Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm
(August 24, 1872 – May 20, 1956)
was an English parodist and caricaturist.
Born in London,
England, the younger half-brother of actor and producer Sir Herbert
Beerbohm Tree, he was educated at Charterhouse School and Merton
College, Oxford, where he was Secretary of the Myrmidon Club. At
Oxford he became part of the Oscar Wilde set, although George
Bernard Shaw declared that Beerbohm was incomparable to anyone else.
At this early age, he was also in much demand as a guest at the
great dinner parties of Mayfair, where he was considered by many to
be the greatest wit in town. His early brilliance faded all too
soon, and by thirty-five he was viewed as a prematurely dull, heavy,
It was at school
that he began writing. His "Defence of Cosmetics" appeared in the
first edition of the The Yellow Book, Aubrey Beardsley being art
editor at the time. Beerbohm toured the United States while a young
man as a press agent for his brother's theatrical company.
His first book, The
Works of Max Beerbohm, was published in 1896. Having been
interviewed by George Bernard Shaw himself, in 1898 he followed Shaw
as drama critic for the Saturday Review, on whose staff he remained
until 1910. From 1935 onwards, he was an occasional if popular radio
broadcaster, talking on cars and carriages and music halls for the
BBC. His wit is shown often enough in his caricatures but his
letters contain a carefully blended humour—a gentle admonishing of
the excesses of the day—whilst remaining firmly tongue in cheek. His
lifelong friend Reginald Turner, who was also an aesthete and a
somewhat witty companion, saved many of Max's letters.
known works include A Christmas Garland (1912), a parody of literary
styles, Seven Men (1919), which includes "Enoch Soames", the tale of
a poet who makes a deal with the Devil to find out how posterity
will remember him, and Zuleika Dobson (1911), his only novel. Other
works include The Happy Hypocrite (1897).
the actress Florence Kahn in 1910. He was knighted in 1939. He died
in Rapallo, Italy aged 83, shortly after marrying his former
secretary, Elisabeth Jungmann. His ashes were interred in the crypt
of St. Paul's Cathedral, London.