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From The Critic: “A Yellow Indecency”

THE EDITORS OF The Yellow Book attracted attention to that
quarterly at first by the novelty of its make-up, if not by the
originality of their ideas. People laughed at the thing, but they
bought it; and they found some things between its covers that were
worth reading. While there was much that was absurd in it,
there was the saving grace of apparent earnestness, and one felt
that the young men who were responsible for it at least believed
in their methods and had definite ideas in their heads. In subse-
quent numbers of the quarterly, there was a decided falling off,
and people were merely bored by the vulgar eccentricities of Mr.
Beardsley‘s pencil and Mr. Max Beerbohm‘s pen. This would not
do. The Yellow Book must be talked about—it must startle the
reader, at whatever cost. The fourth volume, now at hand, will
be talked about, but the price to be paid for its notoriety is a high
one—the loss of the respect of decent people. There is nothing
clever in the indecent poems and stories that go to the making of
this number. They simply pander to a depraved taste. We
sometimes tolerate indecency when it is clothed with art, but the
indecencies of The Yellow Book are not clothed at all. The i1lus-
trations are of varying merit. There is a very good head of
John Davidson by Will Rothenstein, and a portrait of George Moore
by Walter Sickert, which explains some of the peculiarities of
“Esther Waters.” Either Mr. Moore is the most extraordinary-
looking man that ever lived, or this portrait does him rank injus-
tice. It is simply terrifying—a plum pudding eaten at bedtime
could not conjure up worse dreams than a sight of this picture. If
Mr. Moore were as sensible as Mr. Whistler, he would bring ac-
tion against The Yellow Book for libellous misrepresentation.
Never having seen him, we do not know how he looks, but we
are quite willing to affirm that no human being ever looked like
this picture.

The portrait of Mr. Beardsley which we reproduce is from a
photograph, and is known among his friends as “The Gargoyle.”
It is much more of a likeness, no doubt, than the so-called por-
trait by himself published in the third volume of The Yellow Book.

MLA citation:

“A Yellow Indecency.” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 4, January 1895, The Critic 16 February 1895, p. 131. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.