became very active in order to convey Sem's volatility, his mercurial gift, in life and as an artist. "My figures were all done from memory, jellied in memory, but not Sem's," Max said. "He did everything from life. He was always taking notes on people." Max's hand scribbled imaginary notes in the great white margin of his own book. "At the race track, on the beach at Dieppe, in the theatre, anywhere—a nose, the back of a neck, a forehead, an eye, the hunch of a shoulder. I never could remotely do what Sem did—instantaneous caricatures of living, moving people. There was tremendous movement in everything Sem did. And he was so funny, so amusing! We used to meet always in Dieppe. Coquelin also came every summer to Dieppe. Coquelin always had the same rooms, of course—the grandest rooms, the best vantage for seeing the fireworks. But the proprietor, M. Bloch, was a friend of ours, and as Coquelin was late one summer, and partly to share the joke and see the effect, don't you know, he consented, to coincide with Coquelin's arrival, to give us his rooms, just for a day—we couldn't possibly have afforded them. We knew how it would irritate Coquelin. Well the great man came, and Sem and I were in a position to make Coquelin a generous gesture. We invited him to see the fireworks from our rooms, because, as we modestly said, our vantage was, for once, better than his. Coquelin was so furious that he did not even answer our kind invitation. Oh, Sem used to do wonderful imitations of Coquelin. Coquelin had a reverberant voice, don't you know. Sem would start, as Coquelin would often start . . ." Max's voice became reverberant. He leaned forward over the barrier of the 1907 volume and enunciated in a slow bellow, "'MOIS, JE N'AIME PAS . . . PARLER DE MOIMÊME . . . PARCE QUE—' And then, don't you know, from the safe platform of that 'parce que,' Coquelin would take a long dive into the wonders and intricacies and triumphs of his career; it might well go on for two hours. Fascinating, too, you know. And Sem did it marvellously. He even did it for Coquelin, at my urging, and Coquelin couldn't help but laugh. There was never anyone like Sem."

Max turned a page. "And here's Coquelin," he said. "Naturally, in Dieppe." Coquelin is very fat and wears a cap and soft shoes, and his mouth is wide open in declamation.

"Is he explaining why he doesn't care to talk about himself?" I asked.

Max chuckled. "Oh, no," he said. "He's merely learning a part. There's the playscript in his hand."

The Marquis de Soveral, the Black Monkey, is startling. He is in full evening dress, wearing white gloves with black stitching; he is monocled and carries a collapsed opera hat, and his eyebrows and mustachios (they are too grandiose for the ordinary designation) divide the great circumference of his face into three fleshy parts. The eyebrows and mustachios are waxed up in baroque spirals. With all his splendor, he needs a shave. I remarked upon this. "Soveral always needed a shave," Max said. "His beard was so heavy that, directly he had razored it, it looked as if he should have razored it. That is why he was called the Black Monkey. He was really ugly, and a great success—oh, a monumental success—with women. You know, John Wilkes was very ugly and also a great success with women. He was a great talker, and so was the Marquis. Wilkes said, 'I am only a half hour behind the handsomest man in Europe.' I would say that the Marquis wasn't behind at all."

By this time, I could see that the people before Max in the book were no longer caricature subjects for him. They were the friends and acquaintances of his youth, returned to the Villino for brief communion. So many dead people, I realized, depended for their lives on Max. The room was thronged with live ghosts, dressed, in the pages of the 1907 volume, in their habits as they lived, and, in Max's evocations, speaking in their natural voices, struggling with the devils who beset them while they lived.

I stared at the vast figure of Mr. Henry Chaplin—the biggest overcoat I had ever seen, with a fur collar and fur cuffs like embankments. He is carrying a walking stick that looks short in relation to him; he is holding it up—it could obviously never reach the ground—and his face is compressed briefly but keenly between the fur collar and a close-fitting hat of some kind. "Chaplin," Max said. "He was very rich, you know. He won the Derby on a hundred-to-one shot and made a great fortune on that, but he already had a great fortune. But he spent and spent and spent—he entertained in a royal manner, wouldn't go anywhere without a special train—and finally be found himself poor. Now you see him in his old age. He was pensioned off by the Conservative Party, to which he had given great sums, and for which he had performed great services. The Conservative Party had a fund for such cases. It could only happen in England, you know."

I waited to hear what could only happen in England, but Max was making the rim of Henry Chaplin's monocle a bit firmer.

"He was a member of Parliament, and he rose in debate on an old-age-pension bill and made a vehement speech against it as destroying initiative, incentive," Max said. "He denounced it as paternalism, and whatnot. Now, everybody knew that he himself was living on just such a pension, granted him by the Conservative Party. There were, even then, Socialists in the House, and they were listening to this speech. Nobody smiled, no one in opposition rose to point this out. He had been too great a figure in his own way, too generous a figure. No, this could only happen in England."

A man named Charlie Chaine came to life in the niche. It was probably the last time he would ever be heard of, except for those who might find him in Max's book and take the trouble to inquire about him. It was perhaps his last appearance even as a ghost. The drawing in which Charlie Chaine appears is called "In Angel Court." I asked what Angel Court was, and Max said it was the stock market. The drawing shows three men—a Mr. Benjamin, a Mr. Cohen, and Chaine. Benjamin is tiny, and looks depressed. Chaine is in the center, wearing one of those cravats and smoking a cigar as big as a torpedo, up-tilted like a lance, to do battle against hostile circumstance. Cohen is tall and lanky, and looks as depressed as Benjamin. Only Chaine is defiant. They all three wear silk hats. Max told the whole story of Charlie Chaine, which perhaps only he, in al] the world, then remembered. "He was vain and self-indulgent and extravagant and high-spirited," Max said. "He was born in Kensington Palace; his mother was lady-in-waiting to the Queen. The Queen, who always had an eye for a good-looking man, picked out Charlie's father as a good match for her lady-in-waiting, of whom she was fond. She got them married off. Charlie and his wife were a very popular couple; Charlie's wife was almost as popular as he was, and so was Charlie's mistress, who was a well-known and lovely London society woman. It was accepted then—perhaps it still is—that it was all right for a man to have a mistress as long as the mistress's husband had one also; it was all right to be a mari complaisant if your wife was involved with a mari equally complaisant. And how happily married and happily mistressed and gay and well off and popular Charlie Chaine was! So popular that he attracted the attention of Solly Joel, the great African diamond millionaire. Charlie was in a wonderful position. And then he did something that Sally Joel did not like, something obscurely dishonest, and was about to be sued by Sony Joel in the courts. Charlie used to come to Dieppe with Wilson Steer and myself. Steer was very fond of him; he was so amusing and high-spirited, you couldn't help being drawn to him. When he got into this trouble with Solly Joel and the threat of this suit hung over him and all sorts of unpleasant rumors were going on about him, he dropped out of sight and I didn't see him for a very long time. Then, one day, I came out on the street after lunch somewhere, and there, sitting in a hansom, was Charlie Chaine. I shall never forget that moment. He had changed so—his expression, I mean. He looked frightened. It was terrible to see a look of fright on a face that had always expressed such gaiety and confidence. And he conveyed a sense of being in a vacuum, of being frightened in a vacuum—a kind of generalized fear, don't you know. I decided not to let Charlie see that I had seen him in this way, and I turned quickly away. But he had caught sight of me and he called to me. 'We must see each other,' he said. 'You must lunch with me.' We made a lunch appointment for the following week. The day before the appointment, I heard that he'd flown the country and was on the Continent. I never saw him again. When the 1914 war broke out, his friends got together and raised money, so that he could straighten out the off-color transaction that had alienated Sally Joel. He came back to London. He had become enormously fat. He got a job in the Civil Defense. One day, at his duties, he dropped dead."

Max took a last look at Charlie. I looked, too. With that cigar, pointed defiantly at destiny, Charlie looked as if he could surmount anything. But the cigar was wrong.

Henry James rates two drawings in the 1907 volume, the only person so honored, and Max's recollections of Henry James were gayer than those he had of poor Charlie Chaine. One of the drawings is titled "Mr. Henry James (in London);" the other, the last one in the book, "Mr. Henry James Revisiting America." It is only with the James drawings that Max indulges himself in luxuriant captions; he cannot resist imitating James's prose style. The first drawing shows James, silk-hatted and carrying an umbrella, groping through a London fog. He has his hand before his eyes, as if to be reassured by a familiar landmark. The caption, in Max's handwriting, reads:

. . . It was, therefore, not without something of a shock that he, in this to him so very congenial atmosphere, now perceived that a vision of the hand which he had, at a venture, held up within an inch or so of his eves was, with an almost awful clarity, being adumbrated . . .

In the American one, "Mr. Henry James Revisiting America," Max shows the returned expatriate surrounded by various locals, whose reaction to him is mixed. A little girl is staring at the vast dome of his head, and exults, "My! Ain't he cree-ative?" A Negro boy is doing a cakewalk in celebration of James's arrival; he is singing, "We wants you mighty badly— Yas, we doo!" An Indian chief is impassive but pleased: "Hail, great white novelist! Tuniyaba—the spinner of fine cobwebs!" A plainsman observes, "Guess i ken shoot char'cter at sight!" A Negro mammy is ecstatic: "Why, it's Masser Henry! Come to your old nurse's arms, honey!" A plump, effete Harvardian, gazing at him without enthusiasm, inquires, "What's—the matter with—James?," to which a Beacon Hill hostess answers languidly, "He's—all—right!" A Westerner with a down-tilted stogie in his mouth looks grim and says, "Who's—all—right?" To which an immense plutocrat, with his eyes shut, answers, "James!" James, not looking at anybody, lifts a deprecatory hand to still this polyphony of welcome; he is thinking (in an "Extract from His Unspoken Thoughts"):

So that in fine, let, without further beating about the bush, me make to myself amazed acknowledgment that, but for the certificate of birth which I have—so quite indubitably—on me, I might, in regarding (and, as it somewhat were, overseeing) à l'œil de voyageur, these dear good people, find hard to swallow, or even take by subconscious injection, the great idea that I am—oh, ever so indigenously !—one of them . . .

Max then showed me another caricature of Henry James, in which Max has let his prose style alone, It is quite dumb but eloquent. James is shown on his hands and knees in the corridor of a country house on a crowded weekend. It is very early in the morning. His eyes are beaded on two pairs of Edwardian shoes—a man's and a woman's. He has been staring at them for a long time; he will continue to do so. He will stare at those four shoes until they have yielded the last drop of their secret to him.

Miss Jungmann came in with tea. She took the 1907 volume carefully away, and then rejoined us. Max went on talking about Henry James.

"One day," Max said, "I was coming out of the Carlton Hotel after lunch. I had heard that there was a new story by Henry James in a review that had just been started, and I thought I would go to the Savile Club to read it. Just as I was going up the rise of Piccadilly"¬Max's hand rose with Piccadilly—"I was hailed, I was hailed by the Master himself. A certain rumbling and circumlocutionizing emerged from him. He was a great hesitater, you know, the greatest of the hesitaters. He would have been a great Parliamentarian, because in the House of Commons those who hesitate are greatly valued; a fluent speaker is apt to be considered superficial, while a hesitater, they think, is hesitating because he is deeply pondering the grave issues. Balfour was a great hesitater, and so is Winston. But that day in Piccadilly, James said he was a country cousin in town for the day and were there any exciting new pictures in any museum? I told him that indeed there was one—a new Augustus John in the Grafton Galleries. He asked me then if I couldn't take him along to see it. I don't know why, I shall never know why, but I feigned a previous engagement. Henry James walked on alone, and I made my way to the Savile to read his story. I preferred, somehow, to be with the Master's work rather than with the Master himself."

Miss Jungmann and I thought that this was, in itself, a Henry James story. We urged Max to write it.

"I am beyond composition," he said. Nevertheless, encouraged by us, he said he might.

"We will make a writer out of you yet, Max!" I said.

Max did write it. It was the next to last literary task he ever undertook. He called it "An Incident," and it was published in the revised edition of "Mainly on the Air."

Max went on talking about James. "I had my difficulties with him," Max said. "He wrote in a deprecatory manner about Bennett's 'Old Wives' Tale.' I think it the finest novel that has been produced in England in this century. I remember James's saying, when I expressed this opinion to him, 'What's it all about?'" At this enormity, Max put down his teacup. He resumed the argument with Henry James. "'What's it about? What's it about?' Why, I told him, it's about the passing of time, about the stealthy merging of youth into age, the invisibility of the traps in our own characters into which we walk, unwary, unknowing. 'WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?'!"

To soothe Max, I asked him about Arnold Bennett. I referred to an uncomplimentary remark he had made about Bennett. Bennett had made some gaffe about the hanging of a picture in the National Gallery to its director, which was a reckless thing to do. Someone said to Max, recounting it, "A.B. made a fool of himself." "Made a fool of himself?" said Max.

"Oh, well, you know," Max replied, "it's this same thing of having to know everything, of being omniscient, of being unable to say the simple words 'I don't know.' Arnold was a card, all right, but without guile. At his birth, his good fairy must have promised, 'I will make him ill-favored, crude, egotistical, but I will give him a stutter that will draw people to him, make them sympathetic to him, and listen to him.' And he used the stutter marvellously, don't you know—with a great sense of timing. I believe it was Siegfried Sassoon who told me a story which illustrates this. He was at some party; I think he said Aldous Huxley was there, and Bennett, and there was great and acrid discussion about some vastly popular lady writer whose work they all despised. There was tremendous and profound discussion of her defects—on psychological grounds, on spiritual grounds, on the grounds of taste. When they were all done with their dissertations, Bennett said, 'I'll tell you what's the trouble with that woman. She c-c-c-CAN'T WRITE!'"

By this time, Max had got over his difference with James, and he returned to him. "James greatly wished to be a novelist, but he was not essentially a novelist, he was an evocative writer," Max said. "The Pagoda passage in 'The Golden Bowl,' for example. No one in the world could have written that but James. Often what he called his donnée was a dubious gift, don't you know. Still, I return to him and return to him; I read him and read him. I find, don't you know, after I've read this one and that one, that I feel like reading James."

I mentioned that Miss Jungmann had told me he had been reading to her from "Partial Portraits" the night before. What had he been reading?

The little book was by his side. He picked it up and opened it. As he leafed through the pages, he stopped, caught by a passage. "This is touching," he said. "This always gives me a pang when I come upon it."

I asked what it was.

"The end of James's essay on Daudet," he said, and he read aloud:

Daudet is bright, vivid, tender; he has an intense artistic life. And then he is so—free. [Max emphasized the word and looked up at me to see whether it had registered.] For the spirit that moves slowly, going carefully from point to point, not sure whether this or that or the other will—"do," the sight of such freedom is delightful.

Max paused. He forgot that he had been looking for something else. He was lost for the moment in thought. "Dear Henry James," he said, as if sympathizing with his old friend for not feeling free.

To take his mind off it, Miss Jungmann said, "But it was about Turgenev you were reading to me last night."

"Oh, yes." Max turned the pages, and quickly found the passage. Before he began to read, he addressed an explanatory remark to me. "You know, James had just come from the service at the Gare du Nord when Turgenev's coffin was being sent to Russia. Renan and About had stood beside the train and delivered eulogies. James describes beautifully what Renan said about Turgenev, but what he has to say himself about Turgenev is equally beautiful."

It had got dark in the room. Miss Jungmann turned on a lamp for Max. Holding the book under it, he began to read; he read exquisitely, quietly, without inflection, merely allowing James's words, as he had set them down, to make their effect:

I shall never forget the impression be made upon me at that first interview. I found him adorable; I could scarcely believe that he would prove—that any man would prove—on nearer acquaintance so delightful as that. Nearer acquaintance only confirmed my hope, and he remained the most approachable, the most practicable, the least unsafe a man of genius it has been my fortune to meet. He was so simple, so natural, so modest, so destitute of personal pretension and of what is called the consciousness of powers, that one almost doubted at moments whether he were a man of genius after all. Everything good and fruitful lay near to him; he was interested in everything; and be was absolutely without that eagerness of self-reference which sometimes accompanies great, and even small, reputations. He had not a particle of vanity; nothing whatever of the air of having a part to play or a reputation to keep up. . . .

Max's voice went on reading, his head under the lamp. Something made me look at Miss Jungmann. Her eyes were full of pain. We were surely thinking the same thing. 

(This is the sixth of a series of seven articles.)

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