Monday, 24 January 2011


ISBN-10: N/A
Writer: Noel Perrin
Title: Dr Bowdler’s Legacy
Subtitle: A History of Expurgated Books in England and America
Introduction: Noel Perrin
Language: English
Place of Publication: London
Publisher: Macmillan and Co Ltd
Year of Publication: 1970
Format: 135x222mm
Pages: xvi+296; appendix, 264; reference notes, 271; index, 288
Illustrations: 1 single colour on back cover
Jacket Design: Holmes/Kitley Associates
Binding: Boards in colour dust jacket
Weight: 571gr.
Entry No.: 2010037
Entry Date: 24th January 2011


A delightful book for anyone who loves literature, likes the English language, hates to see them maltreated, and yet can be amused by man’s absurdities. With tongue in cheek, Noel Perrin here examines the foibles of those who through the centuries have attempted to purify the Bible and other great books. The objective: that these works can be read safely by those whose sensibilities must be protected.

Although Dr Thomas Bowdler’s activities in this area gave rise to the familiar verb “to bowdlerize”. The science of castration of literature and language antedates the late Georgian and early Victorians days of the good doctor and has lived from his time until now. The somewhat amateurish efforts of his sister to make Shakespeare readable inspired Thomas Bowdler; but Miss Harriet Bowdler was not the first to mutilate him, nor was Thomas the last. From the days of Cromwell on, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Swift, Defoe, Dryden and Robert Burns –among others –were maimed by those who thought to purify. And the death of Queen Victoria did not mark the end: some of ur distinguished 20th-century scholars  have produced bowdlerized editions of works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, which their authors (except for Mark Twain) would scarcely have recognized.

Mr Perrin has written a partial history of bowdlerism’ the complete story would take up many volumes. But what he writes here of the fate of the Bible, the classics, the Victorian poets, is both fascinating and horrible. The increasing severity of the bowdlerist at work tells us much about the mind of the Victorian and what he thought pure, what he was sure was obscene.

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