Biography of Edward Marsh

Biography of Edward Marsh

Biography of Edward Marsh

Biography of Edward Marsh

Excerpt

Edward Marsh was a scholar. He was also, and for many years, a great deal more, making active appearances where men of academic temperament do not normally feel at home -- such as dancing his way through every ball of the London season, travelling on foot to the source of the Nile, playing mah-jong with the King of Portugal or bézique with the Aga Khan for sixpenny stakes. So it is advisable at the start to pinpoint the central being. He will only be imagined aright if seen as a scholar whose other qualities combined, sometimes for years at a stretch, to lead him away from his natural bent. He was, of course, an aesthete of acute perception and an ornament of society with an inexhaustible fund of small talk; one, moreover, for whom no talk could be too small. Owing to these contrasts in personality his conversation was often an engaging blend of ambrosia and small beer. Concinnity of mind, perhaps the most striking element of his nature, while making a harmony of these differences, also made it impossible for him to be pedantic. His lightness of touch was so deceptively feather-light that it never seemed to carry the weight of authority.

The man of marked ambition (such as is most often the subject of a biography) goes from one limited aim to the next, always holding the longer aim in view. He sets a course for himself, brushing things and people out of the way to either side, and it is easy enough in that case to distinguish between what is relevant, lying within or near the groove of his career, and what is outside it and dispensable. With a man of more passive nature discrimination is not so simple. If he is so far from being a man of action as to manage very well by means of a happy gift of letting things happen to him, he will almost certainly leave behind him a story rather lacking in momentum. Instead of a prominent guiding line there will be an infinite number of little strands of interest radiating in all directions, and if a biographer should start paring away the inessentials, as he must, he must be careful where he stops, or he will discover that the man himself whom they composed has . . .

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