S. N. Behrman
The New Yorker
 March 5, 1960: 47-119

On an exceedingly cold afternoon in the winter of 1954, during one of several periods I spent in Rapallo in order to be able to make frequent visits to Max Beerbohm's home, the Villino Chiaro, I saw an encouraging announcement in the lobby of the Excelsior Hotel. "La Bohème," I read, was to be given that evening in a theatre, ordinarily devoted to motion pictures, in the town of Santa Margherita Ligure, a mile away. I was staying at the Excelsior, and since my room there was extremely cold—about as cold as the Villino was once you got outside the immediate orbit of Max's fireplace—I assumed that it would he warmer in the theatre, and asked Turco, the concierge, to get me a ticket. The movie theatre turned out to be packed, and it was warm, even stifling. The singers, according to the announcement, had illustrious histories; they had managed to escape, momentarily, from the confines of La Scala, and Santa Margherita was to be congratulated on having caught them while they were on a busman's holiday. I had never before sympathized so acutely with the efforts of Rodolfo and the other starving artists in their garret to keep warm. When they fell with such avidity on the food that one of them brought in, the effect was not quite convincing, because the starvelings were enormously fat and looked as if what they needed was strict dieting, but the acrobatics in which they indulged to stave off the cold were something I had learned to understand. They gave each other huge slaps on the back; they hugged themselves exuberantly; they danced about and jumped up and down to get their circulations stirring. I left at the end of the first act; it was much too warm. After driving back to the Excelsior, I got into bed with a hot-water bottle and read Max's wonderful description of George Moore's receding chin—it kept advancing and receding—in a reprint of a B.B.C. broadcast he had delivered in 1950 but had written, in 1913, as a sketch to be included in his unfinished novel "The Mirror of the Past."

The next afternoon, I arrived at the Villino at four o'clock, and I found Max sitting in front of the fire. He was wearing a heavy sweater I had brought him from America as a present, plus a wool stole I had brought his secretary, Miss Elizabeth Jungmann. I told him about my excursion of the night before, and his shoulders shook with laughter.

"Although you have never been given a release from La Scala," I said, "I hear that you are something of a singer yourself, even a radio singer—though not a crooner," and I explained to Max about American crooners and what a vogue they had once had. I was referring to the fact that in another B.B.C. broadcast he made, on the music halls of his youth, he had ventured into song.

My remark set Max off. He began to sing from the repertory of one of the favorite music-hall comedians of his youth, George Robey. When Max sang, he leaned far forward in his chair, his expression immensely solemn. Assuming an air of honest indignation and injured innocence, he sang, in full Cockney but with unimpaired diction, a song of George Robey's. Max's eyebrows became very active; they twitched in Pecksniffian outrage. The burden of the song was that Robey had been accused by malevolent spirits of playing Peeping Tom at the bathing machines at Brighton. When Max came to the end of the song, his voice and eyebrows cried out in gruesomely lascivious protest:

"Did I go near the bathing machine? NAOW!"

Max had adored Robey. He smiled as he spoke of Robey's impersonation, in a sketch, of Queen Berengaria; evidently she was putting on the royal raiment in a bathing machine, and her sudden startled expression, half reluctant, half experimental, indicated that the Queen was herself suspicious that George Robey was lurking somewhere in the vicinity. When Robey died, Max said, he had been given a memorial service at St. Paul's. This had afforded Max intense amusement, and, he said, it would have afforded the same to Robey. "Pity he couldn't have been informed!"

Max then imitated Marie Lloyd singing "Oh, Mr. Porter": "I wanted to go to Birmingham and they're taking me to Crewe." To Marie, Max, a few years before, had paid an obituary tribute over the B.B.C. "It is strange," Max had said, "that of all the women of the Victorian Era the three most generally remembered are Queen Victoria herself, and Miss Florence Nightingale, and—Marie."

When Max was sixteen, his half brother Julius, who was then twice his age, had taken him to dinner at the Café Royal and then to his first music hall, the Pavilion, to hear The Great Macdermott—"a huge old burly fellow, with a yellow wig and a vast expanse of crumpled shirt-front that had in the middle of it a very large, not very real diamond stud." It was at a moment of anti-Russian tension, because of repressive measures taken by the Czar against the Nihilists, and The Great Macdermott, it appeared, had had an interview with the Prime Minister about it. This was odd—as if Eisenhower were to consult Jimmy Durante about certain Russian tensions now—but it was so. Macdermott, Max says, did not regard the interview as confidential. He sang about it the night Max first heard him:

"'What would you like to do, My Lord?' I asked Lord Salisburee."

Fond of tracing words to their sources, Max remembered that the word "jingo," as a symbol of effervescent patriotism, had been introduced in a music-hall song by this same Macdermott. It was at a moment when Russia appeared to be threatening Turkey, then (as now) England's ally. Max, imitating Macdermott, became quite bellicose, unusual for him:

"We don't want to fight, but, by jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money, too!
We fought the Bear before, and while Britons shall be true,
The Russians shall not have Constantinople!"

I chided Max for being so possessive about Constantinople.

He relaxed from his belligerence and said that he didn't want it for himself, he just didn't want the Russians to have it.

I remembered that Miss Jungmann had told me he had once written a song for the music-hall entertainer Albert Chevalier, and I asked him about that.

"Oh," he said, "I wrote it, but I never offered it to Chevalier. I did meet him, though. Macdermott was enormous, Chevalier small and electric. He did caster songs and wore pearlies. He had a song, which I can't sing—it would be an injustice to him—called `You Can't Get a Roise Out o' Oi.' But I'll try two lines from another."

Max sang:

"It isn't so much what 'e sez,
It's the nahsty way 'e sez it"

"Chevalier's songs," he went on, "always had a clear form. They were well constructed. I knew them all by heart once. I got into his mind, don't you know, and, emboldened by this, I ventured to construct a song that, it seemed to me, he might have written himself. It tells about an old barman whom Chevalier had known and loved and who was dead and whose pub was now being run by his son. The song I wrote was called 'But 'E'll Never Be the Man 'Is Father Woz,' and the chorus went like this." Max treated me to a private performance of the song, which he had also sung on his broadcast:

"I drops in to see young Ben
In 'is tap-room now an' then,
And I likes to see 'im gettin' on becoz
'E's got pluck and 'e's got brains,
And 'e takes no end o' pains,
But—'e'll never be the man 'is Father woz."

On the B.B.C., Max told his audience why he had never submitted the song to Chevalier. "Nothing so irks a creative artist as to be offered an idea, good or bad," he said. "And I did not irk Chevalier."

But Max's special affection, in the teeming past that so crowded his present, went out to two Lilliputians who were giants of the old music halls—Little Tich and Dan Leno. These two were friends of his. "Little Tich!" Max said. "He was tiny. I felt gross beside him, and yet, you know, I couldn't have been so much larger, because I remember the time I was asked to appear and speak at some charity or other organized by the Playgoers' Club. The presiding officer was just about to call on me when some bigwig, some Eminence or other, made his sudden appearance. The chairman was so bowled over by this irruption that he quite lost his head. With a wave toward me, he said, 'And now I have the honor to announce Sir Tich?' It made it easy for me to speak, you know. I apologized, I believe, for having forgotten my great boots. He used to slosh about—Little Tich—in great boots. They were as long as himself. He had them specially made, and the walk he managed in them was—well, incommunicably funny. It was . . ." Max's feet did a slosh on the carpet. "No, it cannot be imitated. He had a sad face. So did Dan Leno—the saddest face, I believe, I have ever known. Little Tich told me this story himself. When his son was born, he was in a state of great anxiety, and he was sitting on the stairs, with his head bowed in his hands and wondering how everything was going, and presently the doctor came along and comforted him. 'It's all right, my little man,' he said. 'You've got a baby brother.' When the baby brother grew up, Little Tich worried dreadfully about him. He wanted his son to take holy orders. I met him one night in a pub near His Majesty's—my brother Herbert's theatre—and found the dear man in a state of particular depression. 'Oh!' he said. 'My boy! I don't know what will become of him. He is not serious. He is not religious. I am afraid he hasn't a vocation. Instead of studying, he prefers to hang around your brother's theatre. He's probably in there right this minute. If he can't get a seat, he stands at the back of the stalls!' He was a marvellous mime, Little Tich. He was a succès fou in Paris—even more than in London. But Dan Leno was a great artist, the greatest artist of them all."

Not having to worry about boots, Max was able to imitate Dan Lena. He did it with his fingers. "The greatest thing he ever did—at least, to my taste—was a scene in a shoeshop. He made you see everything. He wrote his patter himself, and it was trenchant and shattering. Well, in the shoeshop, a mother comes in with a little boy. Dan skips over to her." Max did the skip with his hands, in little staccato jumps. "He asks the mother how old the little boy is. Three. Three! Leno is lost in admiration. He can't repress his amazement and wonder, don't you know, that a little boy of three could be so precocious, so mature, so altogether delectable. Then he skips up the stepladder." Max's fleet fingers skipped up the stepladder. "And he rummages around for the shoes. Red boots with white buttons she wanted. While he's up there, on top of the stepladder, he keeps looking down at the boy, as if he had never before seen such a cynosure. But he can't find the proper shoes. He rummages around with increasing desperation among the boxes." Now both of Max's hands were rummaging around wildly and helplessly among the shoeboxes. "He produces a multitude of shoes, but the mother won't accept them. By this time, his attitude toward the little boy has changed, don't you know. He becomes somewhat critical of the little boy—even homicidal. Oh, it was wonderful, but it is impossible to describe," said Max as he finished describing it.

Max continued to talk about Dan Lena. "You know, Constance Collier—she was a member of Herbert's company at His Majesty's—once told me an extraordinary story about Leno. She came home late one evening, after her performance—it was very late; she had been out to supper, I imagine—to her flat, in Shaftesbury Avenue. She noticed a brougham before her door as she went in. There in her sitting room was Dan Leno. He had been there for hours. Constance had never met him, but, of course, she was thrilled to see him. What do you suppose he wanted? Now, mind you, you must remember that at this very moment Dan Leno was the idol of England; he could do no wrong with his public, which adored him. Well, he wanted to play Shakespeare. That is why he had waited, and kept a brougham with a coachman on the seat waiting—because he wanted to enlist Constance's sympathy for his ambition to play Shakespeare. He wanted to meet my brother. Constance arranged it. She brought Dan Leno to Herbert. But nothing came of it. Why wouldn't Herbert employ him He would have been wonderful—Dan—as one of Shakespeare's downs. I didn't know about it or I should have pleaded with Herbert."

Max looked at me sorrowfully. "He was a sad man, Dan Leno. Wildly generous. Surrounded always, don't you know, by a crowd of hangers-on and sycophants to whom he gave freely whatever they asked." In "Around Theatres," the two volumes of his collected drama criticisms, Max pays a more formal tribute to Dan Leno. He writes his obituary notice, and he is not buoyant, as he was when he performed the same office for Henrik Ibsen. Lena died in 1904, at the age of forty-five. Max writes:

So little and frail a lantern could not long harbour so big a flame. Dan Leno was more a spirit than a man. It was inevitable that he, cast into a life so urgent as is the life of a music-hall artist, should die untimely. Before his memory fades into legend, let us try to evaluate his genius. For mourners there is ever a solace in determining what, precisely, they have lost. . . . Well, where lay the secret of that genius? How came we to be spell-bound? . . . In every art personality is the paramount thing, and without it artistry goes for little. Especially is this so in the art of acting, where the appeal of personality is so direct. . . . Dan Leno's was not one of those personalities which dominate us by awe, subjugating us against our will. He was of that other, finer kind: the lovable kind. He had, in a higher degree than any other actor that I have ever seen, the indefinable quality of being sympathetic. I defy anyone not to have loved Dan Leno at first sight. The moment he capered on, with that air of wild determination, squirming in every limb with some deep grievance, that must be outpoured, all hearts were his. That face puckered with cares . . . yet ever liable to relax its mouth into a sudden wide grin and to screw up its eyes to the vanishing point over some little triumph wrested from Fate, the tyrant; that poor little battered personage, so "put upon" yet so plucky with his squeaking voice and his sweeping gestures; bent but not broken; faint but pursuing; incarnate of the will to live in a world not at all worth living in—surely all hearts went always out to Dan Leno, with warm corners in them reserved to him for ever and ever.

Max served as regular drama critic of the Saturday Review from May of 1898 to the sixteenth of April, 1910, when he wrote his valedictory piece to his readers, as Shaw had done when he retired from the same post in May of 1898. "Most of the plays when I worked for the Saturday," Max told me, remembering them in tranquillity, "were written by either Naomi Greckle or Mr. Tompkins"—generic names he had invented for indistinguishable playwrights. Max had suffered much from Naomi at Herbert's house, long before he became a drama critic. Managers, especially actor-managers, didn't take kindly to reading; they preferred to have plays read aloud to them. Herbert would invite Naomis and Tompkinses to his house and have them read their plays to him and his wife in the drawing room when he came back from his own performances. Often, Max was invited to listen, and shared his sister-in-law's agonies. Max used to dread these readings. He would watch a Naomi turn the reluctant pages of her typescript, and he would become involved in a breathless computation—comparing the number of pages that had been turned to the number that were still virginal. He would begin to "work out little sums in rule of three, with an eye on the clock. Disheartening little sums!" He learned to cultivate an expression, during these readings, of "animated receptivity." He also practiced occasional murmurs and ejaculations of a kind that had an ambiguous neutrality and that Naomi could interpret, hopefully, as expressions of pleasure. Now, as Max and I talked, all that he remembered of these plays was that they had screens in them. The first stage direction usually read, "A Drawing Room in Mayfair. At back, right, a large Chinese screen." The nationality of the screens might vary but not their presence. The moment you heard that stage direction, you knew that someone, ultimately, was going to hide behind the screen and overhear something disastrous. Max used to wait for the moment when someone got behind the screen, and once that had happened, he knew he could revert to his private thoughts. Naturally, as the younger brother of the great Herbert Beerbohm Tree, he kept meeting Naomi Greckle and Mr. Tompkins all the time. He also met all the leading and lesser mimes. (Max almost invariably referred to actors as mimes.) This intensive acquaintance in the theatrical world added to Max's self-disqualification for the job he took in 1898. In his introductory article as drama critic for the Saturday, headed "Why I Ought Not to Have Become a Dramatic Critic," he argued it eloquently as part of his own brief for the prosecution, though without effect:

Of the literary quality in any play, I shall perhaps be able to say something, but I shall be hopelessly out of my depth in criticising the play itself. The mere notion of criticising the players simply terrifies me, not because I know (as, indeed, I do) nothing about the art of acting, but because I have the pleasure of personal acquaintance with so many players. One well-known player and manager is my near relative. Who will not smile if I praise him? How could I possibly disparage him? Will it not be hard for me to praise his rivals? If I do anything but praise them, what will become of the purity of the Press? Most of the elder actors have patted me on the head and given me sixpence when I was "only so high." Even if, with an air of incorruptibility, I now return them their sixpences, they will yet expect me to pat them on the head in the Saturday Review. Many of the younger actors were at school with me. They will expect me to criticise them as an old playmate should. . . . My whole position is unfortunate. I have the satiric temperament: when I am laughing at any one, I am generally rather amusing, but when I am praising any one, I am always deadly dull. Now, such is the weakness of my character that I cannot say in print anything against a personal acquaintance. I think I have met all the habitual playwrights in my time. . .

He disqualifies himself even further. He disqualifies himself ultimately:

I will not raise in my readers hopes which I cannot realize for them. It is best to be quite frank. Frankly, I have none of that instinctive love for the theatre which is the first step towards good criticism of drama. I am not fond of the theatre. Dramatic art interests and moves me less than any of the other arts. I am happy among pictures, and, being a constant intruder into studios, have learnt enough to know that I know nothing whatever about painting—knowledge which, had I taken to what is called "art-criticism," would have set me head-and-shoulders above the great majority of my colleagues. Of music I have a genuine, though quite unenlightened, love. Literature I love best of all, and I have some knowledge of its technicalities. I can talk intelligently about it. I have my little theories about it. But in drama I take, unfortunately, neither emotional nor intellectual pleasure.

Having cleared his soul in full confession, Max trots off blithely to review "The Beauty Stone," by Arthur Wing Pinero, Comyns Carr, and Arthur Sullivan, of which he wrote, "I am sorry that I have not found much to praise in 'The Beauty Stone.' I should like it to have a long run, though I would rather not be invited to the hundredth night." He trotted for twelve years.

In spite of the myriad disqualifications and formidable handicaps, Max's drama criticisms, which, like his caricatures, he signed "Max," can still be read with delight. Because they convey his own personality and his own attitude toward life, they have an extraordinary vivacity and contemporaneity. As most of Naomi's product was instantly dismissible, Max was able to devote the rest of his articles to himself. Though the plays and the players are gone, Max's criticisms are very much left. The animating spirit of all Max's criticism—as, indeed, of all his writing—is a cultivated common sense. His congenital inability to like what he should like when it happens that he doesn't like it is everywhere manifest. He refuses, for example, to be knocked over by Eleonora Duse, who acted in Italian, for the bizarre reason that he doesn't know what she was talking about. He starts a review of her performance as Hedda Gabler, in Italian, as follows: "Eecosstoetchiayoomahnioeevahrachellopestibahantamahntamfahntafahnta . . . shall I go on?" He does go on to explain that that is what the whole thing sounded like to him. The article is headed "An Hypocrisy in Playgoing," and he apologizes for his brutality, on the ground that "only by brutal means can humbug be combated, and there seems to me no form of humbug sillier and more annoying than the habit of attending plays that are acted in a language whereof one cannot make head or tail." In an earlier piece on Duse—she played Gioconda—he has a good time envying the other drama critics. Since they have praised Duse so immoderately—her every nuance, her every intonation—he assumes that, of course, they all know Italian as well as they know English, and he envies them their bilinguality. He is disrespectful, too, about Sarah Bernhardt, whom he saw play Hamlet: "The only compliment one can conscientiously pay her is that her Hamlet was, from first to last, très grande dame." That piece is called "Hamlet, Princess of Denmark." "The Tame Eaglet" tells about Sarah as the young Duc de Reichstadt in Rostand's "L'Aiglon." Max finds the play an interminable bore; "the trouble" with Sarah's performance, he says, "is that to everyone she looks like a woman, walks like one, talks like one, is one." He continues, "That primary fact upsets the whole effort, mars all illusion. As the part would be tedious even if it were played by a man, I may seem captious in grumbling that it is played by a woman. My displeasure, however, is not that the eaglet is played by Mme. Bernhardt, but that she plays the eaglet." Next time he sees Sarah, she is playing a woman, the title role in "La Sorcière;" by this time Sarah herself is an old lady. Max is gallant; he recognizes the occasion as a last chance and thinks of the time he saw the aged Queen Victoria, in an old-fashioned barouche, on the way to Paddington Station. When he saw the Sovereign driving by, he remembered the phantoms of the past—Melbourne and the Duke, Louis Philippe, Palmerston, Peel, Disraeli. Now he thinks of Sarah:

My imagination roved back to lose itself in the golden haze of the Second Empire. My imagination roved back to reel at the number of plays that had been written, the number of players whose stars had risen and set, the number of theatres that had been demolished, since Sarah's debut. The theatrical history of more than forty years lay strewn in the train of that bowing and bright-eyed lady. The applause of innumerable thousands of men and women, now laid in their graves, was still echoing around her. And still she was bowing, bright-eyed, to fresh applause. . . . For all the gamut of her experience, she is still lightly triumphant over time. . . . Hers is the head upon which all the ends of the world are come, and the eyelids are not at all weary.

But the next day, at a matinée, Sarah reverted to type and played Pelléas in Maeterlinck's "Pelléas and Mélisande." Mrs. Campbell played Mélisande in French. Max didn't go. He stayed away on the assumption that Mrs. Campbell spoke French as exquisitely as she did English and that Sarah's Pelléas was "not, like her Hamlet and her Duc de Reichstadt, merely ladylike." But he wouldn't risk these illusions by having a look. It is one of the most interesting reviews ever written by a critic who hadn't seen the show.

Max was not a balletomane. Even though he was enchanted by the French ballerina Adeline Genée, whom he described as "light and liberal as foam," he had certain objections to the art form as a whole. Max was a word-lover, and he didn't see why ballet shouldn't, like opera, employ words, to give him a hint as to what was going on. "When a ballerina lays the palms of her hands against her left check, and then, snatching them away, regards them with an air of mild astonishment, and then, swaying slightly backwards, touches her forehead with her fingertips, and then suddenly extends both arms above her head," he wrote in one article, "I ought of course to be privy to her innermost meaning!' But he isn't. He doesn't know what the palms of her hands are saying. He doesn't know whether she is happy or unhappy. He begins to suspect that she isn't thinking anything, that "such power of thought as she may once have had was long since absorbed into her toes."

Reviewing "Andromache," by the revered Gilbert Murray, Max admits that the Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford can translate but he wishes that he could also write. For Max, Gorki's "The Lower Depths" "is no 'slice' of life. It is chunks, hunks, shreds, and gobbets, clawed off anyhow, chucked at us anyhow. . . . Mere gall is no better than mere sugar. It is worse." Max didn't think that writers become artists merely by choosing depressing subjects. In forgiveness of the lapses of Dan Leno, he writes, "Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best." Of William Gillette in "Clarke," by William Gillette: "Mimes ought never to write plays." Mr. W. S. Gilbert "for all his metrical skill is as unpoetical as any man who ever lived." On soliloquies in drama: "Talking to oneself has this obvious advantage over any other form of oratory or gossip; one is assured of a sympathetic audience. But it has also this peculiar drawback; it is supposed to be one of the early symptoms of insanity." On "Peter Pan": "To remain, like Mr. Kipling, a boy, is not at all uncommon. But I know not anyone who remains, like Mr. Barrie, a child." On honor among drama critics: "We dramatic critics are, like the Metropolitan Police Force, a very fine body of men." He is sent two volumes by Clement Scott, "The Drama of Yesterday and Today," to review. The mere sight of them makes his heart sink: "If I'm not very careful, I shall soon have that deadliest of all assets, a theatrical library." His review of Henry James's "The High Bid" is a masterpiece of devoted evasion. He concentrates on six words of the dialogue: "'What are you exactly?' asks Captain Yule of the aged and shabby butler who is in charge of the house; 'I mean, to whom do you beautifully belong?' There, in those six last words, is the quintessence of Mr. James; and the sound of them sent innumerable little vibrations through the heart of every good Jacobite in the audience." Max turns the rest of his review into a tribute to James as a literary artist. At the very end, he remembers that he is reviewing his play, which he has so far scarcely mentioned, and apologizes: "My excuse must be that of all that I love in Mr. James' mind so very little can be translated into the sphere of drama."

One day that winter, at the Villino, Miss Jungmann amused Max and me by recalling the time she saw Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" in Genoa, played there under the title "L'Importanza di Essere Serioso." It led Max into a discussion of the play. He thought it a masterpiece. "The scene in the last act—Miss Prism and the luggage left in the cloakroom at Victoria Station, and the intrusion of that innocuous drink—surely that is one of the funniest scenes ever written." When Max reviewed a revival of the play in 1902, he wrote:

Last week, at the St. James', was revived "The Importance of Being Earnest," after an abeyance of exactly seven years—those seven years which, according to scientists, change every molecule in the human body, leaving nothing of what was there before. And yet to me the play came out fresh and exquisite as ever, and over the whole house almost every line was sending ripples of laughter—cumulative ripples that became waves, and receded only for fear of drowning the next line. In kind the play always was unlike any other, and in its kind it still seems perfect. I do not wonder that now the critics boldly call it a classic, and predict immortality. And (timorous though I am apt to be in prophecy) I join gladly in their chorus.

I reminded Max that Shaw had panned the play when it was first presented, seven years earlier; he had seen nothing funny in it. Max, who admired Shaw's drama criticism more than almost anything else of his, was impressed by Shaw's ability to resist it. "Perhaps while the play was going on," he said, 'he was improving his theory of rent." Max then went on to talk about the ideas in Shaw's plays. "Shaw's judgments were often scatterbrained," he said, "but at least he had brains to scatter." When Max was a drama critic, he devoted an immense amount of ambivalent attention to Shaw. As he himself said in a dedicatory letter to Gordon Craig, written as a preface for "Around Theatres":

One thing I never could, from first to last, make up my mind about; and that thing was the most salient phenomenon "around theatres" in my day: "GBS." Did I love his genius or hate it? You, of course, survey it from the firm rock of your ideals. I wish I had had a rock of some sort. I went wavering hither and thither in the strangest fashion, now frankly indignant, now full of enthusiasm, now piling reservation on reservation, and then again frankly indignant. My vicissitudes in the matter of GBS were lamentable.

Even before he took over Shaw's post, he had written articles about Shaw in the Saturday. A series of two articles were called "Mr. Shaw's Profession," and were inspired by Mrs. Warren's. Shaw's great gift, Max said in one of them, lay in his wild and irresponsible Irish humor. Max loved the comic plays "Arms and the Man" and "You Never Can Tell;" the serious plays, like "Mrs. Warren's Profession" and "Widowers' Houses," he questioned. He reproached William Archer for taking Shaw's serious plays seriously. "Archer," he said, "would rather see a man trying to be serious than succeeding in being funny." As for Shaw's "philosophy," he said that it rested, "like Plato's Republic, on a profound ignorance of human nature." In Shaw's serious plays, he wrote, "the men are all disputative machines, ingeniously constructed, and the women, who almost without exception belong to the strange cult of the fountain-pen, are, if anything, rather more self-conscious than the men." He went on:

Mr. Shaw's penetrating eye is of great use to him in satire or in criticism. He is one of those gifted observers who can always see through a brick wall. But the very fact that a man can see through a brick wall means that he cannot see the brick wall. It is because flesh and blood make no impression on the X-rays that Herr Röntgen is able to show us our bones and any latchkeys that may have entered into our hands. Flesh and blood are quite invisible to Mr. Shaw. He thinks that because he cannot see them they do not exist, and that he is to be accepted as a realist. I need hardly point out to my readers that he is mistaken.

In 1900, reviewing Shaw's "You Never Can Tell," Max commented on "[this] author’s peculiar temperament and attitude, of which the manifold contradictions are so infinitely more delightful, even when they make us very angry, than the smooth, intelligible consistency of you or me." In 1901, he wrote, "Assuming that Mr. Shaw will live to the age of ninety (and such is world's delight in him that even then his death will seem premature), I find that he has already fulfilled half his life span . . . but as a personality he is immortal." In 1902, again discussing "Mrs. Warren's Profession," he wrote, ". . . having seen it acted, I am confirmed in my heresy that it is, as a work of art, a failure. But the failure of such a man as 'G.B.S.' is of more value than a score of ordinary men's neat and cheap successes. . . . 'Mrs. Warren' is a powerful and stimulating, even an ennobling, piece of work—a great failure, if you like, but also a failure with elements of greatness in it." In 1904, he was saying, "Of all our playwrights Mr. Shaw is by far the most richly gifted with this [dramatic] humour."

Max was all on the side of the New Movement in the theatre of his time, particularly in the repertory experiment at the Court Theatre, where Shaw's first plays were produced, by Harley Granville-Barker. The business manager was J. E. Vedrenne. Max thought that a performance of "The Devil's Disciple," in which Barker played General Burgoyne, was so bad that in his review he insists that Vedrenne not only cast and stage-managed the production but played Burgoyne as well. He heads the review "Mr. Vedrenne," and begs the latter not to imitate so sedulously Barker's stage mannerisms. In other Shaw reviews he heaps scorn on the West End managers, who will not give Shaw a chance in the commercial theatre, on the theory that the public goes to the theatre just to be amused. Writing about Shaw's "John Bull's Other Island," Max repeats their stale phrase: "'just to be amused.' There is much besides amusement to be got out of this play (a fact which would, I suppose, form the manager's silly excuse for not producing it)."

It was not the esprit de corps which sometimes makes drama critics tolerant when one of them writes a play that made Max do battle for the plays of his predecessor on the Saturday. He knew at once that they were something new, removed by light-years from the works of Naomi Greckle—"brewed," as he said "of skimmed milk and stale water"—to which he was subjected in the commercial theatre. Moreover, he knew that Shaw's plays would be, once they got their proper hearing and the slow public got used to them, what the commercial managers claimed they could never be—commercial. When "You Never Can Tell" was put on for six matinees, Max protested. He wrote:

Six matinees! Why are the commercial speculators who control theatres so obtuse as not to run Mr. Bernard Shaw for all he is worth? I assure them that he would be worth a very great deal to them. In the course of the next decade or two, they will begin to have some glimmerings of this fact. Meanwhile, they shake their heads and purse their lips at the sound of his name. "Very clever, no doubt," they pronounce him; "much too clever; over the heads of the public." Of course his head is over the heads of the public; but I protest that he is no mere cherub, that his feet are set solidly on the ground, and that his body is in touch with the crowd. Even had I not already witnessed Kennington's enthusiasm for "The Devil's Disciple," my visit to the Strand Theatre would have convinced me that Mr. Shaw, as he stands, is a man who might save many managers the trouble of going bankrupt over the kind of plays in which they see "money." I have never fallen into the error of overrating the public, but I take this opportunity of insinuating to purveyors of farce and melodrama that the public's stupidity has its limits. Several farces and melodramas have been withdrawn lately after the shortest runs, for the simple reason that they were not good enough for the public. To provide something beneath the public is quite as disastrous as to provide something above it. In the latter case, moreover, disaster is no ignominy. Might it not, sometimes, be courted? Even had it not already been proved that some of Mr. Shaw's plays have qualities which delight the public, it would still be surprising that no manager hastens to give them a fair chance.

But nothing that Max could do toward selling his predecessor's plays could alter the fact that the reigning playwright of his years on the Saturday was not Shaw but the author of "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray," Arthur Wing Pinero. Not only was he the reigning playwright but he was considered to be the master of a polished literary style. Max took care of that. He polished off Pinero's style—analyzed it, parodied it, revealed it for what it was. Pinero had had the misfortune to write a successful play called "Lefty." Max generously allows Pinero to speak for himself:

A visitor to Mr. Letchmere's flat complains of the heat. "My man," says the host, "has been neglecting to lower the blinds." What a ghastly equivalent for "my man hasn't pulled down the blinds"! He complains to the valet: "This room is as hot as Hell." "Not quite so hot as that, I think, Sir." "We will not discuss that now. You will have ample opportunity for testing the truth of that simile at some future date." Mr. Letchmere, sending the valet to bed: "I shall require nothing further." Invited to join a supper-party: "Let no one be incommoded." Reassuring a lady who overhears a quarrel: "These little differences are invariably settled amicably." Very angry: "The result, now that I view it closely, is none the more palatable." . . . I wish to be quite just to Mr. Pinero. But I think I have quoted enough to show that no tempering with mercy, however gently rain-like and thrice blest, could prevent justice from condemning him to perpetual banishment among the penny-a-liners from whom his style is borrowed. Nay, these penny-a-liners have an excuse that cannot he pleaded by him. They are paid by the line. They live by the length and the number of their words, whose quality matters not at all. Mr. Pinero just receives a "royalty" for every performance of his play. His style is, therefore, penny-a-lining for penny-a-lining's sake.

Later, in Rapallo, Max told me he thought that perhaps he had not been just to Pinero. "After all," Max said, "he could write a last act." "Pinero's appearance was extraordinary," St. John Ervine has written. "Except for very heavy black eyebrows, he was almost hairless." His appearance is even more extraordinary in one of Max's caricatures: the eyebrows look like horizontal railings set to delimit the prairie of baldness; you feel that Pinero, if he needed exercise, could chin himself on them. Of these eyebrows, Max once made the mild observation that they were like "the skins of some small mammal, don't you know—just not large enough to be used as mats."

On the Saturday, Max took up a surprising cause. He constantly implored playwrights to write a play about servants. Henry Arthur Jones almost wrote one in "The Lackey's Carnival." Max welcomed it, because it was partly about servants, but he wasn't entirely satisfied, because it wasn't all about servants. The servant problem was always on his mind, and in 1918 he wrote a profound and prophetic essay about it. But even in 1900, while reviewing Jones's play, he wrote:

In all times, of course, domestic service has been a demoralizing state of existence. To belong to one class and to live in close contact with another, to "live hardly" in contemplation of more or less luxury and idleness, to dissimulate all your natural feelings because you are forbidden to have them, and to simulate other feelings because they are expected of you—this has always been an unnatural life, breeding always the same bad qualities. . . . We, during the last thirty years, have been smiling over the blessings of universal education, and we are just beginning to realize, with horror, that we ought to have postponed that system until all menial duties could be performed by machinery.

In 1902, when Charles Frohman produced Barrie's "The Admirable Crichton," Max was delighted: "Keen, then, is my gladness that Mr. Barrie has broken triumphantly, in the eyes of all men, the very ground whose infinite possibilities I have in these columns boomed so long and wistfully." He praised Barrie for having the courage to show "that servility is merely a matter of environment, and that the most servile of slaves may become, in a place where there is free competition, the most masterly of masters, and vice versa. This may not strike you as in itself a startling new idea. But it is startlingly new for the theatre."

In his 1918 essay, Max comes to grips with the whole problem. He takes the trouble to go to the British Museum and look up the Webbs' "History of Trade Unionism," to find out whether servants have ever been unionized. He finds out that they haven't. And yet the conditions of domestic service have been ameliorated. The servants have accomplished this by themselves, just by quitting for other jobs, without benefit of unionization:

I should like to think this melioration came through our sense of justice, but I cannot claim that it did. Somehow, our sense of justice never turns in its sleep till long after the sense of injustice in others has been thoroughly aroused; nor is it ever up and doing till those others have begun to make themselves thoroughly disagreeable, and not even then will it be up and doing more than is urgently required of it by our convenience at the moment. For the improvement in their lot, servants must, I am afraid, be allowed to thank themselves rather than their employers. . . . When I was a king in Babylon and you were a Christian slave, I promptly freed you.

Anarchistic? Yes; and I have no defence to offer, except the rather lame one that I am a Tory Anarchist. I should like everyone to go about doing just as he pleased—short of altering any of the things to which I have grown accustomed. Domestic service is not one of those things, and I should be glad were there no more of it.

Sometimes, in the course of his reviewing, little extra pleasures came Max's way—the earned increment of dispraise. In 1903, he was barred by a prominent actor-playwright-manager-husband, Arthur Bourchier, from his theatre, the Garrick. Mr. Bourchier was married to a famous actress, Miss Violet Vanbrugh, and had written a comedy for her that Max did not admire. When husbands write plays for their wives, Max calls it "hymeneal dramaturgy." He says:

The public has a kindness for domesticity in theatrical art, or, indeed, in any kind of public work. Political economy is not a showily engaging science, and the books written about it do not fatten their publishers. But there is, I am told, an exception. The books written by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb sell really well. . . . The "and Mrs." opens all hearts, and through that breach dash the battalions of dry facts and deductions to the storming of all brains. Even more potent is domesticity in the theatre than in the study.

But he is glad, on the whole, that Shakespeare was not half of a husband-and-wife team. He feels that Anne Hathaway would have run him into sad courses, for she is said to have been a woman of commanding, even shrewish, temperament. He would have had to write "The Taming of the Shrew" for her without Katharina's conversion to docility, a mood that would have been outside Anne's acting range. "Hamlet" would have fared even worse; Ophelia's would naturally have been the leading part. Max imagines the effect of this uxoriousness on Cleopatra and Rosalind; since Anne Hathaway did not indulge in sentimental nonsense, Cordelia would have been merciless to her stricken father, and Juliet, on the balcony, would have fumed and raged—all because a dutiful husband-playwright writing for his wife must give her the opportunity to do in public what she is habituated to doing in private.

For his temerity in criticizing Miss Vanbrugh, Arthur Bourchier shut the doors of his theatre on Max. Max took it without dolor. "Yet, cast thus into outer darkness, I uttered no cry of anguish," he wrote. "In the language of our police force, I 'went quiet.'" Mr. Bourchier kept up his proscription for a long time. It was still in operation four years later, and it yielded Max a new experience. For the first time in his life, he saw a show from the pit. He had borne his exclusion with equanimity except when there was a play at Mr. Bourchier's theatre that he particularly wanted to see. The playwright Alfred Sutro was a great friend of Max's, and there was a play of his running at the Garrick. Max insinuated himself into the Garrick, by the surprising device of going to the box office and buying himself a ticket, but, "suffering under the disability common to lads who are going to carve out a future in this great metropolis," he found that he didn't have enough to pay for a stall. Max met the crisis as courageously as he had met Bourchier's expulsion. Infinitely resourceful, he bought an admission to the pit:

I had no misgivings. Though I had never happened to see a play from the pit, and my heart was leaping with the sense of adventure, I knew no fear. How often, passing this or that theatre, hours before the performance, had I seen a serried row of men and women doggedly waiting outside the door that led to the pit! Was it likely that they would spend their valuable time thus if there were not a great treat in store for them? The Pit! There was a certain traditional magic in the sound. There was some secret of joy that I had often wished to elucidate. . . . It was with a glad heart that I bounded down the stone steps.

The glad heart was saddened, the adventurer deflated. Still, like other men with warm and kindly natures who have suffered disenchantment, Max emerged from the experience not embittered but with an expanded tolerance. He could neither see the actors nor hear them. Across the intergalactic distance Max saw an infinitesimal miniature: a lady who crossed the stage and laid her hand on another miniature, also female, whereupon from the first puppet emanated the sound "Want—pew." Max had read the daily notices of the play, and now, feverishly piecing together other bits of circumstantial evidence that abounded in his well-informed brain, he deduced that the first puppet was Miss Vanbrugh and that she had just said to the second, "I want to help you." Max felt that he was beginning to learn from his experience in the pit. Here he was, accustomed to sitting in a comfortable stall, and, moreover, to being paid for it, while surrounded by people who were sitting as he was sitting now and who, moreover, did it voluntarily and were not being paid for it. And there was no outcry, no rebellion. It was phenomenal. From where he now sat, the actors looked like performing fleas. As performing fleas, they were remarkable. And here he had been, all these years on the Saturday, sitting in the stalls, from which the actors looked like men and women and were instantly recognizable as such, and unreasonably expecting recognizable human conduct from them. His presumption overcame him. The majority of the audience—perhaps three-fourths—were watching fleas. A great light burst upon him:

If I went to criticise a troupe of performing fleas, I should not write and attack their trainer because the performance had not closely tallied with my experience of human beings. 1 should not go to be instructed. I should go to be amused. It is in this spirit, necessarily, that the majority of people go to the play. They know that they cannot see anything that will remind them of actual life. What matter, then, how great be the degree of remoteness from reality? The marvel to me, since my visit to the pit of the Garrick, is not that the public cares so little for dramatic truth, but that it can sometimes tolerate a play which is not either the wildest melodrama or the wildest farce. Where low tones and fine shades are practically invisible, one would expect an exclusive insistence on splodges of garish colour. . . . I shall in future be less hard on the public than has been my wont.

Even though in the first article Max wrote as drama critic he had said that "in drama I take, unfortunately, neither emotional nor intellectual pleasure," this could no longer have been entirely true when he went, in February of 1908, to a tiny, unfashionable theatre, Terry's, to see Ibsen's "Rosmersholm." Shortly before, he had met an American actress, Florence Kahn, who had brought a letter to him from a friend at home who thought it might be useful to Miss Kahn to meet the important critic of the important Saturday. Florence Kahn came from Memphis, Tennessee. In 1900, at the age of twenty-four, she had become a star overnight, at the Carnegie Lyceum in New York. In 1901, she was Richard Mansfield's leading woman. Mansfield, it has been reported, found the audience reaction to Miss Kahn somewhat irritating; he considered it uncritically enthusiastic. He managed to break his contract with her, on the soothing ground that she was capable of heading her own company. He did not wish, evidently, for Miss Kahn to head his own. By 1904, she was playing Rebecca West in "Rosmersholm" with the Century Players at the Princess Theatre. She became known as an Ibsen specialist, and it was this that accounted for her trip to England to play in "Rosmersholm" at Terry's. Max must have gone to Terry's that night, in the line of duty, with some emotional expectancy.

Max gave Miss Kahn a rave notice. His piece is headed "A Memorable Performance," and he describes the performance at length:

It is difficult to write about Miss Florence Kahn's impersonation of Rebecca; for it is never easy to analyze the merits of great acting. . . . The part is a very subtle one and a difficult one, a convoluted one, needing an intellect to grasp it, and extreme skill to express it. Such skill would not, however, suffice. Forthright emotion on the stage can often be expressed merely by artificial means. But secret emotion can be suggested only through a genuine emotion that is in the player. In the rare moments when Rebecca breaks through her reserve, Miss Kahn betrays the fact that she has a voice of great power and resonance, and a face that will eloquently express the soul. . . . In its appeal to the emotions, Miss Kahn's acting is not more remarkable than in its appeal to the sense of beauty. Throughout the play, not a tone is inharmonious, not a movement without grace.

An actress cannot easily refuse a man who writes about her like that, and Miss Kahn did not refuse Max. After a two-year courtship, they were married at the Register Office, Paddington, on May 4, 1910. Max took his bride to Italy for a honeymoon. A friend of both of them has described Mrs. Beerbohm's drawling, Southern voice as having the quality of "cream-colored tussore." One admirer said her voice had a "stained-glass quality." She was lithe, thin, frail, with an aureole of auburn hair—two aureoles, according to Arnold Bennett. Reginald Pound, in his biography of Bennett, quotes Bennett's description of the bride:

She was of course preceded by the legend of extreme youth and beauty. Reddish hair, divided into two mops of unequal size, hanging loosely down in a shock on either side. Over this a black hat with a feather sticking out backwards from the left side. Very fair. Very thin. Very unassumingly dressed in black, Gloves ditto. Refined and rather worn features. About 35. Refined voice. Seriously interested in, and proud of, Max. Wondered whether his recent parodies of me and others not too good for a creative artist to do. On the whole, a shade too serious, and fairly precious. Deferential. Constantly stopping, with a grave air, when we began a sentence simultaneously, and making way for me—and then going on. But agreeable, intelligent (perhaps too!) and with a fundamental decency. She thought London the most beautiful city in the world, etc. But she preferred to live among Italian peasants.

To William Rothenstein, Miss Kahn was the reincarnation of Elizabeth Siddal. He describes his first meeting with her:

Then I met a girlish figure with red hair, looking, I thought, like Miss Siddal, but so shy and with a beauty so elusive that I wondered how she could dominate a stage. But my doubt was shortlived, for when I saw her as Rebecca West in "Rosmersholm," there was no shyness; the elusiveness remained, but her voice and her presence filled the stage, and so human, yet so spiritual was her acting, and so lovely her presence, that I thought it was indeed Miss Siddal come to life again, to act instead of to paint.

Perhaps Max saw Florence as Miss Siddal also, and perhaps that is why he was always drawing Miss Siddal.

While Max and Florence were honeymooning, they found, in Rapallo, the house in which they were to spend the rest of their lives. In Portofino, close by, were his friends the 'William Nicholsons and Elizabeth Russell, of "Elizabeth and Her German Garden," whose novels Max greatly enjoyed. Once, Sir Carol Reed, the film director, asked Max, in Rapallo, how he could have borne to leave the city he loved, full of people who adored him, at a moment so vibrant with possibilities. Max turned on Sir Carol his innocent look. "How many people were there in London? Eight million? Nine million?" he said. "Well—I knew them all!" When I asked him the same question, he said, quite simply, "I wanted to be alone with Florence."

To be the wife of a great talker when you are yourself something of a talker is not easy. If you express yourself, you may get the reputation of interrupting the great talker and, even, of blanketing him. If you say nothing at all, it might be assumed that you are unresponsive or even bored at the discovery that you have married a great talker. On this point, judgments of Florence, among Max's friends who knew them both, varied widely. Some said that Florence, having given up her stage career to marry Max, tried incessantly to keep it alive by talking about it. These say that she was a blanketer. Others, less severe, say that she was an interrupter. Still a third group say that she was an adroit stage manager, with a developed technique for inciting Max to tell his best stories. In any case, Max and Florence were, it appears, idyllically happy. They were able to live in Rapallo very inexpensively, and, removed from the distractions of life in London, Max was able to devote himself to his writing, to his drawing, and to Florence. Max was happy—though he watched minutely for a warning sign—that never at any time could he detect in Florence any trace whatever of Anne Hathaway, his model, evidently, of everything a literary man's wife ought not to be. They made trips—he took her to Venice and Florence, neither of which she had ever seen: He applied to her a medley of nicknames: the Pittsburgh Virago (though she was born in Memphis); the Houri- Housewife; the Gazy-Bo Girl; Graminivorous Gertie. Once, after a tremor of dispute between them, he did a drawing—Florence in a vaporous huff, himself penitently imploring and promising, although he did not know what he had done, not to do it again.

I had fallen into the habit of teasing Max, pretending that I knew more about his life than he did, in the months since I had read a book on him, "Sir Max Beerbohm, Man and Writer," by the Dutch scholar J. G. Riewald, which was published in The Hague in 1953. Max himself said of Riewald, "He knows much more about me than I do myself!" Dr. Riewald had embarked on this venture without any help from Max; Max had tried to discourage him, as he had tried to discourage Bohun Lynch thirty years before. But you can't discourage a biographer. The bibliography in the Riewald book is a phenomenon; it runs to a hundred and thirty pages. Max himself was astonished; in a short letter he wrote to Dr. Riewald after the book was finished, he said, "I marvel at your multiscience. You know very much more about my writings than I could ever have remembered." To bibliograph the conscientiously random writings and drawings produced by Max throughout his long lifetime was surely something of a job, but Professor Riewald seems to have accomplished it. That the little niche Max set out to find for himself, and found, should have inspired such exhaustive archeology astonished him. When he was asked anything by curious visitors about his writings or his caricatures or his migrations, he would say, "You will find it in Riewald." It left him free to talk to his visitors about other things.

Dr. Riewald was the second bibliographer to devote himself to Max. The first was John Lane, of the Bodley Head, who brought out, when Max was twenty-three, his first published volume, "The 'Works of Max Beerbohm." In his mock-pompous "Preface to the Bibliography"—printed at the end of the little book, right after "Diminuendo," the essay in which Max says that he is already outmoded and belongs to the Beardsley period—Lane writes about the retired author with nostalgic veneration, as if he were an august Grand Old Man of Literature being trundled off to the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. Max went to Oxford, Lane says, to apply himself "to the task he had set before him, namely, a gallery of portraits of the Dons," and to America with the more modest aim of establishing a monarchy there. In the traditional vein of biographers, Lane searches for momentous events contemporary with the birth of his subject, Henry Maximilian Beerbohm, on August 24, 1872:

There was only one worth recording. On the day upon which Mr. Beerbohm was born, there appeared, in the first column of the Times, this announcement:

On (Wednesday) the 21st August, at Brighton, the wife of V.P. Beardsley, Esq., of a son.

He notes the coincidence with breathless wonder:

That the same week should have seen the advent in this world of two such notable reformers as Aubrey Beardsley and Max Beerbohm is a coincidence to which no antiquary has previously drawn attention. Is it possible to overestimate the influence of these two men in the art and literature of the century!

In some of his essays, Max took up, autobiographically, where Lane left off, In "The Boat Race," an essay written when he was twenty-four, he says that the earliest recollection of his life was of toddling beside his nurse along the Thames on the day of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. They encountered another nurse, escorting another toddler. "What are you?" inquired Max's nurse. The second nurse said, "I am Cambridge." "Oh," rejoined Max's nurse, with a fine show of forehanded loyalty, "I am Oxford."

Max told me that when he was a child he was half asleep, but there were certainly, as "The Boat Race" reveals, some clearly defined images in the somnolence. He was, he goes on to write, drawing and redrawing at eight, just as he was, I found, at eighty. He used to watch "with emotion" the sentries pacing outside Kensington Palace, and his first ambition was one day to be one of them. "Meanwhile I made many feeble little drawings of them, which I coloured strongly," he continues. "But somehow, mysteriously, when I was eight years old or so, the soldiery was eclipsed for me by the constabulary." He quit drawing Guards and drew policemen:

The dark lantern was the truly great, the irresistible thing about them. More than once, from the window of my night-nursery, I had seen that lantern flashed at opposite front-doors and through area-railings. My paintings of policemen were mostly nocturnes—a dim, helmeted figure with a long white ray of light. Although I possessed, of course, a dark lantern of my own, and used it much, I preferred my occasional glimpses of the genuine article, and looked forward impatiently to being a member of the Force. But the young are faithless. By the time I was eleven years old I despised the Force. I was interested only in politicians—in Statesmen, as they were called at that time.

When Max was twelve, he had a great thrill. He actually saw, in the flesh, Eardley Childers. Mr. Childers was Chancellor of the Exchequer. In later years, Max was not enthralled by practitioners of economics, or what he called "the bleak science," but when he was twelve the sight of Mr. Childers ravished him. He ran home and drew and redrew him. The sartorial eccentricities of the Statesmen, and the immense variety of their beards and mustaches, endlessly fascinated him, and he recorded them with pen and pencil and colored chalks. The boy haunted No. 10 Downing Street (hoping for a glimpse of Gladstone) and the House of Commons. At Rapallo, Max told me how he recalled being present in the House when Coningsby Disraeli, Dizzy's nephew, made his maiden speech. Max recalled the tremor that was audible in the House when the Speaker announced that a Disraeli was about to speak. The nephew made a pretty good maiden speech, Max said, and much was expected of him, but the expectations were not fulfilled. Max's own disappointment was discernible as he told me this, for Dizzy was a pet of his. A mountebank who persisted in his mountebankery right up to the end was a diverting spectacle for Max. He adored Dizzy because, he said, you couldn't respect him, you could only enjoy him.

When the drowsy Max was nine years old, he was awakened by his parents and sent to Mr. Wilkinson's School, in Orme Square. When he heard, nearly forty years later, that Sir William Rothenstein was sending his youngest boy there, he was delighted. He wrote to Rothenstein:

I am thrilled when you say that the last named is going to a school in Orme Square—Mr. Wilkinson's. As if I didn't know that school! I was there, as a new boy, just 39 years ago! I was there from '81 to '85, and I am greatly glad that Billie is going to follow in those obliterated old footsteps of mine. I wonder if the school has quite all the charm it had in my time. There were only 15 or 20 boys in my time. 16 or 21, counting Mr. Wilkinson, who was just one of us. . . . He is by far the best teacher I ever had; wonderfully understanding and "enthusing." He did—and I am sure still does—so sympathise with the mind of a small boy. It was he that first taught me Latin, and gave me a love of Latin, and thereby enabled me to write English well. . . . Mrs. Wilkinson, in those days, used to teach drawing to the boys. Hers were the only lessons I ever had. . . . And what a trial I must have been to Mrs. Wilkinson! But perhaps in those days my work showed more promise than it seems to show just now.

From Mr. 'Wilkinson's, Max went on to Charterhouse. Addison and Steele and Thackeray had preceded him there. "I was," he says in his essay "Old Carthusian Memories," "a queer child. I didn't care a brass farthing for games. What I liked was Latin prose, Latin verse, and drawing caricatures." Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson and the beards and mustaches of the Statesmen had done their dread work. Max is not sentimental about Charterhouse; he is not of the "straitest sect," which "simply can't bear the thought of having left Charterhouse," and for which "afterlife . . . is one long anticlimax." He adds, "My delight in having been at Charterhouse was far greater than my delight in being there." At Charterhouse, Max became what would nowadays he called "a controversial figure." Addressing Max, in Rapallo, in a tribute broadcast from London over B.B.C. on his eightieth birthday, Robert Graves, who went to Charterhouse in 1909, was perfectly frank about it. He said to Max: "You were a name about which there was a great deal of pro and con in the school. The older and stuffier members of the staff frowned when it came up; but the youngest and brightest . . . lent me all the books you had hitherto published and soon you were one of my heroes."

While the other boys were playing games, Max set himself to doing a complete set of irreverent caricatures of the masters and his schoolfellows. Between 1888 and 1890, the Greyfriar, a school periodical, published some of these drawings, under various heads: "Humours of School Life," "The Exeat Sketches," and "Charterhouse Types." The influence of Mr. Wilkinson remained strong also. Max wrote Latin verses, but in one instance, at least—his most ambitious effort—he infused into them an element that he hadn't got from Mr. Wilkinson. This was the Latin poem headed:


Beccerius Naso Pianonicus, whom Max invented, was his first sketch of his later imaginary men of letters—Enoch Soames, Maltby and Braxton, Savonarola Brown. Max's notes on the songs of Beccerius Naso Pianonicus are helpful to non-Latinists who might have difficulty reading them in the original. A few random ones follow:

A poem of singular power and beauty, and of the utmost historical value. Its authorship has been and still is disputed; so, in order to set all doubts at rest, I may at once state that I attribute it to the pen of Lucretius. I say this mainly because my old and valued friend Professor Mayor is convinced that it was written by Juvenal.

1. Beccerius. Of Beccerius Naso Pianonicus little is known; save from the famous hexameter of Ennius: "Ingenui voltus et spectaculatus ocellos."

2. Concertum, late, very late, Latin. Our word "concert" is said to be derived from the same root, and indeed the etymology seems not unlikely. See also my old friend and schoolfellow Professor Madvig's most learned note on "Entertainments."

Debat. Fine word; note too the desponding use of the imperfect. A less skillful poet would have "dedit," but not so Lucretius.

6. Innumeras k.t.a. Needless difficulties have been made over this line. Some suggest to take it thus: "he scatters up and down his unnumbered hands." But seeing that this theory depends upon the absurd supposition that Beccerius possesses more hands than other people, I dismiss it instantly. By far the simplest and most straightforward way of rendering it is "he shakes on every side innumerable hands" i.e. he shakes hands all round. Cf. the custom among pugilists of shaking hands before an encounter.

By the sudden and unusual transition of sense at the end of the pentameter the poet evidently suggests something or other; what, we are not quite sure, but the idea is none the less skillfully suggested.

At Oxford, Max continued the tradition, established at Charterhouse, of plunging boldly into scholarly controversy, no matter how formidable his opponent. Having said his say to the great Juvenal authority Professor John Eyton Bickersteth Mayor, he took on, in Oxford, the great Shakespearean authority Professor Frederick James Furnivall. There had been some discussion in a learned journal about the meaning of certain difficult phrases in Shakespeare: Professor Furnivall had offered his interpretations, but without dogmatism; other authorities had opposed theirs; the debate went on unresolved. Max, who loved order, stepped in to resolve it. He wrote a letter to the Saturday Review in which he stated bluntly that the meaning of the phrases could be understood only by recourse to sixteenth-century heraldry. He was specific; he divulged a very rare heraldic term, and declared that a close analysis of this, which, he modestly admitted, he was not himself equipped to make, would shaft the revealing light on the obscure phrases. Hot on the scent of a new clue, Professor Furnivall repaired to the British Museum and began tracing down heraldic devices. Had it not been for the intervention of a traitor, who told him that the heraldic device he was looking for had been invented by Max, Professor Furnivall might have sat in the British Museum as long as Karl Marx.

It was inevitable that the boy who could pull off stunts like these in his adolescence would one day bring about one of the most fascinating controversial correspondences in literary history. In a review of P. H. Newby's "The Princess at Sakkara" in the Listener for April 28, 1955, Hilary Corke wrote, "It was, oddly enough, a President of the United States who invented the world's best book review: 'Those who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.' Lincoln's formula . . ." In a letter to the Listener the next week, Rose Macaulay wrote, "Was Abraham Lincoln really, as Mr. Hilary Corke says, the first to make the incontrovertible statement that if one likes that kind of thing, that is the kind of thing one likes? It seems more familiar in Greek [she here gives the phrase in Greek] whoever finds pleasure in this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing he finds pleasure in—but can any well-informed classic supply the author of this? If I ever knew, I have forgotten. And did Lincoln know this tag?" Miss Macaulay had consulted Gilbert Murray, who "remembered nothing of this kind in any Greek writer." So Miss Macaulay concluded that "President Lincoln must be credited with this admirably incontrovertible remark, the hard core of reviewing." The fact is that Lincoln was innocent. It was Max who was guilty. He invented it, both in Greek and in translation; it came off the point of his pen in the blue study when he was finishing "Zuleika Dobson." He wrote a confessional letter to Miss Macaulay, cutting short all fascinating speculation. I bitterly reprimanded Max for his vandalism. Had he allowed this correspondence to go on, I explained, the attribution of the source of "the world's best book review" might have been distributed among all the American Presidents, with the possible exception of Calvin Coolidge, who seldom expressed himself in Greek, or even in English.

On still another day that winter, when Max and I were settled down traditionally in front of the fireplace in his tiny living room, I said, "Max, what were you doing on the afternoon of February 19, 1923?"

"Look it up in Riewald," said Max.

"This," I said with quiet menace, "is not in Riewald."

Max played along with me. He passed his hand over his forehead in anxiety. "Oh dear!" he said. "I do hope that I killed no one on that day. If I did, I have no recollection of it."

"No, Max," I said. "You didn't kill anyone, but you did take a married woman to lunch under the misapprehension that her husband was busy. You were even so shameless that you wrote a poem about it!"

Max's tension relaxed. "Oh, yes," he said. "Of course. I do remember. Oh dear—I was terrified! Mrs. Harley Granville-Barker. Helen Huntington she was. Harley had only recently married her. But how ever did you come upon that poem?"

"I have my sources," I said.

"But Harley did come to lunch," he said, in pitiful self-defense.

"I know," I said severely, "but you didn't know that he was corning."

"But," said Max evenly, finally refusing to be bullied, "what evidently you don't know is that my wife Florence was with us! But where did you get that poem? I have no idea where it is or how you could have come upon it."

I explained everything. I had copied out the poem, which I had found, in Max's own handwriting, in the Gallatin Collection, in the Houghton Library, at Harvard. I gave my cop to Max, and he read it aloud to me:

"Triolets—composed on a day when I thought (from what he had said on a previous day) that Harley wouldn't turn up for luncheon. Feb. 23. MAX

"Harley's doing Cymbeline;
Helen rakes a car.
Behind yon castellated screen
Harley's doing Cymbeline.
Beetle-browed, athletic, lean,
Aloof, alone, afar.
Harley's doing Cymbeline. . .
Helen takes a car.

"Helen eats and drinks with us;
Harley plies his quill.
Gracious, fair, diaphanous
Helen eats and drinks with us. . .
Utterly oblivious
Of Stratford's clever Will
Helen eats and drinks with us;
Harley plies his quill.

"Helen's way is right;
Harley's way is wrong.
As 'twere a swallow's flight,
Helen's way is right,—
To flit, to swoop, to alight
And gladden us with song!
Helen's way is right.
Harley's way is wrong.

"(Supplementary triplet composed at luncheon)

"Oh, bother and damn!
These verses won't do!
How unlucky I am!
Oh bother and damn!
Harley, that sham,
Has alighted here too!
Oh bother and damn!
These verses won't do!

"P S. Feb. 27
"Still, here they are,
With my love to you both.
From perfect they're far,—
Still, here they are.
They're away below par,
And to write them I'm loth.
Still, here they are,
With my love to you both."

Max settled down, with great animation, to talk about Barker. He asked me to find Miss Jungmann and ask her to bring him the illustrations he had done for Barker's book "The Exemplary Theatre." That was a job after Max's own heart—five drawings, and two copies of each in existence. One set he had sent to Barker and the other was in his lap now. Barker had had a scintillating career in the London theatre. At the Court Theatre, under the management of Vedrenne, he had produced not only Shaw's first plays but his own. I had seen two of his productions when I was an undergraduate, "Androcles and the Lion" and "The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife." He was considered a genius and one of the leading dramatists of the era. Shaw looked upon him as a son. Barker was married to Lillah McCarthy, a leading lady of great beauty. On one of his American visits, he met Mrs. Archer Huntington—the wife of the son of Collis P. Huntington, one of the Big Four of American railway finance. After obtaining divorces, Barker and Mrs. Huntington got married. Helen Huntington was a versifier and occasional novelist. She couldn't abide Shaw, and Barker gave up Shaw. Mrs. Huntington didn't like actors, either, and wouldn't allow them in the various establishments she set up for Barker. She tolerated another close friend of Barker's, Gilbert Murray, because of his academic connection (Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford), but only just. With a great stretch of tolerance, she barely admitted J. M. Barrie. The fact seems to have been that Helen Huntington simply didn't like show business. Barker, who had already been disappointed in the theatre, gave it up and turned to scholarship. He wrote several volumes of "Prefaces to Shakespeare," and "The Exemplary Theatre," privately illustrated by Max.

Max took a very poor view of Barker's abdication from the theatre, and of books like "The Exemplary Theatre." The illustrations he showed me represent the kind of characters he imagined an exemplary theatre would produce. These people are exemplary, all right, but etiolated by earnest endeavor; you feel that their red corpuscles are white with aspiration. The first illustration bears the legend "The Managing Director addressing the cast on the prime importance of civic conscience." He wears three pairs of glasses—two on his nose, and a spare on his forehead. He, as well as the characters called "The Front of the House" and "The Call-Boy," look undernourished and dehydrated. So do the actors. In one drawing, Orlando, played by "Ex-Seminarist Smith," and Rosalind, played by "Ex-Seminarist Robinson," are on the verge of holding hands, but you get the feeling that that's just where they will stay. The last drawing, called "The Public," presents Max's notion of the audience that the Exemplary Theatre would attract. The drawing is a gray, and utter, blank.

Barker ended his days with a sense of failure. In a way, he was, like the characters in Max's drawings, enervated by aspiration. In his aloofness from the rough-and-tumble of the theatrical world, he resembled Gordon Craig. Of Craig, Max said to me, "In a gregarious profession he wouldn't gregar." Max had once brought Craig to C. B. Cochran, who was eager to enlist Craig's genius. But Craig's demands were impossible. "Craig had no notion of expense, don't you know," Max told me. "His productions might cost anything, and his flats went way up into the heavens—he used no sky cloths. The actors were apt to be dwarfed." On another occasion, Max, joining forces with his sister Constance, who adored Craig, prevailed upon their brother Herbert to engage Craig to do a production of "Macbeth" at His Majesty's. They were both overjoyed, feeling that, at last, Craig would be able to demonstrate his full genius in the English theatre. Craig's drawings turned out to be beautiful. Everything looked rosy, and Max and Constance congratulated each other. But there was a hitch; Sir Herbert, since it was his theatre as well as His Majesty's, kept dropping in to see how things were going. Craig suggested to Sir Herbert that he leave London. The suggestion came at a moment when Sir Herbert didn't feel at all like leaving London; London had never seemed more cozy to him. The result was that it was Craig who left London; he went to Moscow to produce "Hamlet."

Max said that in his day the two most influential drama critics were probably A. B. Walkley and William Archer. Of Barker's play "The Voysey Inheritance," Walkley wrote, "Triple extrait de Shaw." Walkley may have been influential, but he couldn't have been very discerning. Barker was a Fabian—at one time he was a member of the Society's executive—and "The Voysey Inheritance" is a Fabian tract, but a dreary one, without a trace of Shaw's invention and exuberance and incandescence. Except in theory, it is as far away from Shaw as possible. "'The Voysey Inheritance,' " Max said, "is Barker at his worst. The characters aren't in the least interested in each other—only in their ideas. I went to see a revival of it with Lady de Grey. When the final curtain fell, she said, 'Everything will be all right if we all go on the London County Council.'"

In a vain effort to dissuade Barker from quitting the sickroom of the Fabulous Invalid, Max wrote a poem "To H.G.B.":

The Theatre's in a parlous state,
I readily admit;
It almost is exanimate—
But then, when wasn't it?
It always was, will always be;
God has decreed it so.
Canst thou rescind His grim decree?
O, my dear Harley, No!

In Shakespeare's and in Marlowe's day,
In Congreve's, in Racine's
The wretched Theatre murmured "I'm
One of the Might-Have-Beens!"
"O May-Be-Yet!" the critics cried.
'We'll teach you how to grow!"
And were their fond hopes gratified?
O, my dear Harley, No!

The Theatre is Exemplary,
Now as in other ages,
Of all a Theatre shouldn't be—
Of all that most enrages
Right-thinking men like you and me
And plunges us in woe . . .
Mightn't perhaps the L.C.C. —
O, my dear Harley, No!

Small cubits come by taking thought,
And Drama gain her soul
By learning what she doubtless ought
From dear old Mr. Poel?
Shall syllabi and seminars
And blackboards all in a row
Somehow uplift us to the stars?
O, my dear Harley, No!

After he had written this, Max discovered that he had been guilty of a lapsed rhyme in the second stanza. He did his best to make amends:

I'd meant to write in my MS
"Time," and wrote "day," it seems.
This error fills me with distress
And haunts me in my dreams.
A lover I'm of chime of rhyme
And to vers libre a foe—
Shall such a man rhyme "day" with "I'm"?
O, my dear Harley, No!

Max said that he and his mother and sisters, when he was living on the top floor of his mother's house in London, had a game that became a lifetime habit with them. It was imagining and predicting what people would say, especially if you hadn't been seeing them frequently. Max taught this game to Florence. The Barkers once invited Max and Florence to spend a weekend with them at their country house. It had been some time since the two couples had met, and on the way down, Max played the game. "Helen will say, 'As Max and Florence are here, we'll have to have champagne tonight!'" he predicted. "This," he went on, "will also apprise us that we won't get it every night." Mrs. Barker said it, and they didn't, after the first evening, get it. For a time, the Barkers settled in Italy, not far from Rapallo, and Max described for me a joint expedition to San Fruttuoso. Barker decided to walk and tried to persuade Max to join him—an effort that failed, because Max didn't believe in walking. Max described the wonderful equipment Barker had for his walk. "He wore knickerbockers and the most wonderful high laced boots. He must have been most painfully fitted for them in one of those little streets off Jermyn Street, and they were in the best and most intricate tradition of British cobblership. Why did he insist on making that painful walk? I suppose he felt he had to live up to those knickerbockers and those boots. Anyway, while Florence and Helen and I arrived fresh and rested by motorboat—the sea was like a carpet—Barker arrived absolutely done in, pale and exhausted. He had to lie down; he couldn't join us for lunch. While he lay prostrate, the padrone stood staring at him. His lips murmured sympathy but his eyes were riveted to those boots; he had manifestly never seen such boots, and his eyes were famished with envy, with despair, because he knew that no fortune could befall him so fabulous that he could ever own a pair of boots like that. Other times, Harley would wear a sombrero and an Inverness cape. I never knew why."

Max sighed. "Poor Harley," he said. And then his light manner changed. "When he left Lillah McCarthy," Max said, "he wrote her a long letter telling her that he no longer cared to live with her, that he had fallen in love with Mrs. Huntington, though he hazarded the doubt that he didn't know how long that would last, either. The letter was in the best tradition of the Fabians, and of both Shaw and Marx. They would both have written like that." Max, I could see, was appalled; he sat back in his chair thinking about it, as if he had just read Barker's letter, as if the enormity had just happened. "It isn't only the insensitiveness," he went on. "It is the anemia, don't you know. Isn't it of the essence of being in love—and we must charitably assume that Harley was in love with Helen—isn't it of the essence of being in love that when it happens, while the rapture is upon you, you cannot imagine its ever ceasing? But Granville-Barker could, and he wrote such a letter as would have pleased his master Shaw and would have been understandable to the Fabians, and would even have got an approving nod from Marx himself."

Max, whose life at Rapallo was a long evocation, in memory, of the people he had known, of their foibles and mistakes and of their enchantment when they were at their best, found less understandable than anything else about Shaw his remark when he was asked whether he missed any of his contemporaries who had died. "No," said Shaw. "I miss only the man I was." Max's comment on this was, "When I think of the gay and delightful people he knew . . ." He shook his head in bewilderment. Prophets with idiosyncrasies like Shaw's couldn't, for Max, prophesy anything good.

Several years before, I had met Bernard Berenson in Venice, and he had asked me, if I ever found myself in Italy again, to let him know and he would invite me to visit him at his home—I Tatti, outside Florence. During this stay in Rapallo, I had written to him, and now came a letter from Miss Elizabetta (Nicky) Mariano—the chatelaine of I Tatti, as Miss Jungmann was of the Villino Chiaro—inviting me to come for the weekend. I wrote her, accepting, and having done so, I felt a certain trepidation. Suddenly, the idea of the trip to Florence loomed as formidable, like an excursion from a secluded island into a seething world. Some years later, Christopher Sykes told me the following story. Sykes had been staying with Harold Acton in Florence and had been taken by him to call on Berenson at I Tatti. On the way back to London, he stopped off in Rapallo to call on Max. He said to Max that he had just seen Berenson, and described his visit.

Max said, "And now, I suppose, you are going to Cap Ferrat to see Maugham."

"No," said Sykes, "I am not. As a matter of fact, I don't know Maugham."

Max was puzzled. "But you must be going to see Maugham!"

Sykes asked why this was inevitable.

"Because" said Max, with the air of a savant rigidly expounding the second law of thermodynamics, "people come to see me either on the way from Maugham to Berenson or on the way to Maugham from Berenson. I am a wayside station."

Sykes assured him that for himself Max was a terminal.

"Do you mean to say," Max said, "that you have come here just to see me?" He turned to Florence, manifestly delighted by Sykes's eccentricity. "Imagine, Mr. Sykes has journeyed here," he said, "just to see me!"

Had I known this story on the day I told Max and Miss Jungmann, at tea in the living room, about my impending weekend, I might have pointed out that I was even more eccentric than Sykes, since Max was my point of departure. But the best I could do that day was make the unembellished announcement.

"Well, you can get warm at Berenson's," Max said. "Desmond MacCarthy used to tell me how warm it was there even in the worst weather."

Miss Jungmann was full of curiosity about Miss Mariano. I told her that I had seen Miss Mariano, too, in Venice, and that she was one of the most enchanting people I had ever met. Miss Jungmann said she so wished she could meet her.

"Come along," I said. "You and Max both come. I am sure B.B. would he overjoyed to have you. I have never been there, and it would make it easier for me."

For a minute or so, we revelled in the delicious contemplation of an impossible journey. Miss Jungmann insisted on knowing more about Miss Mariano; she evidently looked on Miss Mariano as, in a sense, her opposite number, for she was inquisitive about the minutiae of her devotion to B.B.

"They say," said Miss Jungmann, "that she warms his wristwatch for him!"

I said that I had never seen Miss Mariano do this but that I would be on the lookout.

"Max hasn't got a wristwatch," said Miss Jungmann. It was clear that if he had, it would have undergone conditioning.

Max did not exactly change the subject, but he deflected it. "My brother Herbert never knew what time it was," he said. "He was always late, therefore, for appointments. He was vague. Oh, he had a watch and he often looked at it, but he never seemed to draw any deductions from it."

I asked Max whether he knew B.B.

"Oh, it is many years since I have seen him," Max said. "The last time was with Sibyl Colefax. Sibyl was in a nursing home, and I went to see her, and Mr. Berenson was there."

"Tell him Florence's story," said Miss Jungmann.

Max turned to her, inquiring. "Which story?"

 "You remember, Max. About the Berensons' visit to the Villino."

Max remembered. "Oh, yes," he said. "It was curious. I have never understood it. The Berensons were passing through Rapallo, and Mary Berenson telephoned. I was in London at the time, on some business or other—I don't remember what—and Florence told Mrs. Berenson this and asked them if they wouldn't come to lunch anyway, and they did. They had lunch here, in this room, and after lunch Florence took him into that room." Max pointed to the little library adjoining the living room. "As they walked in, Mary said, 'Oh, Florence, how wonderful it must be for you to live with absolutely nothing!'"

Miss Jungmann giggled.

Max was anxious for me not to be under a misapprehension. "But you know, Elizabeth, Florence also said—she made it clear—that Mary Berenson's remark was not meant invidiously. Not at all. She meant it. The Villa I Tatti is a very grand place, and she was weary of running it. Desmond MacCarthy used to tell me how grand it is. Oh, no, Mary really envied Florence, I believe."

"I'm sure she did!" said Miss Jungmann.

Max turned to me. "But the curious thing was this," he said. "I have never understood it, but I have been told this by so many people that it must be true. You know, Berenson didn't believe I was in London. He believed that I was in the house the whole time and that I didn't wish to see him, or was afraid to see him—I don't know what. He is convinced I was here—hiding under a bed, I imagine! Do give him my affectionate and admiring greetings, and if it should come up, please assure him that, had I been here, I should have been most happy to see him."

I promised to do this. I asked permission to take with me Max's illustrations for Granville-Barker's book; I thought they might amuse B.B. Max gladly gave them to me.

"And my greetings to Miss Mariano," said Miss Jungmann.

In Florence, I was met at the station by Berenson's Welsh chauffeur, who had been with him for about forty years. He drove me to the great house, where Miss Mariano greeted me.

The suite into which I was shown was one that not long before had been occupied by the King of Sweden, who was one of Berenson's annual visitors. Its chandeliered, damasked drawing room was hung with Old Masters. On the mantelshelf was a large leather folder; within, under cellophane, was printed—one side in Italian, the other in English—the names of the pictures that hung in the room and of the artists, with their dates. I walked around the room with this guide in my hand, checking to see if the pictures were all there (they were), and put the card back on the mantelshelf for ready reference.

The four days I spent at I Tatti were a joy. Miss Mariano said that there were three performances a day—lunch, tea, and dinner. These consisted mainly of the prolonged chamber music of conversation, with B.B. playing first violin, and visiting virtuosos playing their appropriate instruments and changing at each meal: Harold Acton, Peter Viereck, Mrs. Ralph Pulitzer, Richard Offner. Walter Lippmann had just left; Judge Learned Hand was coming.

I had recently read an interview with Berenson in which he singled out Max as perhaps the most exquisite writer of his time, and also expressed immense admiration for his caricatures. In one of my talks with Berenson, I referred to this interview. "I have been propagandizing for Max for fifty years," he said.

Another guest repeated to Berenson a remark that had been made to him by a very famous and very successful and very old friend of Max's, to the effect that it was no wonder he was poor, since he had done no work for thirty years.

"That is a piggish remark," Berenson said quickly. "Whatever Max has done is exquisite; he has done enough, he has done more than enough. We are all his debtors."

I showed Berenson the illustrations for the Barker book. He was enchanted. He handed them round to other guests. "They're as good as Goya," he said, with the authority of one who can say things like that. "Max is the English Goya."

Berenson wanted to hear as much news as possible about Max. As he did not bring up the history of the lunch he and his wife had had at the Villino, I brought it up. The result was curious.

"Max told me that you think he was there the whole time," I said.

"He was there," said Berenson quietly.

"But why shouldn't he have greeted you if he were there?" I said. "What reason would he have had for avoiding you?"

"That is what I don't know," said Berenson. "That is what mystifies me. Because Max hasn't a warmer admirer in the world than I am."

I gave Berenson Max's message, but I soon saw that nothing in the world would persuade Berenson that Max had not been in the house that day.

On the day I left, I did something I had never done before. I stole. I stole the picture guide from my suite, because I thought it might amuse Max.

On the train back to Rapallo, as I thought over the pleasures of my visit, a riddle obtruded—bafflement over the story of B.B.'s visit to the Villino Chiaro. I knew that Max was telling the truth; I knew him well enough to know that he would have been incapable of avoiding Berenson by stooping to a ruse. I knew also that Berenson was convinced that he was telling the truth, too. I wondered. Why should Berenson have somehow, obscurely, wished to be the victim of a snub from Max? It led me into psychological speculations that I had no confidence in. But this much I did see: that Max's relations with other people were simpler, often, than theirs with him. He had many friends—Desmond MacCarthy, for example—who took him as he was, with sheer delight in his mere existence. But there were others in whom the delight was mottled with some nagging resentment of Max's non-competitiveness, of his indifference to the glories of careerism. Year after year, he sat in the Merton chair in his little living room, summoning up and reanimating the past, or in his blue study off the terrace, polishing his small output of prose, drawing caricatures, devoting himself to exiguous tasks in order to amuse one friend—a year to re-do Archibald Henderson's "George Bernard Shaw" to amuse William Archer, weeks to turn out several exemplary Goyas to amuse Granville-Barker. As far as he was concerned, there was, in his relations with everybody, no sparring for position. He liked the one he had, he did not wish to alter it; it fitted him. He was, as the cartoonist David Low once wrote of him, "free of envy." When a great royal honor was conferred on a writing friend and contemporary, Max was clearly happy about it. He wished only that it had been conferred earlier, so that his friend might have enjoyed it longer. When this honor was announced in the papers and we sat in the study discussing it, Miss Jungmann, out of loyalty, couldn't resist saying, "Max gets nothing!" But Max didn't want anything beyond what he had, and somehow this absence of ambition, which rendered him immune from envy, sent ripples of unease through the consciousnesses of some of his unswervingly successful friends, who might have enjoyed, just here and there, just occasionally, being envied.

On my return, Miss Jungmann and Max were agog to hear about my visit. I told them everything. I was happy to be able to report that I had not seen Miss Mariano warm Berenson's wristwatch "If she did it," I said, "she must have done it behind my back." Max listened to my account as if he were listening to the story of a novel; he kept laughing at this and that. I told him about my succeeding to the suite of the King of Sweden, and he was amused when I repeated to him a story told me by an intimate friend of Berenson's who had been invited to tea on one of the King of Sweden's visits. The house, he said, was surrounded by police on motorcycles and by security officers. The tea party was very pleasant, and the King very personable. At one point, though, he ventured an opinion on some aesthetic matter which Berenson thought was a bit out of line. Berenson at once staunched the budding generalization. He waved an admonitory forefinger at the King: "Now, look here, my boy . . ." The King humbly resumed his proper place in line.

Max and Miss Jungmann—especially Miss Jungmann—were greatly interested when I told them that Berenson, who was eight years Max's senior, walked every day; that, in fact, he wore me out walking. I also told them that Berenson was even then planning a journey to Tripoli to see some excavations. "I should think," said Max, "that, at our age, an excavation would be the last thing one would care to see—too suggestive, don't you know."

Miss Jungmann took courage from my account of Berenson's feats, and was sure that if Max willed it he could partially emulate them.

"Not to Tripoli," said Max. "No, I don't think I can undertake Tripoli. But I will essay the terrace,"

I told Miss Jungmann that we would both have to treat Max with more veneration henceforth, because B.B. had said that he was the English Goya.

"l shall wear Spanish costume," said Max. But he was pleased at Berenson's praise of his drawings, and he made no effort to conceal it. "I have, you know, a picture hanging in a museum in Florence," he said. "Did you know that?"

"In the Uffizi?" I asked.

Max laughed. "In the Museo Horne. Herbert Horne was the biographer of Botticelli, you know, and gave his art collection to Florence." Max became very impressive. "I hang there," he said, puffing his cheeks out a bit to give the effect of pomposity. "I am hung!" His voice rose. "Who knows? Who knows? The art historians of the future may call me the English Botticelli." Suddenly he collapsed the pumped-up pose of inflation, "I don't think so, though, do you? I haven't the air of Primavera about me—not quite—do you think so?"

I whipped out the stolen catalogue.

"I stole for you, Max," I said. "This was in my room. This was how I lived. Those pictures were all in my salon!"

Miss Jungmann and Max stared at the card.

"Why," said Max, in rapture, "it's a menu!" He pronounced it in French, with the accent on the "u."

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

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