[Sir John Pollock and the 'Play that was Banned': venereal disease, censorship, War Economy publication.] Material relating to play 'Damaged Goods', including revised typescript and correspondence with bishops and Ministries of Health and Information

Sir John Pollock; Eugène Brieux; Jonathan Cape; Sir Weldon Dalrymple-Champneys; Lawrence Whitaker Harrison; Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, venereal disease; Ministry of Information
Publication details: 
London and the provinces, 1943.
SKU: 21995

A fascinating and revealing collection of material, touching on questions of censorship and sexual morality in twentieth-century Britain, as well as the problems of publication during the Second World War. From the papers of Sir John Pollock (1872-1963), and relating to the 1943 revival of his 'Damaged Goods', a translation of Eugène Brieux's scandalous play 'Les Avariés'. Written in 1901, Brieux's play concerns the effects of a diagnosis of syphilis on a respectable family, and was met with outrage on its first appearance in Paris in 1902. In 1911 Pollock's translation appeared in England, in an edition by Charlotte Shaw of 'Three Plays by Brieux', with a preface by her husband George Bernard Shaw. After this, as the critic Beverley Baxter recalled in 1943 (see Four below), 'Perhaps more than any other play it was the centre of a long and bitter controversy as to whether the theatre has as much right to deal with the punishment of sin as with its attractions.' According to Jennifer Burek Pierce, in her 'What Adolescents Ought to Know: Sexual Health Texts in Early Twentieth Century America' (2011), 'authorities comprising “the most distinguished audience ever assembled in America” saw a private performance of Pollock's translation in Washington in the spring of 1913', before its public debut in the United States. Nevertheless the play was not licensed for performance in Britain for some time. As Pollock himself recalled in a letter to The Times in 1949 (again in Four below): 'it took 15 years and the impact of a great war to obtain a licence for Damaged Goods. […] In 1914 after is private production in London, […] the censor wrote: “This play will never be licensed”; nor would it have been but for the anxiety caused to British military authorities by mounting disease in the army.' A British film was made of the play in 1919, directed by Alexander Butler, and starring Campbell Gullan, Marjorie Day and J. Fisher White. It It is no coincidence that the play should have been revived in 1943, when the turbulence of the Second World War caused a surge in venereal disease among troops and civilians. The present material comprises: a copy of the typescript of the play, with extensive autograph revisions by Pollock for the 1943 revival, and a note acknowledging that he has made changes at the behest of Sir Weldon Dalrymple-Champneys (1892-1980) and Lawrence Whitaker Harrison (1876-1964) of the Ministry of Health; correspondence regarding the printing of the play, including letters by Dalrymle-Champneys and Harrison, John Maxey Parrish of the Ministry of Information, and the publisher Jonathan Cape, describing the official support required to get the play published, and the efforts required to obtain paper for printing it; a copy of Cape's contract for the play, signed by him; letters regarding the play by the Bishop of London (future Archbishop of Canterbury) and Archbishop of York; a large batch of returns and accounts for the production from London and provincial theatres; twenty-five photographs of the London production at the Whitehall Theatre; newspaper cuttings. The following description is divided into six parts, and is followed by information on Pollock himself. The material is in good condition, with light signs of age and wear. ONE: Corrected Typescript of 'Damaged Goods'. Undated. A carbon typescript of 88pp, 4to, professionally typed by May Hemery Ltd, London. Each page on the recto of a separate leaf, the whole stapled into blue card wraps with title on yellow label on cover, and yellow tape spine. Each act is individually paginated, with the acts separated by yellow leaves. The typescript has extensive autograph emendations by Pollock, for the 1943 production, with autograph revision of the text on almost every page, with significant autograph additions on many of the facing versos. Title-page: 'DAMAGED GOODS | (Les Avaries) | Translated by John Pollock'. Autograph Note at head of title-page: 'NB. cuts or changes in the dialogue marked ) “Min. Health” were agreed to by me at my conference on March 9. 1943 with Sir Weldon Dalrymple-Champneys, Asst. Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health and Col. Harrison D.S.O. advisor to the Ministry on Veneral Diseases. | J. P.' An autograph footnote gives references to the places where the cuts or changes have been made. Pollock's address in pencil on title-page: '26 Cranmer Court | Chelsea | S.W.3.' TWO: Printed 'Memorandum of Agreement', 1943, completed with typewritten insertions, between Pollock and London publisher Jonathan Cape (1879-1960), for 'his own English version of Eugene Brieux's LES AVARIES under the title DAMAGED GOODS, the typescript of which has been delivered to the Publishers', signed by Cape ('H H Cape / for & on behalf of | Jonathan Cape Ltd/'). THREE: Twenty items of correspondence, all dating from 1943, relating to the process of publication. Including six TLsS from Cape to Pollock. In the first, 29 January, after congratulating him on the success of 'the revival at Leeds', Cape explains the process of publication of the proposed 'Guild Book edition', with regard to the release of paper and the royalties. On 10 March Cape reports that as a result of a telephone conversation with the Ministry of Information he has 'sent round by hand this afternoon a formal application for paper for the Guild Book edition of DAMAGED GOODS'. The letter concludes: 'Congratulations on your getting a move on at the Ministry of Health! At one time it looked as if the matter would be stalemate, but you seem to have overcome the Ministerial inertia. Let us hope that now all goes well with the application for the release of paper.' The rest of the correspondence comprises: four TLsS by Sir Weldon Dalrymple-Champneys (1892-1980), all on Ministry of Health letterheads, the most significant of which, on 29 March, proposes two changes to the text, including the deletion of the words 'Syphilis is an accident that might happen to anybody', 'as this remark might create undue alarm and despondency'. The letter concludes: 'With these modifications we are prepared to support your application to the Paper Controller to release paper for the two cheap editions of the play, but is only right to tell you that I cannot promise that this recommendation will be accepted, though I hope it will be.'; two TLsS from L. R. Prescott, Private Secretary to Ernest Brown (1881-1962) of the Ministry of Health (on 2 [February] 1943 she explains Brown's refusal to 'give official support' to Pollock: 'While he does not wish in any way to appear unsympathetic, Mr. Brown has felt that the object aimed at in this play, i.e. [sic] of bringing discussion of the V. D. problem into the open, might be defeated and that more harm than good might be done, if the name of the Government or of this Ministry were publicly associated with its revival. Mr. Brown feels that this would apply similarly to its publication in book form'); two TLsS by Lawrence Whitaker Harrison (1876-1964) of the Ministry of Health; TLS from John Maxey Parrish of the Ministry of Information, 16 April, in which he comments 'You will understand that with paper in so short supply such an application requires strong support.'; TLS from an individual at the Ministry of Information; two TLsS from Cape's secretary Margery Hill; TLS regarding copyright from M. E. Barber of the League of British Dramatists; TLS from Denys Killam Roberts of the Society of Authors ('I am preparing for your consideration, and for the consideration of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Shaw, two alternative short skeleton draft agreements'). FOUR: Envelope containing the following eight items. Two TLsS from 'Geoffrey London', i.e. Geoffrey Fisher (1887-1972), at the time Bishop of London, and later Archbishop of Canterbury. In the first he accepts Pollock's invitation to the first night of the London production: 'I have never seen the play, but I have always heard it most highly spoken of, and welcome this opportunity of seeing it.' In the second he acknowledges receipt of a copy of the play: 'I read it again last night and recalled with great pleasure the opportunity you gave me of seeing it.' TLS from 'Cyril Ebor:', i.e. Cyril Garbett (1875-1955), Archbishop of York, in which he states that he is 'very glad' to see that the play 'has been published in the Guild series'. Three cuttings of newspaper reviews relating to the play (Sunday Times: James Agate, 'A Necessary Play'; Evening Standard: Beverley Baxter, 'Play that was Banned'; Daily Post). Cutting of letter from Pollock to The Times, 7 April 1949, regarding censorship and the first production of the English version of the play. 4pp of autograph transcriptions by Pollock of newspaper reviews (Daily Sketch, Daily Express, Daily Herald, Star) of the 1943 production. FIVE: Twenty-five 15 x 20 cm black and white prints of photographs of the 1943 Whitehall Theatre production of the play. All in good condition. SIX: Envelope containing a substantial number of theatre 'a/cs and returns' relating to the 1943 revival of the play. On letterheads of theatres in locations including Newcastle, Sunderland, Bradford, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Oldham, Swansea, Brighton, Birmingham, Widnes, Southend, Keighley, Halifax, Leeds. And London theatres including the Whitehall, as well as ones in Finsbury Park, New Cross, Wimbledon, Croydon, Richmond. With numerous covering accounts from the League of British Dramatists. Also present is an advertisement, on both sides of a 12mo leaf, with photographs of cast members ('See these state Stars in the most vital dramatic Play of the moment! | At this theatre next week'), for 'The Play that made history!', carrying Baxter's Evening Standard review (see Four above). Sir Frederick John Pollock (1872-1963), 4th Baronet of Hatton (Eton; Trinity College, Cambridge; Harvard Law School) is an unaccountably-neglected figure. His brief obituary in The Times (23 July 1963) is headed 'Playwright and Author', but the fullest account of his varied career is the one he himself contributed to Who's Who. Pollock took great interest in Russian affairs, his numerous works including 'War and Revolution in Russia' in 1918, and 'The Bolshevik Adventure' the following year. His plays include versions of Tolstoy's 'The Man who was Dead' (1912) and 'Anna Karenina' (1913), as well as an original piece titled 'For Russia!' (1915). Among his other translations is a play by Prince Vladimir Bariatinsky (1843-1914), 'The Great Young Man', produced in London in 1911. Pollock married Bariatinsky's widow Princess Bariatinsky, better-known as the celebrated actress Lydia Yavorska (née Hubbenet, 1874-1921), a year before her death. Between 1915 and 1918, under the Russian Red Cross, Pollock headed a British charity in Russia and Poland, after which he forged a journalistic career as European correspondent of a number of Fleet Street newspapers, including The Times.