The English theater critic and bon vivant James Agate (1877–1947) bustled with wit, erudition, flamboyance, and eccentricity. The best-paid journalist of his time, he was a marvel of industriousness and a geyser of spending, with a Micawberish inability to keep outlays below income. Rebecca West saw in him another beloved Dickens creation: “He is as recognizable as Mr. Pickwick. When he appears in his evening clothes at the Ivy, anthropologists would have much ado to find a tribe of savages so unsophisticated that they did not instantly recognize that here was a dramatic critic.” Despite his love of golf and horses, Agate appeared to be an inveterate indoorsman. His skin, West wrote,

is not, in fact, like the skin of any person living an out-of-door life but exactly like the makeup of an actor who plays the part of a person who lives an out-of-door life. His...


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