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The Prince of Minor Writers

The Selected Essays of Max Beerbohm

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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.”

From Publishers Weekly

Apr 13, 2015 – Compiling 50 pieces by noted English essayist and caricaturist Beerbohm, editor Lopate (To Show and to Tell) invites modern readers to appreciate the scope of Beerbohm's writing. Virginia Woolf called Beerbohm "the prince of his profession" and his "minor" works provide a glimpse of daily life in the 19th and early 20th centuries, revealing that while manners and dress have evolved, human nature certainly has not. For this alone, Beerbohm's essays deserve to be revisited today. At its best, his writing is humorous and self-deprecating. His stories of observing a nine-year-old build a sandcastle ("Something Defeasible") or discovering his favorite hat box stripped of its railway labels ("Ichabod") may prove more gratifying and relatable to modern readers than his satirical discussions of Goethe ("Quia Imperfectum") or the behavior of servants ("Servants"). Beerbohm's longer essays, apart from his touching portrait of his elder brother, "From a Brother's Standpoint," can be summed up by his own quote about James McNeill Whistler in "Whistler's Writing": "An exquisite talent... is always at its best on a small scale. On a large scale it strays and is distressed." In this substantial collection, however, the gems certainly outweigh the duds.
The Prince of Minor Writers
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: Jun 02, 2015
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 432 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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