More by Max Beerbohm
My first encounter with Max Beerbohm was last year, when I read his collection “Works” (kindly provided by publisher Michael Walmer, who produced a lovely new edition of the work). Now Mike has brought out Beerbohm’s second collection of pieces entitled simply “More” and he’s once again kindly sent a review copy.
As I said in my review of “Works”, Author Max Beerbohm is probably best known nowadays for his novel “Zuleika Dobson”, a satirical story of life in undergraduate Oxford, although Wikipedia reminds us that he was “an English essayist, parodist, and caricaturist”. I still haven’t managed to read the copy of that novel, which is lurking on Mount TBR, though Simon had an interesting take on it here! However, I do love Beerbohm’s short works so I was looking forward to more (literally!).
Max’s second collection contains 20 short and witty pieces on a wide range of topics, covering everything from Madame Tussaud’s to bicycles. As with “Works” his subjects and attitudes are remarkably modern; Beerbohm is often at his best when on the subject of celebrity, which frankly seems to have changed very little since his time. His observations of the transient and fickle nature of fashions and crazes, and the public’s obsession with the latest celeb’s personal life are pithy and spot on. At other times, he was a little wide of the mark – the fashion essay did decry women on bicycles – but mostly his observations still resonate and he’s always an entertaining read.
I can do little more than give you a couple of quotes so you get a flavour of his writing, in the hope that you’ll feel inclined to check out his books. Once again, Mike Walmer has produced a lovely looking little volume that matches the earlier one beautifully – if you like your wit Oscar or Saki-style, this is definitely for you!
It is because actors, in pursuit of their art, display themselves, that the public takes a keen interest in all their circumstances. You must blame, not the actors, but the public. Even supposing (which is foolish) that these “personal paragraphs”are generally inspired by their subject, they would not be printed unless the public wished to read them. As a matter of fact, actors are no more desirous of irrelevant fame than are any other artists. It is the public which wishes quite naturally, to know all about them. The journalists, quite naturally, seek to gratify the public.
For what is ours by natural right we care nothing. In our code possession is nine tenths of ennui, and we delight only in things alien to us. Our young men ape the wisdom and weariness of eld, whilst eld would fain dance, with stiff limbs, to the joyous and silly tunes of adolescence. What we have not, we simulate; and of what we have, we are heartily ashamed. We pull long faces to hide our mirth, and grin when we are most wretched. We are all of us, always, in everything, straining after contraries.
Truly, human nature doesn’t seem to change very much…