The Poet's Corner

The Poet's Corner

The Poet's Corner

The Poet's Corner

Excerpt

MAX BEERBOHM is a leisurely perfectionist who ever since his earliest years has avoided all uncongenial work; so it is that the nine published volumes of his drawings and the nine published volumes of his essays and stories, which represent the greater part of his life's work, contain only his maturest and most personal reflections upon the subjects which have aroused his interest. Anybody who peruses these eighteen volumes (which, being slender as well as infinitely entertaining, requires no effort whatsoever) can hardly fail to form a vivid and precise idea of Max's character, intellect, outlook on life, opinion of his contemporaries and of the problems of the day, and of his appearance; even a notion of his voice and manner. These eighteen volumes constitute, in effect, a portrait of a man as complete in its way as Boswell Johnson. It is, appropriately, a less massive work, yet it reveals, although indirectly, as much of the essential Max as the other of the essential Johnson.

To add anything of value to such a portrait would be difficult at any time, but to introduce Max to the immense public which reads Penguin Books is a particularly difficult undertaking. For Max has no love for the public, and has an antipathy for the democratic, collectivist age into which he has lived. A drawing, for instance, such as that in which he makes a proletarian boy exclaim, before a portrait of a supercilious aristocrat, 'That's the kind of class-consciousness I'd like', is a challenge to prevailing ideals. But Max's is a challenge which should be met, not with impatience but with gratitude, for few things are more salutary to society than satire.

We are fortunate in having among us two caricaturists of the first order: Low, who mercilessly flood . . .

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