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At last all dirty smudges are to be erased from the virgin whiteness of the printed page. The founder of the Clean Books League has thus described its purpose: "To form a coterie of men who are well known and whose opinions will have weight, not churchmen and not goody-goody men, but hardened sinners like myself, representative fathers of families. They will read the books and pass judgement on them and vouch it to the world if they are objectionable or shocking."
Although the scheme brings joy to the Puritans, it has in it some note of gladness for the Cavaliers. The smut-hound may well lick his lips in anticipation; at last his labors of search are ended. With the new committee to help him he no longer has to read one hundred pages of "nice" literature to find one that is "not so nice." Possessed of one of the Committee's reports, he has his filth carefully listed with a specific statement as to why each book should not lie on the parlor table; he has but to select the book at which the Committee hurled the most anathemas and settle himself for a version of "snappy" reading.
The Committee's naive optimism is remarkable. It forgets that the ban placed on Rabelais has probably doubled the readers of "Gargantua," while "Jurgen," since the allurement of censorship was removed, has fallen in value from twenty-five dollars to a mere two-fifty. A half-page ad like this will be commonplace: "Read 'Love and Law." The Clean Books League calls it 'the greatest outrage against decency and morality in the last decade.'"
The Committee, with its eyes open for evil has overlooked a means to its end which would surely be twice as effective. The Fascisti, having doctored Italy's physical ills, have turned their attentions to its morals, and have formed an organization to attack indecent literature by the same forceful methods used in governmental matters. With ecclesiastical enthusiasm--for Mussolini was a monk--they are going straight to the root of the evil, the authors. What is more, by intimidating also the critics who encourage those writers, the organization is destroying creator and sponsor as well.
Justice Ford and his followers have their weapon at hand. The Ku Klux Klan will prove a stout ally. Cabell and Broun and Lawrence and Mrs. Hull, beware the sheeted band!
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