An Essay Picked by blupete

"Unclean Books"
By Arnold Bennett

The Rev. Dr. W.F. Barry, himself a novelist, has set about to belabour novelists, and to enliven the end of a dull season, in a highly explosive article concerning "the plague of unclean books, and especially of dangerous fiction." He says: "I never leave my house to journey in any direction, but I am forced to see, and solicited to buy, works flamingly advertised of which the gospel is adultery and the apocalypse the right of suicide." (No! I am not parodying Dr. Barry. I am quoting from his article, which may be read in the Bookman. It ought to have appeared in Punch.) One naturally asks oneself: "What is the geographical situation of this house of Dr. Barry's, hemmed in by flaming and immoral advertisements and by soliciting sellers of naughtiness?" Dr. Barry probably expects to be taken seriously. But he will never be taken seriously until he descends from purple generalities to the particular naming of names. If he has the courage of his opinions, if he genuinely is concerned for the future of this unfortunate island, he might name a dozen or so of the "myriad volumes which deride self-control, scoff at the Godlike in man, deny the judgment, and by most potent illustration declare that death ends all." For myself, I am unacquainted with them, and nobody has ever solicited me to buy them. At least he might state where one is solicited to buy these shockers. I would go thither at once, just to see. In the course of his article, Dr. Barry lets slip a phrase about "half-empty churches." Of course, these half-empty churches must be laid on the back of somebody, and the novelist's back is always convenient. Hence, no doubt, the article. Dr. Barry seeks for information. He asks "Will Christian fathers and mothers go on tolerating...," etc. etc. I can oblige him. The answer is, "Yes. They will."

-- Arnold Bennett (1909).


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