(Adam Gopnik’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 8/3.)
The essayist and caricaturist Max Beerbohm was one of the great figures of the late Victorian and Edwardian era in London—and then had a surprising Indian summer in America in the early nineteen-sixties, when Edmund Wilson wrote at length in his praise, and the playwright S. N. Behrman serialized a book of conversations with the very elderly Max (his admirers always call him by his first name, a not entirely honorable honor) in this magazine. John Updike and W. H. Auden, too, wrote about him, here and elsewhere. Since then, his reputation, like that of most of his contemporaries, has not so much collapsed like a house of cards as shrunk like a boiled head. It remains sharply chiselled, feature by feature, but on a much smaller scale: still intently animate to those who want him, invisible to those who don’t.
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