Zuleika Dobson: Or, An Oxford Love Story (Paperback)
One woman's beauty fells the whole of Oxford in this sidesplitting classic campus novel.
Nobody could predict the consequences when ravishing Zuleika Dobson arrives at Oxford, to visit her grandfather, the college warden. Formerly a governess, she has landed on the occupation of prestidigitator, and thanks to her overwhelming beauty—and to a lesser extent her professional talents—she takes the town by storm, gaining admittance to her grandfather's college. It is there, at the institution inspired by Beerbohm's own alma mater, that she falls in love the Duke of Dorset, who duly adores her in return. Ever aware of appearances, however, Zuleika breaks the Duke's heart when she decides that she must abandon the match.
The epidemic of heartache that proceeds to overcome the academic town makes for some of the best comic writing in the history of English literature.
About the Author
Sir Henry Maximilian “Max” Beerbohm (1872–1956) was the youngest of nine children born in London to well-to-do Lithuanian immigrants. As a boy he showed no propensity for writing or artwork, but despite the lack of formal training, upon entering Merton College, Oxford, he quickly became known for his essays and caricatures (and for being a dandy). When The Strand Magazine published thirty-six of his drawings in 1892, his career took off, and he left school without a degree. (Oxford would later give him an honorary degree.) He went to America briefly, to write press releases for his brother’s theatrical company, then returned to England and wrote essays and drew caricatures for his friend Aubrey Beardsley’s The Yellow Book magazine, among other publications. Some of his work around this time concerned the trial of Oscar Wilde, whom he’d befriended while a student. The trial, particularly Wilde’s defense of “the love that dare not speak its name,” moved him greatly. In 1896, he published his first book, a collection of his essays called The Works of Max Beerbohm, and the first of many collections of his caricatures, Caricatures of Twenty-five Gentlemen. Two years later he succeeded George Bernard Shaw as drama critic for the Saturday Review, a position he retained until 1910, when he married American actress Florence Kahn (Evelyn Waugh speculated it was a mariage blanc), and moved to a house overlooking the Mediterranean in Rapallo, Italy. Despite Florence’s death, in 1951, and despite becoming popular in England as a BBC commentator, Beerbohm would remain in Italy until his own death, decades later at age eighty-three, just after marrying his former secretary and companion, Elisabeth Jungmann.
Sara Lodge, a senior lecturer in English at the University of St. Andrews, is the author of Thomas Hood and Nineteenth-Century Poetry: Work, Play, and Politics and Jane Eyre: A Reader’s Guide to Criticism.
Praise for Zuleika Dobson: Or, An Oxford Love Story…
Praise for Zuleika Dobson and Max Beerbohm
“Mr. Beerbohm in his way is perfect . . . He has brought personality into literature, not unconsciously and impurely, but so consciously and purely that we do not know whether there is any relation between Max the essayist and Mr. Beerbohm the man. We only know that the spirit of personality permeates every word that he writes . . . He is without doubt the prince of his profession.”
“Beerbohm was a genius of the purest kind. He stands at the summit of his art.”
“Zuleika Dobson is a highly accomplished and superbly written book whose spirit is farcical. It is a great work—the most consistent achievement of fantasy in our time . . . So funny and charming, so iridescent yet so profound.”
—E. M. Forster
“Perfectly delightful . . . All style and wit, a pretty fantasy served up in exquisite, ornamented prose.”
“I read Zuleika Dobson with pleasure. It represents the Oxford that the two World Wars have destroyed with a charm that is not likely to be reproduced anywhere in the world for the next thousand years.”
“Of comic novels that have quaffed the elixir of ‘classic’: Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm.”
“Among the masked dandies of Edwardian comedy, Max Beerbohm is the most happily armored by a deep and almost innocent love of himself as a work of art.”
—V. S. Pritchett
“In his best stories there is more than a whisper of magic realism—a murmur, however distant, of questions about the nature of reality.”
“Elegantly stylized satire.”
—The New Yorker
“Erudite and lively.”
—The Village Voice
“Graceful, witty, and charming.”
“Max Beerbohm, I dare say (and I believe it has been said before), is the most subtly gifted English essayist since Charles Lamb. It is not surprising that he has (now for many years) been referred to as ‘the incomparable Max,’ for what other contemporary has never once missed fire, never failed to achieve perfection in the field of his choice? Whether in caricature, short story, fable, parody, or essay, he has always been consummate in grace, tact, insouciant airy precision.”
“The greatest of English comic artists.”
—The Times (London)
“A perfect fantasy.”
—The New York Review of Books
“There is no doubt about the cool irony of the style, or the fact that it’s unlike any other book that’s ever been written.”
—The New York Times
“If Zuleika Dobson is too frivolous to be certified as ‘canonical,’ it is clearly a perennially revivable minor classic, uniquely redolent of a particular time and place.”