chapter  13
13 Pages

Sex and the Single Edwardian Girl

Sex and Censorship in the Edwardian Novel
WithJonathan Wild

The old adage 'sex sells' was evidently true for Edwardian publishers. When the publisher Desmond Flower produced his list of bestselling titles for the years between the years 1830–1930, the Edwardian decade's eighteen representatives included a disproportionate number of often controversial novels in which sex and its consequences played a central part. Edwardian writers were almost bound to keep faith with fiction of this type, not simply because of its potential for financial profit, but because contemporary theoretical writing on the topic provided plentiful new angles for discussion. Towards the end of the Edwardian decade, Arnold Bennett, writing under the name Jacob Tonson in the New Age, reflected upon the fact that the novels of Elinor Glyn, a writer whose name had become closely associated with the 'sex novel', had largely evaded censorship. Whether or not Edwardian readers agreed with Wells on this issue, the novel certainly provides a serious and thought-provoking intervention into topical Edwardian debates on eugenics and degeneration.