Decadent Writings of Aubrey Beardsley
Edited by Sasha Dovzhyk and Simon Wilson

This edition of Aubrey Beardsley’s writings was published in November 2021. It aims to establish Beardsley’s reputation as a key figure in Decadent literature on a par with his iconic status in the visual arts. It publishes for the first time the text of Beardsley’s unfinished erotic novel Under the Hill (written between 1894 and 1896) in its original form alongside Beardsley’s manuscript.

The Carnival is Over? Beardsley’s Pierrots, The Savoy, and the Moral Battle for Modern Art

This essay is the winner of the 2020 Emerging Beardsley Scholar Prize. Samuel Love’s piece fascinatingly addresses the important subject of the image of Pierrot in Beardsley’s work. It particularly illuminates Beardsley’s use of it in the Savoy in a way that contributes both to our understanding of the specific works discussed and the history of the periodical. The essay offers what appear to be highly original and most welcome readings of the iconography of such designs as the Savoy frontispiece, The Death of Pierrot, and Don Juan. 

Beardsley at Menton

Caroline de Westenholz traces the details of Aubrey Beardsley’s stay in the picturesque town of Menton on the French Riviera, where the artist and writer died on 16 March 1898. This piece was originally published in The Death of Pierrot: A Beardsley Miscellany, ed. by Steven Halliwell and Matthew Sturgis (London, 1898).

‘Something corrupt’: The Queer Sensibility of Aubrey Beardsley and Konstantin Somov

Natalia Maslianinova’s essay is a runner-up of the 2020 Emerging Beardsley Scholar Prize competition. Rooting her analysis in queer historicism and transnational perspectives, Maslianinova foregrounds ‘queer codes’ in the Rococo designs of Aubrey Beardsley and his Russian admirer, artist Konstantin Somov. Maslianinova also points out how clandestine queer communities in the twentieth-century USSR and Poland were guided in their reception of Somov and Beardsley by the subtle queer subtext of the Rococo imagery.

‘Donald! Susan! Ronald! Brigid!’: The Camp Afterlives of Aubrey Beardsley

This essay by Dickon Edwards is a runner-up of the 2020 Emerging Beardsley Scholar Prize competition.  It brings to life the most enchanting string of characters, from Mabel Beardsley to Ronald Firbank and Brigid Brophy, in a triumph of ‘artifice and exaggeration’. Governed by the same stylistic principle, the author’s short biography deserves a special mention among the enthusiasts of camp.

Aubrey Beardsley’s Messalina: Going, or Coming?

In this previously unpublished paper, Simon Wilson clarifies a long-standing confusion regarding the titles of the two drawings of the notorious Roman empress Messalina created by Beardsley in 1895 and 1896. Wilson also establishes the designs’ close correspondence to the text of Juvenal’s Sixth Satire thus busting the myth of the irrelevance of Beardsley’s drawings to the literary works he illustrated.

The Queer Little Grove: The Adoption of Aubrey Beardsley by Mikhail Kuzmin

This article explores one of the many aspects of Aubrey Beardsley’s transnational legacy, focusing on his appropriation by Mikhail Kuzmin (1872–1936), a key modernist writer and a seminal voice of the emerging homosexual subculture in Russia. While Kuzmin often used Beardsley as a signifier of homoeroticism in his literary works and life-writing, it is in his play Little Grove (1922) that the queering of Beardsley is crystallised. My intermedial analysis of the piece will show how allusions to Beardsley shape Kuzmin’s representation of gender and sexuality and how the formal construction of Kuzmin’s publication echoes the formal features of Beardsley’s graphic designs.

Staging Artifice: Aubrey Beardsley and 114 Cambridge Street

Ruth Smith explores Beardsley’s self-fashioning through his home in Pimlico, London, and the new resonance of the artist’s practices during the 2020 worldwide lockdown. Domestic interiors are often performative extensions of the self, and are perhaps even more so in this time of coronavirus. Like Beardsley’s, our homes have become a space where the personal, the public, and the realms of leisure and work have come to reside.

Beardsley, A Cover Boy for Sexual Revolution

The image of Aubrey Beardsley has been long enveloped in an aura of notoriety with distinctly erotic overtones. He has been seen as a rebel figure in the era of militant Victorian prudery. Sasha Dovzhyk argues that the myth of Beardsley as a Victorian sexual liberator was forged in 1966 when the V&A dedicated a major exhibition to the artist and displayed his most explicit works for the first time.

The Afterlives of Beardsley’s Morte Darthur Illustrations

Beardsley’s illustrations for J. M. Dent’s edition of the Morte Darthur (1893–4) have often been deemed to bear an unusually tenuous relation to the Arthurian narrative. Out of approximately 500 illustrations, only the 20 full-page illustrations address identifiable moments in the narrative. Despite their supposed inaptness to Malory’s text, Dent and his successors have continued to reuse the illustrations in subsequent editions of the Morte Darthur.

The Missing Keyhole: An Aubrey Beardsley Minor Mystery

How La Beale Isoud Wrote to Sir Tristram (1893) is one of Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Le Morte Darthur, published by JM Dent in 1894. It shows Isoud seated writing at a desk in an interior. Beyond her is a wall with twin windows and underneath these is a pair of identical, or almost identical, floor-standing chests or coffers. In the original drawing, which is extant in a private collection in London, the one on the right has a keyhole, but the other has not.