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4-083 (Text)

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author,male,Innes,un addressee,male
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Government English
Imperial Correspondence
Clark, 1975
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4-083-plain.txt — 4 KB

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It is very much to be regretted that a scandalous outrage upon public decency should escape, even for a time, well-merited, though wholly inadequate, punishment, in consequence of a technical defect in the imperfect framing of the information. The mere exhibition of these diagrams or representations to the public for gain is an offence under this Act, unless justified by the circumstances of the exhibition, such, for instance, as diagrams or sketches used by a lecturer to illustrate an anatomical lecture in a class-room of students; but to use them to illustrate the pernicious teaching of a filthy book, so far from justifying their exhibition, enormously aggravates this offence against public morals and public decency. With regard to that book, I wish to refer to the case In re Besant (11 Ch. Div. 508; 48 L.Ch.J. 497), which was an application by the Rev. F. Besant, who petitioned the Court that his daughter, a child of tender years, might be delivered up by her mother, Mrs. Annie Besant (a lady who, in conjunction with a person named Bradlaugh - an individual who from one cause or another has within the last few years attained a large amount of notoriety - had brought out this wretched pimblication), to the custody of her father. Sir George Jessel, M.R., delivering judgment after pointing out that a course of education in the speculative opinions of her mother was not only reprehensible but detestable, and likely to work utter ruin to the child, and that on that ground alone he should decide, that the child ought not to remain another day under her mother's care, said: "I am sorry to say that there is another ground, which I should be glad to avoid dealing with, if I could. Another accusation against Mrs. Besant is this - it is said that in addition to these opinions as to the existence of a Deity, and other speculative subjects, Mrs. Besant has been guilty of immoral conduct in publishing an immoral or obscene book, or rather pamphlet. Now, I am sorry to say that on my attention being directed to some of the pages of this pamphlet, I can entertain no doubt whatever as to its being an obscene publication. My view is exactly the same as was entertained by the Lord Chief Justice of England and a jury, on the occasion of the trial of Mr. Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant for the publication of this book, at which trial they were convicted, and although that conviction has been set aside on a technical point - a flaw in the indictment - no judge, as far as I am aware, has for a moment doubted the propriety of that conviction. Besides that, it has also been condemned by a magistrate to be destroyed, and that decision has been confirmed by a Court of Quarter Sessions, a number of magistrates being assembled there.  I think my view of this book is, if I may say so, fully confirmed and borne out by these previous decisions; although, even if I entertained a less strong opinion than I do, I ought hot to hesitate to express that opinion. That decision was appealed, from and confirmed by the Court of Appeal, consisting of Lords Justices James, Baggallay and Bramwell. In reference to that, book they say (at page 520): "The appellant has not only taught what she calls matters of speculative opinion in religion, but has published other works which she avers to be in the domain of physiology, of medical science, and political economy, some of which works she herself has written. She avers that she has done this from a desire to promote the happiness of the poorer millions of her fellow-creatures, and from a conscientious conviction that she is doing a good work. From the particular nature of the topics which she has chosen to select, they may easily be so handled as to be immoral, indecent, and corrupting.  It is impossible for us not to feel that the conduct of the appellant in writing and publishing such works is so repugnant, so abhorrent to the feelings of the great majority of decent Englishmen and Englishwomen, and would be regarded by them with such disgust, not as matters of opinion, but as violations of morality, decency, and womanly propriety, that the future of a girl brought up in association with such a propaganda would be incalculably prejudiced. And who can doubt. that such a publication must exercise a corrupting and depraving influence upon any but firm and stable minds - disgusting all whom it did not deprave - a direct corrupter of chastity in the vast majority of cases - a vile instrument of furthering the vilest purposes?