Out of Vogue

The World In Vogue

Viking Press, 416 pp., $16.00

On a pious visit once to the late Sir Max Beerbohm in Rappallo, it being a hot day, I took one of the horsedrawn carriages which still ply for hire there. This antique and decrepit vehicle waited for me during the hour or so I spent with Sir Max. I had rather hoped to slip off unnoticed in it when the time came to go, but in his usual polite way Sir Max saw me to the door, the straw hat which he wore on all possible occasions rakishly tilted to one side, and his little, red-rimmed tired eyes still faintly animated on my behalf. My lurking chariot at once came lumbering up, and there was no evading my connection with it. I got aboard and settled among the flea-ridden rugs with the best grace I could manage. The driver flicked his wretched animal, whose bones stuck out alarmingly, like a reconstructed skeleton of some prehistoric monster in a museum. As we lumbered off I heard Sir Max muttering to himself: “Carriage folk! Carriage folk!”

The episode was recalled by turning over the pages of the massive, elegant volume with which the magazine Vogue has commemorated the completion of seven decades of existence. Searching about in my mind for some category which would comprehend all who appear in it, Carriage Folk seemed about right. The vehicles at their disposal might vary between the very latest and most commodious Cadillac or Rolls Royce and some old flea-bag such as carried me to Sir Max’s villa in Rapallo, but none of them, it was safe to assume, walked. As Miss Mary Borden, a Vogue contributor, puts it, in reference to her own sex: “I say ladies, because I mean well-bred women of assured social position.”

Simplifying the matter further, one may go so far as to say that, in the world of Vogue, unlike the real world, there are no poor. Only the minute proportion of mankind who change their underwear frequently, bath daily, and take for granted being sheltered, warm and having enough to eat, qualify for admission. At a rough guess I should suppose that no one is portrayed or mentioned with an income of less than, say, ten thousand dollars a year. Thus, any pope, cardinal, bishop, and even most archdeacons, evangelists, and hot-gospelers, might legitimately claim admission, but not the founder of the Christian religion, nor any of the apostles, with the single exception, perhaps, of Judas, who acquired thirty pieces of silver; at present-day values quite a sum of money.

Again, taking the case of literature, one properly finds Henry James, Galsworthy, and Wells, but not George Orwell; a writer who, whatever his merits or demerits otherwise, was too “hot” for Vogue. He even, in his crazy, mixed-up way, had something to say, which does not do at all in this world where Noel Coward is forever witty, Elsa Maxwell forever commanding, and the Windsors forever young.

Ah! the Windsors belong all right. We see them looking…

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