Virginia Woolf called Max Beerbohm “the prince” of essayists, F. W. Dupee praised his “whim of iron” and “cleverness amounting to genius,” while Beerbohm himself noted that “only the insane take themselves quite seriously.” From his precocious debut as a dandy in 1890s Oxford until he put his pen aside in the aftermath of World War II, Beerbohm was recognized as an incomparable observer of modern life and an essayist whose voice was always and only his own. Here Phillip Lopate, one of the finest essayists of our day, has selected the finest of Beerbohm’s essays. Whether writing about the vogue for Russian writers, laughter and philosophy, dandies, or George Bernard Shaw, Beerbohm is as unpredictable as he is unfailingly witty and wise. As Lopate writes, “Today . . . it becomes all the more necessary to ponder how Beerbohm performed the delicate operation of displaying so much personality without lapsing into sticky confession.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What wonderful company this book is. It's like spending a long holiday in London or Rapallo with an old friend, wise and witty, but never malicious. And the language, the delightful turns of phrase, the uncommon insight into people and things. The sheer common sense of the man. If you can't afford a holiday this year, buy this book and avoid jet lag. A friend for life!
If you can comfortably read one hundred year old British prose, then you'll probably enjoy this collection of Beerbohm essays. The sentences are long but the phrases are compacted to gem-like hardness. There can be so many layers of irony that it is often difficult to know whether the author is serious, semi-serious or only conditionally serious. Most 21st century readers will find the social customs of that time and place strange and confusing, but if Trollope and Thackeray are your cup of tea, then you'll like Beerbohm even though he's a generation or two later. Those who study English prose seriously will find treasures here, but not much that can be transported to the present day. The pieces included range from humor and whimsy to straight memoir. The account of Beerbohm's visits to the aged and deaf Swinburne is moving even if, like me, you are unfamiliar with his poems.
Beerbohm is witty and well informed on some unusual and interesting topics not covered by other writers. Still his style is so fustian, wordy and effete that few contemporary readers will have the patience to slog through to the good parts. So instead, some complaints about kindle. Yes the print is easy to read, especially on the paper white, the selection of books is enormous, the prices cheap and the downloading convenient. But besides the facts that you cannot leave your library to your children, loan your books, easily underline or write comments in the books or find the ones you want to revisit, and that French books are locked away in some copyright struggle, you face two other issues. First, reviews are almost always favorable because only readers who finish a book are asked to review it. Hardly anyone but a professional reviewer will finish a book he doesn't like. Second, when you download a sample--a great idea in itself--you are frequently stuck reading a long boring...
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