Bullitt to Aid in 'Fanny Hill' Defense
At least one member of Harvard's English Department will testify on behalf of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill) when the book meets its Massachusetts court test.
John M. Bullitt '43, professor of English, said yesterday that he has agreed to defend John Cleland's eighteenth-century novel on the basis of its "historical interest."
Another member of the English Department, who refused to testify for Fanny Hill when he was asked, said yesterday that he and other professors, including Bullitt, had received letters from G.P. Putnam's Sons, publisher of the book, requesting their assistance. The mimeographed letter suggested that the book would be defended as being inferior to Henry Fielding's works, but better than those of Samuel Richardson.
The next stage in the Massachusetts battle against Fanny Hill comes Thursday in Suffolk County Superior Court, when Judge Eugene A. Hudson's older of notice, which says he considers the book "obscene, impure, and indecent," is returnable. At Thursday's hearing Putnam's will file a formal petition stating its objection to a permanent ban on the book in the Commonweath.
Many May Testify
Walter J. Minton '45, president of Putnam's, said this week that "a number of people have expressed a willingness to testify. This includes faculty members at M.I.T., Boston University, Wellesley, and Tufts, as well as at Harvard."
A date for the formal trial will be set after Thursday's bearing, and it will probably be in late April or during reading period. Putnam's attorneys successfully defended Tropic of Cancer for Grove Press three years age. They will probably assert that Fanny Hill ought not to be judged by twentieth-century standards.
Michael Shinagel, teaching fellow in English, who will teach a course on eighteenth-century literature at Cornell next year, said that Putnam's has contacted him, and that he will defend Fanny Hill as "a historical curiosity" if he is asked.
In the meantime, Fanny Hill has not fared well in New York. A long court case there has ended in an order banning the book. Enforcement of the order has been stayed temporarily, however, and Putnam's will appeal.
As Harvard Square bookstores run out of the 95-cent edition of Fanny Hill, they are replacing it with a new two-dollar paperback edition, printed in Paris and embellished with spicy quotations from the New York decision.