Beerbohm, Max

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Biographical notes:

Max Beerbohm, considered by some to be the best essayist, parodist, and cartoonist of his age, was born Henry Maximilian Beerbohm on August 24, 1872, in London, to Julius Ewald Beerbohm and his second wife, Eliza Draper Beerbohm. His early education was at a preparatory school in Orme Square, and then at Charterhouse. He attended Merton College at Oxford 1890-1894, but did not receive a degree.

While at Oxford, Beerbohm published caricatures and essays in the Strand and other periodicals. In 1893 he became acquainted with Sir William Rothenstein, who introduced him to Aubrey Beardsley and other members of the literary and artistic circle connected with the Bodley Head. Through Beerbohm's half brother, noted actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, he became acquainted with Oscar Wilde and his friends. By the time Beerbohm left Oxford, he had developed his personality as a dandy and humorist.

In 1895 he traveled with Herbert Beerbohm Tree's theatrical company on a four-month tour of American cities, working as Tree's secretary. After his return to London, he moved in with his sisters and widowed mother. He contributed drawings and essays to various periodicals, including the Yellow Book, the Savoy, and the Daily Mail . His first book of drawings, Caricatures of Twenty-five Gentleman, and his first literary collection, The Works of Max Beerbohm, were both published in 1896. In 1898 he succeeded George Bernard Shaw as drama critic of the Saturday Review, a position he held until 1910.

During the years he wrote for the Saturday Review he arranged four exhibitions of his drawings. In 1906 he received an assignment from the Daily Mail to write a travel series on Italy, and he became attracted to that country. In 1910 he married the American-born actress Florence Kahn, resigned his position as drama critic, and moved with his wife to Rapallo, Italy, partly as an escape from the social demands and the expense of living in London. Except for the time during the two World Wars when they lived in England, and occasional trips to England to take part in exhibitions of his drawings, Max and Florence Beerbohm lived in Rapallo for the rest of their lives; for a while, Ezra Pound was a neighbor.

Beerbohm published several collections of essays, parodies, and caricatures. In 1911, he published his only novel, Zuleika Dobson . His last volume of essays, A Variety of Things, was published in 1928. His later years were spent in retirement. In 1935 the Beerbohms traveled to England so that Florence could appear in a revival of Peer Gynt at the Old Vic; during this time Max created a successful series of BBC broadcasts, London Revisited . He was knighted in 1939. After Florence's death in 1951, Beerbohm lived with his secretary, Elizabeth Jungmann, whom he married a few weeks before his death. He died May 20, 1956, in Rapallo, Italy.

From the guide to the Max Beerbohm Art Collection, 188- -1946, n.d., (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin)


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