I read a very good article in the most recent NYRB (May 21) about Max Beerbohm, written by Phillip Lopate. I found myself resonating to the Beerbohm sensibility, which I would find hard to summarize. With the miracle of youtube I listened to an old broadcast of his (1956) on BBC radio about London, past and present. Again, I won’t attempt to summarize (and thereby defile): I suggest you listen to it yourself. It is a sensibility we need more of. The accent intrigued me: it made the Queen’s accent seem vulgarly posh. Beerbohm’s accent is beyond posh–in its own realm of vocal perfection. It seems like the voice of civilization itself. He left London at age 37 to move to Rapallo in Italy, where he lived till he died; like a true Englishman he had to live abroad. Shaw called him “the incomparable Max”, which irked him; I prefer “the unclassifiable Max”, because he escapes all stereotypes.
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