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6820

BEARDSLEY, Aubrey | Last Letters of Aubrey Beardsley, with an Introductory Note by John Gray

£275.00

London : Longmans, Green, 1904

OSCAR WILDE’S CIRCLE ASSOCIATION

FIRST EDITION. 8vo. IX, 158 pp + 8 page publisher’s catalogue in the rear. Original publisher’s decorative boards, gilt, patterned spine, slightly rubbed, small circular dent and another bump to the front board, minor shelfwear to the tail of the spine. Half-title. Scattered spots of foxing throughout the text. A Very Good copy. Leadman’s own copy, given to him by André Raffalovich, and inscribed in Leadman’s own hand, FROM ANDRÉ RAFFALOVICH, APRIL 1912.

André Raffalovich (1864-1934) was a Russian emigré born in Paris in 1864. He was raised in a cultured environment which soon extend to England, where his mother moved in 1882, and he began to develop friendships with writers and artists including Beardsley, Walter Pater, Charles Ricketts and James McNeill Whistler. Through his patronage of the arts, and his embracing of the London saloon, he became an authority on “unisexuality”, the word he coined to describe homosexuality, which he took as a mode of sexual expression as valid as heterosexuality. His best known work on the subject is Uranisme et Unisexualité (1896) in which he defines the epitome of homosexuality as being practised by a “sublime invert” who fulfils his needs not through intercourse but through celibate friendship, spirituality and art. In 1895 he became Aubrey Beardsley main patron and they became close, with Raffalovich commissioning a likeness of himself by the artist (it was never to be realised). Some years later, with Beardsley on his deathbed, Raffalovich sent a monthly cheque so his mother could stay at home to nurse him.

In 1892 the critic A.J.A. Symons introduced Raffalovich to the poet John Gray (who supplies the introduction to this book), a member of Oscar Wilde’s saloon, and the two became lifelong companions. Gray was widely believed to be the model for Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and during 1890-92 actually assumed the first name of “Dorian” in letters between himself and Wilde. The popular newspaper,the Star, noted on its front page of February 6th 1892 that Gray was “said to be the original Dorian of the same name. Mr Gray, who has cultivated his manner to the highest pitch of langour yet attained, is a well-known figure at the Playgoers’ Club where, though he often speaks, he is seldom heard”.

Wilfred Leadman was a literary critic and reviewer of books who wrote the The Literary Position of Oscar Wilde in 1906 for the Westminster Review.

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