From St. James Gazette: “The Yellow Book”
IT will be curious to see how the Yellow Book takes with the
first number is a curious mixture of clevernesses—some good, others (as we
hold) bad. At any rate, it is a very queer new sort of quarterly. The
outside cover suggests a companion volume of the Sketch; if Mr.
Aubrey Beardsley is responsible for it, he was in a very Dudley-Hardyish
mood when he designed this fat-faced, yellow masking female with a
line round her head. As for the contents, they are unequal. They
remind one somewhat of the dead Universal Review. A prominent feature
is that the letterpress and the “pictures” have no connection with one
another; but the “pictures” in this first number are not quite interesting
enough to stand by themselves.
It was a good idea to bring together Dr. Garnett, Mr. Gosse, Mr.
Henry James, Mr. George Saintsbury, and Mr. Waugh, representing more “level-
headed” writers of the day, with the insouciant impressionisms of “George
Egerton,” “John Oliver Hobbes,” “Mr. Crackanthorpe,” and “Mr. Arthur
Symons.” But they do not quite mix, and we come away with objections
to the unabashed school more prominent in our memory than our likings
for the others. Mr. Henry James’s fictional “Death of the Lion” and
Mr. Waugh’s essay on “Reticence in Literature” have an added piquancy,
besides their own excellence, by juxtaposition with the writers on whom
the first is a skit and the second a judgment. With the indelicate delicacies
of one set of writers in our minds, and the effeminate impressionisms of
their kindred artists in our eyes, it is odd to read this censure from
Mr. Waugh in their midst:—
A new school has arisen which combines the characteristics of effeminacy
and brutality. In its effeminate aspect it plays with the subtler emotions of
sensual pleasure, on its brutal side it has developed into that class of fiction
which, for want of a better word, I must call chirurgical. In poetry it
deals with very much thc samc passions as those which we have traced in
the verse (from Swinburne’s “Dolores”) to which allusion has been made;
but instead of leaving these refinements of lust to the haunts to which they
are fitted, it has introduced them into the domestic chamber and permeated
marriage with the ardours of promiscuous intercourse. In fiction it infects its
heroines with acquired diseases of names unmentionable, and has debased
the beauty of maternity by analysis of the process of gestation.
The liberal supply of poetry in small doses (from Mr. Gosse, Mr. Ben-
son, Mr. Davidson, Mr. William Watson, and Mr. Le Gallienne) is all
rather good of its sort, if somcwhat trifling. But Mr. Arthur Symons’s
“Stella Maris” quite out-Jennies Rossetti’s “Jenny.” Mr. Symons
perhaps has not discovered that the peculiar form of gutter immorality
he celebrates in song is now chiefly left to rowdy shop-boys and privates
in her Majesty’s army. Mr. Max Beerbohm‘s deliverance on “A Defence
of Cosmetics,” is detestable in matter and unreadible in style.
Coming to the pictures, we must utter one protest in limine
Beardsley, who is his own editor. He is really too clever to impose upon
us with nothing better than his present list of contributions. Sir Frederic
Leighton‘s studies are, of course, like other studies by the P.R.A. ; and Mr.
Furse’s “Portrait of a Lady” is an interesting piece of work. But
the unexplained “pictures” by Messrs. Walter Sickert, and Will Rothen-stein, are as dull as can be; and Mr. Beardsley’s own plates are
very disappointing. We are not surprised to find that people are
asking where his “Portrait of Mrs. Patrick Campbell” is? It is
not even a thumb-nail sketch; and though the half-dozen lines of
arrangement are strange with a strangeness which Mr. Beardsley has
made his own, the face of this “portrait” is no more Mrs. Patrick Camp-
bell’s than is that of the lady in “a night piece,” or in any other drawing
of Mr. Beardsley’s with females in it which we have ever seen. Mr.
Beardsley’s title-page is better work; but in the “weird” style of drawing
we prefer Mr. Laurence Housman’s “Reflected Faun.” This last agreeably
surprised us in comparison with Mr. Housman’s previous wind-blown
ladies in pillow-cases, and twisted persons with chins awry gazing out
of windows that have no houses round them. The “Reflected Faun” is
not entirely satisfactory in tone as regards the reflection, but it is the
nearest approach to a good imitation of Rossetti which we have yet noticed
from Mr. Housman’s pencil.
Altogether, while wishing well to the Yellow Book, and
it as an interesting experiment which must not be judged by one example,
we wish at the same time that a perusal of its first number did not leave
us so much inclined to scoff.
* The Yellow Book. An Illustrated Quarterly. Vol. I (London: Elkin
Mathews and John Lane.
“The Yellow Book.” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 1, April 1894, St. James’s Gazette, 18 April 1894, p. 15. Yellow Nineties 2.0. Edited Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/YB1_review_st_james_gazette_april_1894/