[The following attack on public portrait sculpture comes from “If I Were Ædile” Beerbohm's More. George P. Landow scanned and formatted the text, adding links to material on this site. The decorated initial appears in another essay in the original book. Ædiles were the officials in ancient Rome responsible for its public buildings.]

decorated initial I in original text should make very short work of any Victorian statues I saw standing about. There are many of them. There is no escape from them. For sculpture is the most obtrusive of all arts. Its elemental grandeur, its breadth of aspect, swiftly impressive, and the archaic hardiness of its material, give it a right in aëre, in frigore, in imbri [in air, cold, and rain]. It was the supreme decoration of great cities. It is the supreme disfigurement of great cities, None but a sculptor and his mother would deny that it is a lost art. And yet, whenever an eminent person dies, we know (nor seem to care) that, within a year or two, his friends will have foisted on some street or square a marble abortion so obscene that no one in any future generation can, by any possibility, forget him. I am the last person to disparage grotesques; but I do not think they are quite a nice means of commemorating our mighty dead. If England, in her old age, is beginning to lose her memory and cannot, without some system of mnemonics, remember the names of her great sons, she had better make up her mind to forget them at once. At any rate, she really must dispense with such ghastly reminders as the work of her modern sculptors. [98]


Beerbohm, Max. “If I Were Ædile.” More (1899). New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1922. 89-100.

Last modified 6 December 2011