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From The National Observer: “Autumnal Tints”

The Yellow Book. Vol. XI. London : Lane.

Mr. Max Beerbohm‘s romantic satire of ‘The Happy Hypo-
crite,’ his portrait of ‘The Yellow Dwarf,’ and Miss Syrett’s
Front Cover Design should have been distributed at intervals
over the last issue of The Yellow Book. The humour of them,
coming as they do at the beginning, is not sufficient to support
the reader through the solid remainder of this bulky tome.
Mr. Beerbohm comes before us masked for a fête cham-
. Not more astonishing is the metamorphosis of his
hero, Lord George Hell, from the naughty buck of Garble’s to
the saintly recluse of Kensington, who keeps the ‘mensiver-
sary’ of his rustic wedding with a feast of buns. One fears a
little for the sanity or the sincerity, of both. But Mr. Beer-
bohm’s style, as we predicted, is becoming more ingenuous,
though still he affects an ugly phrase or two. ‘Many persons,’
we are told, ‘were unobnoxious to the magic of his title’—that
is, we may suppose, were not subservient to it. If we accept
this rare use of the word obnoxious, which seldom in good
Latin means anything but ‘exposed tp,’ or ‘liable to,’ or ‘be-
holden to,’ we may still object to the addtion of a Saxon prefix
as a solecism unworthy of the author’s chastity of style. In
Mr. Henry Harland‘s ‘The Friend of Man’ we have a theme
of no very surprising novelty—that of a philanthropist who is
unmoved by man without a capital M; but the literary quality of
this sketch sets it apart from most of the serious
work in this volume. Two slight defects are apparent. The
speaker who gives the experience of his relations with the
Friend of Man is inclined, when he recalls his own fancies as
a child, to use in description the language of childhood.
The error is natural, but still an error. Again, the reiteration
of words and phrases, which at first gives an air of naturalness
to his narrative, declines, by the end, to mere affectation. Baron
Corvo, in one of the ‘Stories Toto Told Me,’ allows himself to
burlesque for the Judgment-Day. The indecency of the thing is too
patent for reproof; our complaint should rather be that while
he was about this piece of banality he did not make it funnier.
Miss Ada Radford shows a certain feeling for character in
‘Lot 99,’ but the story lacks coference, and we are left with a
suspicion that the printer has here and there omitted a para-
grapher of even an entire page. There is a strange elusiveness
in the treatment of the actual ‘Lot 99,’ which is only mentioned
once, and then in brackets. Again, that excellent lady, Aunt
Lizzie, is suddenly referred to as a thing of the past without
any apparent cause being given for her removal. The last we
heard of her was that a new servant had starched and ironed a
piece of her old lace. But this seems inadequate.

Miss Ella D’Arcy contributes a rather sordid illustration
od the old French rule: ‘Ne faites jamais de votre maîtresse
votre femme
.’ If it is true, as rumoured, that Miss D’Arcy is a
‘creation’ of The Yellow Book, one must say she owes it
a more filial gratitude. Her powers of observation scarcely
compensate for a slipshod manner of presenting the results.
Thus, it is Mrs. Catterson, late mistress, and now wife, who
speaks: ‘”And I don’t approve of sweet anyway. It ruins
the children’s teeth. I wish Mr. West wouldn’t bring them so
often.” This was sufficiently ungracious, and West’s answer was
sufficiently foolish. “Perhaps you wish I wouldn’t bring myself
so often either?” said he. “I’ve no doubt we could manage to
get on just as well without you,” she retorted, and there were
worlds of insult concentrated in the tone
. . . It is always
so particularly easy, and perhaps so agreeable, to insult his
friends. She offers them their choice between perpetual
banishment and chunks of humble-pie. This generalisation
here is almost as cheaply vulgar as the style. Miss D’Arcy
can do much better work than this. Both she and Mr. Paul
Neuman should remember that if they wish to give the right
atmosphere of a commonplace interior, there is no necessity to
employ a commonplace manner of narration. Mr. Neuman’s
‘The Uttermost Farthing’ is either much too long or much too
short. One inclines to the former judgment. For the rest,
Mr. H. Gilbert’s sketch, ‘An Early Chapter,’ which leads you
nowhere in particular, seems to be rather actual; Miss Con-
stance Cotterell’s ‘Love-Germ’ is a pretty feminine present-
ment of the old, old ‘Professor’s Love-Story,’ with microbe
accessories; and Mr. Reginald Turner, by the sudden death
of his singular prig on leaning of the rejection of his chef-
, justifies at one stroke the callousness of all Philistia’s

There are reviews of the poetry of John Barlas, and the
romances of Gabriele d’Annunzio. In the one Mr. H. S. Salt
is simply and sincerely concerned to illustrate the claims of a
neglected writer, and to this end gives us much of the poet’s
work, and little of his own; in the second review Mr. Eugene
Benson, writing of an author perhaps equally unfamiliar to the
average English reader, is content to glorify his own learned
appreciation, without submitting any proofs to our judgement.
The only criticism that we have to pass on Mr. Salt’s review is
that among the many beautiful passages which he selects from
the work of John Barlas there is scarcely anything to justify
the statement that ‘he is, if ever a poet was, a Greek in spirit.’

The verse of this volume calls for little comment. Miss.
Alma Strettell, who translates from the French of Emile
Verhaeren, must be aware that the adapter can claim no merit
for ideas, but only for fidelity and technique. On the fidelity of
her reproduction we are not here in a position to judge; for
her technique, though she is not without some sense of form,
the rhythm of her anapaestic measure, a measure demanding
the most perfect fluency, is harsh and uncertain. Take this line
with its unfortunate accenturation:
    Have you met him, the savage wind, do you you remember?
or these, with the choking consonant:
    Here comes the wind
That teareth himself and doth firecely dismember;
With heavy breaths turbulent, simiting the towns,
The savage wind comes, the fierce wind of November!
‘Breaths’ and ‘fierce’ makes the most impossible short
syllables. From the ‘White Statue’ of Miss Olive Custance
two verse may be cited for singularity, the one of senitment,
the other of rhyme. She is apostrophising the chilly marble:
     I love you more than swallows love the south,
As sunflowers turn and turn
Towards the sun, I yearn
To press warm lips against your cold white mouth.
Surely there is an exquisite inappropriateness in these hot
fancies. This is the other verse, the accents being our own v addition:
     I love you most at purple sunsetting,
When night, with feverish eyes,
Comes up the fading skies…
I love you with a passion past forgetting.

Mr. Neuman, not content with his tale, prefixes to it a
‘ballad.’ It is another ballad of a Nun, and suggests an
inevitable comparison with her of the Davidson Sisterhood.
He has caught too the knack of the Davidson quatrain; but
missed the vigorous impropriety of the master-hand. Mr.
Patten Wilson has made a delicate drawing of ‘Rustem’s War
Horses,’ but his ‘Phantasy’ loses the effect of the whole
in an elaborate maze of detail where the near and the less
near are indistinguishable. Mr. Francis Howard’s portrait
of Mr. G. S. Street is at best no better than a poor photograph;
it does no sort of justice ot the genial hauteur of that accom-
plished writer.

MLA citation:

“Autumnal Tints.” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 11, October 1896, National Observer, 21 November 1896, p. 24. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.