Traps For The Young
The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice sounds like the satirical invention of a modern wag, but it was a very real organization dedicated to policing public morality in the late 19th century. Its founder, Anthony Comstock, was notorious as a crusader for "decency" and a strident advocate of censorship-so strident, in fact, that George Bernard Shaw coined the term "comstockery" to refer to his zeal for the cause. (Shaw was one of Comstock's victims; so were Theodore Dreiser and D.H. Lawrence.) In this rare 1883 work, hard to find today in an elegant edition, Comstock offers the "warnings, restraints, guidance and sympathy" that "alone" might "save the youth" from vileness and corruption, and compulsively itemizes the "traps" that were seducing American youngsters into lives of debauchery and vice, including "pernicious literature," gambling, "free love," "lewd art," and more. A hilarious artifact of 19th-century "scandal," this inadvertently delightful book makes for wonderfully iniquitous reading today.
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