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ELT 47 : 4 2004 lysing the minutiae of Victoria's construction. The book is at its most engaging when it picks up on these seemingly minor details, like the stalkers who declared their undying love for the Queen and frequently ended up in lunatic asylums, or the "airbrushing" of Victoria's plump waist and double chin in many of her photographs. The material in this book, much of it analysed for the first time, is clearly fascinating. However, the writing style is not always compelling. Moreover, the central argument that the press downplayed the political role of the Queen to emphasise a more intimate relation with the people can result in a downplaying of politics itself—not in the sense of party politics, which is addressed in some detail here, but the politics of class, gender and race. Who, for example, are "the People"? Surely not the homogenous group that the term implies? As Plunkett observes, Victoria was read in all sorts of ways by the press, but who read the press and how did they read it? What were readers' reactions and responses to the texts and images discussed here and in what ways were they influenced by their own cultural context? Unfortunately, these questions are not addressed in this book, but as a history of the Victorian media, Queen Victoria : First Media Monarch is enlightening both in its analysis of the nineteenth-century press and its anticipation of the media-saturated world we live in today. JULIA THOMAS Cardiff University Beerbohm Biography N. John Hall. Max Beerbohm—A Kind of a Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. xiv + 284 pp. $24.95 THERE IS NO QUESTION that N. John Hall's Max Beerbohm—A Kind of a Life is a labor of love, coming as it does out of thirty years' study of Beerbohm in historical and literary contexts. The first Beerbohm biography since S. N. Behrman's Portrait of Max (1960) and David Cecil's Max: A Biography (1964), it reiterates the narrative of Beerbohm's life while integrating commentaries on his essays, fiction and satirical portraiture . Early on, Hall admits the irony and implausibility of trying to "ferret out the inner man" in a figure whose work consistently celebrated surface and style. As Beerbohm did not keep a diary or write revealing letters, Hall draws on what resources he can, such as the autobiographical essays that Beerbohm wrote as a student and journalist and BBC radio broadcasts from later in his life. Correspondence from Beerbohm's early romantic life attests to the impenetrability of this 449 BOOK REVIEWS masked man: Beerbohm no sooner voices earnest feelings then he veers off into self-mockery. It is left to his biographer then to walk a fine line, detecting an undercurrent of seriousness in such passages or not. In all, Hall does a strong job of interpreting his evidence. And more than once in the course of the work, he does find an entry into Beerbohm's emotional interior, particularly when researching Beerbohm's sentimental letters to Florence Kahn before their marriage. Hall carefully reconstructs Beerbohm's childhood, including a predisposition to dandyism as early as his years at Charterhouse. The book then moves on to examine Beerbohm's Oxford years and his early fame as a caricaturist. Scholars of the Aesthetic Movement will be particularly interested to read of Beerbohm's creative responses to Oscar Wilde, from his imitation of Wilde's style in short stories like "The Happy Hypocrite " to his pictorial satires of Wilde the man. Using Beerbohm's correspondence , Hall retraces the Wilde trials through Beerbohm's point of view, including Beerbohm's horrified discovery of one of his own caricatures of Wilde in the office of the police inspector who had made the arrest . The chapter is grounded in an even-handed analysis of Beerbohm's ambiguous sexual status in a homosexual milieu that included Reginald Turner, Alfred Douglas, and Robert Ross. Hall balances the section on Wilde with one on that other self-publicizing aesthete, James Whistler: Beerbohm begins their relationship as an admirer and ends by engaging Whistler in precisely the sort of verbal sparring for which Whistler had gained his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 449-452
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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