The Yellow Book was a fashionable quarterly magazine published from 1894 to 1897. It was created in part to challenge the traditional values of the Victorian era. Through artistic experimentation, emphasis on wit, and, most importantly, the exploitation of morals, The Yellow Book was, and forever will be, an artful publication made for the sake of good art.
The Yellow Book is as vital today as it was then because it represents what is lacking in today’s culture: aesthetics over ideology.
Aubrey Beardsley and Henry Harland conceived the magazine and received funding from John Lane and Elkin Matthews. Beardsley, an accomplished artist, was appointed illustrator and editor until his dismissal over a scandalous story surrounding Oscar Wilde. Below are some of the Beardsley’s illustrations for The Yellow Book.
“The Repentance of Mrs…”
“La Dame aux Camelias”
“Portrait of Himself”
Beardsley’s fusion of the Japanese woodcut style with Art Nouveau made his work bold and elegant, while his taste for the licentious made it controversial.
It was the intention of The Yellow Book to be, “ representative of the most cultural work…with no hall-mark except that of excellence and no prejudice against anything except dullness and incapacity.” Hubert Crackanthorpe’s “The Haseltons” is exemplary of that vision:
“Since his boyhood, religion had been distasteful to him, though, at rare moments, it had stirred his sensibilities strangely. Now, occasionally, the thought of the nullity of life, of its great unsatisfying quality, of the horrid squalor of death, would descend upon him with its crushing, paralyzing weight; and he would lament, with bitter, futile regret, his lack of a secure stand-point, and the continual limitations of his self-absorption; but even that, perhaps, was a mere literary melancholy, assimilated from pertain passages of Pierre Loti.”
Crackanthorpe uses soft words to describe the poetic nature of The Haselton’s velvet world and strong themes to contour the main character’s dispositions.
Today we look to the past and find The Yellow Book as a beacon of light.
(We recommend The Yellow Book: An Anthology)