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BOOK REVIEWS Overall Federico's study makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the gendering of artistic movements and critical schools at the turn of the century. It could be argued that the assessment of Corelli's creative practice as a novelist is overly sympathetic. Nonetheless , it is refreshing to find new valuation of Corelli's achievement in rendering popular fiction an artistic success, whether that be defined in commercial terms or in terms of the expression of a moral or spiritual vision . Federico uses critical and cultural theory eclectically and, for the most part, without questioning its premises so her study does not seek to provide new theoretical or methodological insights. But it does present an excellent model for considering the cultural impact of other popular literary celebrities and will make many readers reassess their own prejudices and preconceptions about the serious purposes and significance of mass culture at the turn of the nineteenth century and today. Maureen Moran ______________ Brunei University, London Beerbohm Entertainment J. G. Riewald. Max Beerbohm's Mischievous Wit: A Literary Entertainment . Van Gorcum: Assen, The Netherlands, 2000. 253 pp. Paper NLG. 50.00 IF THERE WERE a school of Max Beerbohm studies, J. G. Riewald would be its dean. In 1953 Riewald published a monumental bio-bibliographical study, Sir Max Beerbohm, Man and Writer (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff). He has followed this with several volumes of memorial essays or previously uncollected bits and pieces of Beerbohmiana : The Surprise of Excellence (1974), Beerbohm's Literary Caricatures (1977), Remembering Max Beerbohm (1991), Collected Verse (1994), and now Max Beerbohm's Mischievous Wit: A Literary Entertainment (2000). To have written a monumental study of the lapidarÃ-an Max—essayist, caricaturist, parodist, one-time novelist—is an oxymoronic accomplishment that might embarrass a less dedicated scholar. Riewald, by contrast , embraces his fate. In the present volume he quotes, without demur, Edmund Wilson's judgment of Sir Max Beerbohm, Man and Writer as "'a very scholarly but rather boring' study"; and its central chapter is an ingenious analysis of a Beerbohm "versicle"— To Dr. D. Honoured Doctor Dryasdust, Look to your laurels, you really must. 209 ELT 44 : 2 2001 You seem so very moist indeed When one compares you with Herbert Read— in which he proves, through close reading and scholarly digging, that "the real subject of Max's quatrain... is Riewald, not Read." Riewald surmises that his German-sounding name allowed Beerbohm to replace the real target, "Herr Rie [wal]<¿," with the place-filler "Her[bert] Read." In fact Dr. Riewald is not German but Dutch—a circumstance of which he is justifiably proud; and his proof that he is the real Doctor Dryasdust involves (in a way too complicated to reproduce here) a Beerbohm poem about J. T. Grein, the founder in 1891 of The Independent Theatre, which bears the refrain "And Grein was a bright Dutch boy, my boys, / And Grein was a bright Dutch boy." Beerbohm underlined the phrase "bright Dutch boy" in Riewald's presence; and, as Riewald reminds us, "Max was himself of mixed German, Dutch, and Lithuanian origin." Riewald rightly observes that "Max not only liked my book, he also liked me." Strenuous analysis of the sort Riewald devotes to the versicle is rare in Max Beerbohm's Mischievous Wit. The book is a gathering of "Maxian wit" culled not only from Beerbohm's published work and letters but from anecdotes in S. N. Berhman's Portrait of Max (1960), David Cecil's biography Max (1965), and by a host of other memorialists and memoirists who preserve a kind of oral formulaic tradition of Beerbohm's "'inimitable' quips, in-jokes, and rapid one-liners" (book jacket). The first half, "Living Right," proceeds biographically; the second, "Judging Right," is an author-by-author compendium of Beerbohm's critical opinions . (Much of the latter material is treated in the commentary of N. John Hall's superb volume of Max Beerbohm's Caricatures, 1997.) Riewald calls his book "a literary entertainment," and it is indeed a delight , a pleasurable day's read for any literary type with an Anglophile bent. Even the most dedicated Beerbohm fans will find out-loudlaughable things they've forgotten or missed. Occasionally they'll find things up to the standard of Beerbohm's published work. I was happy to discover the first verse of an uncollected parody of Tennyson, inspired (Riewald tells us) by Florence Beerbohm's observation, upon reading "Crossing the Bar," that "it was a comfort to her to come upon real belief": I think not shame that men should look To that which, if indeed it be, Shall not refuse to set doubt free Through reconcilement with the Book. 210 BOOK REVIEWS The tentative negatives of ostensible assertion are part of a stylistic mimicry that tells us almost all we need to know about Tennyson's "real belief." I'd like to read the whole parody, a pleasure reserved, alas, for readers with access to Heinemann's Collected Edition, of which only 780 sets were published. There are potential pitfalls for a volume of an author's wit-andwisdom . Along with the many genuinely funny things in this book are others which will be funny only to already committed Beerbohmians. Beerbohm was not being finicky or cute in his persistent refusal to publish the private doodlings, in words or pictures, with which he often entertained himself. These amusements—practical jokes, defaced books, and the like—are very much part of Beerbohm's strange artistic persona ; and the relation between his marginalia and his published work is a fascinating subject for speculation. But Beerbohm himself never confused the two. Riewald's quotations from the wonderfully awful poetry of the always-already lamented character Enoch Soames or from any of the other stories in Seven Men or the parodies in A Christmas Garland show us products of the rigorously self-conscious artist. Some of the anecdotal evidence of his supposedly spontaneous wit shows, by contrast, the living man laboring to live up to his authorial persona. His greatest creation was the character of Max himself. From his first slim volume, grandly titled The Works of Max Beerbohm (1896), with its mock-scholarly bibliography by the publisher John Lane, to the BBC broadcasts after World War II, he brilliantly managed the art of selfrepresentation . Max was his own most frequently caricatured figure; even in the great series of theater reviews he wrote regularly from 1898 to 1910 in the Saturday Review—even, amazingly, in the parodies where he is ostensibly absent—the dominating presence is always Max, a figure who in the early years masquerades as enfant terrible and in later years as senex (gently) irratus. The act was so craftily worked that the polished surface of an essay can seem to disappear and in its place appears Max himself, talking to us, taking us into his confidence, like a magician who pretends to be exposing his tricks even as, Io and behold, he goes on mystifying us. In this book's many wonderful moments, the man on the balcony of his little home in Rapallo sounds indeed like the Max we know from the works. But in some of the quips and quiddities Riewald records, Sir Max appears genuinely infantile or genuinely crotchety, the ostensibly real man so much less satisfying than the authorial trickster. 211 ELT 44 : 2 2001 In his infectious enthusiasm, Riewald can at times be uncritically accepting , not only of Beerbohm's one-liners, but of supposed fact. True, Beerbohm was surprisingly vehement in denying rumors that his Lithuanian father was of Jewish extraction; but Riewald's claim that "his sturdy and long-lived forefathers ... occasionally entertain [ed] such distinguished guests as the King of Prussia, or even the Tsar himself" may be pushing things too far. Max in print could make himself seem child-like and cosy, but in an anecdote Riewald takes without comment from John Gielgud's memoirs he appears too impish by half: at a performance of Hamlet at His Majesty's Theatre, where Max's half-brother, Herbert Beerbohm-Tree, ruled as actor-manager, Max was found "curled up on a pile of overcoats in the passage, dozing. He awoke and murmured apologetically, Ί am so sorry. I always enjoy Herbert's Hamlet this way.'" Henry James was the admired subject of some of Beerbohm 's best parodies and caricatures, and of the poignant little fable called simply "An Incident," read on the BBC in 1954, less than two years before Beerbohm's death. Riewald claims that Beerbohm was "prescient " because "he was among the first to react seriously and intelligently to the work of the American novelist": this also carries the wise child thing too far, since Roderick Hudson, The American, Daisy Miller, and Portrait of a Lady had all been published before Max was nine years old. But these are small slips in a book that so fully achieves its aim of entertaining . If anything, Riewald might have suppressed for the unbuttoned occasion some of his characteristic scholarly completeness. The book is unnecessarily (though unobtrusively) loaded with explanatory footnotes, many of them to Riewald's own, rather than to Beerbohm's, references. It's conceivable that a reader of this enjoyable volume may need to be told that when Riewald mentions Elvis Presley he means "Elvis Presley (1935-77): the American worldwide rock-'n'-roll phenomenon and film actor," but how many need to be clued about "Benjamin Franklin (1706-90): American author and statesman, leader in philosophic, scientific, and political affairs" or "Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94): British novelist, essayist and poet" or "Karl Marx (1818-83): German philosopher and political economist, originator of communist doctrines." Beerbohm writes that as a child he was frightened by a performing bear in the Bayswater Road, identified in the notes as "a thoroughfare not far from the Zoo in Regent's Park, London"; in a letter Beerbohm mentions Ellis Island, and Riewald explains, "an island in 212 BOOK REVIEWS Upper New York Bay, the leading U.S. immigration centre from 1892 to 1943." But I'm beginning to sound more grouchy than Groucho, when what's due to Riewald is thanks for this latest labor of love in a career's worth of contributions to the small but (if I say so as shouldn't) choice field populated by those who find Max Beerbohm funny enough to take seriously. Lawrence Danson ------------------------ Princeton University The Legendary Smithers James G. Nelson. Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the Careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dow son. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. xvi + 430 pp. $40.00. U.K./ Rivendale Press, www.rivendale press.freeserve.co.uk P.O. Box 97, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire HP14 4GH £25.00 THIS VOLUME is Nelson's third publishing history of the most important "literary publishers" of the Transitional period, beginning with his acclaimed study, The Early Nineties: A View from the Bodley Head (1971), followed by Elkin Mathews: Publisher to Yeats, Joyce, Pound (1989). The central figures of these studies—John Lane, Mathews, and Smithers—were, as part of the avant-garde movement, instrumental in transforming "book design and decoration that would open the way to the modern book." Of these and other "new literary publishers ," Nelson contends that Smithers was "the most daring, courageous , and, in some respects, the most clever and talented of them all." However, Smithers's reputation as a dealer in pornography has overshadowed his other interests: that is, his "valiant efforts to rescue the young avant-garde writers and artists of the fin de siècle who in the spring of 1895 had been caught up in the dramatic backlash which followed the tragic fall of Wilde. . . ." As a solicitor in Sheffield, Smithers established an epistolary relationship with Sir Richard Burton, translator of The Thousand Nights and a Night (1885). They subsequently collaborated in translating and producing several Latin texts "of an erotic caste." After Burton's death in 1890, Smithers joined Harry Nichols, a Sheffield printer and rare-book dealer, in printing and clandestinely distributing pornographic works. In 1891 they moved to London, where they established separate rarebook and printing businesses, continuing their trade in pornography. In 1893, Smithers produced the anonymous homosexual novel Teleny, which some writers have associated with Wilde, the evidence derived 213 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 209-213
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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