Index Librorum Prohibitorum

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 Banned Books

The 1800s

The Works of Shakespeare.  In 1818 Thomas Bowlder published an expurgated version of Shakespeare’s works, The Family Shakespeare, that removed "those words and expressions that cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family," so as not to "raise a blush to the cheeks of modesty.”   While Bowlder’s was the most famous expurgation of Shakespeare’s works, it is far from the only one.  Shakespeare’s plays have been revised—inevitable to eliminate profanity or ribaldry—since  the mid-1600s by an assortment of “editors” including William D'Avenant, Francis Gentleman, John Hows, and others, however formal banning of Shakespeare’s works has been infrequent. One scene in Richard III was temporarily banned in England as it infuriated Queen Elizabeth. A short reference to a Scottish lord was excised from The Merchant of Venice, for a short time.  All references to Denmark were removed from Hamlet to mollify the Danish Queen, Anne. And, performances of King Lear were banned in the United Kingdom during the years of King George III’s insanity.

The works of Heinrich Heine.  Today, most Germans can recite all of Heine’s most famous poem, Die Lorelei, and many grow up believing that it was a traditional folksong with no established author.  That is because all of Heine’s works were banned throughout Germany in 1835.  Heine was a leader in the Junges Deutschland (Young Germany) movement, an informal organization of writers set on “liberating” Germans from established political, religious, and philosophical views.  The movement was seen as a threat to the established order, and the writers’ works were banned.  Heine then left Germany for self-imposed exile in France, where he continued to write.  Heine’s works were again banned by the Nazi’s in the early 1930s, however by then Die Lorelei had become so popular that Hitler allowed it to appear in print, but only anonymously with no mention of Heine.  Following World War II, Heine’s works continued to be banned by the East German communist regime.

Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables.  Immediately after its publication in 1834, Victor Hugo’s  Hunchback of Notre Dame was placed on the Catholic Church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum, not for any theological reason—although the book does have some anti-clerical comments, but rather because the Church censors found it, along with many other fictional works, to be "sensual, libidinous or lascivious."  Later, Hugo’s Les Miserables was also placed on the Index, for similar reasons.

Madame Bovary.  Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, a novel about a doctor’s wife who engages in a series of adulterous affairs to escape the boredom of her provincial life, was almost immediately attacked by public prosecutors as obscene after it was first serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856.  Flaubert and the book were tried and acquitted in court during January and February of 1857.  The novel was released in book form in April of 1857, and quickly became a bestseller.

Origin of Species.  The Origin of Species is another title that appears on almost every list of banned books without ever having been banned.  Although Charles Darwin did not publish On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life until 1859, he had actually developed his theory of evolution based on natural selection nearly twenty years before.  Knowing that its release would be incredibly controversial, Darwin spent the intevening years compiling supporting evidence and developing his reputation as a first class biologist. Although the expected firestorm occurred with the book's publication, the closet thing to a call for its banning was from the editor of the Athenaeum who demanded Darwin be tried "in the Divinity Hall, the College, the Lecture Room and the Museum".

Andersen's Fairy Tales.  In 1835 Tsarist Russia, under Nicholas I banned the sale of Andersen's Fairy Tales lest the violent nature disturb impressionable children.  The ban remained in place until 1849.  The stories were again banned in Soviet Union beginning in the 1930s because they glorified princes and princesses.

  1850-2 Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter

1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin

1857 - Les Fleurs Du Mal - BAUDELAIRE, CHARLES

1859 George Eliot - Adam Bede

1864 - Droll Stories  BALZAC, HONORÉ de

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.   Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer  and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were both attacked soon after their publication.  The public libraries of  Brooklyn New York, Denver Colorado, and Concord Massachusetts all barred the books from the shelves of their children's rooms as "bad examples of ingenious youths"  When asked by a librarian from Brooklyn College to respond to the attacks on his books, Twain replied with typically sarcastic humor, "I am greatly troubled by what you say.  I wrote 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huck Finn' for adults exclusively, and it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them.  The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old." 

1881-2 Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass

1887  - Jose Rizal - Noli Me Tangere

1890-2 (started in 1881) - Henrik Ibsen - Ghosts

1894 - The Banditti of the Plains - A.S. Mercer
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