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literature

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Censorship  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  

However, Swinburne soon found another publisher (though one with a somewhat tainted reputation because of its sideline in erotica), and the demand for prosecution faded when leading literary figures would not support it.

Less lucky later in the century was Havelock Ellis, like Baudelaire a heterosexual with an interest in homosexuality (an interest intensified by the fact that his wife was a lesbian). In 1887, Ellis's publisher withdrew the volume of Marlowe he had edited for the Mermaid series of British dramatists because he had included as an appendix the famous "Baines Note," in which a contemporary informer reports Marlowe saying that "all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools."

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Of greater magnitude was the 1898 prosecution of a London bookseller for selling Sexual Inversion, labeled in the charge as "lewd, wicked, bawdy, scandalous, and obscene." Ellis himself was never indicted, and the bookseller got off with a fine and a promise never to "touch this filthy work again," but the scandal blocked Ellis from ever getting an English publisher for the rest of the Studies in the Psychology of Sex, which had to be published abroad.

The Twentieth Century

In 1915, D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow was prosecuted for obscenity, chiefly because of its lesbian scenes, and the publisher cooperated with the police by allowing its remaining copies to be destroyed. The scandal made it difficult for Lawrence to find publishers for some time and no doubt influenced his decision to suppress his original "Prologue" to Women in Love.

The best-known of these scandals in the twentieth-century is undoubtedly the 1928 English prosecution of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, whose publisher (though not author) was brought to trial under the Obscene Publications Act. Though many distinguished writers spoke in support of the book, conviction was won, and all the remaining copies were seized and burned.

When The Well of Loneliness was issued in the United States the next year, its publisher was similarly charged and convicted. The conviction was overturned on appeal, however, and The Well of Loneliness was available in America from 1929 on; the book was not republished in Britain until 1949, when the government made no attempt to enforce the still-extant ban.

Homosexual materials were prominent in the rash of Nazi book burnings across Germany in the spring of 1933. Indeed, one of the first targets was Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin, which was looted and its library destroyed.

In the same year, Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler's frankly gay novel, The Young and Evil, was published in Paris by the alternative Obelisk Press; when copies were shipped to England and the United States, they were seized by customs and refused entry. (An Olympia Press reprint did make its way into the United States in 1960.)

The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice tried to have André Gide's autobiography If It Die declared obscene in 1936, concentrating on the book's homosexual passages and bringing suit against the Gotham Book Mart for selling it; the New York court declared that the book was not obscene, however.

Jean Genet's work also faced many censorship problems. In 1943, for example, the first publisher of Our Lady of the Flowers planned to issue the book without his imprint and even without Genet's name. In 1956, Genet was actually convicted of pornography for having published two works in 1948 that were "in contempt of morality," a poem called "The Galley" and the novel Querelle. By that time, however, both works were in print in the Gallimard edition of Genet's works; his eight-month sentence was suspended, and he seems not to have paid his 100,000 francs fine.

Mary Renault published The Charioteer, her frank novel of contemporary male homosexuality, in England in 1953, but her American publisher, William Morrow, refused to bring it out in the United States at the same time for fear of prosecution; the book was finally published here six years later, by Pantheon.

Copies of Allen Ginsberg's 1956 Howl were seized by San Francisco police at City Lights Bookstore in 1957, and the book was prosecuted as "indecent" under a California law. In a much-publicized trial, several prominent literary figures testified for the book, and the court ruled it not obscene.

In the same year, a federal district court ruled that the early magazine One was obscene and thus could not be sent through the mails. The ruling was upheld by an appellate court, but the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision in 1958.

In 1963, James Baldwin's 1962 novel Another Country, with homosexuality prominent in its action, was banned as obscene by the New Orleans City Attorney. Despite a warning from the Police Department not to sell the book, the Doubleday Bookstore nevertheless persisted in offering it for sale. Consequently, manager Frank Rosseter and clerk George Deville were arrested; after extensive litigation, charges against them were dropped and in September 1964 sales of the book were resumed.

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