Enoch Soames

Max Beerbohm, caricatured by himself
Max Beerbohm, caricatured by himself

Reading Zuleika Dobson led me to the Bodley Head Beerbohm, a selection of some of Max Beerbohm’s parodies, essays, reviews and satirical pieces.

His parodies of Henry James (The Mote in the Middle Distance), John Galsworthy (Endeavour) and other writers are accurate, clever and amusing, so much so that I may not be able to re-read Galsworthy with a straight face in future. I also enjoyed one of Beerbohm’s other short stories, The Crime:

“‘None of your dog’s-earing, thumb-marking, back-breaking tricks here!’ snarl the books.

The books in this cottage looked particularly disagreeable—horrid little upstarts of this and that scarlet or cerulean ‘series’ of ‘standard’ authors.”

Max Beerbohm, The Crime

If you’re not interested in a novel about Edwardian Oxford (Zuleika Dobson) but are curious about Beerbohm, then I recommend reading his satirical short story about the literary ambitions of a character called Enoch Soames. Here’s a small sample:

“Throughout, in fact, there was a great variety of form; and the forms had evidently been wrought with much care. It was rather the substance that eluded me. Was there, I wondered, any substance at all? It did now occur to me: suppose Enoch Soames was a fool! Up cropped a rival hypothesis: suppose I was! I inclined to give Soames the benefit of the doubt. I had read L’Après-midi d’un Faune without extracting a glimmer of meaning. Yet Mallarmé—of course—was a Master. How was I to know that Soames wasn’t another? There was a sort of music in his prose, not indeed arresting, but perhaps, I thought, haunting, and laden perhaps with meanings as deep as Mallarmé’s own. I awaited his poems with an open mind.”

Max Beerbohm, Enoch Soames

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