Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, and Fantasies in Yellow Nineties Magazines

Detail of back cover design by Aubrey Beardsley, showing four figures behind the curtains of a stage or window, with three candles in front. From left: a masked figure; a woman with a hat; a Poirrot in profile facing left; and a female figure facing left.
Aubrey Beardsley. Detail of Design for Back Cover of The Yellow Book, vol. 2, July 1894. The Yellow Nineties Online.

What are “Yellow Nineties Magazines”? Associated with the avant-garde in literature and art at the turn of the twentieth century, these magazines were aesthetically experimental, culturally challenging, and sexually dissident. The Yellow Book (1894-1897), an infamous quarterly featuring sexually provocative modern stories by aesthetes and feminists, coloured the entire decade “the yellow nineties.” The little magazines that developed in The Yellow Book’s orbit were similarly progressive and adult-oriented. These included  The Dial (1889-1897), edited by lovers and artistic partners Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon; The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal (1895-1896/7), edited by William Sharp (who also published as Fiona Macleod, the reclusive leader of the Celtic revival); The Pageant (1896, 1897), edited by art critic Gleeson White and artist Charles Shannon; and The Savoy (1896), edited by Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons, and founded by the former after he was fired from The Yellow Book following the arrest and conviction of Oscar Wilde in spring 1895 for the crime of loving other men. Beardsley was not criminally charged or named in the trials, but his daring designs for Wilde’s Salome (1893) associated him in the public mind with the author’s transgressions and he lost his job, a victim to sexual prejudice and fake news.

Yellow Nineties Magazines were targeted at adult readers. Collectively, these digital exhibits explore why these avant-garde magazines for a mature audience included so many fairy tales, folk tales, and fantasies. Our research findings indicate that the communities that collected around these magazines were hubs of dissidence at a transitional moment in cultural history, when mainstream assumptions were being challenged by feminist, queer, racialized, and classed individuals. Art was a way of critiquing the status quo, and “weird fiction”—that is, fantasies of various kinds—allowed creative individuals to challenge social norms in symbolic form. Works of fantasy are concerned with transformation, and these Yellow Nineties contributors wanted to transform the social opinions, social hierarchies, and social norms of their day. At a time of increasing urbanization and industrialization, the mythical past and fantastic worlds offered spaces to imagine how life might be lived otherwise. The fairy tales, folk tales, and fantasy fiction created by the diverse contributors to these magazines transferred criticism of the contemporary scene to remote locations inhabited by hybrid creatures and other-worldly figures in order to critique the restrictions of the present and envision an alternative future. In symbolic plays, ironic fairy tales, and re-framed folk legends, these writers explored and expanded what it means to be fully human—spiritually, sexually, and socially.

General Editor: Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Department of English

Authors: Second-year Undergraduate Students in Advanced English Research Methods (ENG810), F2018 and W2019

Primary Sources:        Material copies of the magazines are held in Ryerson University Library’s Special Collections and Archives; digital editions are available on Yellow Nineties 2.0.

 Attribution:         Each author’s Digital Exhibit is protected by a Creative Commons License 4.0.

To cite an exhibition, use this format:

Author’s last name, first name. “Title of exhibit.” Y90s Classroom on Yellow Nineties 2.0. Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.

Disclaimer: Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

The Dial (1889-1897)

Japanese Influence in The Works of The Dial
Leila Kazeminejad

The Dial, Charles Ricketts and Laurence Housman, “A Glimpse of Heaven” and “Open the Door, Posy!”
Patricia Lucreziano

The Centaur’s Place in The Dial as an Early Engagement of Symbolist Literature
Brian Luong

Undiagnosed Remains: Mental Illness T. Sturge Moore’s “King Comfort” and “The Centaur”
Declan Macintosh

Charles Ricketts, The Dial and Sympathy Through Symbolism
Katica Majic

The Case of the Child in “A Glimpse of Heaven” and “Open the Door, Posy!”
Alexandra Monstur

Charles Ricketts’s Editorial Mandate in “The Marred Face,” “The Bridal,” “Ella the She-Bear” and “Snow in Spring”
Deanna Ratzki

The Full Context of the “Flying Fish,” by John Gray
Joshua Reynolds

The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal (1895-1896/7)

Aesthetics and Why They Matter—The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal
Walker Ciancio

Fiona Macleod’s Role in the Celtic Revival Movement Through “Mary of the Gael”
Shawna Cormier

Religious Folktales and Science in The Evergreen
Aiden Dolan

The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal – Power, Women and Religion’s Influence in Mary of the Gael
Melissa Emanoilidis

Environmentalism & the Symbolism of Autumn in The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal, Vol. II
Emma Fraschetti

The Scottish Renaissance in Sir George Douglas’ “Cobweb Hall” and Margaret Thomson’s “The Story of Castaille Dubh”
Fahimah Hamidavi

Essentialism & Darwinism Being the Cause of Fiona Macleod’s Success
Alisha Hasham

The Pageant (1896 and 1897)

Spirituality and Sexuality in Laurence Housman’s “The Tale of a Nun”
Nikita Ruzycky

A New Woman as a Feminist Princess in Laurence Housman’s “Blind Love”
Paris Salmon-Wright

Radical Femininity and New Woman Fiction in Michael Field’s “Equal Love”
Tanis Smither

Influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and The New Woman’s Movement in Laurence Housman’s “Tale of a Nun”
Elisia Steinberg

Belgian Symbolism in Maurice Maeterlinck’s “The Death of Tintagiles”
Kayla Walden

Michael Field’s “Equal Love”: A Work of Trojan Horse Feminism
Brendan Wallace

The Duality of Art and Reality: A Critical Analysis of Maurice Maeterlinck’s “The Seven Princesses”
Emily Zagar-Arcilesi

The Savoy (1896)

The Representation of Women in Music Halls in “A Romance of Three Fools” by Ernest Rhys and “At the Alhambra” by Arthur Symons
Payton Flood

Olivia Shakespear’s “Beauty’s Hour” and how it challenges the assumptions of women in the 1890’s through the lens of fantasy and its trope of transformation
Maria Hanifi

Fantasy as Feminist Critique in Olivia Shakespear’s “Beauty’s Hour: A Phantasy”
Noah Holder

W.B. Yeats Rosa Alchemica and Tables of the Law; Social Hierarchy and the Importance of Community
Ian Howard

Vulgarity, Scandal and Fairytales in Music Halls in “A Romance of Three Fools” by Ernest Rhys and “At the Alhambra: Impressions and Sensations” by Arthur Symons
Loraine Illeperuma

Fantasy and the Ultimate Dismantling of the 1890s Power Relations in Fiona Macleod’s “Morag of the Glen”
Fatima Khan

Modernity and Occultism in “Rosa Alchemica” and “Tables of the Law” by W.B. Yeats
Emily Mackey

The Yellow Book (1894-1897)

The Emergence of the New Woman in Evelyn Sharp’s “The Restless River”
Andrea Aguiar

Breaking Down the Binary in “Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady” by Vernon Lee.
Sarah Ali

Catholicism and Lack of Decadent Art in Graham’s “The Christ of Toro”
Marina Arnone

Diversity in Gender and Genre
Lana Bosnjak

The Improbable Juxtaposition of Religion and Morality During the Fin-de-Siècle in Baron Corvo’s “Stories Toto Told Me”
Rachel Bowman

Homosexuality and Heretics in Baron Corvo’s “Stories Toto Told Me”
Kelsey Brewis

Decadence and the Fin-De-Siècle | Richard Garnett’s tale: Alexander The Ratcatcher By Kiara Byron-Walters
Kiara Byron-Walters

A Feminist Fairytale: Evelyn Sharp’s “The Restless River”
Krystal Cusma