Zuleika Dobson

Zuleika Dobson, un clásico de Max Beerhohm, publicada en 1911, es una sátira sobre la vida de los estudiantes de Oxford. Al final algunas cosas para saber de Oxford, Mayfair, Jules Bloch o Boldini.
That old bell, signal of a train, had just sounded through Oxford station; and the undergraduates who were waiting there, gay figures in tweed or flannel, moved to the margin of the platform and gazed idly up the line. Young and careless, in the glow of the afternoon sunshine, they struck a sharp note of incongruity with the worn boards they stood on, with the fading signals and grey eternal walls of that antique station, which, familiar to them and insignificant, does yet whisper to the tourist the last enchantments of the Middle Age.
At the door of the first-class waiting-room, aloof and venerable, stood the Warden of Judas. An ebon pillar of tradition seemed he, in his attire of old-fashioned cleric. Aloft, between the wide brim of his silk hat and the white extent of his shirt-front, appeared those eyes which hawks, that nose which eagles, had often envied. He supported his years on an ebon stick. He alone was worthy of the background.

Came a whistle from the distance. The breast of an engine was descried, and a long train curving after it, under a flight of smoke. It grew and grew. Louder and louder, its noise foreran it. It became a furious, enormous monster, and, with an instinct for safety, all men receded from the platform's margin. (Yet came there with it, unknown to them, a danger far more terrible than itself.) Into the station it came noisily, with cloud and clangour. Ere it had yet stopped, the door of one carriage flew open, and from it, in a white travelling dress, in a toque a-sparkle with fine diamonds, a flexible and radiant creature slipped quickly down to the platform.
An attraction indeed! A hundred eyes were fixed on her, and half as many hearts lost to her. The Warden of Judas himself had mounted on his nose a pair of black-rimmed glasses. Him espying, the nymph darted in his direction. The crowd made way for her. She was at his side.
"Grandpapa!" she cried, and kissed the old man on either cheek. (Not a youth there but would have exchanged fifty years of his future for that salute.)
"My dear Zuleika," he said, "welcome to Oxford! Have you no luggage?"
"Heaps!" she answered. "And a maid who will find it."
"Then," said the Warden, "let us drive straight to College." He offered her his arm, and they proceeded slowly to the entrance. She chatted gaily, blushing not in the long avenue of eyes she passed through. All the youths, under her spell, were now quite ignorant to the relatives they had come to meet. Parents, sisters, cousins, ran unclaimed about the platform. Undutiful, all the youths were forming a compact line to their enchantress. In silence they followed her. They saw her leap into the Warden's landau, they saw the Warden seat himself upon her left. Nor was it until the landau was lost to sight that they turned—how slowly, and with how bad a grace!—to look for their relatives…
Zuleika was not strictly beautiful. Her eyes were a little large, and their lashes longer than they need have been. An anarchy of small curls was her hair, a dark upland of misrule, every hair asserting its rights over a not discreditable brow. For the rest, her features were not at all original. They seemed to have been derived rather from a mix of familiar models. From Madame la Marquise de Saint-Ouen came the shapely angle of the nose. The mouth was a mere replica of Cupid's bow, lacquered scarlet and strung with the littlest pearls. No apple-tree, no wall of peaches, had not been robbed, nor any Tyrian rose-garden, for the glory of Miss Dobson's cheeks. Her neck was imitation-marble. Her hands and feet were of very mean proportions. She had no waist to speak of.
Yet, though a Greek would have railed at her asymmetry, and an Elizabethan have called her "gipsy," Miss Dobson now, in the midst of the Edwardian Era, was the toast of two hemispheres. Late in her 'teens she had become an orphan and a governess. Her grandfather had refused her appeal for a home or an allowance, on the ground that he would not be burdened with the result of a marriage which he had once forbidden and not yet forgiven. Lately, however, prompted by curiosity or by remorse, he had asked her to spend a week or so of his declining years with him. And she, "resting" between two engagements—one at Hammerstein's Victoria, N.Y.C., the other at the Folies Bergeres, Paris—and having never been in Oxford, had so far forgave him as to come and gratify the old man's urge…
Already, indeed, she was rich. She was living at the most exorbitant hotel in all Mayfair. She had innumerable gowns and no necessity to buy jewels; and she also had, which pleased her most, the fine cheval-glass I have described. At the close of the Season, Paris claimed her for a month's engagement. Paris saw her and was prostrate. Boldini did a portrait of her. Jules Bloch wrote a song about her; and this, for a whole month, was howled up and down the mended alleys of Montmartre. And all the little dandies were mad for "la Zuleika." The jewellers of the Rue de la Paix soon had nothing left to put in their windows—everything had been bought for "la Zuleika." For a whole month, baccarat was not played at the Jockey Club—every member had succumbed to a nobler passion. For a whole month, the whole women were forgotten for one English virgin. Never, even in Paris, had a woman triumphed so. When the day came for her departure, the city wore such an air of somber mourning as it had not worn since the Prussians marched to its Elysee. Zuleika, quite untouched, would not linger in the conquered city. Agents had come to her from every capital in Europe, and, for a year, she ranged, in triumphal nomady, from one capital to another. In Berlin, every night, the students escorted her home with torches. Prince Vierfuenfsechs-Siebenachtneun offered her his hand, and was condemned by the Kaiser to six months' confinement in his little castle. In Yildiz Kiosk, the tyrant who still throve there conferred on her the Order of Chastity, and offered her the central couch in his harem. She gave her performance in the Quirinal, and, from the Vatican, the Pope launched against her a Bull which fell utterly flat. In Petersburg, the Grand Duke Salamander Salamandrovitch fell enamoured of her. Of every article in the apparatus of her conjuring-tricks he caused a replica to be made in finest gold. These treasures he presented to her in that great malachite casket which now stood on the little table in her room; and then it was with these that she performed her wonders. They did not mark the limit of the Grand Duke's generosity. He was for giving on Zuleika the half of his immensurable estates. The Grand Duchess appealed to the Tzar. Zuleika was conducted across the frontier, by an escort of love-sick Cossacks. On the Sunday before she left Madrid, a great bull-fight was held in her honour. Fifteen bulls received the coup-de-grace, and Alvarez, the matador of matadors, died in the arena with her name on his lips. He had tried to kill the last bull without taking his eyes off la divina senorita. A prettier compliment had never been paid her, and she was immensely pleased with it. For that matter, she was immensely pleased with everything. She moved proudly to the incessant music of a song, yes! Of a song that was always crescendo... (Paragraphs from Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerhohm. Chapters 1 and 2. Adapted to easier English)

Para saber
Oxford: ciudad en el sud-este de Inglaterra, famosa por ser el centro de la Universidad de Oxford.
Hammerstein's Victoria, NYC: teatro en Nueva York durante los primeros años del siglo 20. 
Mayfair: exclusiva área del oeste de Londres, principalmente comercial, con muchas casas antiguas convertidas en oficinas.
Boldini (1842 -1931): pintor y retratista italiano.
Jules Bloch: linguista francés. 
El autor
Max Beerhohm (1872 -1956) fue un ensayista y caricaturista inglés, cuya única novela fue Zuleika Dobson.
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