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Book Reviews the one nor the other has deflected him from writing an essentially humane commentary on the delicate artifice of Beerbohm's parody. After a preamble of several pages in which he reviews contemporary theoretical notions of parody, he proceeds to examine several specimens from A Christmas Garland using eclectic means. At his best Danson integrates evidence drawn from anecdotes, letters, and caricatures to weave very plausible conjectures about Beerbohm's motives, perhaps the most elusive feature of Beerbohm's artistry. That they remain conjectures rather than strenuously argued convictions contributes to the overall geniality of the book: it persuades, it does not overwhelm. I venture to say that this is perhaps the only critical work on Beerbohm that Beerbohm himself would have approved of. But Danson's well-mannered and desultory delivery can be as deceptive as Beerbohm's itself. A serious theme underlies this book, namely that for Beerbohm the act of writing was essentially a realization of the impulse to parody and that his parody is a legitimized and aestheticized form of personal contention, a sanctioned act of aggression . This is hardly a very original or profound observation. Critics have long known that the personality of the satirist, rather than the righteousness of his attack, is the energetic source of satire. Rarely, however, has parody been seen as other than an entertainment or a technique, one of many weapons in the satirist's arsenal. For Danson parody suffuses all of Beerbohm's writing, not merely in the obvious instances of A Christmas Garland and Seven Men but in his drama criticism and Zuleika Dobson as well. Seen in this light, Beerbohm is no longer an innocent and whimsical trifler, spinning out polite and toothless mockeries, like Horace and James Smith, C. S. Calverley, or Bret Harte. Rather Beerbohm is a contender for attention and honor, basing his claim on the observed and recorded limitations of others. That the hostility was so refined contributed to the enigma of Max among his contemporaries. Danson's book does much to unravel that enigma. Ira Grushow Franklin & Marshall College The Symons Renaissance Arthur Symons: Selected Letters, 1880-1935. Karl Beckson and John M. Munro, eds. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1989. xx + 320 pp. $35.00 ARTHUR, TO BORROW from Whistler's "Ten O'Clock" apothegm, is upon the Town! Following close upon Beckson's Arthur Symons: A 345 ELT: Volume 33:3 1990 Life (1987), Lawrence W. Markert's Arthur Symons: Critic of the Seven Arts (1985), John Stokes's ELT essay on Symons's "Romantic Movement " (1988) and mine in Critical Survey of Literary Theory (1988), and preceding the new and needed Arthur Symons: A Bibliography (1990), this volume both adds to the growing Symons renaissance and contributes an invaluable dimension to our knowledge of the private side of a public personality of the Transitional age. In these letters Symons reveals himself to an extent that many of his contemporaries, having created their own public masks, could not or would not do. Here we find Symons eager, enthusiastic, personal , even indiscreet. We see, for example, the world of the Nineties through the eyes of one of its principal actors, keenest observers and chroniclers who knew everyone he set out to know, went everywhere that mattered to him, became an intimate of French poets, a confidant of novelists and men and women of letters, a connoisseur of dance halls and the stage, an incisive critic of the arts and an indefatigable commentator on his age. In this exemplary collaborative effort, Beckson and Munro, two of the foremost authorities on Symons, pool their considerable skills and vast knowledge to produce a work of meticulous scholarship. It is the first published volume of Symons's letters written to such figures as Joseph Conrad, Edmund Gosse, Thomas Hardy, William Butler Yeats, Augustus John and the aspiring poet, James Joyce. Dividing his life into four periods, the editors introduce each segment with a brief biographical study that nicely encapsulates the Symons of that stage, identifies correspondents and relationships, and amplifies issues and concerns that appear in the subsequently printed letters. Their notes to the letters are highly instructive, far from the perfunctory...


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pp. 345-348
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Will Be Archived 2021
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