The Staidness of Trousers

E.S. Turner

  • A Peculiar Man: A Life of George Moore by Tony Gray
    Sinclair-Stevenson, 344 pp, £20.00, April 1996, ISBN 1 85619 578 3

George Moore, ‘daring’ novelist and absentee landlord, sage and humbug of Ebury Street, seemed born to be insulted. ‘An over-ripe gooseberry, a great big intoxicated baby, a satyr, a boiled ghost, a gosling’ – these were among the Dublin epithets collected by his fellow writer Susan Mitchell and here passed on by Tony Gray. Manet thought Moore’s face had the look of a broken egg-yolk, and his first portrait of the author ‘was described by the critics as like that of a drowned man, taken out of the water’. Sickert’s portrait was likened to ‘an intoxicated mummy, a boorish goat’. Moore, entering into the spirit of the game, said Jacques-Emile Blanche made him look like a drunken cabby. Additional insults are to be gleaned from Wintle and Kenin’s Dictionary of Biographical Quotation: Henry Channon called him ‘that old pink petulant walrus’; Gertrude Stein compared him to ‘a very prosperous Mellon’s Food baby’; and Oscar Wilde found his face ‘vague, formless, obscene’.

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