Mrs Patrick Campbell


The Vampire (1897) by Philip Burne-Jones.

Two pictures of the same woman—Mrs Patrick Campbell (1865–1940)—that were regarded as scandalous in their time. Since the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death recently passed I was looking for better copies of the only painting by Philip Burne-Jones that anyone today bothers with, but the best copies to be had are in books so this is a scan from the Coulthart library. It seems the original is either lost or destroyed which makes its status as poor old Burne-Jones’ most celebrated work doubly unfortunate.

Philip Burne-Jones was the son of Edward Burne-Jones, and Burne-Jones Jr’s depiction of a predatory woman was deemed scandalous not for its content—predatory women were a common fixture of male paranoia in the 1890s—but for the rumours that its model, stage actress Mrs Patrick Campbell, and the artist, were having an affair. Mrs Patrick Campbell was born Beatrice Stella Tanner but took her first husband’s name as her stage name. Given the theme, and the fact that Burne-Jones painting was first exhibited the year that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published, prints of The Vampire are a regular fixture in books about the cultural history of vampires in general and Dracula in particular.


Mrs Patrick Campbell (1894) by Aubrey Beardsley. From The Yellow Book, Vol. I.

As for Aubrey’s delightful drawing, this is one of the many Beardsley pictures that caused great consternation when they were first printed yet which appear today to be quite innocuous. Beardsley’s presence in The Yellow Book, and the umbrage taken against drawings such as this, helped give that publication an edge which it lost when Beardsley was forced to leave the magazine following Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment in 1895.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Symbolist cinema
Druillet’s vampires