Rossetti and His Circle by Max Beerbohm


Rossetti’s name is heard in America (Oscar Wilde).

The Happy Hypocrite was Max Beerbohm’s words illustrated by George Sheringham; here we have Beerbohm’s caricatures from a 1922 collection depicting notable figures among the Aesthetes and Pre-Raphaelites from the 1860s on. Beerbohm wasn’t born until 1872 so there’s something of a younger generation’s mockery in these drawings. That said, he was just as happy to mock his London friends of the 1890s, Oscar Wilde included, and often poked fun at himself in his cartoons and his writings.

Some of the pictures in Rossetti and His Circle are familiar from books about the period, the Wilde picture in particular is often reprinted. You don’t always see them in colour, however, so once again the scans at the Internet Archive give us a fuller view provided you ignore the security perforations on each print.


Blue China (JM Whistler and Thomas Carlyle).

A drawing which complements Wilde’s description of Whistler as a “miniature Mephistopheles”. Beerbohm was more succinct in one of his verbal portraits: “Tiny”.


Algernon Swinburne taking his great new friend Gosse to see Gabriel Rossetti.

Swinburne, it seems, was another diminutive figure.


The sole remark likely to have been made by Benjamin Jowett about the mural paintings at the Oxford Union: “And what were they going to do with the Grail when they found it, Mr. Rossetti?”

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Happy Hypocrite by Max Beerbohm

5 thoughts on “Rossetti and His Circle by Max Beerbohm”

  1. These are most amusing! Incidentally, my first two names are actually Thomas and Carlyle. I was quite disappointed when I realized how tedious he was.

  2. I recently attended a lecture series at the Clark Library here in LA.The Clark evidently has the largest collection devoted to the study of Wilde,William Clark having purchased much of Wilde’s library when it went to auction.
    All that said, one of the presenters found a marvelous volume full of Beerbohm’s doodles, a gifted draftsman, a treat as you can imagine.
    Not sure how to link you to the Clark but there will be an upcoming exhibit devoted to Wilde and his circle, the address is
    As always, thanks,

  3. Thom: Yes, Carlyle seems so dull it’s a surprise he had any associations with such a dandified artist. You’re probably aware of Whistler’s portrait of Carlyle which is very similar to the unaccountably famous painting of the artist’s mother.

    Leonard: Thanks for the link, I’ll be due soon for another Wildeana post. I always direct anyone interested in the 1890s to Max Beerbohm’s short story Enoch Soames, an affectionate satire of the period and also a very funny, slightly science-fictional piece, although to find out why you’d have to read it.

  4. Particularly like the Whistler and Carlyle illustrated. I hope you offer a post about the current V&A Cult of Beauty exhibition if you haven’t already done so!, pgt

  5. I did mention the exhibit back in March but didn’t get round to doing anything further. I’ve been increasingly busy the past few months so some of the posts tend to be more scant than I’d prefer.

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