Wednesday, November 6, 2013

119. Ricketts and The Yellow Book

A few years ago Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra launched The Yellow Nineties Online. It is a surprise to find that Ricketts and Shannon as search terms do yield some results, as they did not contribute to the 1890s magazine that became notorious for firing its art editor Aubrey Beardsley after the arrest of Oscar Wilde for homosexual conduct. Wilde had not been a contributor to the magazine, but it was associated with him in a newspaper headline in 1895: 'Arrest of Oscar Wilde. Yellow Book under his arm'. This yellow book was not even the publication that Elkin Mathews and John Lane had launched successfully only one year earlier, in April 1894, but probably a yellow bound copy of Aphrodite, a novel by the French author Pierre Lou├┐s.

Front cover of the first issue of The Yellow Book (April 1894) in the second issue
The site contains a short biography of Charles Ricketts written by Nicholas Frankel, and a short description of The Dial written by the editors of The Yellow Nineties Online. It also reproduces the texts of the advertisements that were published at the back of the magazine.

It is in these advertisements that the names of Ricketts and Shannon were frequently printed. In the first issue, for example, Ricketts was named as the illustrator and designer of Lord de Tabley's Poems, Dramatic and Lyrical (listed under 'De Tabley') and both were mentioned in a description of their publication of Hero and Leander (listed under the heading 'Ricketts (C.S.) and C.H. Shannon'. This book was said to be published 'Immediately'. Ricketts's name also popped up in the advertisement for Symonds' In the Key of Blue, Wilde's The Sphinx, and the proposed but never realized edition of Wilde's Incomparable and Ingenious History of Mr. W.H. The name of Shannon was mentioned in relation to three volumes of Wilde's plays. Other issues of The Yellow Book also have such advertisements, although after Wilde's arrest, his works were no longer listed.

Back cover of the first issue of The Yellow Book (April 1894)

Many friends of Ricketts and Shannon were part of the Yellow Book circle, notably artists such as William Rothenstein and Laurence Housman. It is not quite clear why Ricketts and Shannon did not contribute to the magazine. Shannon would later contribute to another magazine that was published to continue the career of Beardsley, The Savoy. Apparently, although they admired his drawings, Ricketts and Shannon were somewhat jealous of Beardsley's success, and disapproved of his personality. When they were invited to contribute, they refused, stating that it 'might lead to complications over the fourth Dial'. 

Cf. J.G.P. Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A Biography. Oxford 1990, p. 84-85; Margaret D. Stetz & Mark Samuels Lasner, The Yellow Book. A Centenary Exhibition. Cambridge MA 1994, p. 31; Catalogue Number 165. Books from the Library of John Lane Publisher. London (Dulau) 1928, p. p. 97-98, item 932.