In December 1817, the radical satirist and publisher William Hone successfully defended himself in three high-profile prosecutions for blasphemous and seditious libel. The Library will mark the occasion with a free event, Censorship and the working class reader, on Thursday 16th November at 6.30pm.

Fiona Milne (University of York) will introduce us to Hone’s trials and political satires, examining why the state tried so hard to suppress Hone’s pamphlets, and why Hone’s victory was important.

Dr Katherine Inglis (University of Edinburgh) will explore the case of Henry Vizetelly, prosecuted and imprisoned for obscene libel, for publishing Emile Zola’s works in translation. She will use Vizetelly’s case to look at how censorship targeted working-class readers.

The Library has a wealth of related materials in its collections, and there will be a chance to handle original documents, including political pamphlets and published editions of trials.

We will then open up a discussion on these cases and the issues they raise, including censorship, working-class readers, political protest, “forbidden books”, and the changing legal face of censorship in Britain.

Fiona said: “In 1817, William Hone’s trials caused a public sensation – and two hundred years on, his case is still exciting. We’d like to mark the bicentenary of his remarkable acquittals by exploring stories of 19th century censorship. There’ll also be a chance to handle some original documents from the Library’s wonderful collections, to help bring them to life.”

The event is free but advance booking is required via Eventbrite –


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