The Savoy and Sexuality

It is so interesting to learn about Aubrey Beardsley’s career as he has come up in all three of the presentations so far. He clearly had a large influence on the little magazines in this period. One thing that interested me was Arthur Symons’ “Editor’s Note.” It seems The Savoy tried to employ a similar promotional technique that was used for volume 2 of The Yellow Book. This illustrates how Beardsley’s unique and provocative ideas followed over to The Savoy. I think in many ways, Beardsley seemed to almost welcome the hatred and criticism his association with the Wilde arrest provoked. One way this can be seen is through the naming of the magazine after a hotel with a reputation for entertaining those who were Queer. This felt like a personal “I don’t care!” to those who tried to end his career by associating him with homosexuality. I also interpreted Beardsley’s “A Footnote” a similar way. He is being tied to a herm or Satyr which could be seen as symbols of homosexuality. Before learning about the bust, I thought it was a naked man with devil horns, perhaps depicting sin in a man desiring another man’s body. We learned that this is a self portrait of Beardsley, so in many ways, this could also be his way of accepting he will forever be chained to homosexuality and saying, “so what?” with his sneaky smirk. He is also holding a large paintbrush behind him which he makes little effort to hide. He acknowledges that is where his power lies.

I also found it very interesting to learn about how the female sexuality was being depicted by male writers. It felt as if Arthur Symons was writing a cautionary tale about female sexuality, which almost contradicts the modern desire of the magazine. It felt as if the story, “Pages from the Life of Lucy Newcombe” layered on the hardship on the title character to illustrate how horrible life was for the title character after she became pregnant outside of wedlock. Ultimately, she lost her baby, the one thing she was enduring all this hardship for. It’s quite heartbreaking. He leaves the main character staring at her own reflection, wondering who she really is, and the path her life is headed towards. It left me with quite a negative impression of Lucy, but perhaps Symons was trying to be truthful and not romanticize poverty.

During my undergrad, we read “The Rape of the Lock” in one of my English classes. On the surface, it seems that all the commotion around the theft of a lock of hair is unwarranted but my professor introduced us to the interpretation that rape may be a play on words. This brings into the issue that the man crossed certain sexual boundaries and it was not as innocent as we first believe. I’m not sure if this is a more contemporary interpretation but I think it is very interesting that Beardsley chose to depict a man simply cutting a woman’s hair while she’s not looking. I think he could have definitely chose to depict a more risqué image, as he was very conformable doing so, if this sort of reading of the story was available at the time. But it is interesting that he chooses to illustrate the characters wearing styles from the 1800s. Perhaps this was his way of signalling sexual misconduct after all.

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