March 16, 1895. The “Woman Who Did,” and Mr. Eason who wouldn’t.
“In the romantic little town of ‘Ighbury,
My father kept a Succulating Libary….”
–and, I regret to say, gave himself airs on the strength of it.
The persons in my instructive little story are–
H.H. Prince Francis of Teck.
Mr. Grant Allen, author of The Woman Who Did.
Mr. W.T. Stead, Editor of The Review of Reviews.
Messrs. Eason & Son, booksellers and newsvendors, possessing on the railways of Ireland a monopoly similar to that enjoyed by Messrs. W.H. Smith & Son on the railways of Great Britain.
Mr. James O’Hara, of 18, Cope Street, Dublin.
Now, on the appearance of Mr. Grant Allen’s The Woman Who Did, Mr. Stead conceived the desire of criticising it as the “Book of the Month” in The Review of Reviews for February, 1895. He strongly dissents from the doctrine of The Woman Who Did, and he also believes that the book indicts, and goes far to destroy, its own doctrine. This opinion, I may say, is shared by many critics. He says “Wedlock is to Mr. Grant Allen Nehushtan. And the odd thing about it is that the net effect of the book which he has written with his heart’s blood to destroy this said Nehushtan can hardly fail to strengthen the foundation of reasoned conviction upon which marriage rests.” And again–“Those who do not know the author, but who take what I must regard as the saner view of the relations of the sexes, will rejoice at what might have been a potent force for evil has been so strangely overruled as to become a reinforcement of the garrison defending the citadel its author desires so ardently to overthrow. From the point of view of the fervent apostle of Free Love, this is a Boomerang of a Book.”
Believing this–that the book would be its own best antidote–Mr. Stead epitomized it in his Review, printed copious extracts, and wound up by indicating his own views and what he deemed the true moral of the discussion. The Review was published and, so far as Messrs. W.H. Smith & Son were concerned, passed without comment. But to the Editor’s surprise (he tells the story in the Westminster Gazette of the 2nd inst.), no sooner was it placed on the market in Ireland than he received word that every copy had been recalled from the bookstalls, and that Messrs. Eason had refused to sell a single copy. On telegraphing for more information, Mr. Stead was sent the following letter:–
“DEAR SIR,–Allen’s book is an avowed defence of Free Love, and a direct attack upon the Christian view of marriage. Mr. Stead criticises Allen’s views adversely, but we do not think the antidote can destroy the ill-effects of the poison, and we decline to be made the vehicle for the distribution of attacks upon the most fundamental institution of the Christian state.
Mr. Stead thereupon wrote to the managing Director of Messrs. Eason & Son, and received this reply:–
“DEAR SIR,–We have considered afresh the character of the February number of your Review so far as it relates to the notice of Grant Allen’s book, and we are more and more confirmed in the belief that its influence has been, and is, most pernicious.
“Grant Allen is not much heard of in Ireland, and the laudations you pronounce on him as a writer, so far as we know him, appear wholly unmerited.
“At any rate, he appears in your Review as the advocate for Free Love, and it seems to us strange that you should place his work in the exaggerated importance of ‘The Book of the Month,’ accompanied by eighteen pages of comment and quotation, in which there is a publicity given to the work out of all proportion to its merits.