Books we must not read. Part Two

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Recently, following the lead of an article by William Mason-Owen published in a 1951 issue of The Colophon magazine, Jot 101 looked at some of the manuscripts and typescripts in the British Museum Library that were then withheld from publication due to the sensitivity of their contents. In part two we examine the banned printed books mentioned in the article.

First on the Colophon list is Cantab, by the otherwise respected Irish writer Shane Leslie, which appeared in 1926. This was ‘withdrawn under threat of legal proceedings for obscenity’. Your Jotter hasn’t examined the novel, which recounts the adventures and misadventures of a Cambridge undergraduate, but those in the know have maintained that any indelicacies it contains are inoffensive and certainly do not justify the ban.

D.H.Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were also regarded as dangerous to public morality. Around half the first edition of the former was burned in 1915, hence its comparative rarity. Moreover, if you can find a copy in the original rather sensationalist dust wrapper you will get a few thousand pounds for it.

Ulysses (1922) was another on the list. The Little Review, in which excerpts appeared, was prosecuted in the US and the whole book remained suppressed here until 1934.The Egoist, which published parts of it in the UK was also the subject of court action. The first edition of the book appeared in Paris in 1922, but copies of this and subsequent continental editions were subject to seizure by British customs until a ban was lifted on its publication in the thirties.

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Paul Renin ‘Sex’ (1928?)

1950s issue, Many
thanks John Fraser.

Here’s a bit of a puzzler. Coming from the archive of Peter Haining and bearing annotations by him, this is a photocopy of a blurb for a book 'in preparation' entitled Sex, which is described as 'Paul Renin’s Latest, Greatest and Most Courageous Novel !' Now here’s the thing. Such a novel by Paul Renin—the pseudonym of someone called Richard Goyne (1902 – 57), who also wrote crime novels—did not seemingly appear, according to Abebooks, until 1951.

The copies available on Abebooks are described as the first U. S. editions from the publisher Archer of a romance concerning a 'sixteen year old runaway Girl in the South Seas' . However, the blurb announcing the forthcoming appearance of Sex is clearly in a typeface of the 1920s, which Haining’s annotation identifies as dating from 1928. This, of course,  was the year in which Lady Chatterley’s Lover appeared, and the blurb writer seems keen to emphasise that Sex was, like Lawrence’s novel, a mould-breaking literary event.

What of the parents who—for reasons of “delicacy” or hectic pursuit of their own gay lives—allow their children to grow up in perilous ignorance?

What if those boys and girls who, so neglected, are lured from the fireside” by distant, seductive callings” to learn “romance“ and its moods for themselves in “the little corners of the city where night steals early and danger lingers always” ?

There are the human, poignant problems with which Paul Renin is most fitted to deal. In Sex he tells a daring and a wonderful story. Of romance, of passion, of weak lovers old and young. Of great emotions and greater need. In Sex PAUL RENIN SPEAKS OUT FEARLESSLY.

We have not examined a copy of the 1928 book, if indeed it was published in this year. If its publication was held back until 1951, it may have been because the censors –perhaps provoked by the blurb—took action to prevent its appearance.. [RR]

The 1928 issue may not have happened (i.e. the book was a 'ghost') - an extensive search through WorldCat, Copac and the might Karlsruhe database reveals no edition earlier than 1942. This was published by pulpmeister Gerald Swan who was discussed in an earlier jot on London's markets.

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D.H. Lawrence & Rananim – the lost plans

In our researches in the Glenavy papers in various books and online we came across  traces of D.H. Lawrence's plans for a Utopian community to be called Rananim. At one point it appears that Lady Glenavy had Lawrence's actual plans for the community…

Painting by D.H. Lawrence

22/1/17 Lawrence wrote to Baron Glenavy (Gordon Campbell):

I hope, in the long run, to find a place where one can live simply, apart from this civilisation, on the Pacific, and have a few other people who are also at peace and happy and live, and understand and be free…

A little later he wrote to Gordon Campbell :

You see for this thing which I stutter at so damnably I want us to form a league - you and Murry and me and perhaps Forster - and our women - and any one who will be added on to us…as long as we are centred around a core of reality, and carried on one impulse.

Earlier (1915) he had written to E.M. Forster:

…in my island I wanted people to come without class or money, sacrificing nothing, but each coming with all his desires,  yet knowing that his life is but a tiny section of a Whole : so that he shall fulfil his life in relation to the Whole. I wanted a real community, not built out of abstinence or equality, but out of many fulfilled individualities seeking greater fulfilment. But I can't find anybody. Each man is so bent on his own private fulfilment…'

Campbell's wife, Lady Beatrice Glenavy writes in her memoir Today We Will Only Gossip (Constable 1964):

About 1915..Lawrence  begin to formulate his ideas about  an Isle of the  Blest which he had named Rananim, a name which he got out of one of *Kot's Hebrew songs.  He had written out a long draft of the constitution of this island and given it to Gordon to study, hoping to get him interested and involved, believing him to have the organising capacity and the capital to work the scheme. Gordon put the papers away and they were forgotten till after Lawrence's death when Gordon met Aldous Huxley in London and they spoke of Lawrence and Gordon remembered the plans for the island which his practical mind had not taken seriously.  Huxley was very interested and said these papers were of great importance and interest. When Gordon returned home he looked for them in the place where he thought he had put them, but they were not there. We searched the house and we almost tore it to bits in an effort to find the document, which consisted of several sheets of paper covered with Lawrence's own beautifully careful writing. They were never found and their disappearance remains a mystery.

Kot = the writer S. S. Koteliansky a core member of the Bloomsbury group. This Hebrew musical version of the first verse of Psalm 33 ('Rejoice in the Lord, O ye Righteous') is preserved in his papers.