THE BRAZEN YELLOWANTHUS.*

THERE was once a very small boy who said to a man grown old in his
sins, "I'm awfully fond of swearing; I know a frightful oath": and
straightway he climbed that middle-aged sinner's knee and whispered
him a blood-thirsty, hair-raising anathema. It seems to us as if all,
or nearly all, the contributors to the Yellow Book know some-
thing in the swearing line that—if we may chance the vulgarism—
can give your mere Ernulphus fits. They would fain explode in
yellow oaths; but though they yell their yellowest, their yellowest yell
scarce surpasses a squeak of infantile blasphemy. Here is Mr. Wratis-
law—we may safely say young Mr. Wratislaw—not content that he is
dining at St. James's (St. James's Restaurant, though he does not
say so) with the sort of person to whom some men give dinners at
that "reeking, seething" place so savingly described by one of Mrs.
Chant's acolytes—the bagman, we think. He must needs blare it
into the ears of an amazed metropolis that he is feasting with Salome,
and reminds her how "from your limbs' lascivious grace Sprang forth
your splendid crime." From Mr. Arthur Symons we gather that, as
we suspected, yellowness involves unwholesome hours—


We are awake so little on the earth.
And we shall sleep so long and rise so late.

Mr. Symons rose so late on the last day for sending in “copy” that
his grammar got askew :—


        few there be who dare
Sole with himself his single burden bear.

Miss Annie Macdonell tells, with a wild mixture of metaphors, how,
when she has learned some slow wide learning and a large language,
she will become a missionary dream. Even Mr. William Watson
indulges in some "Meet me by moonlight alone" sentiment. The
only verse in the volume that is worth reading is M. Hérédia’s sonnet,
which seems something of the second-hand book store, and an
impressive but not perfect ballad by Mr. John Davidson, that
had been all the better for the omission of some saponaceous
immorality of the Larger Hope order.

For the prose: we can commend heartily Mr. Kenneth Graham’s
pleasant and jocular—and excellently written—extravaganza, “The
Headswoman,” and Miss Nora Hopper’s tale, though this might have
been improved by a stiffening of the flaccid simplicity of its diction.
Miss Ella D'Arcy is simply vagabundulant in her digressiveness, which
we regret; for Miss D'Arcy has written well. The rest of the fiction is
magazine-stuff of a most moderate order; all, except Mr. Beerbohm's
circuitous—he would say “circumplected”—"Note on George IV."
It is illustrated—may we be forgiven for using such a word—by a
caricature which resembles nothing so much as a fortuitous concourse
of livers and kidneys, vermicularly “implected" with intestines. It is
written in the language of what Mr. Beerbohm would call pop-
limbo. Yet it is “implected” with a certain cleverness, and shows,
as through a glass darkly, that our fat Adonis strove to be decorative
in his fat and fatuous fashion.

As for the "art" (again may we be forgiven), Mr. Beardsley,
yellowest of them all, convinces us that he is by nature and intention
a Presbyterian, for he successfully dodges the specially Presbyterian
commandment, and makes to himself graven—no, processed—images,
which are not the likeness of anything that is in the earth, nor
in the water below the earth, nor in the firmament that is
above the earth. He has the prudish instinct that gloats upon
the festering lily, and noses after loathsomeness as some men strive
after virtue. If we were the Licensing Committee, we should not have
to seek far for a portrait-painter in ordinary. Mr. Philip Broughton’s
“Mantegna” is a clever and pleasant singerie, and there is some
charm and some mistaken drawing in the unknown artist’s “Study
of a Head.” Mr. Sickert is rather beneath himself, but Mr. Steer’s
two drawings have some wayward graciousness, despite a certain
insufficiency of observation which has led to reckless drawing. Surely
it was because our fathers ate themselves bloated on sour grapes in
the early Victorian age that their children’s teeth are thus rudely set
on edge.

* The Yellow Book. Vol. III. (London : John Lane.)



 
 
 
 


 MLA citation:
 
 "The Brazen Yellowanthus." Rev. of The Yellow Book 3. Pall Mall Gazette 2 Nov. 1894: 4. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University, 2010. Web. [Date of access]. http://www.1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=review_v3_pall_mall_gazette_nov_1894.html