Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Yellow Book

The Yellow Book first appeared in April 1894 and, given what we know of the following year's Wilde trial and the ignominy-by-close-association which surrounded many of the contributors as a result, it is easy to forget that for a short while, that yellow flame burned very bright indeed. Punch, at the launch of the first volume wondered jokingly if The Yellow Book would become a much Red Book, but only a few months later was talking about a new literary epidemic of Yellow (Book) Fever.

If I am ever asked again, at what moment in history would I like to arrive as a result of my one time travel request being granted, I think, having read this report of the launch party of The Yellow Book it would have to be then.

"At the Yellow Book dinner, held at the Bodley Head, a good many shining lights assembled to drink the good fortune of the new magazine. Mr. George Moore and Mr. Craigie sat side by side, Mr. Max Beerbohm, Mr. Harland, and many others talked most wittily and well.... Mrs. Pat Campbell did not recite after dinner, and was only represented by her "portrait"(!) in the Yellow Book, a thing of wonder that beats Miss Lottie Verne's caricature of Mrs. Tanqueray completely out of the field." Hearth and Home, April 26, 1894.
The same correspondent in another place in the same magazine says rather breathlessly,

"Everybody is talking about the latest quarterly, The Yellow Book, which has just been issued by Elkin Matthews of Shoe Lane. Five thousand copies have already been sold, and a second edition is being printed. In the magazine are things whimsical, things wonderful, and things weird."

I recently came across this article from The Woman's Signal of May 3rd, 1894 (click for a legible size). You have to know a little bit about the decadents and The Yellow Book contributors to get it all but I thought it was a very funny and clever piece and rather presciently picked up on the kind of debate that would surround The Yellow Book until its demise and which would follow its successor The Savoy also.

PS. To my correspondent, Peter, I'm very grateful for the tip-off you provided and have tried to email you to that effect but each email I have sent is bounced back to me... I hope you will see my gratitude here and know that I have contacted the vendor concerned and wait a response.

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