This is the first English edition of Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé, with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, and translation by Lord Alfred Douglas (though the latter may have been revised). Both elements of the book are thus unique and problematic; both were revised for subsequent editions.
What was Wilde’s opinion of the edition?
Wilde seems to have been more interested in the French editions of the play – perhaps even more so given the difficulty of the translation process. But he was particularly upset with the cover, which he considered ‘coarse and inappropriate’.
How were the illustrations edited?
On seeing Beardsley’s illustrations, the publishers, John Lane, objected to the fact that figure on the title page had both male and female sexual characteristics; at their request, he erased them. In ‘Enter Herodias’, he was asked to insert a fig leaf to cover some genitals, and ‘Salomé on settle’ and ‘John and Salomé’ removed entirely. The differences can be seen in comparison to the fuller portfolio edition.
What was the critical response?
As a translation, the 1894 edition of Salomé drew less attention than the 1893 edition, and, according to the critic Nicholas Frankel, reaction to the English-language edition of Salomé, published in February 1894, were completely absorbed into reaction against The Yellow Book, published in April, and also featuring Beardsley as its art editor. After the scandal of Wilde’s trial in 1895, Beardsley was dismissed because of his association with Wilde.