James Branch Cabell

Literary Life and Legacy

Jurgen Acquittal – October 19, 1922

photo of Judge Charles Nott wearing 3 piece suit [View Image]
Charles Cooper Nott, Jr., Judge, New York General Sessions Court, 1913-1939.
Image: Library of Congress LC-B2- 2890-15

On Monday, Oct. 16, 1922, after more than two years, the hearing of the Jurgen case took place in New York. Garrard Glenn, in a scholarly brief, asked Judge Charles Cooper Nott for acquittal, and the judge took the motion under advisement. On Oct. 19, Judge Nott issued his opinion.

The following are transcriptions of newspaper accounts of Judge Nott’s decision in the Jurgen obscenity trial. Newspaper article: "Jurgen Upheld as Moral Novel" Oct 19 1922 [View Image]
Evening World, October 19, 1922, p. 27.

Evening World, New York, N.Y., Oct. 19, 1922, p. 27


John Sumner Loses Again as Court Approves Book.

John S. Sumner, Secretary of the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice, suffered another reverse today when Judge Nott, sitting in General Sessions, ordered the dismissal of the indictment against the publishers of Jurgen, by James Branch Cabell, which novel was suppressed May 13, 1920. The jury acted accordingly.

Guy Holt and Robert M. McBride, the defendants, had been free on bail since the case first was taken to court two and a half years ago. The book, Jurgen, which had not been sold publicly since that time, now will go back on sale.

“I’ve read and examined the book carefully,” said Judge Nott. “The worst that may be said against it is that certain passages may be considered suggestive in a veiled and subtle manner of immorality but such suggestions are delicately conveyed and the whole atmosphere of the story is one of such an unreal and supernatural nature that even these suggestions are free from evils accompanying suggestiveness in more realistic works. In my opinion the book is one of unusually literary merit and contains nothing ‘obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent or disgusting’ within the meaning of the statute.”

Newspaper article "Jurgen Publishers Aquitted" Oct 20 1922 [View Image]
Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 20, 1922, p. 1

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 20, 1922, p. 1


“Jurgen” Publishers Acquitted of Charge Made by Vice Suppression Society.

[By Associated Press.]

NEW YORK, Oct. 19. Expressing the opinion that “Jurgen,” by James Branch Cabell, was not an “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent book,” Judge Nott today directed a jury in General Sessions to acquit Robert M. McBride & Co., publishers, on charges contained in an indictment returned last May on complaint of the Society for Suppression of Vice.

“The most that can be said against the book is that certain of its passages may be considered suggestive in a veiled and subtle way, of immorality,” said the court, “but suggestions are delicately conveyed, and the whole atmosphere of the story is of such and unreal and supernatural nature that even these suggestions are free from the evils accompanying suggestiveness in more realistic works.”

“Jurgen,” a fantastic imaginative tale, depicting the adventure of one restored to first youth, was suppressed pending settlement of the case. The demand in New York then became so great that “bookleggers” sold copies for as much as $50.

Banning Jurgen

Jurgen and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice

The Judging of Jurgen by James Branch Cabell (1920)

Jurgen In Letters

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Jurgen Acquittal – October 19, 1922

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Additional resources:

Jurgen and the Law, A Statement. With Exhibits, including the Court’s Opinion, and the brief for the Defendants on Motion to Direct an Acquittal by Guy Holt

Judge Nott’s Opinion, press releases, and public statements. Between Friends: Letters of James Branch Cabell and Others. edited by Padraic Colum and Margaret Freeman Cabell. Harcourt, Brace and World, 1962.

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