The Incomparable Max

The Incomparable Max

The Incomparable Max

The Incomparable Max


Max was a keen Latinist. Mr. Wilkinson, his first schoolmaster in Orme Square, gave him a love of Latin 'and thereby enabled me to write English well'. At Charterhouse what he liked was 'Latin prose, Latin verse and drawing caricatures'. So, when he grew up, he would write egomet in place of 'for myself' and would happily coin such compounds as 'inenubilable' and 'multiscience'.

As it is probable that one of the texts in use at Orme Square or Charterhouse, or both, was Caesar, de Bello Gailico, I am led to reflect that Max's literary career might be divided, like Caesar's Gaul, into three parts: first, the dramatic criticism, essays and tales published between 1894 and 1910; second, Zuleika Dobson and the later essays (1910 to 1935); third, the Rede Lecture and the broadcasts (1935 to 1955).

The purpose of such a trichotomy is not to expound any elaborate theory of stylistic development, but rather to emphasise how large a proportion of Max's writing belongs to the time before his marriage in 1910 and his subsequent, or consequent, retirement to Rapallo.

At any stage in his career Max loved to contemplate himself in retrospect. In 1895 he wrote in Diminuendo:

'I shall write no more. Already I feel myself to be a trifle outmoded. I belong to the Beardsley period. Younger men, with months of activity before them, with fresher schemes and notions, with newer enthusiasm, have pressed forward since then. Cedo junioribus'.

In 1921, when he refused to give any help to Bohun Lynch in his proposed biography:

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