Memoirs of Hecate County  

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Memoirs of Hecate County is a work of fiction by Edmund Wilson, first published in 1946, but banned in the United States until 1959, when it was reissued with minor revisions by the author.

Although it is sometimes described as a novel, the only link between the six stories is the narrator.

  1. The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles. First published in Atlantic Monthly.
  2. Ellen Terhune. First published in Partisan Review.
  3. Glimpses of Wilbur Flick. First published in Town and Country.
  4. The Princess with the Golden Hair. Novella.
  5. The Milhollands and their Damned Soul.
  6. Mr and Mrs Blackburn at Home.


The book was published by Doubleday in March 1946, and about 60,000 copies were sold. In July, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice lodged a complaint, and 130 copies were seized from four bookstores owned by Doubleday and from the New York Public Library. The ban was challenged by the publisher, but upheld by 2-1, the dissenter being Nathan D. Perlman.

The case went to the Supreme Court in 1948, where the decision was upheld 4-4 after the disqualification of Felix Frankfurter. It was no longer sold in the US, but was published in the United Kingdom by W. H. Allen in June 1951, going through six impressions in just two years.

Throughout the 1950s there was intense public debate about the censorship of literary works, and in 1958 the publication of Lolita (by Wilson's friend, Nabokov) demonstrated the extent to which public attitudes had relaxed. In June 1959, Memoirs of Hecate County was republished in New York by Octagon and L. C. Page, and the revised edition appeared in the UK in March 1960, published by Panther.


While Edmund Wilson's "Memoirs of Hecate County" was found obscene in New York, see Doubleday & Co. v. New York, 335 U.S. 848; a bookseller indicted for selling the same book was acquitted in California. "God's Little Acre" was held to be obscene in Massachusetts, not obscene in New York and Pennsylvania.

Hecate is the Greek goddess of sorcery, and Edmund Wilson's Hecate County is the bewitched center of the American Dream, a sleepy bedroom community where drinks flow endlessly and sexual fantasies fill the air. Memoirs of Hecate County, Wilson's favorite among his many books, is a set of interlinked stories combining the supernatural and the satirical, astute social observation and unusual personal detail. But the heart of the book, "The Princess with the Golden Hair," is a starkly realistic novella about New York City, its dance halls and speakeasies and slums. So sexually frank that for years Wilson's book was suppressed, this story is one of the great lost works of twentieth-century American literature: an astringent, comic, ultimately devastating exploration of lust and love, how they do and do not overlap.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Memoirs of Hecate County" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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