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“Banned in Boston”: Moral Reform Politics and the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice1

  • P. C. Kemeny

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2 “Literary Notes,” Boston Commonwealth, September 3, 1881, 3; Baxter, Sylvester, “Walt Whitman in Boston,” New England Magazine 6 (1892): 714–21.

3 Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader's Edition, ed. Blogett, Harold W. and Bradley, Sculley (New York: New York University Press, 1965), 91, 108.

4 [Norton, Charles Eliot], “Leaves of Grass,” Putnam's Monthly 6 (1855): 321. While Norton wrote that he admired the “original perception of nature,” “manly brawn,” and “epic directness” of Whitman, in a letter to James Russell Lowell he privately confessed, “One cannot leave it about for chance readers.” He added that he “would be sorry to know that any woman had looked into it past the title-page. I have got a copy for you, for there are things in it you will admire.” Charles Eliot Norton to James Russell Lowell, 23 September 1855, Letters of Charles Eliot Norton, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913), 1: 135. “‘No, no,’ Lowell replied, ‘the kind of thing you described won't do.’” James Russell Lowell to Charles Eliot Norton, 12 October 1855, Letters of James Russell Lowell, ed. Charles Eliot Norton, 3 vols. (1904; repr., New York: AMS 1966), 1:242.

5 Griswold, Rufus M., New York Criterion, November 10, 1855, in Walt Whitman, the Critical Heritage, ed. Hindus, Milton (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971), 31; Traubel, Horace, With Walt Whitman in Camden, 4 vols. (1905–1906; repr., New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961), 1:127.

6 Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 1:51. On the relationship between Whitman and Emerson, see Reynolds, David S., Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Knopf, 1995), 194.

7 John Burroughs Diary, December 1871, quoted in Barrus, Clara, Whitman and Burroughs: Comrades (1931; repr., Fort Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1968), 64.

8 Allen, Gay Wilson, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 174; Lannon Smith, F., “The American Reception of Leaves of Grass: 1855–1882,” Walt Whitman Review 22 (1979): 153.

9 Whitman, Walt to James R. Osgood, 8 May 1881, The Correspondence of Walt Whitman, ed. Miller, Edwin Haviland, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:224.

10 “Walt Whitman. A Poet's Supper to his Printers and Proof Readers.” [Camden Post], [18 October 1881], Walt Whitman—A Series of Twenty-Three Newspaper Items with Notes by the Post. Excerpts from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana located in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library Duke University.

11 Stevens, Oliver to James Osgood, 1 March 1882, The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman, ed. Bucke, Richard Maurice, Harned, Thomas B., and Traubel, Horace L., 10 vols. (1902; repr., Brosse Pointe, MI: Scholarly Press, 1968), 8:289–90.

12 James Osgood to Walt Whitman, 4 March 1882, Complete Writings, 8:289; Walt Whitman to James Osgood, 7 March 1882, Complete Writings, 8:290; James Osgood to Walt Whitman, 21 March 1882, Complete Writings, 8:293–94; Walt Whitman to James Osgood, [23] March 1882, Complete Writings, 8:294; James Osgood to Walt Whitman, [29 March] 1881, Complete Writings, 8:295; Walt Whitman to James Osgood, March 1882, Complete Writings, 8:294; James Osgood to Walt Whitman, [10 April] 1882, Complete Writings, 8:296; Walt Whitman to James Osgood, 12 April 1882, Complete Writings, 8:296–97.

13 Chainey, George, “Keep Off the Grass,” This World, June 17, 1882, 8, Container 22, Reel 13, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress.

14 Advertisement, “Republished! The Suppressed Book!” Liberty, 22 July 1882, 2.

15 Heywood, Ezra H., “An Open Letter to Walt Whitman,” Leaf Literature, Princeton, MA: Published by Angela T. Heywood, 1882, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

16 Parker, Alison M., Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform, and Pro-Censorship Activism, 1873–1933 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 4.

17 For representative examples of historical studies that interpret the moral reform movement as opponents to free speech rights, see Haney, Robert W., Comstockery in America: Patterns of Censorship and Control (Boston: Beacon Hill, 1960); Gertzman, Jay A., Bookleggers and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica, 1920–1940 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999). A number of Whitman scholars also express a whiggish interpretation of the Leaves of Grass controversy. Allen, Solitary Singer, 494–500; Andriano, Joseph, “Societies for the Suppression of Vice,” Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. LeMaster, J. R. and Kummings, Donald D. (New York: Garland, 1998), 649; Callow, Philip, A Life of Walt Whitman: From Noon to Starry Night (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1992), 353–54; Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 530–45; Loving, Jerome, Walt Whitman's Champion: William Douglas O'Connor (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1978), 405–20; Asselineau, Roger, The Evolution of Walt Whitman: The Creation of a Personality (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960), 237–51. For status anxiety and social control interpretations, see Boyer, Paul, Purity in Print: The Vice-Society Movement and Book Censorship in America (New York: Scribners, 1968); Kendrick, Walter M., The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture (New York: Viking Press, 1987). As elite defenders of family and cultural status, Beisel, Nicola, Imperiled Innocents: Anthony Comstock and Family Reproduction in Victorian America (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997); Donovan, Brian, White Slave Crusaders: Race, Gender, and Anti-Vice Activism, 1887–1917 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006). As an anti-feminist movement, see Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Bates, Anna Louise, Weeder in the Garden of the Lord: Anthony Comstock's Life and Career (Landham, Md.: University Press of America, 1995). As protofeminists, Parker, Purifying America; Wheeler, Leigh Ann, Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873–1935 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). On the historiography of reform movements, see Hunt, Alan, “Anxiety about Social Explanation: Some Anxieties about Anxiety,” Journal of Social History 32 (1999): 509–28; Dennis, Donna I., “Obscenity Law and the Conditions of Freedom in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” Law and Society 27 (2002): 369–81.

18 Hutchison, William R., Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003), 6, 8, 30–83. On moral reform movements, see Hunt, Alan, Governing Morals: A Social History of Moral Regulation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Fuller, Wayne E., Morality and the Mail in Nineteenth-Century America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003); Foster, Gaines M., Moral Reconstruction: Christian Lobbyists and the Federal Legislation of Morality, 1865–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

19 The term “Protestant establishment” and its synonyms are used in a descriptive, not normative, sense. Hutchison, William R., “Preface: From Protestant to Pluralist America;” “Protestantism as Establishment,” in Between the Times: The Travail of the Protestant Establishment in America, 1900–1960, ed. Hutchison, William R. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), viixi, 3–17.

20 Trumbull, Charles G., Anthony Comstock, Fighter: Some Impressions of a Lifetime of Adventure in Conflict with the Powers of Evil (New York: Fleming, 1913), 51; Comstock, Anthony, “The Suppression of Vice,” North American Review 135 (1882): 484.

21 Comstock, Anthony, Frauds Exposed, or How the People Are Deceived and Robbed, and Youth Corrupted; Being a Full Exposure of Various Schemes Operated Through the Mails, and Unearthed by the Author in a Seven Years' Service as a Special Agent of the Post Office Department and Secretary and Chief Agent of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (1880; repr., Montclair, N.J.: Patterson Smith, 1969), 391.

22 Appendix to the Congressional Globe: Containing Speeches, Reports, and the Laws of the Third Session Forty-Second Congress (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Congressional Globe, 1873): 297. At one level, the Comstock Act built upon previous legislation. The first federal law against obscene literature was the Tariff Act of 1842, which gave authority to customs officials to seize obscene material. During the Civil War, Congress had passed a law in 1865 against mailing obscene literature. In comparison to these two laws, the Comstock Act was more far-reaching in its scope. Moreover, as Hal Sears observes, the law neither defined obscenity nor specified “whether it intended to be solely a criminal statute (that is, concerned with seizing objectionable matter only as a contingency of the arrest of a violator) or whether it aimed to establish a civil post-office censorship separate from any criminal provisions of the law.” Sears, Hal, The Sex Radicals: Free Love in High Victorian America (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977), 71.

23 Comstock, Frauds Exposed, 425.

24 Comstock, “Suppression of Vice,” 484–89. On Comstock's background, the founding of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and the 1873 Comstock Act, see Trumbull, Anthony Comstock, 43–99; Johnson, Richard Christian, “Anthony Comstock: Reform, Vice, and the American Way” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1973), 4572; Bremner, Robert H., “Introduction,” in Traps for the Young, by Comstock, Anthony, ed. Robert H. Bremner (1883; repr., Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1967), viixiv; Bates, Weeder in the Garden of the Lord, 49–97.

25 Woodhull, Victoria Claflin, “And the Truth Shall Make You Free.” A Speech on the Principles of Social Freedom, Delivered in Steinway Hall, Nov. 20, 1871 and Music Hall, Boston, Jan. 3, 1872 (New York: Woodhull, Claflin & Co., 1872), 23.

26 “Arrest of Woodhull and Claflin for Slander of Henry Ward Beecher,” Boston Evening Transcript, November 4, 1872, 4.

27 After the trial, Woodhull went on a lecture tour. A few years later she sailed for England, renounced free love, and married a British aristocrat. For an excellent analysis of the life and thought of Victoria Claflin Woodhull, see Frisken, Amanda, Victoria Woodhull's Sexual Revolution: Political Theater and the Popular Press in Nineteenth-Century America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

28 Woodhull, Victoria Claflin, “Moral Cowardice and Modern Hypocrisy; or, Four Weeks in Ludlow Street Jail, the Suppressed Boston Speech of Victoria Woodhull,” Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, December 8, 1872, 37, quoted in Blatt, Martin Henry, Free Love and Anarchism: The Biography of Ezra Heywood (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 80. On the history of the free love movement and its battles with moral reformers, see Sears, , Sex Radicals, 3149.

29 Ezra Heywood, The Word, January 1876, 2. See also, for example, Heywood, Ezra, “Intelligent Motherhood,” The Word, December 1872, 1; Heywood, Ezra, Editorial, The Word, February 1873, 3; Heywood, Ezra, “Free Love League,” The Word, May 1876, 2; Heywood, Angela T., “Woman's Love: Its Relations to Man and Society,” The Word, June 1876, 1; Heywood, Ezra, “Free Love League,” The Word, July 1877, 3.

30 Blatt, Free Love and Anarchism, 100–41; Sears, Sex Radicals, 153–82.

31 Heywood, Angela T., “Men's Laws and Love's Laws,” The Word, September 1876, 1.

32 Heywood, Ezra, Cupid's Yokes: The Binding Forces of Conjugal Love. An Essay to Consider some Moral and Physiological Phases of Love and Marriage, Wherein is Asserted the Natural Right and Necessity of Sexual Self-Government (Princeton, Mass.: Co-operative Publishing, 1877), 3, 12.

33 Ezra Heywood, letter to the editor, Boston Commonwealth, reprinted in The Word, December 1877, 3.

34 Heywood, Ezra, “Trial and Verdict,” The Word, February 1878, 2. See also “Mr. E. H. Heywood's Case,” Boston Globe, January 25, 1878, 3.

35 “Free Love League,” The Word, July 1878, 2.

36 Editorial Notes, The Word, July 1878, 2; “Society for the Suppression of Vice,” Boston Evening Transcript, May 29, 1878, 2. For at least three years, Allen had been raising funds for the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice from wealthy Bostonians. Frederick B. Allen, 21 January 1875, “The Suppression of Obscene Literature,” [circular], Rutherford B. Hayes Papers, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio.

37 New England Watch and Ward Society, Sixty-Sixth Annual Report of The New England Watch and Ward Society, For the Year 1943–1944 (Boston: Office of the Society, 1944), 6–8 (hereafter cited as Annual Report WWS, [year]).

38 Allen, Frederick Lewis, Frederick Baylies Allen: A Memoir (Cambridge, Mass.: Privately Printed at the Riverside Press, 1929), 7580; New England Society for the Suppression of Vice, Annual Report of the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice (Boston: n.p., [1883]), 3 (hereafter cited as Annual Report NESSV, [year]).

39 Annual Report WWS, 1893–94, 30.

40 Porter, Noah, Books and Reading; or, What Books Shall I read and How Shall I read Them?, 4th ed. (New York: Scribner, Armstrong, and Co., 1870), 62, 72, 59–60, 89, 90; Porter, , “Fiction: Its Capacity to Amuse, Instruct, and Elevate,” Our Continent, February 15, 1882, 9. On Victorian literary culture, see May, Henry F., The End of American Innocence: A Study of the First Years of our Own Time, 1912–1917 (1959; repr., New York: Quadrangle Books, 1964), 3051; Bradbury, Malcolm, The Modern American Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 119.

41 Annual Report WWS, 1908–1909, 2935; Parker, Purifying America, 21–22.

42 Porter, Noah, The Elements of Moral Science, Theoretical and Practical (New York: Scribner, 1887), 22, 325–26, 333. On Porter as well as nineteenth-century moral philosophy, see Kuklick, Bruce, A History of Philosophy in America, 1720–2000 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 5874; Kuklick, Bruce, Churchmen and Philosophers: From Jonathan Edward to John Dewey (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985), 128–45; Meyer, D. H., The Instructed Conscience: The Shaping of the American National Ethic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972).

43 Robinson, Ezekiel G., Principles and Practice of Morality: Ethical Principles Discussed and Applied (Boston: Silver, Rogers, and Co., 1888), 200.

44 Seelye, Julius H., ed., A System of Morals, by Hickok, Laurens P. (Boston: Ginn and Company, [1880], 1896), 51.

45 Robinson, Principles and Practice of Morality, 199, no. 1. According to Seelye, “God, in nature, has surrounded” the sexual passion “by the many checks and safeguards of the native modesty and previous estimate of virtue in the pure, the public disgrace and self-reproach which attaches to the impure, the most inveterate and loathsome diseases which follow in its train, and the debasing of every refined sensibility which follows on the loss of sexual virtue.” Seelye, A System of Morals, 51.

46 Porter, Elements of Moral Science, 470.

47 Porter, Books and Reading, 90; Porter, Elements of Moral Science, 336, 487.

48 Porter, Elements of Moral Science, 437, 438. See also, Robinson, Principles and Practice of Morality, 244, 249–50.

49 Porter, Elements of Moral Science, 493–94.

50 Ibid., 488, 397, 487, 396, 491. On the organic view of society of Porter and other moral philosophers, see Stevenson, Louise L., Scholarly Means to Evangelical Ends: The New Haven Scholars and the Transformation of Higher Learning in America, 1830–1890 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 129–30; Howe, Daniel Walker, The Political Culture of the American Whigs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 126, 128.

51 Robinson, Principles and Practice of Morality, 205.

52 Hart, D. G., “Mainstream Protestantism, ‘Conservative’ Religion, and Civic Society,” in Religion Returns to the Public Square: Faith and Policy in America, ed. Heclo, Hugh and McClay, Wilfred M. (Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center and Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 199203.

53 Ezra Heywood, Social Ethics: An Essay to Show that, Since the Right of Private Judgment Must be Respected in Morals, as well as in Religion, Free Rum, the Conceded Right of Choice in Beverages, and Required Power to Decline Intoxicants Promotes Rational Sobriety and Assures Temperance (Princeton, Mass.: Co-operative Publishing, n.d.), 5. One of the chief reasons that the state “must be made unnecessary,” Benjamin R. Tucker argued in the initial issue of his periodical, Liberty, was that the state “stifles thought.” Tucker, Benjamin R., “Our Purpose,” Liberty, August 6, 1881, 1. On Tucker and individualist anarchy, see McElroy, Wendy, The Debates of Liberty: An Overview of Individual Anarchism, 1881–1908 (Landam, Md.: Lexington Books, 2003); Coughlin, Michael E. and Hamilton, Charles H., eds., Benjamin R. Tucker and The Champions of Liberty: A Centenary Anthology (St. Paul, Minn.: Michael E. Coughlin and Charles H. Hamilton Publishers, 1975). On Heywood's view of society, see also Blatt, Free Love and Anarchism, 56.

54 Heywood, letter to the editor, 3.

55 Porter, Elements of Moral Science, 438.

56 Seelye, A System of Morals, 139, 173–74, 174, emphasis added, 175.

57 For example, William Jewett Tucker, who was president of the New England Society in the early 1890s, was tried for heresy in the 1886 at Andover Seminary. His acquittal signaled the victory of the New Theology over Edwardsean Calvinism in the Congregational Church. Phillips Brooks's 1891 election as Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts likewise marked the triumph of the Broad Church theology in that denomination. Williams, Daniel Day, The Andover Liberals: A Study in American Theology (New York: King's Crown Press, 1941); Harp, Gillis, Brahmin Prophet: Philips Brooks and the Path of Liberal Protestantism (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003).

58 Hutchison, William R., The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (1976; repr., New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 2.

59 Gordon, George A., The New Epoch for Faith (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1902), 17, 361, 36–41.

60 Hutchison, Religious Pluralism in America, 134.

61 Annual Report WWS, 1897–98, 41–42.

62 Annual Report WWS, 1914–15, 5, 21; Annual Report WWS, 1923–24, 6.

63 The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, founded in 1872, is just one example. Gilfoyle, Timothy J., City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790–1920 (New York: Norton, 1992), 185–91.

64 Parker, Purifying America, 5–6, 35–36; Geller, Evelyn, Forbidden Books in American Public Libraries, 1876–1939: A Study in Cultural Change (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984), 28; Crafts, Wilbur F., Patriotic Studies of a Quarter Century of Moral Legislation in Congress for Men's Leagues, Young People's Societies and Civic Clubs including Extracts from Bills, Acts and Documents of United States Congress Relating to Moral and Social Reforms, 1888–1911 (Washington, D.C.: International Reform Bureau, 1911); Foster, Moral Reconstruction.

65 Annual Report WWS, 1897–98, 41.

66 Hutchison, Religious Pluralism in America, 61.

67 Annual Report NESSV, 1879–80, 3; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1880 (Boston: Rand, Avery and Co., 1880), 418; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Journal of the Senate, for the Year 1880 (Boston: Rand, Avery and Co., 1880), 214; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Acts and Resolves Passed by the General Court of Massachusetts, in the Years 1880–81 (Boston: Rand, Avery, and Co., 1881), 64.

68 United States v. Heywood, Circuit Court, Federal Records, vol. 78, 1877–78, 695–96, District Court of the United States of America, for District of Massachusetts, National Archives at Boston, Waltham, Mass.

69 Proceedings of the Indignation Meeting Held in Faneuil Hall, Thursday Evening, August 1, 1878, to Protest Against the Injury Done to the Freedom of the Press by the Conviction and Imprisonment of Ezra H. Heywood (Boston: Benj, R. Tucker, 1878); “Free Speech: Great Meeting in Faneuil Hall,” Boston Globe, August 2, 1878, 1; “The Heywood Indignation Meeting,” Boston Evening Transcript, August 2, 1878, 2.

70 “The Pardon,” The Word, December 1878, 2; “Heywood Pardoned,” Boston Globe, December 20, 1878, 4; “Heywood at Liberty,” Boston Globe, January 4, 1879, 4.

71 Hayes, Rutherford B., Hayes: The Diary of a President 1875–1881: Covering the Disputed Election, the End of Reconstruction, and the Beginning of Civil Service, ed. Harry Williams, T. (New York: David McKay, 1964), 184–85. This victory inspired free lovers to seek a pardon for another convicted free love activist and editor of the The Truth Seeker, D. M. Bennett, who had been arrested by Comstock. A judge had sentenced Bennett to thirteen months in prison and fined him three hundred dollars in June 1879. This time the anti-pardon campaign, which gathered the signatures of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Talbot, Unitarian theologian James Freeman Clarke, and a number of leaders in the New England Society, won. “The Opposition,” The Word, September 1879, 2; “Free Speech, Free Mails,” The Word, October 1879, 2; Robert G. Ingersoll to Rutherford B. Hayes, 2 July 1879, Rutherford B. Hayes Papers, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio; Anthony Comstock to Rutherford B. Hayes, 7 July 1879, Rutherford B. Hayes Papers, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio. On Hayes and the controversy over Heywood and Bennett, see Hoogenboom, Ari, Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior & President (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995), 383–86; Blatt, Free Love and Anarchism, 118–19; Sears, Sex Radicals, 166–68, 171–72.

72 “Mrs. Hayes' Censorship of the Press,” The Word, March 1880, 2.

73 Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 1:150–51. Despite his objections to expurgation, Whitman had a hand in, or at least approved, four different expurgated editions of Leaves of Grass. Falsom, Ed, “Leaves of Grass, Junior: Whitman's Compromise with Discriminating Tastes,” American Literature 63 (1991): 641–63.

74 William D. O'Conner to Richard M. Bucke, 29 April 1882, Container 53, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress.

75 William D. O'Conner to Walt Whitman, 17 April 1883, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 4:193.

76 Bucke, R. M., letter to the editor, Springfield Republican, May 23, 1882, 1.

77 O'Connor, William D., letter to the editor, New York Tribune, May 25, 1882, 3; Chadwick, John W.. letter to the editor, New York Tribune, May 25, 1882, 7; O'Connor, William D., letter to the editor, New York Tribune, June 18, 1882; O'Connor, William D., “Mr. Comstock as Cato the Censor,” New York Tribune, August 27, 1882, 5. O'Connor's most notable contribution to American literature was his 1866 apologia of Whitman in the wake of his dismissal from the Department of the Interior in 1865, The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication (New York: Bunce and Huntington, 1866). On O'Connor's role in defending Whitman's Leaves of Grass in 1882, see Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion, 123–38.

78 Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion, 132.

79 Griswold, New York Criterion, November 10, 1855, in Walt Whitman, ed. Hindus, 31.

80 Whitman, Walt, Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, ed. Grier, Edward F., 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 2:798, quoted in Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 456.

81 Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 207–210, 222, 225, 461; Schurr, William H., “Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: The Making of a Sexual Revolution,” Soundings 74 (1991): 126; Kuebrich, David, Minor Prophecy: Walt Whitman's New American Religion (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2001), 139; Graham, Rosemary, “The Prostitute in the Garden: Walt Whitman, Fanny Hill, and the Fantasy of Female Pleasure,” ELH: English Literary History 64 (1997): 484–85.

82 Whitman, Walt, “A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads,” November Boughs (1888), reprinted in Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, ed. David McKay (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1900), 556–57.

83 Sprague, Homer B., “Societies for the Suppression of Vice,” Education 3 (1882): 74. At the height of the Leaves of Grass controversy, one moral reformer wrote: “The passions are normally and gradually developed in man as in the lower animals; but the brutes are under no restraint. Instinct, impulse, and opportunity determine their actions. Yet, as passion strengthens, it stimulates the imagination. Marriage, only, affords legitimate gratification. Lust, indulged in thought or deep apart from love, is moral impurity; sexual love with lust, apart from wedlock, is the spirit of adultery. This is the strain placed by God, human nature, and law, upon man.” Buckley, J. M., “The Suppression of Vice,” North American Review 134 (1882): 495–96.

84 Porter, Elements of Moral Science, 478.

85 James E. Miller, Jr. “Children of Adam (1860),” Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, 115.

86 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 387.

87 Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 230.

88 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 101–03; Maire Mullins, “A Woman Waits for Me (1856),” Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, 794–95.

89 O'Connor, The Good Gray Poet, reprinted in Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion, 202.

90 Heywood, Ezra H., “The Outlook,” The Word, August 1878, 3.

91 Tucker, “Our Purpose,” 1.

92 Tucker, Benjamin R., “Mr. Chainey's Gospel,” Liberty, November 12, 1881, 2.

93 Kuebrich, Minor Prophecy, 21. Whitman once described Leaves of Grass to Traubel as a “New Bible.” Complete Writings, 9:6. According to Kuebrich, the role of religion in Leaves of Grass is best understood not as one theme among others but constituting “a coherent world view that informs the other themes and integrates them with one another.” As such, he notes, Leaves of Grass is designed “to emancipate the human subject and promote his or her development. After announcing himself as a saving prophet in ‘Song of Myself,’ Whitman immediately leads the reader through two sequences: ‘Children of Adam,’ designed to sanctify the body and liberate heterosexual passion; and ‘Calamus,’ designed to liberate men from emotional repression, call for new levels of male intimacy, and united the soul with God… . he presents a vision of a loving God who not only provides for evolutionary and historical progress but also personal immortality and the soul's ongoing development in the afterlife.” Kuebrich, Minor Prophecy, 10; Kuebrich, “Religion,” Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, 583.

94 Whitman, , Complete Poetry and Collected Prose (New York: Library of America, 1982), 1332, quoted in Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 238. Whitman once told Traubel that “the negative virtues of the churches are the most menacing, to me the most abhorrent, of all professed virtues… . The morals of the churches: they might be morals if they were not something else: I have always looked about to discover a word to describe the situation: how Jesus and the churches have got divorced: how the institution has destroyed the spirit.” Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 1:97–98.

95 Heywood, letter to the editor, 3.

96 “Morality and Purity Cranks,” Liberty, August 9, 1883, 5.

97 Tucker, Benjamin R., “Leaves of Grass,” Liberty, November 26, 1881, 3.

98 Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 28 April 1882, Correspondence, 3:274.

99 Whitman, Walt, “A Memorandum at a Venture,” North American Review 134 (1882): 546–48. To Whitman's dismay he could not shake the association with erotic literature. Apparently people wrote Whitman letters or sent him writings that were obscene. He got one such letter and showed it to Traubel and said: “It has always been a puzzle to me why people think that because I wrote Children of Adam, Leaves of Grass, I must perforce be interested in all the literature of rape, all the pornograph [sic] of vile minds. I have not only been made a target by those who disposed me but a victim of violent interpretation by those who condoned me. You know the sort of stuff that's sent to me here.” Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 4:119.

100 “New Publications,” New York Tribune, November 19, 1881, 6. Like Whitman's contemporaries, Whitman scholars today continue to disagree over whether Whitman offered a true alternative to both erotic and Victorian literature. David Reynolds, for instance, argues that Whitman offered a “chaste alternative” and “a new objectivity to the exploration of human sexuality” when compared to the erotic writing of his day. Beneath the American Renaissance (New York: Knopf, 1988), 223; Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 298. Rosemary Graham, by contrast, argues that “Whitman's best erotic writing owes a substantial debt to pornography,” especially the eighteenth-century British erotic classic, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, or as it is better known, Fanny Hill. “The Prostitute in the Garden,” 569–97. On the sexuality of Whitman's poetry, see also Kaplan, Justin, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), 4447, 327–28, 330; Erkkila, Betsy, Whitman: The Political Poet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 308–23; Allen, Solitary Singer, 64; Zweig, Paul, Whitman: The Making of a Poet (New York: Basic Books, 1984), 12; Schurr, “Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass,” 101–28.

101 “The Suppression of Walt Whitman,” Literary World, June 3, 1882, 180; “Leaves of Grass,” Editorial, Boston Globe, May 28, 1882, 6.

102 Chainey, “Keep Off the Grass,” 3, 4, 6–7, 8. Blatt, Free Love and Anarchism, 142–60.

103 George Chainey to William D. O'Connor, 27 June 1882, Container 22, reel 13, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress; George Chainey to Walt Whitman, 27 July 1882, Container 194, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress; Boston Daily Advertiser, June 20, 1882; and “‘The Late Attack on Walt Whitman's Book.’ From the Philadelphia Press,” n.p., two newspaper clippings included in George Chainey to William D. O'Connor, 11 July 1882. Excerpts from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana located in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library Duke University.

104 Benjamin R. Tucker to William D. O'Conner, 9 July 1882, Container 63, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress.

105 Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 9 July 1882, Correspondence, 3:296.

106 William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 20 July 1882, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 2:60.

107 William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 29 June 1882, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 3:50.

108 James M. Marr to Postmaster, Boston, 1 July 1882, Container 22, reel 13, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress.

109 George Chainey to William D. O'Connor, 11 July 1882. Excerpts from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana located in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library Duke University.

110 Tucker, Benjamin R., “Obscenity and the State,” Liberty, May 27, 1882, 2.

111 Tucker, Benjamin R., “On Picket Duty,” Liberty, July 22, 1882, 1.

112 Benjamin R. Tucker to William D. O'Conner, 4 July 1882, Container 63, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress; William D. O'Connor to Benjamin R. Tucker 6 July 1882, Container 22, reel 13, Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress; Tucker to O'Conner, 9 July 1882.

113 Tucker, Benjamin R. to Walt Whitman, 25 May 1882, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 2:253–54.

114 Tucker, Benjamin R., “On Picket Duty,” Liberty, August 19, 1882, 1.

115 “The Sovereignty of Liberty,” The Word, August 1882, 2. See also, “Inspiration Versus Censorship,” The Word, July 1882, 2.

116 Walt Whitman, “To A Common Prostitute,” The Word—Extra (1882), Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; Heywood, “An Open Letter to Walt Whitman.”

117 “The Latest United States Assault,” The Word, December 1882, 2.

118 Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 12 November 1882, Correspondence, 3:314.

119 Heywood, Ezra, “Trial of the Case, UY.S.G. v. E.H.H,” The Word, January 1883, 2; Heywood, Angela T., “The Woman's View of It—No. 2,” The Word, February 1883, 23; Heywood, Ezra, “Citizen Right vs. Class-Rule Assault,” The Word, March 1883, 2.

120 Heywood, Ezra, “Citizen Right Vindicated,” The Word, May 1883, 2; Tucker, Benjamin R., “On Picket Duty,” Liberty, June 9, 1883, 1; Tucker, Benjamin R., “The Value of the Heywood Victory,” Liberty, June 9, 1883, 3; Blatt, Free Love and Anarchism, 144–46.

121 O'Connor, William D. to Walt Whitman, 17 April 1883, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 4:9091; Whitman, Walt to William D. O'Connor, 14 April 1883, Correspondence, 3:338–39.

122 Whitman, to O'Connor, 12 November 1882, Correspondence, 3: 314.

123 Whitman, “A Memorandum at a Venture,” 548. For other evidence of Whitman's critic of free love views of marriage, see Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 223–24.

124 Whitman, Walt to William D. O'Connor, 29 March 1883, Correspondence, 3:335.

125 O'Connor, William D. to Walt Whitman, 27 October 1882, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 4:323. On the day of Heywood's trial, O'Connor wrote Whitman, “To-day is the day set for Heywood's trial, and cold shivers run over me as I think of it. I can't help some sympathy for the devilish fool, despite the mischief he is likely to do to us.” O'Connor, William D. to Walt Whitman, 27 March 1883, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 3:566.

126 Goodheart, Lawrence B., “The Ambiguity of Individualism: the National Liberal League's Challenge to the Comstock Law,” in American Chameleon: Individualism in Trans-National Context, ed. Curry, Richard O. and Goodheart, Lawrence B. (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1991), 133–50, quotations are on 145. At the National Liberal League meeting in 1878 just before he resigned, Ingersoll said: “I believe that the family is the unit of good government, and that every good government is simply an aggregation of good families. I therefore not only believe in perfect civil and religious liberty, but I believe in the one man loving the one woman.” Ingersoll, Robert, “Convention of the National Liberal League,” The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, 12 vols. (New York: Dresden, 1909), 12:233–35. On Abbot and the controversy within National Liberal League over free love, see Ahlstrom, Sydney and Mullin, Robert Bruce, The Scientific Theist: A Life of Francis Ellingwood Abbot (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1987), 1127.

127 Whitman, to O'Connor, 12 November 1882, Correspondence, 3:315.

128 O'Connor, William D. to Walt Whitman, 1 April 1883, Traubel, With Walt Whitman, 2:260.

129 According to Reynolds, the Leaves of Grass edition produced by the Philadelphia publisher Rees, Welsh and Company quickly went through five printings by the end of 1883. In December of that year, Whitman received a royalty check for more than $1,200. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America, 543–44.

130 Kennedy, William S., The Fight of a Book for the World (West Yarmouth, Mass.: Stonecraft Press, 1926), 115.

131 Willard, Charles B., Whitman's American Fame: The Growth of His Reputation in America After 1892 (Providence, R.I.: Brown University, 1950), 26.

132 Bloom, Harold, “Bloom on Walt Whitman,” in Walt Whitman, Classic Critical Views, ed. Bloom, Harold (New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2007). Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin=CCVWW001&SingleRecord=True (accessed March 22, 2009).

133 Blatt, Free Love and Anarchism, 147–81.

134 Annual Report WWS, 1896–97, 20; Annual Report WWS, 1917–18, 22.

135 A. E. G. “Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass,” The Word, January 1889, 2.

136 “Boston Discusses Its Censorship Problem,” Publishers' Weekly, May 28, 1927, 2118–20; Annual Report WWS, 1915–16, 32.

137 Ballou, Ellen B., The Building of the House: Houghton Mifflin's Formative Years (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), 548–59.

138 Letter from Theron C. Leland, 29 July 1878, Proceedings of the Indignation Meeting Held in Faneuil Hall, 62.

1 I would like to thank my student assistants, Katherine Conley, Joel Musser, and Ben Wetzel, for their assistance and to express my gratitude to Gillis J. Harp, Jeanne H. Kilde, Bruce Kuklick, H. Collin Messer, Eric Potter, Gary Scott Smith, and the two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful criticisms of earlier drafts of this work.

P. C. Kemeny is Professor of Religion and Humanities at Grove City College.

“Banned in Boston”: Moral Reform Politics and the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice1

  • P. C. Kemeny

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