General Leopold James (Leo)
London, St. George Hanover Square, England
London, 27 Pembroke gardens, Kensington, England


From The Times, 23 January 1932:

Obituary – Mr Leo J. Maxse – The National Review

Mr Leopold James Maxse, whose death in his 69th year we announce with much regret, was called Leo Maxse by a host of friends and by a multitude of other people who knew him only through his writings. He was the younger son of the late Admiral Frederick A. Maxse, of Dunley Hill, Dorking, and his wife, Cecilia, daughter of the late Colonel Steele. Admiral Maxse was a well-known figure in the social and political world of his day. He was a friend and neighbour of George Meredith and is generally supposed to have been the original from whom the portrait of the hero of “Beauchamp’s Career” was drawn. Admiral Maxse’s elder son is General Sir Ivor Maxse, and one of his daughters is Lady Milner.

Leo Maxse was born in 1864, went to Harrow, under the headmastership of Dr Montagu Butler, in 1879, and thence to King’s College, Cambridge, where he took second-class honours in the Historical Tripos in 1886. Seven years afterwards, in 1893, he bought the National Review, of which magazine till the day of his death he was editor and the largest shareholder. It is in that capacity that he was known to the world outside the wide circle of his personal friends. His public learnt to love and to look forward to the regularly recurring fulminations of his “Episodes of the Month”, wherein the resources of the vocabulary and even of the grammar of the English language have sometimes seemed to fall short of the requirements of the vigorous and vehement author.

Maxse’s journalistic career will be remembered chiefly for the consistency with which for 15 years before the Great War he denounced the growing ambitions of the Germany of William II and sought to warn his countrymen of the reality of the German peril. It may have been a visit to Germany in 1899, the year of the outbreak of the South African War, that first opened his eyes to the dangers which he saw coming. At any rate, from that time onwards he never flagged in his efforts to arouse the British people from what he held to be their sleepy optimism in the sphere of international affairs.

He threw himself with all the fervid energy of his vivid personality into every movement, such as Lord Roberts’s National Service campaign, which seemed to him to hold out hope of an awakening to a sense of insecurity and of timely measures of defence; he was utterly indifferent to criticism, to obloquy, and to ridicule; and after the final catastrophe had come in August, 1914, he was able to allow himself the gratification – for it was hardly in his nature to refrain from saying, “I told you so” – of publishing in April, 1915, a pamphlet entitled “Germany on the Brain, or the Obsession of a ‘Crank’” in which he gave the text of his own repeated warnings side by side with that of the contemptuous repudiations of them by would-be superior persons.

But as a guide of public opinion Maxse, for all his courage, his sincerity, and his wit, suffered from a tragic defect. Like Cassandra, the doomed prophetess of Troy, he was fated to foretell the truth and not to be believed, except by those who believed already. He preached to the converted, and to them alone; he could scold, but not convince an opponent. He seemed, indeed, less anxious to convince than to unburden his own soul to “Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff,
That weighs upon the heart” and it is not by those means that the hostile or the hesitant can be persuaded.

Thus it came about that too many of Maxse’s pages were filled with an invective apt to be taken less seriously than it deserved. But he could lay about him lustily in a good cause, particularly when inspired by his generous hatred of anything that seemed to him mean and unworthy in public life. Those who read it will not easily forget an entire number of the National Review in May, 1913, exclusively devoted to an exhaustive examination of the “Marconi Case”; nor will his friends forget the sincerity of his hope that certain dark threats that he might be haled before the bar of the House of Commons to answer for it might be carried into effect. That hope was not destined to be fulfilled.

In politics Maxse was an Imperialist of the Chamberlainite school; if a party label be necessary, he was a Tory. He belonged to that party because he saw in it the best hope for the prosecution of the causes which he had at heart; but, since few practical politicians can be as intransigent as Maxse was, he was prone to reproach it as nerveless and supine, and its leaders came in for a share of his vituperation on these grounds hardly less generous than that which he accorded to their opponents for the anti-patriotism which lie alleged against them and, generally, for their double or treble dose of original sin.

So much for the man as he must have appeared to the public, which knew him through his writings. Like most men the real Leo Maxse was known only by his friends. Fortunately for him and for them they were very many, for Maxse loved their society and his company could not fail to brighten any intimate gathering. His conversation was like his writing. It was abundant, vehement. and often vituperative, but his kindness of heart, his sympathy, his genuine love of his fellow men and women shone through it all.

The shafts of his wit were swift but never barbed with malice. His eye twinkled merrily as he shot them. No recipient blessed with a grain of humour could resent them, and Maxse was never happier than when they were deftly returned upon himself like the ball in the game. of lawn tennis of which he was an enthusiastic amateur, an excellent player, and an earnest student and critic. Other delights of his were in music and in ornithology – the latter study generally followed from his friends’ country houses, whence he would disappear for hours at a time attired in strange waterproof garments and girt about with field-glasses to watch for his beloved birds.

Maxse was supremely happy in his marriage in 1890 with Miss Katharine Lushington, daughter of the late Vernon Lushington. Her death through a tragic accident in 1922 brought him the greatest shock and sorrow of his life. He bore it with fine courage, kept on with his work, and was able in time to find solace in the affection of a host of men and women who now deplore his loss and must feel that there has passed out of their lives a brilliant and most lovable personality whose place will not again be filled.


Archive statistics 1880 - 1914

Tournament wins 1883 - Redhill (Amateur)
1882 - Devonshire Park (Amateur)

Tournaments Queens Club Tournament - 1914 Boulogne - 1913 Sussex Championships - 1910 South of England Championships - 1910 Skegness - 1909 Leicester - 1884 Redhill - 1884 Buxton - 1884 Wimbledon - 1883 South of England Championships - 1883 Redhill - 1883 East Grinstead - 1883 Sussex County Lawn Tennis Club Spring Tournament - 1883 South of England Championships - 1882 Sussex County Lawn Tennis Tournament - 1882 Devonshire Park - 1882 South of England Championships - 1881 Devonshire Park - 1881 Devonshire Park - 1880

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