Born in Brighton, England in 1872, Beardsley moved to London in 1890, where he was employed as an insurance clerk at Guardian Insurance Company. The following year, by recommendation of British artist Edward Burne-Jones, he began art classes at the Westminister School of Art. It was through Burne-Jones that he met Oscar Wilde who was at that time writing "Salomne", which he asked Beardsley to illustrate. He worked to produce numerous illustrations and covers for books and periodicals, including a commission to illustrate J.M. Dent's edition of Malory's "Morte D'Arthur".
Beardsley served as the art editor of "The Yellow Book", the famous quarterly of art and literature, which first appeared in 1894. This would permanently establish his fame as an artist. Beardsley was dismissed from The Yellow Book in April 1895 and soon after was approached by Leonard Smithers, a man intent on publishing a rival periodical. From this meeting came the creation of "The Savoy", which gave Beardsley an outlet for his art as well as some writing. He also illustrated other author's works for the same publisher, among these were editions of Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" and Ben Jonson's "Volpone". Smither's also issued the first collected album of Beardsley's work, "A Book of Fifty Drawings". He died of tuberculosis at the age of 25 in 1898.