On September 27, 2017, the Morris Library held its annual Read-Out event in recognition of Banned Books week here in the United States. During these troubled times facing the nation, it is especially important that the freedom to read is both protected and championed.
Much like the previous year, I took advantage of this opportunity to promote my love for Ouida’s works to a fresh audience. Ouida novels, as anyone who reads this blog probably already knows, were often singled-out by nineteenth century gatekeepers of literature, critics and librarians alike, as being too immoral for public consumption. As an anti-censorship crusader and early promoter of intellectual freedom, Ouida was never timid when it came to defending the more eyebrow-raising content of her own novels as well as those coming from authors portrayed in comparably negative terms. In this video, you'll find me reciting a familiar selection from her invective against the state of publishing in England during the 1880s. In this relatively brief passage, Ouida speaks out against free library committees for their role in attempting to get her books off the shelves.
As a person who identifies both as a scholar and a librarian, it is gratifying to participate in an event that demonstrates just how the far the field has progressed in terms of its embrace of intellectual freedom. Ouida herself would have been proud to see us now so aligned with her side of the debate
The North American Review article I refer to in my introduction, "Literature and the English Book Trade," was published in 1895.