The Savoy. An Illustrated Quarterly.

BEARDSLEY Aubrey (1896.)

£4500.00  [First Edition]

Edited by Arthur Symons and Beardsley. Literary contributions from Yeats, Conrad, G.B. Shaw, and others. Numerous illustrations by Beardsley; other illustrations by Charles Conder, Charles Shannon, Max Beerbohm, Walter Sickert and others. 3 volumes. First edition in book form. 4to., original blue cloth elaborately blocked in gilt, uncut. London, Leonard Smithers.

A fine and bright set (with one very short tear at the head of the spine of Volume II) with the imprint "LEONARD SMITHERS & Co. 1896" at the foot of the spine, and the christmas card issued with the first number tipped in at the rear of the first volume. Smallish modern booklabels.

The Savoy can safely be described as the quintessential British fin de siècle artistic and literary journal. Its predecessor The Yellow Book was something of a warm-up act, more famous for a misapprehension than for its content, after it was widely misreported that Oscar Wilde had a copy with him during his arrest at the Cadogan Hotel (it was actually Pierre Louÿs's Aphrodite). In the moral panic that followed Wilde's arrest this misidentification, Beardsley (assumed to be cut from the same cloth as Wilde) was sacked from The Yellow Book after issue number 4 and it began its second and more conservative: as Betjeman wrote later " ... Buchan has got in it now: / Approval of what is approved of / Is as false as a well-kept vow."

Within three months Beardsley had been offered sanctuary by the opportunistic and ambitious bookseller, publisher and pornographer Leonard Smithers, and became the art editor of The Savoy, a new periodical that defiantly intended to "pick up the discarded banners left by the retreat of The Yellow Book into respectability" (Weintraub, introduction to the selection published in 1966). Arthur Symons was responsible for the textual side of the journal, and was every bit as defiant and unconventional as Beardsley: in the Editorial Note for the second number he speaks of the Savoy's reception as being " . . . nonetheless flattering because it has been for the most part unfavourable." Smithers became Beardsley's most loyal patron for the rest of his short and intense career, and the Savoy presented a vehicle for him to restore his reputation as the most brilliant graphic artist of his generation, in which he succeeded brilliantly, combining his mischievous and subversive wit and mastery of line. You can never be quite sure what you are looking at in these mature drawings: every swelling is suggestive, and every smile is ambiguous: even after John Bull's modest erection was removed from the prospectus, the drawing still speaks of a ponderous ominous sexuality; is the Madonna in the Christmas card really raising an eyebrow at the viewer; is the head of the self-portrait in "A Footnote" really meant to be that phallic?

Beardsley's brilliance overshadows what would have been a significant journal even without him. Conder, Rothenstein, Beerbohm and Pennell were among the other illustrators, and besides Symons there are important contributions from inter alia Yeats, Joseph Conrad (his short story THE IDIOTS), Ernest Dowson and Wratislaw.

The periodical succeeded both in confounding the conservative and thrilling the avant-garde, but never found a mass market, not helped by being banned by W.H. Smith, who controlled the periodical distribution in Britain, and it only survived through this one year. The first two numbers were quarterly, the balance monthly, producing a total of eight numbers, originally issued in card wrappers, nearly always found in poor condition. Unsold sheets were bound later in this very attractive blue cloth gilt, at first with the imprint of Leonard Smithers and later with the imprint of John Lane: the publisher's note mentions that "For the convenience of such subscribers as desire to bind up THE SAVOY into volumes, is appended a print of the covers . . . pulled on white paper, which may be bound in, in substitution for the pink cardboard covers. 

 

 

 

Stock Code: 227933

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