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LETTERS TO THE EMERGENCY COMMITTEE
The following letters were received by the Secretary during and immediately after the sending out of the form letters and protests. The Committee herewith acknowledges its gratitude to the writers for their permission to use these letters.
The Dower House
The suppression of Mr. Cabell's Jurgen, it seems to me, is one of the most surprising attacks on the liberty of beauty which it is possible to conceive. It is specially maddening because Mr. Cabell for years has devoted himself to a singularly pure themethe spirituality of love. He is a novelist of grave judgmen markable fineness, and the master of an invaluable and delicate art. We have few such and, judging from the treatment awarded him, we shall soon have none. There is only one way by which the decency of a novel may be tested by the writer's intention. And the fact that Mr. Cabell is accused of deliberate obscenity is, except for its tragic nonsense, laughable.
As I have already written, this attack makes the position of every serious creative writer in America precarious; it seems now positively dangerous to be honest, independent—to be anything, in short, but the mouthpiece of sentimental lies, dishonest propaganda, or current superstition. Mr. Cabell has conceived it his duty to write maturely for mature people; he preferred the expression of certain fundamental principles to trotting at the heel of a cowardly hypocrisy; and in this it begins to appear he was wrong.
The Chicago Tribune
Chicago, Feb. 23, 1920. Inclosed herewith is my signature to the protest. Please accept my sincerest congratulations on the spirit you and your associates are showing in this matter. I hope that the signatures will be many and that the protest will do some good, not only in the case of Jurgen (in which, of course, I feel especial interest as the dedicatee), but in the matter of literature in general. The highhanded methods of the Society for the Suppression of Vice have no parallel in any civilized country.
WM. LYON PHELPS
February 25, 1920.
In general I disapprove of literary censorship and of course I am willing to be so quoted. At the same time, you must not quote me in any way that would seem to give my approval to Jurgen, for the simple reason that I have not read the book.
Wm. Lyon Phelps.
February 26, 1920.
Here is your petition. Yes, I read Jurgen and thought it both wise and beautiful. Of course it should not be suppressed; but, on the other hand, one is not at all surprised.
145 West 58th St.
February 17, 1920.
I am asked by an "Emergency Committee" to sign at once a protest to the publisher against the selling of James Branch Cabell's book, Jurgen. I have replied that I must read the book before answering. Can you send it to me immediately?
Kate Douglas Wiggin
February, 1920. I do not agree with the point of view in the least. There are great differences of opinion about books among equally intelligent people. If I knew the case I should be proud to resent an injustice. Not knowing it, I would not sign a protest for worlds! How could I? I do not in general believe in certain particular censorships, but how am I to tell whether I believe in this one or not without a particle of evidence?
Kate Douglas Wiggin.
1814 Sixteenth St., N. W.
Washington, D. C.
February 18, 1920.
May I suggest that you send petitions to obtain names protesting against the exclusion of Jurgen to all the magazines and the Press Clubs in the various cities? I am enclosing one with several signatures obtained at the Press Club in Washington.
From speaking to a number of men distinguished in literature, science, and governmental affairs, I have learned that the more understanding and important a man is, the more likely he is to know of and protest against the outrage of banning Jurgen, and the more likely he is to assert, as I do, that not for many years has there been produced in America a book of greater beauty, more dignity, and higher ideals.
To stop the sale of such a book, while permitting lewd plays to continue on Broadway, is precisely like condemning Rodin's The Thinker while permitting cheap music and picture stores all over New York to exhibit and sell openly obscene photographs
as they do! The only thing they have so far omitted is to ban The Thinker!
In fighting for Jurgen, you are serving the highest cause. We have had so few books of sheer magic and beauty in this country that the thought of assailing Jurgen is infuriating. But I am sure that when the book is considered on the bench by judges of culture and learning they will realize not only its high beauty but also the fact that its intense sophistication makes its references to sex not only unintelligible to those young girls whom, apparently, the Vice Society is trying to protect, but actually highly uninteresting to them. To be anything like consistent or just, it would be absolutely necessary for the Society to ban all medical books, and all books of jurisprudence touching on sex, if they are to ban Jurgen.
The New York Evening Post
I haven't read the book. I have lost the blank you sent. If you care to include my name among the protestants on general grounds, it being distinctly admitted that I haven't read this particular work, pray do so!
337 West 87th St.
New York City
February 16, 1920. No-I won't join you. The Soc. for Suppression of Vice is probably making a fool of itself—as it has done on more than one occasion. But I am old enough to feel very grateful to it for the cleansing of the newsstands of N. Y. from what they were fifty years ago. I hold it to be a most useful organization; and I don't believe that there is really any danger here in the U. S. in the 20th century that any true work of art will be suppressed.
The Cleveland School of Art
March 1, 1920.
I do not know enough about the facts to sign the document you sent me.
While I believe that in a democracy a good deal of freedom should be given to the individual, I feel that there are limits beyond which an individual ought not to be allowed to go, and I am heartily in favor of all the societies that exist for the reformation of the vicious. That seems to me a more hopeful method of attack than the “suppression of vice.' And yet I do believe that some sort of censorship is necessary in these days if America is to continue to be a decent place in which to bring up children.
New York, February 28, 1920. With the greatest pleasure. To hell with them on all counts!
Fifteen West Sixty-seventh St.
February 17, 1920. My wife is only too glad to sign the enclosed paper, and only regrets that her illness prevents her from adding a personal expression of her feelings and opinion in regard to the treatment of Jurgen, which we read as soon as it came out and consider a masterpiece honoring American literature.
New York, February 19, 1920. I am, of course, entirely in sympathy with the manifesto which you sent me, and I only wish I could see my way clear to add my name for what it is worth. I feel, however, that the attack is to be made upon a piece of legislation which, strictly speaking, remains the domestic affair of a country where I am at the moment a visitor. And however strongly I may feel personally about the matter I think it would be a mistake for me to take any public stand about another country's internal affairs.
In England, I should be with such a protest and with as loud a voice as possible, but I think that if I did so in America, I might very justly be told to mind my own business, and that no matter how wrong the people who said it might be in other ways, they would certainly have right on their side in that.
But I wish every power to your elbow, and I hope sincerely that your note may be effective. I write in a general sense, without reference to the book in question, which I have not read.
Very sincerely yours,
John Drinkwater. Repertory Theatre, Birmingham, England.
1455 Undercliff Ave.
New York City
I haven't read Jurgen, but I'm sure the case against the S.F.T.S.O.V. must be a just once since you are helping to prosecute it, and I'm glad to sign the protest.
Harriet Ford. Feb. 19, 1920.