From The National Observer: “A Xanthopiate”
Even the best of men, when he knows a good story, likes to
tell it. And the writer of this review knows a good story. But he
is not going to tell it. His present duty is to criticize the Yellow
Book and he means to live up to the dignity—or impudence—of
the occasion. Not that this is as easily done as you might think.
He has already reviewed more Yellow Books than he likes to
remember, for once a quarter xanthophilic or misoxanthic
editors mercifully divert his attention from the pink notices
on the bills with which his study is papered, till morn and
noon and twilight are as saffron in his sight. According
to Mr. Jacob Poorgrass, the holy men in the days of
King Noah were afflicted with a multiplying eye as
they watched the animals go into the ark two by two. No
wonder, then, that a mere reviewer should suffer from a most
xanthocholic xanthopsy. One easily grows tired of the cult
of the Yellow Gal who calls from these pages to the Yellow
Boy as shallow calleth unto shallow. But it is not tiredness
that makes a man tell a good story when he knows it.
Having tried all ‘the moods and various veins of criticism’
upon this chromo-gamboge xanthology, let us now review it, as
the late lamented Mr. Symonds would have said, in the key of
yellow. Any one who looked at Mr. Aubrey Beardsley’s pictures
might be excused for imagining that he was under a xanthoptical
delusion. The portrait of himself, for instance, is the portrait
of a spotted nightcap: the lines in ‘La Dame aux Camélias’
are particularly snake-like and fulvous. The truth is that Mr.
Beardsley scorns to picture any person who is not suffering
from xanthelasma, which is defined in medical books as an
appearance ‘caused by hypertrophy of sebaceous glands and
fatty degeneration of the subcutaneous connective tissue.’
This extreme xanthelasma is the reason that Mr. Beardsley’s
figures are attenuate where you would expect plumpness, and
sebaceous where you would expect them to be slim. Mr. Max
Beerbohm’s caricature of George IV. is also hyper-sebacious: it
rather resembles a study in viscera. The ‘note’ which accom-
panies it is not quite clear to the ordinary intelligence. But
that is because Mr. Beerbohm’s intelligence is not ordinary. Mr.
George Thomson’s ‘Lithograph’ resembles the works of the
late Mr. Pettigrew. Mr. Forschter’s ‘Pastel’ is a monstrous
clever caricature of a middle-aged lady with a Bardolphian
nose. People who are not yellow will like Mr. Steer’s sketches
and Mr. Broughton’s head of Mantegna, which may please
them all the better in that it is full of pleasant reminiscences of
Mr. Henry Harland has written a story entitled ‘When I am
King.’ Never has the story of a man who cannot make his
way in the world been told in this fashion. The tale is a
singular illustration of Mr. Harland’s peculiar gifts, as Mr.
Herbert Crackanthorpe’s ‘Study in Sentimentality’ is a striking
illustration of Mr. Herbert Crackanthorpe’s peculiar gifts. Miss
Leila Macdonald’s story resembles many that we have read before;
but it is none the worse and none the better for that. Those who
find it wearisome must remember that patience is a virtue. Miss
Ella D’Arcy has done better work that ‘White Magic’ though
we are loth to say so. Mr. Ernest Dowson knows how to make
use of the charming device known to so many short story-
tellers. He begins at the beginning and leaves off in the
middle: and the reader who has been interested finds himself
in the position of Lord Ullin when the waters went wild o’er
his child. Mr. Arthur Moore writes a tale on ‘Second
Thoughts.’ Well, we know all about second thoughts, and Mr.
Moore’s are no exception to the rule. They seem to have first
belonged to some one else, however. Taken any way, Mr.
Kenneth Grahame’s contribution is the best thing in the
number. It is excellently written, it is full of humour, and it
ought not to be tested by any xanthopometric standard. As
for the verse: M. Hérédia’s sonnet has a touch of Leconte de
Lisle, and though the title is ‘Fleurs de Feu,’ the manner of
writing is frigid. Mr. William Watson contributes a love song
which only Mr. William Watson could have written. Mr.
Arthur Symons versifies his Credo. It will therefore be under-
stood that this is not the Credo which is partly said and partly
sung in church. Mr. Theodore Wratislaw seems once to have
dined a young lady at the St. James’s Restaurant and has
come so much under Mrs. Chant’s influence that he writes a
little ode to say that it was not really such a young lady as
young men do dine at St. James’s, but Salome, whose
extreme antiquity makes her respectable. It must be
very nice for Mr. Wratislaw that he is able to think so. Mr.
John Davidson writes a strong and tuneful ballad which we
would praise but for its rather maudlin sentimentality. The
rest of the verse is not much above and not much below the
average verse of the Yellow Book.
Sometimes even the best of men, when he knows a good
story, tells it. A certain colonel was much given to profane
swearing; so much that his general of division reproved him.
The next day a bugler blew the wrong order. Immediately the
colonel rode up to him intending the sort of reproof he usually
gave. But the general was near by, his ears pricked to hear if
the colonel would use such words as could never be trans-
ferred to this page. But the colonel only remarked, ‘Oh, you
naughty bugler.’ Of course, you will understand that this
anecdote has nothing to do with the Yellow Book: or we
should not have used it.
“A Xanthopiate.” Review of The Yellow Book, vol. 3, October 1894, The National Observer 17 November 1894, p. 23. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Center for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/yb3-review-national-observer-nov-1894/