Stanley Weintraub (1929 – 2019)

Evan Pugh Emeritus Professor Stanley Weintraub died on 28th July this year. The Centre Daily Times noted in its obituary for him: “Born “Male Baby Weintraub” to parents who could not decide between Stanley and Seymour in time for the birth certificate to be filed and who never bothered to legally change it once they’d made a decision, Weintraub liked to joke that, after fifty years as an author, he had truly earned Stanley as his “ballpoint pen name.”.

When Claire Barrett interviewed him two years ago for HistoryNet, he told her:

My earliest research was on the Victorians and their era. Bernard Shaw called himself “an old Victorian” but long survived the queen. To me the Victorian dawn of invention, change, progress, and expectations for fruitful continuity ended abruptly not with her demise in 1901 but with the cataclysm of the war of 1914–1918. The fragile peace that followed was only an interval between world wars. My lasting interest, even at age 88, is that long Victorian afternoon, especially its unhopeful sunset. My newest book and several recent and unrelated essays continue that passion.”

The Maughan Library of King’s College London, in Chancery Lane, currently has an exhibition in the Weston Room, Eternal Graffiti: British and American Avant Garde Poetry. I’m particularly drawn to Case 7 (of 9). Among its historic copies of magazines and periodicals is an April 1895 issue of The Yellow Book:

“The flag bearer of fin de siecle decadence, The yellow book courted outrage and scandal largely through the artwork of Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98)…”.

Professor Weintraub commented on The Yellow Book that its colour “was an appropriate reflection of the “Yellow Nineties”, a decade in which Victorianism was giving way among the fashionable to Regency attitudes and French influences; for yellow was not only the decor of the notorious and dandified pre-Victorian Regency, but also of the allegedly wicked and decadent French novel”.

Elsie Bonita Adams writes in Bernard Shaw and the Aesthetes (1971):

“I do not mean to imply that Shaw was an aesthete, because his faith was never in art alone; he sought not artistic but political or religious answers to social and metaphysical problems…

A Beardsley poster, drawn in 1894 as an advertisement for Shaw’s Arms and the Man at the Avenue Theatre, suggests that the lives of the fin de siecle aesthetes and Shaw touched; and on at least one occasion Shaw directly linked himself with the Yellow Book era: he called himself “a relic of a bygone phase of affectation marked by Yellow Books, Keynote novels, Beardsley, John Lane and other dusty relics of the day before yesterday.”.

Stanley Weintraub was a National Book Award finalist in 1967 for Beardsley.

From his obituary again:

“Toward the end of his career, Weintraub fell backwards into a string of Christmas themed military histories, a development his children could never have predicted. Throughout the 1960s, Weintraub’s children had begged their father for a Christmas Tree, like the Christian families in their neighbourhood put up. Unsuccessful, they developed a new strategy: the children stuck an evergreen branch into an empty rubber cement bottle, appropriated from their father’s office wastebasket, and hung matchboxes decorated as miniature facsimiles of his books amongst the sprigs. He was charmed, and a tradition began, and eventually his Christmas books ended up on what his children had long ago dubbed the Stanley Tree.”.

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