argument in English for the liberty of speech and publication. In his
(1664), Milton wrote of books and their significance in words that have resonated down the centuries:
I know they are lively, and vigorously productive as those fabulous dragon's teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. And
yet, on the other
hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost to kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.
Wilkes and the generation of editors and writers who followed him took Milton's words as their creed. The issue which Milton raised, which Wilkes and others fought for, is of course as alive in the 21st century as it was then: censorship is in the air we breath. Governments are as scared of exposure as ever. After Leveson, we are witness to the freedom of the British press being placed under the interdict of a royal charter, a move not greeted by street protests but with public complacency, yet a blow to liberty of expression that would have had Wilkes roaring his protest, not sparing his tabloid vitriol, and railing at privilege, secrecy and a raft of censorial legislation; but not, readers, censorship by royal charter.
An extract from
Media History: From Gutenberg to the Digital Age
to be published as a Kindle Reader in 2014.
A DREAM OF MONSTERS
Issues 42 and 43 carried extracts from Laura’s novel, reviewed
Imitation of Life
is a very singular novel. Its central protagonist, Celia Doom, arrives in the world a grotesque. Delivered in a
banana box, she falls into the category of ‘unmentionable things’ with one black
eye and one white; her teeth are fangs and her craving is for insects, butterflies, spiders and moths, and for Fanta in gallons. At the age of three she is five feet
in height; at six she stands 6’3” and weights 150 kilos.
For those around Celia, destruction and death are commonplace; even the locality of Provencia suffers devastation on her watch. Befriended by Jacob who wreaks havoc with his chemistry set, she learns the art of explosions. Molotov
cocktails become their plaything; what they blow up (including Celia’s adoptive parents, Lettie and Barry) they film on super 8. ‘This one’s for you, Celia,’ says
Jacob as he blows himself up. The event that puts Celia on a meaningful track is the gift of a camera from her Uncle Ed
‘the instrument I would cling to for the rest of my days’. Ed we
eventually discover is her real father; a conjurer of remarkable powers (of appearance and disappearance) and worrying proclivities. Celia proves herself a photographer of vision, focusing on the everyday, and a career develops until those that market her work exploit it, and her, to the point when they use a rival, a stripper, Lucinda Fortune, whose photos are so
uncannily reminiscent of Celia’s that both images and careers shape themselves
into double-focus; until, that is, Lucinda removes her dark glasses
and reveals one black eye and one white. Welcome to C
Celia confesses to have lived a ‘muddle old stew of a life’.
Her talents as a photographer
are duly exploited by relatives and ‘carers’. Arty pampers her with