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"Well, in the beginning he was the most enchanting company, don't you know. His conversation was so simple and natural and flowing — not at all epigrammatic, which would have been unbearable. He saved that for his plays, thank heaven. My brother Herbert [Beerbohm Tree] produced Oscar's play A Woman of No Importance. During rehearsals, at the Haymarket, we used to go to a little bar around the corner where they served sandwiches. Oscar asked for a watercress sandwich. When the waiter brought it, it seemed to Oscar excessive. 'I asked for a watercress sandwich,' he said to the waiter — oh, in the friendliest manner possible, smiling at him as if asking for, and being sure of, the waiter's sympathy — 'not for a loaf of bread with a field in the middle of it.'" . . .

"But, you know" — Max's eyes darkened with regret, and his brow furrowed — "as Oscar became more and more successful, he became . . ." Max paused, as if he couldn't bear to say it, but he did say it. "He became arrogant. He felt himself omnipotent, and he became gross not in body only — he did become that — but in his relations with people. He brushed people aside; he felt he was beyond the ordinary human courtesies that you owe people even if they are, in your opinion, beneath you. He snubbed Charles Brookfield, the actor who played the lackey in An Ideal Husband — he was a wonderful, unfailing actor in small parts, and was said to be an illegitimate son of Thackeray, you know — and Brookfield never forgave him. Brookfield was vindictive; Brookfield hated Oscar, and it was Brookfield who did him in — supplied evidence against him.

References

Behrman, S. N. Portrait of Max: An Intimate Memoir of Sir Max Beerbohm. New York: Random House, 1960.


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Last modified 9 May 2008