Beerbohm's "Diminuendo" reads like a speech given at a retirement dinner. It suggests the turning over of a new page, the aim of a new life style, and the acceptance of replacement by a younger generation. However, it is written not at the end of a long, illustrious career but at the the graduation from University, usually viewed as the beginning of one's so-called real life. How does Beerbohm substitute the language of completion with the actuality of his commencement into the real world and what effect does this have on the reader? When he writes:

Once, in the delusion that Art, loving the recluse, would make his life happy, I wrote a little for a yellow quarterly [The Yellow Book] and had that succès de fiasco which is always given to a young writer of talent. But the stress of creation soon overwhelmed me. Only Art with a capital A gives any consolations to her henchmen. And I who crave no knighthood, shall write no more. I shall write no more. Already I feel myself to be a trifle outmoded. I belong to the Beardsley period. Younger men, with months of activity before them, with fresher schemes and notions, with newer enthusiasm, have pressed forward since then. Cedo junioribus. Indeed, I stand aside with no regret. For to be outmoded is to be a classic, if one has written well. I have acceded to the hierareby of good scribes and rather like my niche.

Do we believe him? Does Beerbohm truly believe that his time has come to give way to a younger and fresher generation of writers? If not, then what does the irony of his statements suggest?


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Last modified: 16 October 2003