Paris Latin Quarter artists in the 1880's this is RWC's first work and as such seems to be very close to the life of RWC as an art student. The only difference between RWC and Rex Gethryn, the main character, is the replacement of parents with a distant aunt. This is the wish of many a young man on his own for the first time.
Gethryn's lover's sister plots to destroy his happy life. This is a true account of a first love. We never truely get over are first love and RWC was hit harder than most. Here is the source of all the young lovers over coming family and the odds to live happily ever after that haunt and in most cases mare all his books.
In The Quarter falls into 3 parts. The first part, to my thinking, is straight autobiography. The pleasure turned to pain of the remembered first love rings true to the core.
In the last 2/3's of the book he moves away from his character and looks at him from a distance through the eyes of others. It seems as if it was too painful to do other wise.
The second part, the hunting trip in Bavaria with old friends and a childhood sweet heart, also seems to have a core of truth to it. But here the truth is made to serve the story.
The third and last part of the book seems to be all storytelling and wish fulfillment. The finding of his first love and lover with the promise of marriage is the wish fulfillment of a heart sick young man.
The killing of the main character, so easily identified as the young Robert W. Chambers the painter, is also a form of wish fulfillment. Many authors have killed themselves in their books when dealing with subject too painful to live with.
I am both a painter and a writer, I have never been able to understand why RWC gave up art. It just didn't make sense to me. There is a clue here to why Chambers gave up painting. He tells of Gethryn gaining skill but loosing the joy and innocence of painting. His first love is art. He has set his sights on the Salon and done what it takes to get there only to fine it has cost him everything. His first love, art, and his first lover are both gone.
This explains why he gave up art and may also explain why he liked writing so much. I am pretty sure it why he never took any training in writing.
The dedication reads: To my friend Reginald Bathurst Birch The same Reginald Birch (1856-1943) that did work for St. Nicholas magizine during the 1880s and illustrated Frances Hodgson Burnett's LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY thus setting a style and gaining the hate of a generation of boys in velvet.
Chambers looked up to the the older (9 years) Birch. He even has Reginald as the true name of Rex Gethryn. Birch is the model for Braith, the older faithful friend to the love sick Gethryn.
There has been much talk about were the Yellow comes from in The King in Yellow. Page 169: "Day was breaking. He opened the window and looked into the white street. Lamps burned down there with a sickly yellow; a faint light showed behind the barred windows of the old gray barracks." This for me tells the story. The evil yellow is "sickly yellow" light on the morning that he lost his lover.