In The Puppet Show of Memory, his autobiography, Maurice Baring mentions a cupboard set on the landing between the first and second floors of the country estate of his Russian friends the Benckendorffs, a cupboard filled with Tauchnitz novels of various ages and other splendid books, so that, on the way to bed, in the darkness, one could reach into the cupboard and always be certain of finding something good to read. Would any of Maurice Baring’s fifty-odd books have qualified for that wonderful cupboard? But perhaps an anterior, and more rudimentary, question needs first to be asked, such as: Who was Maurice Baring?

Maurice Baring’s is a name one generally meets connected in a secondary or tertiary way with larger names. There he stands in a photograph between his friends Chesterton and Belloc. Here he is drawn as a caricature by Max Beerbohm (“Mr. Maurice Baring,” the caption reads,...


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