Books: Edwardian Laughter

THE LIMIT (256 pp.)—Ada Leverson—Norton ($3).

"The wittiest woman in the world," said Oscar Wilde of Ada Leverson. Others who admired Ada's sparkle were Max Beerbohm, Aubrey Beardsley, Henry James and George Bernard Shaw (whom she succeeded as drama critic of the Saturday Review). Venomous with bores, she flattened them joyfully. When a vacation acquaintance buttonholed her with "I don't know whether you realize it ... but my aunt was a Thunderby," Ada cried, "Oh, how terrible! Oughtn't we to inform the management?" Accused of using peroxide on her hair, she flashed that she "only darkened it a little at the roots."

Ada...

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