1859-07-17

ERNEST RHYS, British editor, born (d: 1946); There was a time when almost every reader knew the name of Ernest Rhys because he was the editor of the Everyman Library, whose matched sets of small cloth-bound books brought the classics of the world to the average reader at low prices. By the time he retired, the series numbered 967 volumes. Rhys, who was gay and lived until the ripe old age of 88, made it a point to know everyone in the world of letters and had a fine wit. When he was a young man and heard that John Addington Symonds was writing his memoirs he reported in the press rather snidely, that readers could look forward to learning everything racy about the ‘90s and Oscar Wilde.

Symonds took him to task, saying that he intended telling no anecdotes about people he had known and that gossipy anecdotes had no place in serious autobiography. Rhys apologized to the older man, but, when an old man himself, wrote the delicious Everyman Remembers, in which he committed to paper every anecdote he felt Symonds should have told, plus hundreds of his own. His autobiography, therefore, chronicles the bizarre behavior of Oscar Wilde’s gay contemporaries and, though embroidered with anecdotes of suspicious origin, is nonetheless a participant’s testimony and a very entertaining one at that.