Hall’s queer text was at the centre of a moral panic and censorship show trial in England. Why did the Irish censor ban it, when an English prohibition meant Irish booksellers couldn’t source the book?
A censor told Seanad Éireann that this book was ‘unwholesome’ because of one sentence that mentioned ‘sodomy’. But I think he was fibbing. O’Brien questioned the validity of Irish nationalism in this book, a daring move that must have offended the censors.
An entertaining and elegant look at singledom in London that challenged censor’s ideas on sex and conception.
I had a lot of fun trashing this book with Cian from Wide Atlantic Weird podcast. Wheatley was a reactionary old racist who sold millions of books over a 40 year career. His influence on popular culture is probably underestimated. Partly thanks to him, naked women, candles and goat heads are visual short-hand for Satanism.
Only a truly paranoid censor would ban a book this innocuous. But even barely there smut can give convent-school girls ideas…
Why on earth was antique erotica, with its hilarious genital metaphors, censored in Ireland? This titillating text was officially ‘obscene’ for more than one hundred years.
Here’s the episode list which ranges from the bizarre to the historically weighty. And yes, the censors were still banning in 1992.
Madonna, Sex (1992): banned after it sold out…
Anon, The Lustful Turk (1828): proper porn with a lot of racist tropes.
Margaret Mead, Growing up in Samoa (1928): scholarly but smutty.
Denis Wheatley, To the Devil, a Daughter (1953): time for more Satanism!
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928): a queer text whose author scandalized London.
Thorne Smith, The Passionate Witch (1941): phallocentric fluffy smut.
Kate O’Brien, The Land of Spices (1941): a remarkably beautiful book offering powerful critiques of nationalism and religion in Ireland
John McGahern, Deep Dive Part One: The Dark (1965) : a book that reformed the censorship law deserves proper scrutiny.
John McGahern, Deep Dive Part Two: The Dark (1965)
The Irish language episode: still thinking about which book…
BONUS Joyce, ‘Ulysses’ (1922): banned almost everywhere *except* Ireland
Another bonus on another uncensored book. It’s a classic Irish noir, full of rainy weather and angsty sex. I have no idea why it wasn’t banned – it’s full of queer plotlines and transgressive sex – but I try to work it out.
O’Brien was that rare thing: an Irish writer who was never banned in Ireland. A book that was less a plot and more a conspiracy confused the filthy-minded censors.
JoS was the bestselling sex guide that captured the spirit of the 70s sexual revolution. Although it was banned in Ireland, it was openly on sale here. How does censorship work if nobody pays any attention to the law?