MAX BEERBOHM'S LETTERS TO REGGIE TURNER by Rupert- Ed. Hart-Davis

MAX BEERBOHM'S LETTERS TO REGGIE TURNER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Maugham called Turner the most amusing man he'd ever met. He was the illegitimate son of a London millionaire. He rather resembled a walrus done up like a dandy. On looking into a mirror he exclaimed ""God, I am ugly!"" He lived abroad and wrote many novels, none of which could match his conversation. ""Other people's first editions are rare,"" he said. ""With me it's the second editions that are rare; in fact they don't exist."" His amours were of ""the Love that dares not tell its name"" variety. Beerbohm was his best friend. They met at Oxford, and between 1890 and 1938, when Reggie died, Max posted 200 letters, here assembled, interlaced with photos and some caricatures. It's an odd packet, oddly humorous, oddly touching: Max as the fancy-pants Merton undergraduate, Max as the exuberant literary worldling, gossiping and grimacing; finally Max, wedded and settled, scribbling tidings from Italian retreat, always affectionate, always trying not to be aware of differences: Max the success, Reggie the failure. Did he understand his Pythias at all? On Reggie's death, he said: ""I think his life had been on the whole a happy one."" Yet Reggie's comic bouts mingled with binges of gloom. ""He has begun to be a real bore,"" noted Max; and in later years he considered the correspondence ""as inine."" It is certainly playful and, by contemporary confessional standards, not very sincere. The charm lies in the first quarter: gamy, extravagant garlands on the Edwardians, the Wilde circle, glimpses of two young men out to capture hearts, to set Mayfair on fire. Double-portraiture of antiquarian interest, vaguely illuminating.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1965
Publisher: Lippincott