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Hermit of Peking: The Hidden Life of Sir Edmund Backhouse (1976)

af H. R. Trevor-Roper

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346758,777 (3.91)9
The story of one of the most outrageous confidence tricksters of the twentieth century, Sir Edmund Blackhouse.
  1. 00
    In the Freud Archives (New York Review Books Classics) af Janet Malcolm (ossicones)
    ossicones: These two books share the style of an erudite page-turner and characters whose portrayal will likely stick with you for some time after you put them down.
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Backhouse, Sir Edmund (Subject)
  LOM-Lausanne | Apr 30, 2020 |
Such a fascinating research! Trevor-Roper teems with erudition and wit and wraps the matter conclusively, punctuating that ultimately Sir Edmund Backhouse despite his mendacity and frauds was but Our Man in Havana: simply drawing vacuum cleaners, pathetic and harmless. ( )
1 stem jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Trevor-Roper demolishes any remnant reputation that "master forger" Sir Edmund Backhouse might have retained. The author worked tirelessly to investigate the fantastic historical creations and the fraudulent business transactions that Backhouse perpetrated in China during his hermetic life in Peking.
What ensues is an eviscerating exposure of an aesthetic exile from late Victorian England who brilliantly defrauded and confused others in a manic-depressive quest for respectability.
1 stem ivanfranko | Mar 27, 2018 |
Very pointed examination of the serial frauds of a master fabulist. Some parts of the book are hard to believe, in that you see pointless squabbling by adults. But in an age of much scientific and academic fraud, worth reading. ( )
  EricCostello | Dec 17, 2017 |
In 1973, a distinguished Swiss physician handed to the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper an enameled Chinese case containing two previously unknown memoirs by Edmund Backhouse, to be delivered to the Bodleian Library at Oxford, which already housed thousands of Chinese books and manuscripts donated by Backhouse. Trevor-Roper knew of Backhouse as a former member of the British Secret Service and the co-author of books on the Empress Dowager and the imperial court of old Peking. Upon reading the newly discovered works, Trevor-Roper realized, to his surprise and dismay, that the memoirs ‘were of no ordinary obscenity.’ (They were published in 2011 as Decadence Mandchoue). Like A.J.A. Symons, whose discovery of the pornographic Venetian letters of Frederick Rolfe drove him on his Quest for Corvo, Trevor-Roper set out ‘to pursue the elusive and preposterous personality’ of Backhouse.

The story he tells in Hermit of Peking is stranger than fiction. Sinologist, secret agent, arms broker, envoy of the American Bank Note Company and the shipbuilder John Brown & Company, and by his own account confidant of court eunuchs and erotic playmate of the Empress Dowager—Backhouse lived a life scarcely to be believed. But the truth is not really the object here, by my lights. Trevor-Roper paints Backhouse as a master fabulist, and himself as the authoritative debunker, but any man who like Backhouse makes of his very flesh a great poem (and of his life a randy memoir) is to be commended. ( )
1 stem HectorSwell | Sep 9, 2017 |
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The story of one of the most outrageous confidence tricksters of the twentieth century, Sir Edmund Blackhouse.

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