I recently came across a photo of Max (Beerbohm) that I hadn’t seen. Given his age and that the room seems tailored to Max’s interests (including at least one of his own caricatures – hard to make out whether some of the other pictures are his as well), I assume this is in Rapallo.
The bowtie is no surprise – Max remained a dandy from his Oxford days onwards. The hat also fits in with Max’s style, although it is not the “stiff straw hat set at a rakish angle” in which S.N. Behrman first met him, on the eve of Max’s eightieth birthday.
I dearly wish I could make out the titles of the books encircling his head. Does anyone know whether Max’s library was catalogued anywhere? Actually, as I type this inquiry, I recall that Behrman may provide a partial answer. On his third visit, he describes a conversation on Max’s terrace at the Villino, before moving back inside to Max’s study, which had some of his caricatures (check). “Three of the walls were lined, halfway up, with plain white-painted wooden bookshelves.” (check). On Behrman’s further snooping (and who wouldn’t?), he reports that the books were “mostly presentation copies of books by Max’s contemporaries – George Moore, Arnold Bennett, Oscar Wilde, F.S. Street, George Meredith, Herbert Trench, Edmund Gosse, Siegfried Sassoon, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, G.M. Trevelyan, Henry Arthur Jones, Richard Le Gallienne, Stephen Phillips.” Hmm, hardly my cup of reading tea, except maybe Wilde. Too earnest, too dated.
However, according to Behrman, “[f]or many of these books, Max had amused himself by drawing what he called Misleading Frontispieces. They are mostly in color, and they do mislead you. If you believed, for example, Max’s title page for George Moore’s Memoirs of My Dead Life, you would think you were in for the reminiscences of a hero of the cricket field.” There’s the Max we know – always mischievous. Behrman goes on to describe his inspection of More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands by Queen Victoria, which included “Max’s forgeries, scattered all through the book in the Queen’s handwriting.” Max also forged on the flyleaf the Queen copying out “Some Opinions of the Press” on her book, including this one:
“Not a book to leave lying about on the drawing-room table nor one to place indiscriminately in the hands of young men and maidens. . . Will be engrossing to those of mature years. – Spectator.”
For more such entertaining reminiscenes of Max, including a captivating insight into his two favorite photos (p. 69-70), please do read S.N. Behrman’s Portrait of Max. It is harder to find these days, but delightful and superb, and includes many of Max’s caricatures and a wonderful photo of Max.