Vol. 44 No. 1 · 6 January 2022

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Sinister Creatures

Bee Wilson, writing about Lydia Harvey, doesn’t mention the 1912 Act of Parliament known as the Criminal Law Amendment Act/White Slave Traffic Bill (LRB, 4 November 2021). It was an amplified version of the 1885 Act that raised the age of consent and criminalised homosexuality. Its sponsor in the Commons, Arthur Lee, freely admitted that he had added ‘White Slave Traffic’ to the title for publicity purposes. The bill had considerable support from organised women’s groups, despite Lee’s public declaration that he was against women’s suffrage. ‘We men are under a special obligation,’ he said, ‘to pay heed to the appeal made to us as men by the united voice of women on behalf of the most miserable and unfortunate of their sex … the attitude of the anti-suffragists would be inexcusable, and its position untenable, if it could be said, and said truly, that men were callous to the sufferings of women, and not willing to accord them even an elementary measure of protection.’

The bill was intended to target ‘sinister creatures who batten upon commercialised vice’ – procurers, keepers, ‘ponces’ and ‘bullies’ – and to extend the reach of police and judges. So, suspected procurers could be arrested without the police having to get warrants, and brothel keepers and souteneurs were subject to increased penalties – including, controversially, the flogging of male offenders. The bill justified giving the police power to act on suspicion by describing the kinds of blandishment used to trap Lydia Harvey: ‘pledges and hopes which are held out to them of being married, by promises of excitement and travel, and things of that kind, and by promises of happiness and comfort and possibly wealthy existences in another country’. Asked about the bill a year later, the home secretary said he knew of nine persons arrested without warrant by the Metropolitan Police. The state secured the conviction of two London brothel keepers, and one was sentenced to be flogged; the sentence was quashed on appeal. Less than the bill’s sponsors had hoped for? It appears so from the statistics Bee Wilson quotes about large numbers of prostitutes imprisoned for soliciting, and the ubiquity of international sex trafficking.

Judith Hendra
Los Angeles

Vancouver to Vladivostok

Perry Anderson mentions in passing that the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe was created by the Helsinki Accords in the mid 1970s (LRB, 2 December 2021). The 1975 Helsinki Final Act was a document setting out non-binding political commitments, agreed at the closing meeting of the third phase of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe (CSCE). It was under that name that it continued to operate during the period of détente in the 1970s, and on through the Second Cold War, as John Lewis Gaddis called it, in the 1980s. It was only in December 1994 at the Budapest Summit that the participating states decided to rename the CSCE as the OSCE, though the workings of the structure were not affected.

The CSCE/OSCE was devised as a platform for the discussion of security issues, with a particular emphasis on political and military, economic and environmental, and humanitarian matters. The dream, in 1975, had been of comprehensive and co-operative security that would extend ‘from Vancouver to Vladivostok’. I worked in Vienna with the OSCE as a part of Armenia’s mission some fifteen years ago. It was evident that it still operated on the basis that it was a conference rather than an organisation; the states were more comfortable with that way of thinking. There are many signs that the quality of discussion has only deteriorated since then.

Nairi Petrossian

Points of Doctrine

Stephen Sedley nicely articulates the dilemma faced by those in England and Wales who wish to die at a time and place of their choosing, and by those who would encourage or assist them (LRB, 21 October 2021). In March 2021, the federal parliament in Canada, after much consultation with medical professionals, theologians and advocates on both sides of the debate, passed Bill C-7, amending the criminal code with respect to medical assistance in dying. Among the provisions, there is a clear demarcation between those suffering a terminal, physical illness or state, and those ‘whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness’, in which case medically assisted death is not allowed.

The person requesting medical assistance in death (‘Maid’ is the acronym) must request and sign a letter or form, witnessed by someone unrelated to them, stating their reasons for wishing to die. If that person has difficulty communicating, all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure that they consent. It isn’t only doctors who can assist, but pharmacists, nurse practitioners and even family members.

My mother had a severe aneurysm that left her mostly comatose. We brought her home to die, but this was in 2015, when Maid wasn’t yet law. The nurse practitioner allowed us to administer, via an intravenous shunt, pre-measured amounts of morphine. She could not swallow, so was, in effect, dying of dehydration. My sister and I did not discuss administering an overdose, so could only wait, for seven long nights, before our mother finally died.

Michael Cox

At the Tavistock

Bernadette Wren mentions BBC Newsnight several times in her piece on the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock Clinic (LRB, 2 December 2021). In February 2020, while being interviewed live on the programme, the comedy writer Graham Linehan drew a parallel between puberty blockers and Nazi experimentation. It is false that any Newsnight producer invited Mr Linehan on in order to make this comparison, and he was immediately and robustly challenged on air when he did. Entirely separate to this interview, Newsnight has broadcast four films exploring different aspects of the healthcare provided to young people questioning their gender identity. On every occasion where GIDS was the focus, we extended an invitation of interview to its leadership; this was declined each time by a representative of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. Our journalism throughout was evidenced-based and highlighted the serious safeguarding concerns raised about the service.

Esme Wren
‘Newsnight’, London W1

When in Rome

Jenny Turner writes about the friendship between Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy (LRB, 4 November 2021). For many years there was a third companion, Carmen Angleton. The correspondence between them shows that they travelled together in Europe, primarily in Italy, often in Angleton’s car. Her family’s villa in Rome’s diplomatic quarter, overlooking the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, and later Angleton’s own apartment in the city centre, served as bases. They took trips to see art in provincial churches, and sometimes attended music festivals or conferences sponsored by the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Carmen Angleton was the daughter of James Angleton, a former major in the US army, who had served in the OSS during the Second World War. Her older brother was James Jesus Angleton, the long-serving head of the counterintelligence staff of the CIA.

Michael Holzman
Briarcliff Manor, New York

We’re Here

David Edgerton is correct to say that the 1948 Nationality Act did not grant the status of Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) to citizens of independent Commonwealth countries (Letters, 2 December 2021). However, it should be noted that the legislation not only gave the right of migration to Britain to all citizens of the Commonwealth (those ‘600 million’), it also gave them the right to register for CUKC citizenship after twelve months’ residency in the UK.

Rob Waters
Queen Mary University of London

Song of Snogs

Colin Burrow laments the difficulty of finding clear definitions of dirty Latin words in Lewis and Short (LRB, 2 December 2021). He takes the example of irrumabo. Lewis and Short hasn’t been the authoritative Latin dictionary for some time, but one isn’t much better off consulting the Oxford Latin Dictionary, which appeared in fascicles between 1968 and 1982, and is presumably the new authority. If you look up irrumo you find the unhelpful definition: ‘to practise irrumatio on’. Go to irrumatio and you find: ‘the action of an irrumator’. Proceeding, with sinking heart, to ‘irrumator’, you are told: ‘one who submits to fellatio’. But hang on: does that mean ‘one who submits to doing fellatio’ or ‘one who submits to being fellated’? Unless you already know what the word means the definition isn’t much help. In fact, as Burrows points out, it means ‘to fuck someone in the mouth’. That doesn’t sound very submissive to me.

Stephen Edgar
Carlingford, New South Wales

In Perfect Order

Ange Mlinko writes about Lydia Davis’s obsession with word order (LRB, 2 December). David Lodge, in The Practice of Writing (1996), tells

a story well known to all students of Joyce, that one day in Zurich, when he was writing Ulysses, he met his friend Frank Budgen in the street and told him he had been working all day and had produced only two sentences. ‘You have been seeking the right words?’ asked Budgen. ‘No,’ replied Joyce, ‘I have the words already. What I am seeking is the perfect order of words in the sentences I have.’

Paul Devine

Freudian Slip

Rosemary Hill mentions Lucian Freud’s Painter and Model (1987), ‘in which Freud sprawls naked on a sofa while the painter Celia Paul stands dressed, apparently contemplating painting him’ (LRB, 21 October 2021). Freud is many things, but the naked man on the sofa is Angus Cook.

Michael Autrey
Romney, West Virginia

Going Rate

Charles Nicholl writes that George Chapman was paid ‘20 marks (£6 13s 4d)’ for his play The Old Joiner of Aldgate, ‘somewhat above the going rate’ (LRB, 4 November 2021). But 20 marks is double that amount, £13 6s 8d. I’d have thought that was considerably above the going rate; perhaps it was the result of an arbitrated settlement of the libel case against Chapman. Or should ‘20’ have been ‘10’?

Christopher Whittick
Lewes, East Sussex

Charles Nicholl writes: Christopher Whittick is correct and my arithmetic wasn’t. I have checked the documents and 20 marks was indeed the payment; 1 mark = 13s 4d, therefore Chapman received £13 6s 8d. The sum could well be described as considerably above the going rate. However, the payment was not an arbitrated settlement by the court, but the fee paid to Chapman by the man who commissioned the play.

On Inis

J.M. Synge was a great listener wherever he stayed on his travels, as Simon King-Spooner demonstrates, but he was more likely to overhear Gaelic in the western islands than in Wicklow (Letters, 2 December 2021). ‘On the Aran Islands’ opens thus: ‘I am in Aranmore, sitting over a turf fire, listening to a murmur of Gaelic that is rising from a little public-house under my room.’

Brendan Carroll
St John’s Point, Donegal

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