This post is my opportunity to tell you about a good book and an even better resource. First, I recently finished reading a Minerva Press edition of Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson. First published in 1911, the novel is a femme fatale comedy where the Warden’s niece comes to Oxford during the school year and causes mayhem when all of the undergraduates fall in love with her. Beerbohm wrote the novel with the characteristic wit of his essays (I also recommend “Defence of Cosmetics” from Volume I of the Yellow Book, 1894). Beerbohm’s work engages with the culture of aestheticism and the aesthetes and his portrayal of the Duke is an interesting route for Beerbohm’s satire.
A word of warning, while Beerbohm’s humour is neatly summarized here, there is little else to say about the novel. I found that by the time I was 100 pages in, the humour lost some of its charm. Without giving too much away, the suicidal climax of the novel is an astounding work of comedy but one that fell flat, at least for me, in the dénouement.
I think that the novel deserves more attention than I’m giving it here and that’s why I’m sharing my experience of reading the book. It reminded me of Richard Le Gallienne’s Quest for the Golden Girl (1896) only without the picaresque journey that makes the Quest so delightful.
Every book I talk about on this site is one that I recommend that people read. I don’t believe that my opinion is the only opinion. So if you disagree with me, tell me why in the comments below.
On another note, the online edition that I have linked to is a link to openlibrary.org that I found on the Internet Archive (www.archive.org). Now if you are not yet aware of the Internet Archive I highly recommend you check on the link on my blog. This is a wonderful resource for digitally archived books from a variety of historical periods including the Victorian and Edwardian Ages. The Yellow Book, The Savoy, most of the books in the Bodley Head’s Keynotes Series and many other works can be found on this page. Have some fun exploring or consider reading an online version of that hard to find book you’ve been looking for. Perhaps you can start with Zuleika Dobson?