The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley

"The triumph of this book is that is that Beardsley himself, with his jaunty courage, his acerbic wit, and his amazingly precocious genius, retains one’s sympathy from beginning to end..." - The Spectator
…a lively account of the life of a brilliant misfit.” - (Sunday Times)

 Hardcover edition

Hardcover edition

 Paperback edition

Paperback edition

 
 
 Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

 

Author's Note

Transworld U.K. published The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley in 1993, and they did an absolutely beautiful job. The endpapers were decorated with a bold Beardsley design and every chapter was introduced by a Beardsley drawing or photograph that reflected his ever-evolving style or the important personalities in his life. By the time the novel was published, I had spent five years researching Beardsley’s life, following his trail from Brighton to London, Paris and Menton, where he died at age 25 in 1898. I examined his original pen-and-ink drawings in museum collections in the U.S. and U.K., and visited rare-book collections and libraries to read his writings, his letters, and copies of The Yellow Book and The Savoy, the famous literary and art journals where Beardsley’s drawings were first reproduced. On the day I finished the novel (long before it was published), I found, “by accident”, artist proofs of two of his drawings for sale in a frame shop in Brooklyn. I spent almost every penny I had to buy them. A paperback edition of The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley, published by Black Swan, appeared in 1994.


Reviews

“Through the eyes of Beardsley, Olson provides an enthralling picture of literary ‘decadence’…in turn-of-the-century England. From such major figures as Max Beerbohm and Oscar Wilde, who crushed the wholly innocent Beardsley in his fall, to such minor ones as Ada Leverson, a woman of rare courage…and the priapic publisher and bookseller Leonard Smithers, Olson has produced a remarkable gallery of occasional saints and innumerable sinners and grotesques… Beerbohm described Beardsley as ‘a preposterous mystery.’ Olson does as much to solve that mystery as anyone is ever likely to do.” (“It Ill Becomes Him,” The Spectator, 23 October 1993)


“In his book, The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley, Donald Olson recreates Beardsley’s story, from his infancy to his death at the age of 25 from tuberculosis…Bitter, humorous and sly, the confessions beguile and shock the reader by turns.” (Fiction of the Month, Marie-Claire, November 1993)


“…with The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley…the imagined voice Olson creates for Beardsley’s rarified aestheticism is spot on, particularly in his battles with the censorious (“If my persecutors regarded me as some kind of erotomaniac, then I wanted to give them something to be frightened about”)…” (“Hot Tips and Dark Horses,” The Bookseller, August 1993)


“…Olson cleverly captures Wilde’s physical bulk and sharp-witted flamboyance…” (“Drawing on Beardsley,” Daily Telegraph, 23 October 1993)


The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley…shakes up romantic preconceptions about poor starving artists. Far from being ennobled by poverty, the Beardsley of Donald Olson’s bold, juicy novel is embittered. In imaginary letters he seeks to explain his short, lubricious life, and his secrets are so compelling that you forget this isn’t true autobiography.” (“Good Books,” She, November 1993)


“Stylish pastiche autobiography of one of the most wickedly decadent and wildly talented figures of fin de siècle culture…” (Smart Arts, Harper’s, October 1993)


 “Olson traces the growth of a unique imagination, and relishes the decadent fin-de-siècle atmosphere in which it found expression: strong on the terrible frustrations of illness and dripping passion, envy and lust for life. A skilfully sustained exercise in ventriloquism and a lively account of the life of a brilliant misfit.” (Sunday Times, 23 October 1994)