Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

AN ANALYSIS OF MAX BEERBOHM

THIS REVIEWER is a little late in getting around to Max Beerbohm's Mainly on the Air, which was brought out as long ago as last year; but it may be pleaded that the book itself is not strictly up to date, containing as it does three pieces that first appeared in the early twenties and two that have been published before in earlier volumes of Max's essays. The other pieces, with one or two exceptions, are not--agreeable reading though they make-- quite of the author's best. About half of the thin book is made up of B.B.C. broadcasts--three from the thirties, three from the forties--which deal mainly with the London of Max Beerbohm's youth (music halls, glimpses of Gladstone, the old quiet London squares), and most of the non-broadcast pieces are in a similar mild reminiscent vein (top hats and Charterhouse school-days). So the occasion, not important in itself, may conveniently serve as a pretext for a general discussion of the author.

The book has been already so used by Mr. Louis Kronenberger in an admirable little essay called The Perfect Trifler, in the Saturday Review of Literature. Mr. Kronenberger begins by assuming that Max is already a classic, and he tries to discriminate the qualities that are likely to ensure his permanence. I agree with Mr. Kronenberger that Max Beerbohm is likely to be read much longer than certain of his British contempo

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