Henry Keen’s illustrated Webster

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More gorgeous work from elusive British illustrator Henry Keen (1871–1935). These are some of the ink drawings Keen provided for a 1930 edition of John Webster’s Jacobean tragedies The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil. In addition to eleven full-page illustrations there are decorative embellishments, and as usual it’s a shame there isn’t anywhere with a complete set of the artwork. I’m tempted to track down some of Keen’s books myself, this one seems especially good. That crowned skull is not only worthy of Carlos Schwabe, it makes me wonder why Webster wasn’t given more attention from earlier artists. Probably because the plays were too strong for 19th century tastes, violent revenge drama wasn’t what anyone wanted on stage at the time. Swinburne admired Webster’s work but then Swinburne wasn’t exactly a typical Victorian.

Thanks to ~Wunderkammer~ for the tip!

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Henry Keen’s Dorian Gray

The Oscar Wilde archive

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Previous posts about Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.

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Oscar (1985)

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Wildeana 14

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The Importance of Being Oscar

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Wildeana 13

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Salomé and Wilde Salomé

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Wildeana 12

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Wildeana 11

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Wildeana 10

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Wildeana 9

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Picturing Dorian Gray

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Wildeana 8

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Thomas Beg’s Dorian Gray

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Wildeana 7

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Further echoes of Aubrey

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A Wilde Night

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Wildeana 6

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Valenti Angelo’s Salomé

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Wild Salomés

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L’Hôtel, Paris

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Wildeana 5

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Wildeana 4

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Philippe Jullian, connoisseur of the exotic

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Wildeana 3

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The voice of Oscar Wilde

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Steven Berkoff’s Salomé

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Wildeana 2

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The Oscar Wilde Galop

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Heinrich Vogeler’s illustrated Wilde

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Teleny, Or the Reverse of the Medal

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Tite Street then and now

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Wildeana

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Uranian inspirations

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Henry Keen’s Dorian Gray

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The real Basil Hallwards

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Dallamano’s Dorian Gray

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Oscar Wilde playing cards

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Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray

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John Osborne’s Dorian Gray

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Dorian Gray revisited

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The Picture of Dorian Gray II

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The Picture of Dorian Gray I

More archive pages:
The archive page archive

Wildeana 4

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I could make these posts a lot more often since there’s seldom a week goes by when Oscar Wilde’s work or something from his life isn’t making the news somewhere. I forget now how I came across the Robert Hichens book but the Beardsley-derived cover design is the best I’ve seen for this title. The Green Carnation was first published in 1894 and is the notorious roman à clef whose lead characters, Esmé Amarinth and Lord Reginald Hastings, are based on Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas. Hichens paints the pair as very obvious inverts with none of the “is he or isn’t he?” subtlety that Wilde managed to sustain in public. For a scandalised London the book seemed to confirm what was already suspected about Wilde and Bosie’s relationship.

The cover art is credited to one John Parsons, an illustrator whose other work, if there is any, eludes the world’s search engines. This edition was published in 1949 by Unicorn Press and it’s something I’m tempted to buy as a companion for my Unicorn Press edition of Dorian Gray.

The following links are to recent articles spotted whilst looking for other things:

Oscar Wilde, Classics Scholar. A review of The Women of Homer by Oscar Wilde, edited by Thomas Wright and Donald Mead.
• A new Broadway production of The Importance of Being Earnest has actor Brian Bedford playing Lady Bracknell.
Buyers go Wilde for Oscar as short note to his friend sells for €1,500.
Outsmarted: What Oscar Wilde could teach us about art criticism.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive
The book covers archive

Wildeana 3

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Some recent pieces of Wilde news. The cover above is for a new edition of Teleny and Camille, Jon Macy‘s comic strip adaptation of the erotic novel attributed to Oscar Wilde and members of his Uranian circle:

Teleny is the haunted musical genius that everyone desires but no one has truly touched… until the fateful night that he senses Camille’s presence in the audience. The wealthy young man is instantly seduced by Teleny’s dark beauty and smoldering melancholy. This groundbreaking and powerful early gay novel, written in secret by Oscar Wilde and his anonymous circle of writers, is now re-interpreted as a graphic novel, in all its lush, pansexual excess.

I wrote something about the novel last year. I’m not convinced that Wilde penned the whole thing but I can see places where he may have contributed. There’s a marvellous scene in an all-white room, for example, which seems inspired by the obsessive decor in Des Esseintes’ house from À rebours, the novel which had a great influence on Dorian Gray (both book and character). I’d been intending on writing something substantial about Macy’s adaptation all summer but failed dismally due to a deluge of deadlines. Suffice to say it’s a very accomplished and (most important) erotic work, doing full justice to a story that makes many later erotic novels seem timid and evasive. The drawings are black-and-white throughout which gives a Beardsley-like quality in places, and Macy conveys a period feel without fretting over details as I’m afraid I’d be tempted to do. Northwest Press have published the new edition and have a selection of reviews here.

For the other Wildeana, Lambda Literary had a review of a new book by Matthew Hofer and Gary Scharnhorst, Oscar Wilde in America: The Interviews which sounds like another essential purchase. And the Independent had this story about a sale of Wilde letters which included one to a magazine editor that may be read as a proposition. Readers of Neil McKenna’s The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde will be familiar with the form and know that there’s no “maybe” about it; Priapus was calling.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive
The Oscar Wilde archive

The voice of Oscar Wilde

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How to combine two recent {feuilleton} obsessions? Ask whether Oscar Wilde had his voice recorded on an Edison machine at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, 1900. It’s a tantalising question. We know from Wilde’s letters that he visited the Exposition several times; he talked with Rodin and admired a self-portrait by his old painter friend Charles Shannon in the British pavilion. Edison staff were prominent at the exposition and did us a favour by filming parts of it. Several of the Wilde biographies mention the rumoured recording, the details of which are recounted at Utterly Wilde:

According to H Montgomery Hyde’s 1975 biography of Oscar Wilde: “…It was during one of these visits to the Exhibition that Wilde was recognized in the American pavilion, where one of the stands was devoted to the inventions of Thomas Edison. One of these inventions was the ‘phonograph or speaking machine,’ and Wilde was asked to say something into the horn of the recording mechanism. He responded by reciting part VI of The Ballad Of Reading Gaol, which consists of the last three stanzas of the poem, and identifying it with his name at the end.” (More.)

The purported wax cylinder is lost but an acetate copy surfaced in the 1960s. Wilde’s son, Vyvyan Holland, identified his father’s voice then changed his mind later on. An analysis by the British Sound Archive threw further doubt on the recording so we’re left to make up our own minds which you can do for yourself here. It doesn’t sound to me like the voice one would expect from a man of Wilde’s physical size, but then I also never expected Aleister Crowley’s voice to be so highly-pitched. If anyone knows of more recent research or detail about the Wilde recording, please leave a comment.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive