The Other Aubrey’s Birthday

"If I am not grotesque, I am nothing."

This is just a note, light and quick like a well-wisher's shadow, to wish my sickly, skinny boy a happy birthday.  He would be 137 today, dapper and milk-skinned, had tuberculosis not shot his lungs full of holes.  He died in 1898, unable to push his body to his 26th birthday – exhausted by the blood-lettings, and by his art that drove Victorian England to an insanity of fear.

It was a fear of the decadence, eroticism, lush beauty and unbridled richness – crawling under the skin like iridescent beetles – that ran through his drawings.  It was the fear of the terrifying life that beat behind the shadows and lived within the lines of those illustrations.

He was Oscar Wilde's 'monstrous orchid', in a gray suit and yellow gloves, effete and marvelous.  I can't imagine what it would have been like to meet him, yet I follow him always.

So happy birthday, Aubrey Beardsley.  I have never experienced such grotesque loveliness.

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16 responses to “The Other Aubrey’s Birthday

  1. is there a connection with the name? this made me think of you.

  2. I never knew much about him until you introduced him to me. Thank you.

  3. I think I loved his art before I was even aware of his existence. I see his inspirations in my early drawings. Is that possible?
    Yes, my name is Aubrey to honor – or amuse – him.

  4. Ah. And yes, it's possible.

  5. When I was about 12 years old my father gave me a mirror with a Beardsley "etching" on it. I think it was called Peacock Skirt ? It was lost when I was about 18 and leaving home. He has an amazingly beautiful hand!

  6. I was just about to say the same thing – definitely lovely hands

  7. Happy birthday to the man who caught a cold from leaving the tassel off his cane; a cautionary tale we would all do well to remember.

  8. What a gorgeous tribute Aubrey! I love the photo too! His hands are marvelous and lovely! I really enjoy your writing Aubrey!Lucy

  9. Lovely, it occurs to me that in such a short life people probably lived more than most of us do today, they had to. Great tribute.

  10. Thank you for introducing me to the other Aubrey.What a wonderful nose. Monstrous orchid, indeed.

  11. Thank you for, yet again, opening up my world a little more.

  12. Emjay – was this the image?
    cat – it's such a wonderful photograph; elongated hands swimming in his shirt cuffs.
    Kate – actually, he was diagnosed with TB when he was 7; but if he was in the habit of carrying tasseled canes even then, I would not be in the least bit surprised.
    Lucy – thank you so much, L! This took minutes to write; the words were all there, ready and waiting.
    Ellie – more than one biographer has mentioned that he knew his years were numbered, which leant an urgency to his creativity.
    Purplesque – "wonderful nose"? Ahem. I once read his profile described as 'dramatic'.
    firefly – completely my pleasure! If you look further into Aubrey's works and world, do let me know what you think!

  13. Yes that is the image!! It was really lovely. I remember buying a series of notecards with drawings by Beardsley – I never used them because I liked them too much. Of course they are long lost now.

  14. Brilliant tribute to Aubrey, Aubrey. :)Your writing is just so… lush!

  15. Oh well, this is another big important post that I missed. I've missed reading your beautiful writing. Hope all is well.

  16. Thanks from me, too! How you have broadened my horizons! 😀

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