Max Beerbohm (Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm) Biography
(1872–1956), (Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm), Strand, The Yellow Book, Saturday Review, Around Theatres, More Theatres
British essayist and critic, born in London, educated at Merton College, Oxford. From 1892 he was publishing caricatures (signed ‘Max’) in the Strand and other periodicals, satirizing literary and political figures in his characteristic urbane and ironic tone; in 1894 the first of his essays, ‘A Defence of Cosmetics’, appeared in The Yellow Book. As half-brother to the actormanager Herbert Beerbohm Tree he had already moved in theatrical circles when he succeeded G. B. Shaw in 1898 as dramatic critic of the Saturday Review; his drama criticism was later collected in Around Theatres (1953) and More Theatres (1968). He also published The Happy Hypocrite: A Fairy Tale for Tired Men (1897) and collections of essays in The Works of Max Beerbohm (1896), More (1899), Yet Again (1909), And Even Now (1920), and A Variety of Things (1928). His cartoons, published as Caricatures of Twenty-Five Gentlemen (1896), The Poets' Corner (1904), A Book of Caricatures (1907), Fifty Caricatures (1913), and Rosetti and His Circle (1922), have a wicked eye for the absurdities of writers such as Yeats, Wilde, or Wells, without mocking their talents; like A Christmas Garland (1912), a brilliant collection of parodies of Wells, Henry James, Conrad, and others, they can be seen as an astute and unconventional form of literary criticism. Zuleika Dobson (1911), his best-known work, is a fantasy set at Oxford University which captured the atmosphere of the 1890s. Seven Men (1919) is a collection of short stories. The First World War drew a biting satire from Beerbohm (A Survey, 1921), and in the Second World War he began the radio broadcasts collected in Mainly on the Air (1957). A collection of his work was published in 1970 by The Bodley Head. He was knighted in 1939. Lord David Cecil's Max: A Biography (1964) is an affectionate portrait.