The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser… A Romantic Novel; Now First Printed from the Original Manuscript
For Private Circulation,
With No.50. From earliest youth, Beardsley yearned to be a writer. In 1894, when tackling the Venus and Tannhäuser legend that inspired Richard Wagner’s opera, he planned a long narrative blending myth, religion, fantasy, wit, and satire with lots of sex. Two years later, he started publishing the results in installments in The Savoy, accompanied by illustrations in a new style based on the visual abundance of Rococo art, using techniques such as cross-hatching that he previously avoided. At his death, the novel remained unfinished. When, however, Leonard Smithers issued a privately printed version in 1907, it was clear how heavily expurgated what appeared in The Savoy had been. Fetishism, group sex, oral sex, even child rape—all were there, served up with a sly smile. My Little Pony fans be warned: on display is the description of Venus bringing her unicorn to orgasm, then enjoying his semen as her breakfast treat.
From the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press