Already, indeed, she was rich. She was living at the most exorbitant hotel in all Mayfair. She had innumerable gowns and no necessity to buy jewels; and she also had, which pleased her most, the fine cheval-glass I have described. At the close of the Season, Paris claimed her for a month's engagement. Paris saw her and was prostrate. Boldini did a portrait of her. Jules Bloch wrote a song about her; and this, for a whole month, was howled up and down the cobbled alleys of Montmartre. And all the little dandies were mad for "la Zuleika." The jewellers of the Rue de la Paix soon had nothing left to put in their windows—everything had been bought for "la Zuleika." For a whole month, baccarat was not played at the Jockey Club— every member had succumbed to a nobler passion. For a whole month, the whole demi-monde was forgotten for one English virgin. Never, even in Paris, had a woman triumphed so. When the day came for her departure, the city wore such an air of sullen mourning as it had not worn since the Prussians marched to its Elysee. Zuleika, quite untouched, would not linger in the conquered city. Agents had come to her from every capital in Europe, and, for a year, she ranged, in triumphal nomady, from one capital to another. In Berlin, every night, the students escorted her home with torches. Prince Vierfiinfsechs-Siebenachtneun offered her his hand, and was condemned by the Kaiser to six months' confinement in his little castle. In Yildiz Kiosk, the tyrant who still throve there conferred on her the Order of Chastity, and offered her the central couch in his seraglio. She gave her performance in the Quirinal, and, from the Vatican, the Pope launched against her a Bull which fell utterly flat. In Petersburg, the Grand Duke Salamander Salamandrovitch fell enamoured of her. Of every article in the apparatus of her conjuringtricks he caused a replica to be made in finest gold. These treasures he presented to her in that great malachite casket which now stood on the little table in her room; and thenceforth it was with these that she performed her wonders. They did not mark the limit of the Grand Duke's generosity. He was for bestowing on Zuleika the half of his immensurable estates. The Grand Duchess appealed to the Tzar. Zuleika was conducted across the frontier, by an escort of lovesick Cossacks. On the Sunday before she left Madrid, a great bull-fight was held in her honour. Fifteen bulls received the coup-de-grdce, and Alvarez, the matador of matadors, died in the arena with her name on his lips. He had tried to kill the last bull without taking his eyes off la divina sehorita. A prettier compliment had never been paid her, and she was immensely pleased with it. For that matter, she was immensely pleased with everything. She moved proudly to the incessant music of a psan, aye! of a plan that was always crescendo.Surely the funniest novel ever written about a mass suicide.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Aunt Selma and Sir Max
I have sometimes where my Aunt Selma got inspiration for her stories about her cavortings with the motorcycle gang. Aunt Selma was no dummy, of course: as cultured and accomplished a lady as ever crossed the commencement platform at the the Straw School. But all great artists work on a pallet of the past. Now, I think I may have found a clue. Here is Zuleika Dobson, the loveliest woman ever to venture a winsome toe into the secretive purlieus of an Oxford college, as introduced by her creator,Sir Max Beeerbohm: