End of Bodley Head Partnership Between John Lane and Charles Elkin Mathews

Front cover of volume 1 of the illustrated periodical "The Yellow Book." Published by the Bodley Head in April of the year 1894, the cover is a bright yellow colour and has "The Yellow Book" written at the top in large font. There is a picture of two women, one in the foreground and on in the back, who are both wearing masks. The background behind them is black. The woman who is the focus of the image has curly white hair and is smiling. The woman behind her has more of a mischievous expression.

Charles Elkin Mathews and John Lane ended their business partnership due to a clash of personalities and philosophical differences. Lane pushed The Bodley Head beyond antiquarian bookselling and into larger scale publishing and in-house production work. He recognized and wanted to serve the needs of not only middle and upper-middle class readers, but also of the new lower middle-class readers created by the Education Act of 1870 — readers who were opinionated and adventurous, and interested in equality, social reform, and politics. Mathews’ main interests, however, continued to be poetry and essays for the upper-class and educated, so he had a hard time adjusting to the court controversies, publicity, and mass-market sales that resulted from The Bodley Head’s publications catering to new lower middle-class readers. Tensions reached a critical point when The Bodley Head began publishing The Yellow Book (1894-1897), a controversial avant-garde illustrated periodical. Just a couple of months following the publication of the first volume in 1894, Mathews and Lane ended their partnership. Lane kept the innovative and modern aspects of The Bodley Head, along with The Bodley Head premises and name, while Mathews took many of The Bodley Head poets with him to a publishing firm bearing his own name. (Nelson, The Early Nineties: A View from the Bodley Head). Laurence Housman published "The Reflected Faun" in The Yellow Book volume 1 (July 1894) and thereafter began working as a book designer and illustrator for The Bodley Head (The Yellow Nineties Online).

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

Sep 1894