40 Works of Max Beerbohm
People still go on comparing Thackeray and Dickens, quite cheerfully. But the fashion of comparing Maltby and Braxton went out so long ago as 1795. No, I am wrong. But anything that happened in the bland old days before the war does seem to be a hundred more years ago than actually it is. The [...]
I like to remember that I was the first to call him so, for, though he always deprecated the nickname, in his heart he was pleased by it, I know, and encouraged to go on.
Quite apart from its significance, he had reason to welcome it. He had been unfortunate at the font. His parents, at [...]
I am not good at it. To do it well seems to me one of the most difficult things in the world, and probably seems so to you, too.
To see a friend off from Waterloo to Vauxhall were easy enough. But we are never called on to perform that small feat. It is only when [...]
If I were `seeing over’ a house, and found in every room an iron cage let into the wall, and were told by the caretaker that these cages were for me to keep lions in, I think I should open my eyes rather wide. Yet nothing seems to me more natural than a fire in [...]
An antique ruin has its privileges. The longer the period of its crumbling, the more do the owls build their nests in it, the more do the excursionists munch in it their sandwiches. Thus, year by year, its fame increases, till it looks back with contempt on the days when it was a mere upright [...]
By graceful custom, every newcomer to a throne in Europe pays a round of visits to his neighbours. When King Edward came back from seeing the Tsar at Reval, his subjects seemed to think that he had fulfilled the last demand on his civility. That was in the days of Abdul Hamid. None of us [...]
Often I have presentiments of evil; but, never having had one of them fulfilled, I am beginning to ignore them. I find that I have always walked straight, serenely imprescient, into whatever trap Fate has laid for me. When I think of any horrible thing that has befallen me, the horror is intensified by recollection [...]
Riderless the horse was, and with none to hold his bridle. But he waited patiently, submissively, there where I saw him, at the shabby corner of a certain shabby little street in Chelsea. `My beautiful, my beautiful, thou standest meekly by,’ sang Mrs. Norton of her Arab steed, `with thy proudly-arched and glossy neck, thy [...]
This is an age of prescriptions. Morning after morning, from the back- page of your newspaper, quick and uncostly cures for every human ill thrust themselves wildly on you. The age of miracles is not past. But I would raise no false hopes of myself. I am no thaumaturgist. Do you awake with a sinking [...]
No book-lover, I. Give me an uninterrupted view of my fellow- creatures. The most tedious of them pleases me better than the best book. You see, I admit that some of them are tedious. I do not deem alien from myself nothing that is human: I discriminate my fellow- creatures according to their contents. And [...]
Have you read The Young Lady’s Book? You have had plenty of time to do so, for it was published in 1829. It was described by the two anonymous Gentlewomen who compiled it as `A Manual for Elegant Recreations, Exercises, and Pursuits.’ You wonder they had nothing better to think of? You suspect them of [...]
Lord Rosebery once annoyed the Press by declaring that his ideal newspaper was one which should give its news without comment. Doubtless he was thinking of the commonweal. Yet a plea for no comments might be made, with equal force, in behalf of the commentators themselves. Occupations that are injurious to the persons engaged in [...]
The club-room looked very like the auditorium of a music-hall. Indeed, that is what it must once have been. But now there were tiers of benches on the stage; and on these was packed a quarter or so of the members and their friends. The other three-quarters or so were packed opposite the proscenium and [...]
‘The Rebuilding of London’ proceeds ruthlessly apace. The humble old houses that dare not scrape the sky are being duly punished for their timidity. Down they come; and in their place are shot up new tenements, quick and high as rockets. And the little old streets, so narrow and exclusive, so shy and crooked–we are [...]
I admire detachment. I commend a serene indifference to hubbub. I like Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Balzac, Darwin, and other sages, for having been so concentrated on this or that eternal verity in art or science or philosophy, that they paid no heed to alarums and excursions which were sweeping all other folk off [...]
A grave and beautiful place, the Palace of Westminster. I sometimes go to that little chamber of it wherein the Commons sit sprawling or stand spouting. I am a constant reader of the `graphic reports’ of what goes on in the House of Commons; and the writers of these things always strive to give one [...]
Not long ago a prospectus was issued by some more or less aesthetic ladies and gentlemen who, deeming modern life not so cheerful as it should be, had laid their cheerless heads together and decided that they would meet once every month and dance old-fashioned dances in a hall hired for the purpose. Thus would [...]
My florist has standing orders to deliver early on the morning of this day a chaplet of laurel. With it in my hand, I reach by a step-ladder the nobly arched embrasure that is above my central book-case, and crown there the marble brow of him whose name is the especial glory of our literature–of [...]
They often tell me that So-and-so has no sense of humour. Lack of this sense is everywhere held to be a horrid disgrace, nullifying any number of delightful qualities. Perhaps the most effective means of disparaging an enemy is to lay stress on his integrity, his erudition, his amiability, his courage, the fineness of his [...]
–’commonly called “Longshanks” on account of his great height he was the first king crowned in the Abbey as it now appears and was interred with great pomp on St. Simon’s and St. Jude’s Day October 28th 1307 in 1774 the tomb was opened when the king’s body was found almost entire in the right [...]
Belike, returning from a long pilgrimage, in which you have seen many strange men and strange cities, and have had your imagination stirred by marvellous experiences, you have never, at the very end of your journey, almost in sight of your home, felt suddenly that all you had been seeing and learning was as naught–a [...]
“HARLEQUIN”: A SIGN-BOARD, PAINTED ON COPPER, SIGNED ‘W. EVANS, LONDON’ CIRCA 1820
Harlequin dances, and, over the park he dances in, surely there is thunder brooding. His figure stands out, bright, large, and fantastic. But all around him is sultry twilight, and the clouds, pregnant with thunder, lower over him as he dances, and the elms [...]
When a `sensational’ case is being tried, the court is well filled by lay persons in need of a thrill. Their presence seems to be rather resented as a note of frivolity, a discord in the solemnity of the function, even a possible distraction for the judge and jury. I am not a lawyer, nor [...]
A PAINTING BY GIOVANNI BELLINI, IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY
`Credo in Dominum’ were the words this monk wrote in the dust of the high-road, as he lay a-dying there of Cavina’s dagger; and they, according to the Dominican record, were presently washed away by his own blood–`rapida profusio sui sanguinis delevit professionem suoe fidei.’ Yet they [...]
PAUVRETTE! no wonder she is startled. All came on her so suddenly. A moment since, she was alone on this island. Theseus had left her. Her lover had crept from her couch as she lay sleeping, and had sailed away with his comrades, noiselessly, before the sun rose and woke her. >From the top of [...]
A PAINTING BY RUBENS, IN THE PRADO
Here they are met.
Here, by the balustrade, these lords and lusty ladies are met to romp and wanton in the fulness of love, under the solstice of a noon in midsummer. Water gushes in fantastic arcs from the grotto, making a cold music to the emblazoned air, while a [...]
A PAINTING BY COROT, IN THE HERTFORD HOUSE COLLECTION
Look! Across the plain yonder, those three figures, dark and gaunt against the sky…. Who are they? What are they? One of them is pointing with rigid arm towards the gnarled trees that from the hillside stretch out their storm-broken boughs and ragged leaves against the sky. [...]
Over them, ever over them, floats the Blue Bird; and they, the ennuye’es and the ennuyants, the ennuyantes and the ennuye’s, these Parisians of 1830, are lolling in a charmed, charming circle, whilst two of their order, the young Duc de Belhabit et Profil-Perdu with the girl to whom he has but recently been married, [...]
What monster have we here? Who is he that sprawls thus, ventrirotund, against the huge oozing wine-skin? Wide his nose, narrowly-slit his eyes, and with little teeth he smiles at us through a beard of bright russet–a beard soft as the russet coat of a squirrel, and sprouting in several tiers according to the several [...]
It is not among the cardboard glades of the King’s Theatre, nor, indeed, behind any footlights, but in a real and twilit garden that Grisi, gimp-waisted sylphid, here skips for posterity. To her right, the roses on the trellis are not paper roses–one guesses them quite fragrant. And that is a real lake in the [...]
A PAINTING BY GEORGE MORLAND, IN THE HERTFORD HOUSE COLLECTION
Never, I suppose, was a painter less maladif in his work than Morland, that lover of simple and sun-bright English scenes. Probably, this picture of his is all cheerful in intention. Yet the effect of it is saddening.
Superficially, the scene is cheerful enough. Our first impression [...]
Nay, but it is useless to protest. Artifice must queen it once more in the town, and so, if there be any whose hearts chafe at her return, let them not say, ‘We have come into evil times,’ and be all for resistance, reformation, or angry cavilling. For did the king’s sceptre send the sea [...]
Even now Bath glories in his legend, not idly, for he was the most fantastic animal that ever stepped upon her pavement. Were ever a statue given him (and indeed he is worthy of a grotesque in marble), it would be put in Pulteney Street or the Circus. I know that the palm trees of [...]
In the year of grace 1890, and in the beautiful autumn of that year, I was a freshman at Oxford. I remember how my tutor asked me what lectures I wished to attend, and how he laughed when I said that I wished to attend the lectures of Mr. Walter Pater. Also I remember how, [...]
How very delightful Grego’s drawings are! For all their mad perspective and crude colour, they have indeed the sentiment of style, and they reveal, with surer delicacy than does any other record, the spirit of Mr. Brummell’s day. Grego guides me, as Virgil Dante, through all the mysteries of that other world. He shows me [...]
I first saw him one morning of last summer, in the Green Park. Though short, even insignificant, in stature and with an obvious tendency to be obese, he had that unruffled, Olympian air, which is so sure a sign of the Blood Royal. In a suit of white linen he looked serenely cool, despite the [...]
Say, shall these things be forgotten In the Row that men call Rotten, Beauty Clare?–Hamilton Aide.
‘History,’ it has been said, ‘does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.’ Now, there are still some periods with which no historian has grappled, and, strangely enough, the period that most greatly fascinates me is one of [...]
They say that when King George was dying, a special form of prayer for his recovery, composed by one of the Archbishops, was read aloud to him and that His Majesty, after saying Amen ‘thrice, with great fervour,’ begged that his thanks might be conveyed to its author. To the student of royalty in modern [...]
I unpacked my things and went down to await luncheon.
It was good to be here again in this little old sleepy hostel by the sea. Hostel I say, though it spelt itself without an “s” and even placed a circumflex above the “o.” It made no other pretension. It was very cozy indeed.
I had been [...]
I was shocked this morning when I saw in my newspaper a paragraph announcing his sudden death. I do not say that the shock was very disagreeable. One reads a newspaper for the sake of news. Had I never met James Pethel, belike I should never have heard of him: and my knowledge of his [...]