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Edmund Curll (1675 - 1747)

Related: 1700s literature - British erotica - British literature - Venus in the Cloister (1683) - Merryland (1740) - history of obscenity - publishing - erotic literature

Contemporaries: Daniel Defoe - Mary Delarivier Manley - Jonathan Swift - Giambattista Vico

The conviction in 1727 of Edmund Curll for the publication of Venus in the Cloister or the Nun in her Smock under the common law offence of disturbing the peace appears to be the first conviction for obscenity in the United Kingdom, and set a legal precedent for other convictions. [Jun 2006]


Edmund Curll (1675 - December 11, 1747) was an English bookseller and publisher.

He was born in the West Country, of a poor family. After being apprenticed to an Exeter bookseller he came to London and started up in business, advertising himself by a system of newspaper quarrels. His connection with the anonymously-published Court Poems in 1716 led to the long quarrel with Alexander Pope, who took his revenge by immortalizing Curll in the Dunciad. Curll became notorious for his indecent publications, so much so that "Curlicism" was regarded as a synonym for literary indecency. In 1716 and again in 1721 he had to appear at the bar of the House of Lords for publishing matter concerning its members. In 1725 he was convicted of publishing obscene books, and fined in 1728 for publishing The Nun in her Smock and De Usu Flagrorum, while his Memories of John Ker of Kersland cost him an hour in the pillory. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Curll [Sept 2005]

1725 – Edmund Curll (1683-1747) is arrested in England for publishing Venus in the Cloister [An English translation of Vénus dans le Cloître, 1683] and Meibomius's Treatise of Flogging (translation by George Sewell). He's released but he's arrested again in 1726 after further investigation by the police and for publishing The Prisoner's Advocate, a government spy's (John Ker) memoirs of his experiences in the King's Bench Prison. Curll is finally sentenced in February 1728. He's fined 25 marks for each of the two erotic books and 20 marks plus one hour in the pillory for publishing Ker's memoirs. It is Curll's trial that leads the Court of King's Bench to define the law of obscene libel. --http://www.eroticabibliophile.com/censorship_history.html [Sept 2005]

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