Max Beerbohm by Professor N. John Hall
A Kind of Life

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Synopsis

Max Beerbohm was widely celebrated as the wittiest mind of his age. And it was a very long age indeed: he became famous in the mid-1890s and remained so until his death in 1956. His wit manifested itself in both prose and caricature, and his writings and drawings are keenly interesting. Max's life, however, was relatively uneventful, of interest, he said, only to himself. This biography of Max aims to enliven his story by quoting him whenever possible. John Hall moves quickly through Max's history: schoolboy; college undergraduate; London caricaturist, journalist and critic; Edwardian social butterfly; married man and self-exile to Italy in 1910, where he produced numerous books, essays and caricatures; and, from 1935 to 1956, occasional BBC radio broadcaster. Hall notes that although all Max's work during his 15 early years on the London scene concerned contemporary art and life, after his "retirement" in 1910 his writings and drawings harkened back to the late-Victorian/Edwardian era and even to the Pre-Raphaelites; he became, he said, an "interesting link with the past". The volume, like Max's work, highlights his connection with various eminences over three eras: Algernon Swinburne, J.A.M. Whistler, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and many others.
 

About Professor N. John Hall

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N. John Hall is a Distinguished Professor at Bronx Community College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Twice a Guggenheim Fellow and the author of many books, he is considered one of the world's leading authorities on Anthony Trollope and Max Beerbohm.
 
Published October 1, 2002 by Yale University Press. 224 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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In what may strike readers as an oddly squeamish (not to mention oxymoronic) way to begin a biography, Hall asserts that he will respect his subject's wish that his private life remain a mystery, and he will instead focus only on his public life and his writings and drawings.

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The New York Review of Books

but Beerbohm, who handles his material in ingenious, unpredictable ways, subtly embeds a moral force into his seemingly informal observations, and he transforms caricature into an art capable of exquisitely modulated surface textures and the most precise novelistic insights into character.

Feb 13 2003 | Read Full Review of Max Beerbohm: A Kind of Life

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Hall follows his claim that Beerbohm's "Wildean affectations...were not to everyone's taste," for example, with the declaration that he himself finds it "hard to be impressed" by bits of Wildean wit that Beerbohm is recorded as having spoken (19).

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