Leonard Charles Smithers

Publisher of Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and other Decadents.


He published Richard Burton’s Book of One Thousand and One Nights in 1885, also works by Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, Aleister Crowley, Oscar Wilde and others. He also published a series of pornographic books and was notorious for a slogan in his Bond Street Bookshop “Smut is cheap today”.

When Aubrey Beardsley converted to Roman Catholicism he asked Smithers to “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings...by all that is holy all obscene drawings." Smithers ignored Beardsley's wishes and continued to sell reproductions as well as forgeries of Beardsley's work.

After the trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895, Smithers was one of the few publishers prepared to handle "decadent" literature, such as Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol in 1898, and The Savoy.

Smithers went bankrupt in 1900 and died in 1907 from cirrhosis of the liver. His body was found in a house in Parson's Green on his 46th birthday. He was buried in an unmarked grave, paid for by Lord Alfred Douglas in Fulham Cemetery.

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Book of One Thousand and One Nights, 1885

1885–1888: Smithers published Sir Richard Francis Burton's English translation of One Thousand and One Nights. His version accentuated the sexuality of the stories vis-à-vis Lane's bowdlerized translation.

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Lysistrata, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley, 1886

Lysistrata is an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes. It is a comic account of a woman's extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War between Greek city states by denying all the men of the land any sex. 

Read more: Wikipedia