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From The National Observer: “The Yellow Book”

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

This interesting quarterly has not yet ceased to transform
itself with each issue into something new and strange.
Volume VIII, is lighter in colour than its predecessors, bulkier,
and in every way better. The artistic part is excellent. Most
of the better known of the Glasgow men are represented, each by
a more or less characteristic piece of work. Mr. Hornell and
Mr. Henry are set side by side, and one can see how
essentially different are these two who used to work together
on one picture to the admiration of the few and astonish-
ment of the many. Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Walton are
represented by children, the one a sketch the other a finished
picture. Mr. Guthrie’s sketch is charming enough but hardly
gives one a correct idea of his strength and accomplishment.
Mr. Lavery’s portrait of Miss Burrell is admirable and justifies
the impression one has of him as among the very foremost
portrait-painters of the day.

The literary part of this quarterly is also very good. Mr.
George Gissing leads off with a short story, ‘The Foolish
Virgin.’ Mr. Gissing is one of the most dispiriting authors
we have ever read. He seems to take a perfectly unnatural
delight in depicting that side of life which is least joyous,
furthest removed from all that makes life bearable, inhabiting
the land of disappointment which shivers beneath a dingy sky.
The foolish Virgin had lived for many years on sixty pounds a
year. When she was twenty-nine years of age that allowance
was cut off, and she was penniless. She becomes a servant,
though her mistress is supposed to treat her as a friend of
the family. Thus she works out her own salvation. One
cannot feel that Mr. Gissing is justified in making a story
out of the foolish Virgin. Her case excites pity but she fails
to interest. Some authors seem to imagine that if they can
make their readers depressed and uncomfortable they have
achieved a triumph of art. It may be so; and doubtless it is
well to know that young ladies can always turn to domestic
service when all else fails them. Mr. Gissing would seem to
infer that until they take this decisive step they will continue to
be foolish.

Mr. Henry Harland has a very charming sketch of a little
French dancing girl who sacrifices everything to look after an
old English artist who has become the slave of opium. ‘P’tit
Bleu’ is the best thing of Mr. Harland’s we have yet seen. In
‘Dies Irae’ Mr. Kenneth Grahame returns to his children, and
we are pleased to learn of a new games called ‘Conspirators’
which Harold invented. ‘Dies Irae’ is written with all the
charm we have learnt to expect from Mr. Grahame,
thereby throwing much responsibility on his shoulders. Mr.
Le Gallienne continues his prose fancies, which we do not much
like. All that is sentimental in Mr. Le Gallienne seems to rise
to the surface on these occasions. ‘A Slip under the Microscope,’
by Mr. H.G. Wells, is well told though not so original in its
incidents as that author’s work generally is. One can the more
readily excuse this seeing that Mr. Wells’s originality in his more
recent scientific stories has had the result of making one’s flesh
creep. There is no creeping of the flesh in reading ‘A Slip
under the Microscope,’ but the story might have been much
shorter and suffered in no way. Mr. H.B. Marriott Watson
continues the series of slightly unpleasant tales which he seems
to think suitable to the Yellow Book. This time it is the story
of a sentimental man who writes poetry instead of doing some-
thing manly. We would not have supposed for an instant
that there is anything unmanly in writing poetry, or in
reading it, for that matter. But Mr. H.B. Marriott
Watson’s men who write poetry seem to us to be rather an
unmanly set of fellows. This particular one has been twice
married, and suddenly his love for his first wife reasserts itself
to the misery and death of his second wife. As we do not
happen to have known the first wife, our sympathy is all with
the second, and of that comodity we have absolutely none for
the man. Besides, it seems unnecessary for Mr. Watson to
kill the second wife by a pain in her side, induced by jealousy
and slighted love. Such endings don’t happen in real life. ‘A
Captain of Salvation,’ by Mr. John Buchan, is spoiled by the
same touch of unrealism. A Salvation Army captain, who has
been a shocking blackguard in his day, but has been converted,
finds himself one day sorely tempted of the devil to throw up the
whole thing. To cap all, when he is trudging through one of
the worst parts of London at the head of his worn but valiant
corps, he is accosted first by an old sweetheart, affectionate
though not respectable, and then by an old companion, who
makes an eloquent appeal to him to leave this tomfoolery be-
hind and to off with him to where the palm trees grow, etc. etc.
Untouched by the sentiment of it all because it is not true, you
are annoyed that a good story should have been spoiled in the
making. Mrs. Marriott Watson and Miss Nora Hopper
contribute some beautiful verses, which is what one always
expects from both now.

MLA citation:

“The Yellow Book.” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 8, January 1896, The National Observer, 8 February 1896, p. 401. Yellow Nineties 2.0. Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.