Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Banned Books Week: The Well of Loneliness

September 28th, 2018

It’s the end of September, which means that it’s Banned Books Week (this year, September 23-29th), an annual celebration of the freedom to read.  Among the most frequently challenged books in recent years have been ones that include LGBTQ content or themes, such as same-sex relationships or issues surrounding gender identity. (Four of the 2017 and five of the 2016 top ten most challenged books, as compiled by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, were challenged in part for LGBTQ subject matter.)  With this in mind, today we feature a typescript from Spencer’s collections for a novel that stands as a landmark in the history of lesbian literature and the history of censorship, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928).

The Well of Loneliness tells the story of Stephen Gordon as she struggles to find love and acceptance in a society that rejects same-sex desire. Often discussed as the first openly lesbian novel in English, The Well of Loneliness favors the term “invert” over lesbian.  The novel’s author, the British writer Radclyffe Hall, imported this word from late nineteenth and early twentieth century writings of sexologists such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis.  Indeed, Havelock Ellis wrote a prefatory comment for Radclyffe Hall’s novel, and Spencer Research Library’s typescript copy appears to have been given by Hall to Ellis.  It includes a manuscript copy of Ellis’s introductory “comment,” and is marked “Special Copy I” in Radclyffe Hall’s hand on the title page.  Photographic portraits of both Hall and Ellis have been added to the typescript, perhaps by some later owner.

Well of Loneliness typescript title page marked "Special Copy I", with tipped in photographic portrait of Radclyffe Hall

Photograph of Radclyffe Hall pasted next to the title page of a typescript of her novel The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

Hall intended her novel as both a work of art and a means of gaining sympathy and recognition for same-sex love.  In his introductory comment, Havelock Ellis writes,

So far as I know, it is the first English novel which presents, in a completely faithful and uncompromising form, one particular aspect of sexual life as it exists among us to-day. The relation of certain people—who, while different from their fellow human beings, are sometimes of the highest character and finest aptitudes—to the often hostile society in which they move presents difficult and still unsolved problems.  The poignant situations which thus arise here are set forth so vividly, and yet with such complete absence of offence, that we must place Radclyffe Hall’s book on a high level of distinction.

 

Manuscript of Havelock Ellis's prefatory "commentary" with pasted facing page gelatin print of Havelock Ellis

Havelock Ellis’s prefatory “commentary,” with photograph of Ellis in the first volume of a typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

Ellis’s careful allusion to the “complete absence of offense,” however, did not convince all readers. Though The Well of Loneliness contains no sexually explicit scenes, its subject matter and its insistence on the humanity of its queer characters inspired controversy upon its release in 1928.  James Douglas, the editor of the tabloid newspaper the Sunday Express, published an article in which he famously and bombastically asserted that he “would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid” than Radclyffe Hall’s novel. “Poison kills the body but moral poison kills the soul, Douglas wrote as he called upon the government to take action to suppress the book.  At the urging of England’s Home Secretary, the novel’s publisher, Jonathan Cape, withdrew it from sale.  However, Cape also arranged to have the printing molds sent to the Pegasus Press in Paris, with the plan of importing copies.  When those copies of the novel were brought back into the UK from France, both Cape and the London bookseller involved, Leonard Hill, were charged under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857.  Following a trial, Chief Magistrate Chartres Biron ordered copies of the novel be destroyed, and The Well of Loneliness was not republished in the United Kingdom until 1949.

Across the ocean, the novel fared better. John Sumner of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice lodged a complaint against the American publisher of The Well of Loneliness, Covici-Friede.  But ultimately, attorney Morris L. Ernst succeeded in defending Friede against the charge of possessing and selling an obscene book.  A victory edition of the novel was released in the U. S., and the controversy that had surrounded it fueled its sales.

The corrected typescript at Spencer Research Library gives insight into Radclyffe Hall’s process in writing and revising the novel, and it includes emendations in at least two hands. Though some of the deletions remain difficult to read, others can be seen through the black ink and blue crayon used in the editing process (click on the images below to enlarge them).  For example, in a scene in which Stephen and her mother argue over the disclosure of young Stephen’s love for the married Angela Crossby, we see that Hall has edited down some of Stephen’s more vocal justifications of her love.

The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 348 with deleted passages and manuscript emendations

Deletions on p. 348 of a typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

The blacked out lines in the passage above read “I loved with my body and mind and spirit” and “My love was not vile, it was the finest thing in me.”   The succeeding lines, which Hall leaves untouched, suggest how the author’s depiction of Stephen’s “inversion” is inflected with elements of what we now call transgender identity.  Stephen explains to her mother, “If I loved her the way a man loves a woman, it’s because I can’t feel that I am a woman. All my life I’ve never felt a woman and you know it —.“

On the following page, Hall also deletes a line in which Stephen invokes God in explaining her love.  “I’m not ashamed of it, there’s no shame in me,” Stephen declares, and then the deleted text continues, “I glory in my love for Angela Crossby.  It was good, it is good, for all true loving must be good if you believe in God’s existence —.“

The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 349 with deleted passage.

Additional deletions on p. 349 of the typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

The idea that same-sex love is a part of God’s creation recurs throughout the novel, as does Stephen’s anguish at being persecuted by society for it nevertheless.  Following the tragic deaths of Stephen’s two friends, Barbara and Jamie, Hall writes of Stephen, “She would clench her hands in a kind of fury. How long was this persecution to last? How long would God sit still and endure this insult offered to His creation? How long tolerate the preposterous statement that inversion was not a part of nature? For since it existed what else could it be?  All things that existed were a part of nature!”

 

Detail from The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 704.

Detail from The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 705.

How long was this persecution to last? Details from p. 704-705 of a typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click images to enlarge.

2018 marks ninety years since The Well of Loneliness was first published.  In spite of its suppression for two decades in the UK and the attempt to suppress it in the US, readers and scholars continue to analyze and respond to Radclyffe Hall’s novel. We invite you to delve further into its history by exploring the “special” typescript copy, with emendations, held at the Spencer Research Library. Researchers can then compare this copy to other drafts available in the collection of papers for Hall and her partner Una Troubridge at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.

Interested in more material related to banned books?  Take a peek at last year’s banned books week post on Spencer Library’s copy of a 1512 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy that was expurgated at the behest of the Inquisition in Spain.  Curious about more contemporary instances of censorship and challenges to books? Read through the lists of the top 10 most frequently challenged books for each year since 2001.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

 

 

Brian Aldiss, 1925-2017

August 31st, 2017

On August 19th, science fiction writer and critic Brian Aldiss died, a day after turning 92. In an obituary for The Guardian, fellow writer Christopher Priest characterized Aldiss as “by a long chalk the premier British science fiction writer.” As fans and scholars of speculative fiction around the world mourn this loss, some will be surprised to discover that part of the British writer’s literary legacy resides in Kansas: the Spencer Research Library a holds significant collection of papers for Aldiss, including materials for his Billion Year Spree and his Helliconia Trilogy. The trilogy, which consists of the novels Helliconia Spring (1982), Helliconia Summer (1983), and Helliconia Winter (1985), is among Aldiss’s most admired works. “This depiction of a world that circles a double star, where an orbital Great Year lasts long enough for cultures to emerge, prosper and fail,” Priest writes in his remembrance of Aldiss, “is a subtle, deeply researched and intellectually rigorous work.”

Brian Aldiss accepting the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Helliconia Spring, Lawrence, KS, 1983.

Brian Aldiss accepting the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel for Helliconia Spring (1982) in Lawrence, KS in 1983.  Call number: RG 0/19: Aldiss, Brian

The collection of Aldiss’s papers at KU provides a wealth of evidence for the research and rigor that went into his writings. The 25 boxes of materials for the Helliconia Trilogy include, for example, Aldiss’s extensive correspondence with scientists and scholars to determine the scientific basis for the world he was creating. Those consulted include Iain Nicholson of Hatfield Polytechnic Observatory on the subject of astronomy, Peter Cattermole of the University of Sheffield on geology and climate, and Tom Shippey, then at the University of Leeds, on the languages of the novel. The result is a world  striking in its attention to detail.

A selection of research Correspondence for the Helliconia Trilogy.

A selection of research correspondence with Iain Nicholson, Peter Cattermole, and Tom Shippey concerning the creation of Helliconia. Brian Wilson Aldiss Papers. Call #: MS 214: A.

Not only do these letters reveal the extent to which technical and scientific matters underpin the trilogy’s concept, plot, and themes, but they also offer lighter moments of humor between on-going collaborators. Aldiss, for example, begins a June 1981 letter to Cattermole by quipping, “Helliconian scholars have failed to study Helliconia’s sister planets in any depth; they have been too busy drinking the whisky out of their orrerys.” (MS 214:Aa:2:14a).  Writing again to Cattermole in September of 1982, following the publication of Helliconia Spring earlier that February, Aldiss reports,

Vol. 1 has been very well received, especially in the States; over here there were complaints, as you say, about names. Well, it’s no good building up an intense winter atmosphere in Embruddock and then call[ing] the sods Joe and Charlie. There will be more complaints of that nature with Vol II, where I have a vast character list, with over fifty speaking parts, but I see no way of evading the problem and so forge on hopefully.  Wait till you meet Queen MyrdalemInggala….. (MS 214Aa:2:16b)

Spencer Research Library’s collections also include manuscript materials for Aldiss’s groundbreaking Billion Year Spree (1973)subtitled “The True History of Science Fiction,” which he later expanded with David Wingrove into Trillion Year Spree (1986). The volume argues for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) as the birth of science fiction.

Aldiss’s ties to the University of Kansas grew out of his relationship with fellow science fiction writer and critic, James Gunn, Professor Emeritus of English and the founder of KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. “We were long-time friends, although an ocean between us limited our encounters,” Gunn explains.

I was a guest in his Oxford home for a couple of days after the founding of World SF in Ireland [in 1976], and he was a guest in my home during his author’s visit here.  We were competitors only in the writing of science-fiction histories.  We both started in 1971, but circumstances (and maybe the complexities of illustrations) held up Alternate Worlds (1975) [Gunn’s illustrated history of SF] for a couple of years.  When I wrote him for a photograph, he suggested that we exchange blurbs–that I would say his history was the best and he would do the same for mine.

Though the delay in the publication of Gunn’s Alternate Worlds meant that the exchange of blurbs never came to pass, researchers can explore both Aldiss’s and Gunn’s processes in writing their respective histories of science fiction by examining the collections of their papers at Spencer Research Library.

Cover of Brian Aldiss's Billion Year Spree (1974 paperback edition)  Cover of James Gunn's Alternate Worlds (1975)

Left: Brian Aldiss’s Billion Year Spree (1973). Schocken paperback edition, second printing. New York: Schocken Books, 1975. Call #: ASF B1245. Right: James Gunn’s Alternate Worlds. First edition. Englewood Cliffs, N.J : Prentice-Hall, 1975. Call #: E2598.

In his introduction to Billion Year Spree, Aldiss mused, “Possibly this book will help further the day when writers who invent whole worlds are as highly valued as those who re-create the rise and fall of a movie magnate or the breaking of two hearts in a bedsitter. The invented universe, the invented time, are often so much closer to us than Hollywood or Kensington.” Thank you for those invented universes, Brian Aldiss.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Tramping on Mount Oread: Poet Harry Kemp

April 21st, 2015

How many freshmen can boast that their arrival on campus was covered by the national press? Though neither a star athlete nor the child of a public figure, poet Harry Kemp (1883-1960) won this distinction through his knack for self-promotion. Kemp’s unconventional arrival at KU by boxcar in January of 1906 launched him from anonymity to the front page of the New York Tribune —  “TO COLLEGE UNDER FREIGHT CAR / Student Leaves New-York with 3 cents–Working Way at University of Kansas. Another headline in the Kansas City Star proclaimed Kemp a “Tramp Poet,” and the moniker stuck (though he was known as the vagabond poet and hobo poet as well). During his six years of studies at KU, Kemp immersed himself in books, built a reputation as a poet and writer, and befriended nearby William Allen White, the newsman and “Sage of Emporia.”

And as the years passed, Kemp continued to make headlines, including as the “other man” in Upton Sinclair’s divorce and for attempting  in 1913 to “tramp” to England as a stowaway aboard a steamer, something that earned him a brief stay in a British jail and further celebrity on both sides of the pond. Of course, Kemp garnered attention for his literary output as well. He published books of verse–including The Cry of Youth (1914), Chanteys and Ballads (1920), and Don Juan’s Note-book (1929)–and a bestselling semi-fictionalized memoir, Tramping on Life: An Autobiographical Narrative (1922), in which KU appears as “Laurel University” in “Laurel, Kansas.” Kemp livened up already the already lively literary circles of Greenwich Village and was associated with the Provincetown Players, electing ultimately to settle in Cape Cod.

Potrait of the KU Scoop Club, 1909, featuring Harry Kemp. Photograph of Harry Kemp circa the 1950s

Youth and Old Age: Harry Kemp (middle row, second from left) with fellow members of the Scoop Club
(for news reporters) in the 1909 Jayhawker yearbook, Call #: LD 2697.J3 1909,
and in a photograph from the the 1950s, Personal Papers of Harry Kemp. Call #: PP 75, Box 3.
Click images to enlarge.

Though Louis Untermeyer had once spoken of Kemp alongside Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters, by the end of his life, the Tramp Poet’s reputation had already begun to fade. Nevertheless, Kemp continued to write and elevate his eccentricities to an art.  From his shack in Provincetown, Massachusetts, he would sign his poems (and sometimes even compose them) with a seagull feather.  In honor National Poetry Month, we remember today one of the most eccentric and free-spirited poets to emerge from KU, Harry Kemp, and share three of his poems below.

Harry Kemp's "Kansas" from Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems (1914)

Kemp, Harry. “Kansas” in Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems. Willard Wattles, Editor.
Lawrence, KS:  World Company, 1914. Call #: KAC C71. Click image to enlarge.

Cover of Kemp's Chantey's and Ballads (1920) "The Humming Bird" by Harry Kemp from Chanteys and Ballads (1920)

Kemp, Harry. “The Humming Bird,” from Chanteys and Ballads, Sea-chanteys, Tramp-ballads and Other
Ballads and Poems
. New York, Brentano’s [c1920]. Call #: PP 75, Box 1. Click images to enlarge.

Typescript poem ("Eight Lines, for the New Year") by Harry Kemp, with manuscript inscription.

Kemp, Harry.  “Eight Lines, For the New Year (Human Trust),” undated.
Personal Papers of Harry Kemp. Call # PP 75, Box 3. Click Image to enlarge.

For more on Harry Kemp, his poetry, and his wild life, see William Brevda’s Harry Kemp, the Last Bohemian or drop by Spencer and begin exploring his personal papers.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

 

William S. Burroughs’ Last Journals Come to KU Libraries

February 7th, 2014

It’s been an exciting week or two in Lawrence for scholars and fans of William S. Burroughs.  Wednesday, February 5 was the centenary of the writer’s birth, and around town events and exhibitions have been exploring his writing, art, and deep ties to Lawrence.  Burroughs made Lawrence his home during the last fifteen years of his life, and now, thanks to a gift from James Grauerholz, executor of the Burroughs estate and a KU alumnus, the influential author’s last journals will join the collections of KU Libraries.

Burroughs helped revolutionize the post-WWII literary landscape with novels like Naked Lunch and Nova Express, the latter a part of his cut-up trilogy.  To celebrate the gift, five of the ten journals will be on display in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s lobby through February.  These notebooks, which span from November 1996 to Burroughs’ death in August of 1997, were the basis for Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, a volume edited by Grauerholz and published in 2000.  In their pages we see literature, politics, art, and philosophy collide with everyday life.  A reference to speaking with an ailing friend, poet Allen Ginsberg  (“His voice over the phone from Beth Israel Hospital in NYC sounded very weak”), appears alongside a reminder to buy disposable razors.  The final entry (see below) offers a meditation on conflict and love.  To the left Burroughs has written:  “Love? What is it? / Most natural pain / killer what there is. / L O V E.”

Image of William Burroughs' last entry in one of his final journals.

William S. Burroughs’ final journal. Image courtesy of Chuck France / KU Office of Public Affairs.  Click here for a larger version.

 

Image of display case containing five of Burroughs' last journals  Image of display case containing five of William S. Burroughs' last journals, as seen from above.

On display through February in Spencer Research Library’s lobby: five of the ten journals donated by the Burroughs estate.

 

In addition to the journals, the gift also includes typescripts and draft materials for the edition Grauerholz produced. Once cataloged, these “last words” of William S. Burroughs will be available for researchers and the public to consult at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Elspeth Healey,
Special Collections Librarian

Collection Snapshot: Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)

January 18th, 2014

Last week, the poet, playwright, and critic Amiri Baraka died at the age of 79. Baraka (who was born Everett Leroy Jones and published as LeRoi Jones until the late sixties) was a founder of the Black Arts Movement.  As his New York Times obituary suggests, his career took many turns and was punctuated by both accolades and controversy, but there can be little doubt that he was a significant figure for post-WWII American literary culture.  The Kenneth Spencer Research Library houses over 45 items by or containing contributions from Amiri Baraka, with more than double that amount in the KU Libraries circulating collections. Spencer’s holdings include several scarce or ephemeral items, such as an advance proof of his important study Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963),  a 1965 fundraising letter for the Black Arts Repertory Theater/school of Harlem, the illustrated broadside A Traffic of Love (1967), and the 13-page mimeograph edition of his play Slave Ship, An Historical Pageant (ca. 1967).

 

Photograph of the covers of all eight issues of Yugen (1958-1962)

Yugen, edited by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Hettie Cohen. Nos. 1-8 (1958-1962). Call Number: Ser C170. Click image to enlarge.

 Among our earliest holdings for Baraka is a complete run of the journal Yugen (1958-1962), which he edited with his first wife, Hettie Cohen.  Only eight issues of the magazine were published, and it included contributions from writers such as William Burroughs, Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder. Spencer’s holdings are strongest for the first decade and a half of Baraka’s career, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, during which time he was associated first with the Beats and then the Black Arts Movement.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian