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From The Daily Chronicle: “The New ‘Yellow Book’”

“The Yellow Book.” An Illustrated Quarterly.
    Vol. II. July , 1894. (London, Elkin
    Mathews and John Lane.)


The second Yellow Book is better than
the first. That is saying much or little,
according to what one thought of the first. The
fact is therefore better stated absolutely than
relatively. So we may pronounce the second
volume of this “illustrates quarterly” a
publication of far more than usual interest.
Its contents are very mixed — first-rate work
and almost inconceivable bad jostle each
other, and the seriously meant and the
elaborately trivial lie down together within
its grotesque covers. But, good or bad, it
is interesting, and for that reason it will be
bought and will excite pleasure and satis-
faction, as well as exceedingly great anger.

Having said so much, we suddenly wonder
if we ought to say anything at all. For
amongst the peculiarities of the Yellow
Book, the latest appears to be the in-
tention of criticising itself. Mr. Max
Beerbohm writes a reply to his critics,
and Mr. P. G. Hamerton devotes many pages
to verdicts upon the literature and art of
the first volume. Mr Max Beerbohm (by
the way, who is Mr. Max Beerbohm?) dis-
covered quite by accident, “in the album of
a friend” (is it curious how invariably
people’s “attention is called” to a
newspaper by a friend) that his essay
about cosmetics had provoked “the most
ungovernable fury” on the part of the
“pressmen.” We were not aware of this,
no friend having shown us his album. So
he proceeds to retaliate. The late National
Observer, he tells us, was “rowdy, venomous,
and insincere.” Therefore he thinks of it
“often with tears and desiderium.” This is
perhaps affected and foolish, but not so
foolish as the further statement that
the “average pressman” “steadily
applies himself to the ignoble task of
plucking out and gloating over” defects.
We are the “mob,” the “pack”; other
criticism is “bauble-tit.” The true inward-
ness of Mr. Max Beerbohm’s anger, how-
ever, is in this charmingly naïf statement:
“Were it not for the accursed abuse of their
function by the great body of critics, no poet
need ‘live uncrown’d apart.’ ” This gives the
position away, but before we condescend
to any more “accused abuse” of Mr. Max
Beerbohm, we wish for one piece of infor-
mation — what is his age? Why the
editor should have inserted Mr. Hamerton’s
criticism of the first volume we cannot
imagine. Most of it is a series of common-
place remarks about each separate pieice of
literature or art, and even if it were more
original and more worth of Mr. Hamerton’s
reputation, the first Yellow Book has already
been so superabundantly criticised that
nobody wants to read anything more about
it. We will venture, however, to say some-
thing about the second.

The literature is much better, and
carefully selected, to begin with. Mr.
Henry James contributes almost a one-
volume novel, “The Coxon Fund,” which
cannot be adequately noticed on this
occasion, and Mr. Frederick Greenwood tells
a striking story of two meetings with a
Russian revolutionist. Prison changes him
from revolutionist to reformer, and from
the views he expressed at the second meet-
ing we take the following admirable
passage: —

It would work, this gospel ; we may be sure
of it already. For luxury has become common ;
it is being found out. Where there was one
person at the beginning of the century who had
daily experience of its fatiguing disappointments,
now there are fifty. Like everything else, it
loses distinciton by coming abundantly into
all sorts of hands ; and meanwhile other
and nobler kinds of distinction have
multiplied and have gained acknowledgment.
And from losing distinction — this you
must have observed — luxury is becoming
vulgar ; and I don’t know why the time should
be so very far off when it will be accounted
shameful. Certain it is that year by year a
greater number of minds, and such as mostly
determine the currents of social sentiment, think
luxury low ; without going deeper than the mere
look of of [sic] it, perhaps. These are hopeful signs
Here is good encouragement to stand out and
preach the gospel of content, which would be an
education in simplicity, dignity, happiness,
and yet more an education of heart and
spirit. For nothing that a man can do in this
world works so powerfully for his own spiritual
good as the habit of sacrifice to kindness. It
is so like a miracle that it is, I am sure, the one
way — the one way appointed by the laws of out
spiritual growth.

Yes, and what about preaching the gospel of
content to poverty? Well, there we must be
careful to discriminate — careful to disentangle
poverty from some other things which are the same
thing in the common idea. Say but this, but there
must be no content with squalor, none with any
sort of uncleanness, and poverty takes its own
separate place an its own unsmirched aspect.
An honourable poverty, clear of squalor, any
man should be able to endure with a tranquil
mind. To attain that tranquillity is to attain
to nobleness ; and persistence in it, though
effort fail and desert go quite without reward,
ennobles. Contentment in poverty does not
mean crouching to it or under it. Contentment
is not cowardice but fortitude. There is no
truer assertion of manliness, and none with more
grace and sweetness. Before it can have an esta-
blished place in the breast of any man, envy must
depart from it — envy, jealousy, greed, readiness
to take half-honest gains, a horde of small,
ignoble sentiments not only disturbing but
poisonous to the ground they grow in.

Miss Ella d’Arcy‘s story “Poor Cousin
Louis” is a stronger piece of work than that
which we had occasion to praise in the first
volume, and goes a long way to show that in
this lady we have a new personality to
reckon with among the writers of short
stories. Mr. Henry Harland‘s study in the
first person, called “A Responsibility,” is a
delicate piece of insight and analysis, and
although Mr. Hubert Crackanthorpe‘s essay
on “Reticence in Literature” is in parts
sophomoric, it contains, nevertheless, a good
deal of lucid criticism. Poetry is the dis-
appointment of the number. Mr. John
Davidson‘s “Thirty Bob a Week” strikes a
rather artificial note, and Mr. William Wat-
son’s “Epigram” is hardly worthy of him-
self. Mr. Alfred Hayes in “My Study”
contributes the best verse, and some of his
lines and characterisations are singularly
delicate and beautiful. The following
stanza, for instance: —

    Ashamed my faultful task to spell,
        I watch how grows
    The Master’s perfect colour-scheme
    Of sunset, or His simpler dream
    Of moonlight, or that miracle
        We name a rose.

Mr. Austin Dobson’s verse is always
pleasant to read, and the lines sent to Mr.
Gosse with a book are characteristic of
their writer, which is praise enough: —

    This tattered page you see, Sir, is all that now
    (Yes, fourpence is the lowest!) of all those
        pleasant pains;
    And as for him that read it, and as for him that
        wrote, —
    No Golden Book enrolls them among its
        ‘Names of Note.’
    And yet they had their office. Though they
        to-day are passed,
    They marched in that procession where is no
        first or last;
    Though cold is now their hoping, though they
        no more aspire,
    They, too, had once their ardour: — they handed
        on the fire.

Of the art of this number it would be
possible to say much, did space permit.
Mr. Aubrey Beardsley is, on the whole,
rather less trying, for which we must be
thankful. His portraits of the three waiters,
whom every man about town will
recognise, are actually serious por-
traits, and not caricatures, and his
portrait in line of Madame Réjane
is a delicious and lifelike sketch, in which
the quaint expression and pose of the
famous actress are most vividly caught.
His cover is an admirable piece of decora-
tion, with less mannerism than usual;
but his “Theatre Impossible” drawings
are in his very worst vein. Extremely
clever so far as outline and massing of
lights and shadows and fertility of gro-
tesque invention go, but essentially vulgar
in idea and offensive. His title-page is even
more so. Mr. Beardsley is still very young;
his education (except in the use of his tools)
is to be made, and therefore there is plenty
of room to hope that he will some day dis-
cover that the suggestion of corruption at-
tracts only two kinds of mind — the callow
and the putrescent, and that artists should
neither exhibit these nor cater for them.
And has he no other woman’s face at all in
his gallery, that the same most un-
lovely and uninteresting one is forced
upon us to the point of fatigue? It
would be such a relief if he would go out
into the street and give us for a while the
face of the first woman he meets. Mr.
Sargent’s portrait of Mr. Henry James is a
photographically accurate presentment,
though it suggests how differently Holbein
would have used the line; and Mr. Hartrick’s
“Lamplighter” is a beautiful and interesting
drawing. Mr. Walter Sickert is at his best
and his worst in “The Old Bedford Music
Hall” and “Ada Lundberg.” Mr. Steer
drawes Mr. Sickert, and Mr. Sickert draws
Mr. Beardsley, and Mr. Steer gives us a
young woman drawing on her stockings —
a model, no doubt — with a headless man in
the dim background, and labels it with
amusing impertinence, “Portrait of him-
self.” The “Renaissance of Venus” is
perhaps the best thing Mr. Walter Crane
has ever done, and it is good to have an
excellent reproduction of it. On the whole,
therefore, the Yellow Book is progressing —
progressing towards seriousness and sanity.
We hope its conductors will not think this
verdict an insult.

MLA citation:

“The New ‘Yellow Book.'” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 2, July 1894, The Daily Chronicle 12 July 1894, p. 3. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.