Backhouse wasn’t someone to act from acquisitive motives. Between 1913 and 1922 he donated to the Bodleian Library over 17,000 Chinese books and manuscripts that today it considers “one of the finest and most generous gifts in the Library’s history.” Considering what other benefactions the Bodleian must have received in its time, this is high praise.
Edmund Backhouse lived in a vanished world that was cruel, but also brilliant in art and literature. Now his uniquely revealing memoirs have been published by Hong Kong’s Earnshaw Books. “An erotic love letter to a bygone era,” as the editor remarks, and a sensation in every sense, they’re surely the jewel in their pioneering publisher’s crown.