Max Beerbohm: The Aesthete before the Internet

By Ramsay, Allan | Contemporary Review, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Max Beerbohm: The Aesthete before the Internet


Ramsay, Allan, Contemporary Review


ACCORDING to a recent French study we--all of us--do everything much faster than our ancestors did. We not only travel faster, more frequently and generally further, but walk, talk, shop and eat more quickly. Participation is everything and the 'instant' has become the norm. Social groups form, mutate, dissolve, regroup with bewildering rapidity; opinions are aired, recorded, forgotten; fashions--in food, clothing, holidays--are obsolete almost before they are born; participation has become momentary, specific; the 'new' is everything. With 'speed dating' relationships need not last longer than it takes a mayfly to hatch, take wing, procreate and die, all on a summer's day. The tempo of life was quickening even before the advent of the Net but has increased exponentially since. The phenomenon is all inclusive since it has dissolved ordinary barriers of class and education just as cheap credit has dissolved those of wealth. Technology is essentially egalitarian but nowhere so egalitarian as in the Net. It requires no qualification or expertise beyond nimble fingers and belief in self, as a being possessed of an intrinsic value of interest not only to identifiable others but to the world generally, the world 'out there'. The identifiable are not family and friends and colleagues at work but personalities of the entertainment and other worlds, the filter through which our thoughts are passed on. If the real world is not enough there is the world of Virtual Reality, like Second Life, where participants can live out the life of their dreams. The essence of it all is movement, flux, the vicarious. The human being, comment the authors of one of these latest French studies, becomes 'un etre bondissant d' un espace a un autre, d' un evenement a un autre, d' un etre a un autre. Surfant sur le reseau d' information, zappant le reel d' une pression de telecommande, il devient un spectre qui refuse la duree'.

The authors apart, others have noted that the effect of this phenomen is not centripetal but centrifugal. It does not provide for cohesion. It separates generations instead of bringing them together. The emphasis is on the individual not on the community. It is a phenomen geared to Self, to self-belief, self-awareness and self-gratification. Its concomitant is constant movement, the essence of modernity. President Sarkozy with his mineral water, jogging--le footing, if you are French--and his boundless activity epitomises movement, the ceaseless projection of oneself on to whatever stage is available at the time. In this he is Mr Blair's successor, in his boundless self-confidence, too.

The Internet provides an almost limitless range of alternatives to the humdrum business of earning one's daily bread. The modern man or woman will use them all. There is a certain experimental quality about all this, a suggestion that man thinks he knows what he wants whereas in truth curiosity or avarice are ceaselessly at work undermining the structure he has built for himself, castles in the sand. It is not clear which society these French researchers were comparing in coming to their conclusions about the pace at which contemporary life is lived. Clearly not that of the caveman which is altogether too remote and different for any comparison to be possible. One has to assume that it was, in certain respects, a society not dissimilar to our own, as subject to unprecedented change, both economically and socially, with about the same ratio of winners to losers, haves to have nots, with, broadly speaking, the same social aspirations over health, welfare, education and personal enrichment and in consequence similar recourse to technological innovation. The ideal candidate for this, in French terms, would be the France of the Third Republic (1870-1940), for Britain the half-century from 1850 to 1904. The key moment for all advanced societies then was the invention of the Internal Combustion engine. Until then civilisation was constructed upon the pace of the horse or ox or sail which severely limited the amount one could hope or expect to do in a given time. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Max Beerbohm: The Aesthete before the Internet
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.