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From The Critic: “A Yellow Impertinence”

The Yellow Book is the Oscar Wilde of periodicals. With enough
cleverness to be successful by legitimate methods, Mr. Wilde pre-
ferred to attract attention with his long hair and silk-encased
calves. It is the same with The Yellow Book. Its contributors
and illustrators are clever enough to catch the public attention by
serious endeavor, but its editors prefer to attract more sudden
attention by mountebank methods. Both Mr. Harland and Mr.
Beardsley are young men, and their attitude is as that of one who
sticks his tongue in his cheek at the public—and who has a great
deal of cheek to stick it in.

Mr. Harland is enough of a writer himself to know that Mr. Max
Beerbohm‘s “A Defence of Cosmetics” is a vulgar and impertinent
article that has no place in a self-respecting periodical. Not only
does he offend our moral sense by declaring that all women should
paint their faces, but he offends our literary sense by the tortured
use of words. “Let us dance and be glad” (at the ascendency of the
rouge-pot) “and trip the cockawhoop.” What stuff is this? Has
the “cockawhoop” gone from Mr. Max Beerbohm’s heels to his
head? Another impertinence is “Stella Maris,” by Arthur Sy-
mons. There would be much more reason for Messrs. W. H.
Smith & Co. refusing to circulate The Yellow Book with this poem
of the gutter in it, than in refusing to circulate “Esther Waters.”
The gutter is celebrated in prose by Mr. Crackanthorpe, a young man
who, when he writes of depravity, which he usually does, leaves
nothing to the imagination. By the weak he is called “strong,” by
the strong—but what do the strong reck of Mr. Crackanthorpe?

Mr. Richard Le Gallienne writes a lot of verses, which he calls
“Tree Worship.” As the poem does not seem to mean anything in
particular, that is as good a name as any, though “Le Gallienne
Worship” would be equally descriptive. Henry James, William
Watson, Edmund Gosse, Richard Garnett and Arthur Waugh appear
among the list of literary contributors. Neither of them appears to
great advantage, and the fact that they have lent themselves
to the making of this quarterly only shows that amiability makes
strange bed-fellows.

The art of The Yellow Book is mostly humorous. That merry
joker, Aubrey Beardsley, is at his funniest. His title-page, his
portrait of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, his “Night Piece” are delicious-
ly funny. He can say a good deal with a very few strokes of the
pencil. A clever fellow, but given to extravaganza. The best
thing among the art contributions to The Yellow Book is “The
Portrait of a Lady,” by Charles W. Furse. As for the rest, they
are mere sketches. The amount of attention that this periodical
has attracted is proof, if any were wanted, that the mountebank in
his motley can call the crowd; but is that all that the editors of this
quarterly are aiming at? Have they yet to learn that notoriety is
not fame? They claim that The Yellow Book is the embodiment
of the modern spirit. If this be true, then give us the good old-
fashioned spirit of Harper’s, The Century and Scribner’s, whose
aim is to please intelligent people, and not to attract attention by
“tripping the cockawhoop” in public. (Boston: Copeland &

MLA citation:

“A Yellow Impertinence.” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 1, April 1894, The Critic, 26 May 1894, p. 360. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.