A Conversation for The Obscene Publications Act, 1857

obscene

Post 1

nadia

Was The Well of Lonliness prosecuted under this act? It would make an interesting addition/update to the article if it was.

I'll get lizardy to look it up. (should have thought of that first)

smiley - orangefish


obscene

Post 2

Fattylizard - everybody loves an eggbee

Yes it was indeed prosecuted under this act. And, of course, banned under its terms alos.

Fatty


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Post 3

Fattylizard - everybody loves an eggbee

Yes, especially as it talks about Lady Chatterley's Lover. I think that the Well was the only other publication taken to trail and actually banned under its terms in C20th. Bit foggy on that, but yes. And that trail, too, was very celebrated in its day.

'And that night, they were not divided'.....*sigh*

Fatty


obscene

Post 4

nadia

So would it be better to bash out a whole new entry on the trial of The Well (assuming there isn't one already, I haven't actually looked), or better to try to get this one updated with a paragraph about The Well in it? How hard is it to get things updated?

smiley - orangefish


obscene

Post 5

Blues Shark - For people who like this sort of thing, then this is just the sort of thing they'll like


It's mot that hard. But, really, put something together under the appropriate title, oh say 'Well of Loneliness' and stick it in the conversations and hey presto, you get you wish. smiley - smiley

No fussy editorials, no updating but a living Guide. I'm eager to hear about this boik, as it means nothing to me at the mo ment.smiley - ok

smiley - shark


obscene

Post 6

nadia

oh happy am I to oblige.


The Well of Lonliness has been called the lesbian bible. Personally I think that's going a bit far, but it was the first openly lesbian novel written by a lesbian (in the UK at least, I think) it is depressing and gloomy, based on the sexologist theory of inversion (more or less what we would think of as transgenderism now) and the ending is tragic in so many ways. It tells the story of the aristocratic 'invert' Stephen Gordon and her various love affairs with women. The most racy line in the book is the one my lizard quoted earlier 'and that night they were not divided'. Lady Chatterly it is not. Nor is it a work of literary greatness, it meeps alond in dismal fashion bemoning the 'curse of the inverted' and wailing that god had forsaken her. But it is important, and largely it is important because of the trial. It was written by Marguerite Radcliffe Hall (John to, well, everyone). She really believed in the theory of inversion and believed herself to be an invert, the book is horribly autobigraphical in tone.

Anyway, the trial.
There were, effectively, two trials. The public trial by tabloid was conducted by the scandalmongering Daily and Sunday Express. James Douglas, editor of that august publication, wrote (among a great many other vitriolic things):

'I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel. Poison kills the body but moral poison kills the soul.'

It was widely considered that such things should not be talked about because if we don't talk about it girls won't know so it won't exist. There is some sense to that, in a twisted way. Lesbianism had been largely invisible, The Well made Lesbianism impossible to ignore.

Douglas publicly challenged the Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks ('Jix' or 'The Preposterous Jix') to call for the book to be banned. Jix was incredibly conservative, no-one could have doubted his responce. So warrents were produced, publishers and bookshops raided and off to trial they went.

Sir Chatres Biron was the judge and rather notably homophobic himself. (In a Room of One's Own Woolf sneakily refers to the trial and Chatres Biron specifically to make a lesbian allusion patently clear for her. Clever girl.) He refused to allow opinions and declared that he and only he would decide if it was an obscene book. There are no obscene words in the book but Chatres Biron, by the letter of the law could ban it for theme. There was much talk of unnatural acts and failing to condemn perversion. Since arguements based on literary merit or opinions about what is obscene were disallowed, there was really no defence that could be made. So the book was banned, in 1928, coincidentally the same year that women were granted equal enfranchisement. Go figure.

It was quite the watershed. People were talking about lesbianism in public for the first time ever. Everyone was debating issues of censorship and obcenity. There was also much kurfuffle about the way that lesbianism was being portrayed, particularly among the sapphist set. Vita Sackville West said that she 'itched to do it better' or something similar. Virginia thought it was a truly tiresome book, and she did do it better, really she did. Read Orlando, which was publised in the same year, and see.

Anyway. Enough of that. Maybe I should write a whole guide entry about it. I have trouble condensing, y'see.

Howsabout you tell me specifically what information is relevant, I'll provide it, if I haven't already, you can add it in in a neat little paragraph?

smiley - orangefish


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Post 7

Party like it's 1999 (late of Summerisle)

If you're going to write a lot, it's probably better to write another entry, and link to this one. We can get a link added to this to your entry.

If you want to fit it into this entry then you can write it up in the style of this one - ie short, post it to Editorial Feedback and the Editors will add it the entry for you. As co-author of this one, I'd personally prefer the first choice, as that way it'll go through Peer Review.


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