God Forbid That Any Book Should Be Banned. The Practice Is As Indefensible As Infanticide

Rebecca West? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent British author and literary critic Rebecca West once compared book banning to infanticide. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 Rebecca West published a collection of essays and reviews titled “The Strange Necessity” which included a piece titled “The Tosh Horse” containing West’s bold statement. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide.

West continued by listing a few works that had offended censors and the censorious:

But one begins to remember what books have been banned during the last few years. Mr. D. H. Lawrence’s sincere and not for one second disgusting The Rainbow; Mr. Neil Lyons’s beautifully felt Cottage Pie; Brute Gods, that astringent product of Mr. Louis Wilkinson’s unique talent.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order

In 1985 the quotation together with a correct citation appeared in “A Teacher’s Treasury of Quotations”. 2

God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide. —Rebecca West,
The Strange Necessity: The Tosh Horse (1928)

In 1987 the quotation appeared in “The Delights of Reading: Quotes, Notes & Anecdotes” by Otto L. Bettmann, 3 and in 1991 it appeared in the “Bloomsbury Dictionary of Quotations”. 4

In conclusion, Rebecca West deserves credit for this remark.

Notes:

  1. 1928, The Strange Necessity: Essays and Reviews by Rebecca West, Chapter 11: The Tosh Horse, Start Page 319, Quote Page 324, Jonathan Cape, London, England. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1985, A Teacher’s Treasury of Quotations, Compiled by Bernard E. Farber, Topic: Censorship, Quote Page 45, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1987 Copyright, The Delights of Reading: Quotes, Notes & Anecdotes by Otto L. Bettmann, Chapter: Book Banners, Quote Page 102, Published by David R. Godine, Boston, Massachusetts, in association with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1991, Bloomsbury Dictionary of Quotations, Edited by John Daintith et al, Entry: Dame Rebecca West, Quote Page 411, Bloomsbury Publishing Limited, London. (Verified with scans)