Autograph letter to Ada Leverson, [17 February 1896]


Aubrey Beardsley


Autograph letter to Ada Leverson, [17 February 1896]


Ada Leverson and Beardsley took mutual pleasure in their friendship, exercising their gifts for wit whenever they were together and in exchanges of letters. In February 1896, Beardsley was deeply engaged in his new project, overseeing the art contents for Leonard Smithers’s The Savoy, while working alongside its editor, the poet Arthur Symons. He thought well of the intellectual powers of Symons, who was the first important British critic to theorize about and defend decadence as a serious artistic movement. This did not stop Beardsley, when writing to Leverson, from referring to him as “Simple Symons” (playing on the “Simple Simon” nursery rhyme). In the same letter, Beardsley referred to an “unpleasant experience with a Planchette,” meaning a Ouija Board used in séances. But most eye-catching was his gender-bending joke about how this encounter with the occult had left him “quite a wreck” and thus “no longer the same woman.”


From the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press