The Witlings by Fanny Burney (1779)
The novelist suppressed this satirical play in deference to the two father figures in her life. Worried that it would offend powerfulÂ society figures, her father recommended withholding it, and the now forgotten author and family friend Samuel Crisp suggested that she Ã¢Â€ÂœwriteÂ no moreÃ¢Â€Â. Filial duty and notions of proper feminine conduct spurred Burney to this and other acts ofÂ self-censorship. She wrote: Ã¢Â€ÂœIÂ would a thousand Times rather forfeit my character as a Writer, than risk ridiculeÂ or censure as aÂ Female.Ã¢Â€Â
The History of Mary Prince byÂ MaryÂ Prince (1831)
The only surviving slave narrative in English by a woman enslaved in the West Indies. Though free in England, Prince was notÂ entirely free from censorship. Her autobiography, transcribed by Susanna Strickland, was Ã¢Â€ÂœprunedÃ¢Â€Â by editor and abolitionist Thomas Pringle to render it Ã¢Â€Âœclearly intelligibleÃ¢Â€Â to British readers. Strict libel laws made incriminating slaveholders difficult: oneÂ of them, John Wood, sued Pringle and was awarded damages.
La Terre (The Earth) byÂ ÃƒÂ‰mileÂ ZolaÂ (1887)
The publisher Henry Vizetelly made continental literature available to ordinary British readers in affordable English translations. Worried that frank sexual content would corrupt the nation, the National Vigilance Association prosecuted Vizetelly in 1888. The legal test of obscenity, whether written matter would Ã¢Â€Âœdeprave and corruptÃ¢Â€Â impressionable people who might read it, favoured the NVA. When the prosecutor read from The Earth inÂ court, including a passage involving the insemination of a cow, the jury begged him toÂ stop. Vizetelly pleaded guilty. He was convicted again and imprisoned after trying to publish expurgated translations.
The Well of Loneliness byÂ RadclyffeÂ Hall (1928)
This novel about love between women met fierce opposition. James Douglas of the Sunday Express fulminated against it, and British home secretary William Joynson-Hicks mobilised the law. Because there was Ã¢Â€Âœnot a single wordÃ¢Â€Â condemning the Ã¢Â€ÂœviceÃ¢Â€Â of lesbianism, magistrates had the book destroyed under the same test of obscenity that condemned Henry Vizetelly. In the US, however, this Victorian test was beginning to lose traction. Though the publisher Donald Friede was arrested and the book was seized by customs, theÂ court concluded that there was not Ã¢Â€ÂœoneÂ wordÃ¢Â€Â of obscenity in the book.
Black Boy by Richard Wright (1945)
To appease the judges of the Book ofÂ the Month club, Wright cut aÂ third ofÂ his autobiography, giving aÂ more optimistic ending to this account of growing up black in the United States. Thirty years later the book was one of nine that a local education board in Long Island, New York, removed from school libraries. Steven Pico and other students launched a first amendment challenge that reached the supreme court. The case helped establish that school boards cannot remove books inÂ a Ã¢Â€Âœnarrowly partisan or political mannerÃ¢Â€Â.
Ã¢Â€Â˜The OrphanÃ¢Â€Â™ in Shock SuspenStories No 14 by Bill Gaines (1954)
The owner of Entertaining Comics, Gaines wasÂ one of the most notorious comic book publishers of the 1950s. This story about a girl who kills her father and frames her mother was fodderÂ for his opponents, whoÂ feared that comics made children violent. Campaigns inÂ theÂ US, including book burnings at schools, culminated in hearings before theÂ Senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency, which drove comic publishers to selfÃ¢Â€Â‘censor and Gaines toÂ give up comics altogether. In the UK a statute prohibiting horror and crime comics remains on the books.
The HousewifeÃ¢Â€Â™s Handbook on Selective Promiscuity by Lillian Maxine Serett (1960)
In 1966, while clearing Fanny Hill, the US Supreme Court upheld publisher and bookseller Ralph GinzburgÃ¢Â€Â™s conviction for mailing material including SerettÃ¢Â€Â™s sexual autobiography, The HousewifeÃ¢Â€Â™s Handbook, in which she hoped to show Ã¢Â€Âœthat various forms ofÂ sexual expression are normal and healthy things to do, and also that women do have sexual rightsÃ¢Â€Â.
Black Voices from Prison byÂ EtheridgeÂ Knight (1970)
Prison officials in both the US and the UK have wide discretion in controlling what literature is available to incarcerated people. KnightÃ¢Â€Â™s anthology of poetry and prose by himself and other men at Indiana state prison was first published in the US. It expresses theÂ experiences of its authors and, informed by the Black Power movement, criticises the penal system as anÂ instrument of racial oppression. TheÂ book was denied to an inmate in aÂ Texas institution in 1999 because ofÂ content about race.
Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin byÂ Susanne BÃƒÂ¶sche (1981)
In 1983, rightwing British newspapers and MPs condemned the English translation of this Danish picture book about two gay men and their daughter. Five years later, in a climate of moral panic, parliament passed Section 28 ofÂ the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibited local authorities fromÂ promoting homosexuality or teaching Ã¢Â€Âœthe acceptability of homosexuality asÂ a pretended family relationshipÃ¢Â€Â. ThisÂ homophobic law was not enforced, and Jenny was not banned, but it had aÂ chilling effect on discussions of same-sex relationships in schools.
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
After a parent in Virginia complained in 2012 that her son had been required to read the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Morrison, which Republican senator Richard H Black described as Ã¢Â€ÂœsmutÃ¢Â€Â, state legislators passed the Ã¢Â€ÂœBeloved BillÃ¢Â€Â to give parents the right to opt their children out of Ã¢Â€Âœsexually explicitÃ¢Â€Â reading in schools. The bill, which governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed in 2016, threatened to undermine school boardsÃ¢Â€Â™ power to make curricular decisions and protect studentsÃ¢Â€Â™ right to receive information.
Ã¢Â€Â¢ Censored: A Literary History of Subversion & Control by Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis is published by British Library.