Comstockery, an overzealous censorship of literature and other forms of art, was coined by George Bernard Shaw in reference to Anthony Cornstock (1844-1915). People in this day and age may have a hard time believing that one narrow-minded person had the power to ban all the books and plays he felt were corrupting. But Comstock succeeded at doing it. And not simply banned: About 160 tons of books, stereotyped plates, magazines, and pictures were destroyed.
   Comstock was the founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an organization that advocated the banning of all literature deemed to be salacious or corrupting. Comstock did the deeming—he was the self-appointed censor of books, plays, and pictures. He also led many campaigns against abortion, birth control, and pornography. Through his influence certain types of literature, especially that concerning birth control, were excluded from the mail by federal passage of the Comstock laws. Appointed special agent of the Post Office Department, he arrested more than three thousand persons supposedly in violation of the laws that bear his name. The Comstock Postal Act, in H. L. Mencken's words, "greatly stimulated the search for euphemisms": Pregnant became "enceinte," syphilis and gonorrhea were changed to "social diseases," and so forth.
   The inquisitor took aim at Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession. Shaw retaliated when he coined the word comstockery. Thus the self-righteous moral censor has attained a dubious immortality.
   Inspired by Comstock's censorious repression of thought and with Comstock as the guiding spirit, Boston's Watch and Ward Society was organized in 1876. The society proved to be ever vigilant in guarding the morals of the good burghers of Boston. Publishers were pleased to have their books banned because to advertise that a book was "banned in Boston" was a sure way of spurring sales throughout the nation.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Comstockery — 1905, from Anthony Comstock (1844 1915), founder of New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (1873) and self appointed crusader against immorality, + ERY (Cf. ery). Coined by George Bernard Shaw after Comstock objected to Mrs. Warren s… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Comstockery — or comstockery [käm′stäk΄ər ē, kum′stäk΄ər ē] n. [after A. Comstock (1844 1915), U.S. self appointed censor: prob. coined by SHAW George Bernard] [often c ] ruthless suppression of plays, books, etc. alleged to be offensive or dangerous to public …   English World dictionary

  • comstockery — noun Censorship of literature and performances because of especially broad definitions of obscenity or immorality. Comstockery is the worlds standing joke at the expense of the United States …   Wiktionary

  • Comstockery — noun Etymology: Anthony Comstock + English ery Date: 1905 1. strict censorship of materials considered obscene 2. censorious opposition to alleged immorality (as in literature) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Comstockery — Comstocker, n. Comstockian, adj. /kum stok euh ree, kom /, n. overzealous moral censorship of the fine arts and literature, often mistaking outspokenly honest works for salacious ones. [1900 05; after A. COMSTOCK; see ERY] * * * …   Universalium

  • comstockery — com·stock·ery …   English syllables

  • Comstockery — Com•stock•er•y [[t]ˈkʌm stɒk ə ri, ˈkɒm [/t]] n. (sometimes l.c.) censorship or vigorous condemnation of literary and artistic works for alleged obscenity; prudery • Etymology: 1900–05; after A. Comstock; see ery …   From formal English to slang

  • comstockery — /kɒmˈstɒkəri/ (say kom stokuhree) noun Chiefly US overzealous censorship of the fine arts and literature, often mistaking outspokenly honest works for salacious ones. {named after Anthony Comstock, 1844–1915, US moralist} …   Australian English dictionary

  • Comstockery — noun censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality • Hypernyms: ↑censoring, ↑censorship …   Useful english dictionary

  • Anthony Comstock — Portrait of Anthony Comstock Born March 7, 1844(1844 03 07) New Canaan, Connecticut, United States Occupation …   Wikipedia

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