From Vanity Fair: Review of The Yellow Book
From Messrs. Elkin Mathews and John
Lane there comes
volume I. of the much-expected new quarterly, “The Yellow
Book”; and it comes in a wondrous ugly cover. It will be
studied with subdued but none the less earnest joy by the New
School of Art, or the New Schools, or individuals who magnify
themselves into schools; for is it not a precious thing? For
myself I am, of course, a Philistine of the deepest dye; and
being so, I see less merit in Mr. Aubrey Beardsley than in Mr.
Phil May; less art in Mr. Walter Sickert than in Mr. Melton
Prior; less beauty in “The Yellow Book” than in Scribner’s
Magazine; and less solid worth than I find in the good
old Quarterly. Yet has this newest quarterly its virtue.
The intention of its promoters is, we are told, “to present
a fresh, brilliant, varied, and diverting table of contents”;
and there is as little doubt about the freshness and brilliance
of the outside of the thing as there is about the variety dis-
played inside it. The literary contributors include some well-
known names; and though the shadow of youth is still over
many of them, that will pass away. So far as I have read,
there is good writing in the volume. But the bastard of
mediævalism and the unconventional of modernity brood
over all, as may be seen more especially in the pictures.
There are a couple of nice studies by Sir Frederick Leighton—
“nice” is the word; two typical adumbrations by Walter
Sickert—for whose kind I have no great regard; and
a hideous caricature of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, for which
she will scarce have much. This last is by Mr. Aubrey
Beardsley, who, with refreshing impudence, calls it a
“portrait.” So are the hieroglyphic pictures of Osiris, which
you may see in the ruined temples on the Nile, portraits. If
Mr. Beardsley would—or should I say “could”?—take a hint
or two from Mr. Phil May he might do better; but, of course, Mr.
Phil May is a Philistine; though he can catch a likeness in even
fewer lines than the soulful Mr. Beardsley cannot. The same
artist has a “Night Piece,” and a Book-Plate, and another picture:
which will strike the common man as vain attempts to mix
the Japanese and the Egyptian in Art; and each may be as well
taken for a “portrait” of Mrs. Patrick Campbell as that other
which is so labelled. But of course the book—there are other
pictures—is a beautiful production, advanced, unconventional,
and full of the New Art; which threatens to be as great an
incubus as the New Journalism has been. Moreover, it promises
not to go in undue terror of Mrs. Grundy.
The writers include Henry James, Richard Le
George Saintsbury, Edmund Gosse, “John Oliver Hobbes,”
George Moore, and others. Mr. Arthur Waugh protests against
the “New School” which is so well represented beside him;
and one Beerbohm supplies a bad “Defence of Cosmetics.”
They are a strange crew, these writers; but I prefer their work
greatly to that of the picture-makers.
Altogether, the volume is a strange production, interesting
for its faults and its eccentricities, and therefore cheap and
novel value for five shillings.
Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 1, April 1894, Vanity Fair 19 April 1894, p. 240. Yellow Nineties 2.0. Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://www.1890s.ca/YB1_review_vanity_fair_april_1894/