Miller letter

Autograph letter, signed, from Henry Miller to Oscar Baradinsky. 3 March 1945.

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.

Henry Miller's semi-autobiographical Tropic of Cancer was banned in the United States for three decades after its 1934 publication in France. In 1950, the American Civil Liberties Union went to court in an unsuccessful bid to try to legally import this book proclaimed to be the "unprintable word of the debased and morally bankrupt." After years of being smuggled into the country, Tropic of Cancer finally was published in the U.S. in 1962; however, shortly thereafter, the legal proceedings erupted. Five states declared Miller's work "obscene," while several states declared it "not obscene," in a legal flurry that eventually was resolved in 1964 in favor of the author. Nonetheless, Miller was forced to omit some of the book's material. Over the years, Tropic of Cancer has been the focus of over 40 criminal cases and an untold number of civil suits. Not until 1999 did the limited edition, displayed here, make the censored passages available. Responding to the censorship of his and others' works, Henry Miller wrote the pamphlet Obscenity and the Law of Reflection in 1945. In a letter to Oscar Baradinsky, Miller's publisher, the author mentions having given his "OK on the obscenity."

Five Letters

Glasgow, Ellen. Five Letters from Ellen Glasgow Concerning Censorship. Richmond: Friends of the Richmond Public Library, 1962.

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.

Ellen Glasgow joined the Richmond Library Board in 1926 and soon found herself embroiled in controversy. Thomas Parker Ayer, the Richmond Library head librarian, wrote to Glasgow for advice on whether or not to remove Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry from the shelves. Glasgow strongly objected to the proposed removal in a series of letters, stating that she was "unequivocally opposed to such censorship in a public library."

Letter from Theodore Dreiser to [A. C.] Hume

Autograph letter, signed, from Theodore Dreiser to [A. C.] Hume. 1 May 1920. Page 1.

These letters from Theodore Dreiser all discuss censorship, an unavoidable subject for an author forced to confront the power of the red pen. In a 1920 letter to A. C. Hume, Dreiser indicates that he may "sue for defamation of character" and "personal loss." These references most likely refer to the outcry of the censors over Sister Carrie, a 1900 novel in which a young girl loses her innocence at the hands of wealthy men who can accommodate her materialistic desires. Also on display is a 1929 letter to Ralph Holmes. Here, Dreiser mentions an obscenity trial regarding An American Tragedy (1925), writing that "[t]he whole thing is ridiculous beyond belief." In the third letter, Dreiser responds to William Shaw, a Miami University student, who wrote to Dreiser in early 1940 asking for advice on his master's thesis about literary censorship. Dreiser writes back, "Any writer, artist, painter or sculptor, or thinker of any breadth of mind who wants to present reality is now being presented by a kept Press." In this climate of suppression, to write honestly is to show "real courage."

Press Release

"U. S. Post Office Confirms Ban of Lady Chatterley's Lover." Press Release from Grove Press. 11 June [1959].

From the Grove Press Collection.

D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, a novel about a sexually dissatisfied woman and her affair with her gamekeeper, was suppressed in the United States from its first publication in Italy in 1928. The U.S. Post Office refused to ship the book for thirty years because of its "smutty" and "degrading" language, although an expurgated version was published eventually. Grove Press took the daring step of publishing Lawrence's controversial work in its uncensored form in 1959 and was promptly slapped with an obscenity lawsuit. In response, Grove put out press releases in support of the author and his work. Some of these publications contained comments on the book and its banning by various authors, critics, and reviewers.

Smart Set Anthology

Rascoe, Burton, and Groff Conklin, eds. Smart Set Anthology. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1934.

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.

This anthology has been published in two forms -- pre- and post-censorship. One copy contains a passage with the following hand-written annotation: "Deleted by the author against his advice to please a Yid. [Yiddish] Hitler." In the final, expurgated form of the book, the passage has been removed. Interestingly, the suppressed passage discusses the banning of Theodore Dreiser's book The Genius and a related argument between Dreiser and publisher H. L. Mencken.

Doyle letter

Autograph letter, initialed, from Arthur Conan Doyle to [H. G.] Smith. [1915-1919].

From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.

Arthur Conan Doyle writes to colleague Herbert Greenough Smith about changes made to the text of Doyle's manuscript for The British Campaign in France. Doyle discusses the removal of a chapter without explanation by "The Censor." The author is "distressed" by the changes that alter the flow and meaning of the text and feels that he will "get the blame" for the "inexplicable" absence of the chapter. Doyle ends the letter by asking Smith, "How do you stand about censored stuff now?"