Rossetti and His Circle

Max Beerbohm’s “Rossetti and His Circle”

BEERBOHM, Max. Rossetti and His Circle. London: William Heinemann, [1922].

First edition. Small quarto (9 3/4 x 7 1/4 inches; 248 x 185 mm.). ix, [1, blank] pp. Color frontispiece and twenty-two color plates mounted on heavy buff stock, with descriptive tissue guards.

Original blue cloth over boards. Front cover lettered in gilt within a blind single-rule border, spine lettered in gilt, and back cover stamped in blind with the publisher’s windmill device . The mildest of wear to corners, slight offsetting to endpapers. In the original brown dust jacket printed in dark blue. A tight, bright, fine copy in near fine dust jacket.

“Only in Rossetti and His Circle can Beerbohm really be called an illustrator, yet it is impossible to omit him from this survey. In ten albums beginning with A Book of Caricatures of 1896 and ending with Heroes and Heroines of Bittersweet of 1931, he carried caricature to the highest point it has reached in England, at least since the time of Hogarth and Gillray. To his art he brought a wide acquaintance with men and books, a sense of character worthy of a great novelist, and the wittiest of personal styles” (Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, p. 198).

“Beerbohm described these watercolor drawings as ‘more substantial’ and ‘riper’ than his designs for The Poet’s Corner. Certainly they had behind them the full weight of his prolonged study of that part of the English past which he found most congenial. Choosing Byron, Disraeli, and Rossetti as ‘the three most interesting men that England had in the nineteenth century,’ Beerbohm went on to write that the last ‘mightn’t have seemed so very remarkable after all…in the Quattrocento and by the Arno. But in London, in the great days of a deep, smug, thick, rich, drab, industrial complacency, Rossetti shone for the men and women who knew him, with the ambiguous light of a red torch somewhere in a dense fog. And so he still shines for me.” (Note, p. vi). Bypassing the major episodes of the Pre-Raphaelite story, Beerbohm depicts for the most part casual encounters of disparate figures: Rossetti and Jowett, Whistler and Carlyle, Holman Hunt and Ford Madox Brown, even the young Millais and the old Millais” (Ray, p. 200).

English essayist and caricaturist Sir Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) “was a brilliant figure among the so-called decadents of turn-of-the-century London. He contributed to The Yellow Book, an influential literature journal, while he was still at Oxford, writing irreverent parodies (as in A Christmas Garland, 1896) and drawing brilliant caricatures under the signature ‘Max.’ Some of his caricatures were published in The Poet’s Corner (1904) and Rossetti and His Circle (1922). His later works include a satire of Oxford in the novel Zuleika Dobson (1911) and essays, such as those collected in A Defense of cosmetics (1922) and Around Theatres (1930). He remained legendary for his wit, brilliance, and powers of satire even after he went to Italy to live out his middle and old age in quiet retirement” (Benét’s Reader’s Encyclopedia).

Cutler & Styles, p. 13. Gallatin & Oliver 18. Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, 321. Riewald 22. Item #00585

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