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Word of the Day
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Definitions for Comstockery

  1. overzealous moral censorship of the fine arts and literature, often mistaking outspokenly honest works for salacious ones.

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Citations for Comstockery
... to boycott an author because of a brutality of expression is an act of retaliation so out of proportion with the gravity of the offense that it can be viewed only with indignation by the hot-headed and with a smile by those who have heard of what George Bernard Shaw was pleased to call, I believe, "American Comstockery." Eugene P. Metour, Letter to the Editor: "More 'American Comstockery,'" New York Times, February 11, 1906
Indeed, l'affaire Doubleday would become, through the 1920s, a rallying point for opponents of puritanism and comstockery in American letters. James L. W. West III, "The Composition and Publication of Jennie Gerhardt," in Jennie Gerhardt (1911) by Theodore Dreiser, 1992
Origin of Comstockery
Anthony Comstock (1844-1915) was a reformer of American public morals and a U.S. postal inspector who was stoutly defended by church-based groups and loudly denounced by civil liberties organizations. In 1873 he founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. That same year Comstock was also responsible for passage of the federal “Comstock Law,” which criminalized the use of the U.S. Postal Service to send erotica, contraceptives, and sex toys. Comstock’s many victims included George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), the Russian-born American anarchist Emma Goldman (1869-1940), and the nurse and sex educator Margaret Sanger (1879-1966). Comstockery appeared in an editorial in The New York Times in December 1895.