Literary influence and legal precedent Censorship in the Court of Chancery, 1710–1823

Book chapter


Whickman, P. 2023. Literary influence and legal precedent Censorship in the Court of Chancery, 1710–1823. in: Steel, J. and Petley, J. (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Freedom of Expression and Censorship London Routledge - Taylor and Francis. pp. 1-10
AuthorsWhickman, P.
EditorsSteel, J. and Petley, J.
Abstract

This chapter concerns the impact of the Court of Chancery and the law of copyright on the censorship and dissemination of literary texts, 1710–1823. While Chancery performs the role of proxy censor in the early part of the period, later rulings, particularly those after Southey v. Sherwood (1817), inadvertently led to the proliferation of obscene, seditious and blasphemous texts due to loss of copyright protection. Attention is paid in particular to the influence of Chancery on the dissemination of apparently “criminal” texts by the poets Robert Southey, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. This chapter argues that the historical literary canon has been profoundly shaped by censorship and the law, with a particular focus on the curious intersection of criminality and the law of copyright. Alongside this, this chapter argues that an analogy can be drawn between literary allusion and legal precedent. This is made clear by the fact that the names and works of great authors such as Shakespeare and Milton are invoked in legal proceedings, as if they had legal or moral authority.

KeywordsCourt of Chancery; copyright law; literary texts; blasphemous texts; moral authority
Page range1-10
Year2023
Book titleThe Routledge Companion to Freedom of Expression and Censorship
PublisherRoutledge - Taylor and Francis
Place of publicationLondon
ISBN9780429262067
Web address (URL)https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780429262067-6/literary-influence-legal-precedent-paul-whickman
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Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online11 Dec 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Feb 2024
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