The First Decadent: being the strange life of J. K. Huysmans
James Laver
London: Faber and Faber
New York: Citadel


This was the first full-length biography of Huysmans to appear in English. It is a very lively introduction to Huysmans and his work: Helen Trudgian praised Laver’s ’indisputable powers of description and a quite remarkable use of dramatic effect’. It is especially interesting on the period of the occult revival of the 1890s, though as a whole the book is marred by a number of inaccuracies and doesn’t really make use of the vast range of unpublished material on Huysmans that was available at the time. As Robert Baldick concluded in a review of the book in 1954, ’this entertaining and very readable work must be treated with caution’.