Defense Of The Editor B. P. Hasdeu

excerpts In connection with the press condemnation, instituted against Lumina by the prosecutor of the criminal court on account of the Emilia episode in the novel Damsel Mamuca, passed on June 3, 1863. Maxim: De nihilo nascitur historia... (Propertius: II, 1) Gentlemen, according to all the codices of law in the world, one offence, however serious, be it crime, trespass, misdemeanor or else, I repeat one offence, no matter how palpable, cannot be twice punished. Relying on this universally accepted legal principle I would be entitled to refute from the very first, with solely a few words, the accusation that the kind prosecutor levels at me. I would like to say that, since I was a professor at the Higher College in the locality, I was dismissed as early as the 18th of the past month, on account of the writing for which you want to try me one more time; i.e. the unfortunate lines about Emilia and her mother! The unhappy page 45! My demotion, gentlemen, is a far bigger fine than any provided by press laws, and in a way it is for me a sort of death penalty. You know that according to academic laws, college professors are appointed for life. Is that really so? In other words, to dismiss such a person means to cut short his life and chop off his head. In keeping with the same laws, as a professor in a higher college I was entitled to 1,000 lei monthly until my death. At present I am 26, and consequently, according to the theory of probabilities, and to various mortality charts, I could easily live, the prosecutor willing, for at least another 24 years. Which means that my dismissal is tantamount to a 280,000 lei fine, due for 24 years. Perhaps some of you would allow me to live only 12 years from now on. So be it, gentlemen, and even fewer! Let us say only 6. Still, there is no offence for which the press act provides a 70,000 lei fine! This is what Emilia and her mother did to me! You would be at liberty, gentlemen, to deplore me and not, on top of everything, to instigate a suit that is already judged and sentenced, and to what extent! The prosecutor posits that the excerpt on page 45, line 15, where I describe how a mother spared her daughter, Emilia, by replacing her in the darkness before her lover, this excerpt, he maintains, à la Paul de Koch, from my novel Damsel Mamuca, would run counter to public morals and would be impeachable under the press act. For the time being let us put aside the respective article and return to it later on with even more crushing arguments.First, let us see whether the excerpt is moral or not moral, and if I manage to prove, gentlemen, that it is not in the least immoral, I shall then leave all prosecutors to find the articles under which they could stop ...what? What is not immoral? There is only one possible way to establish the public morality or non-morality of the excerpt about Emilia and her mother; namely to look up how other peoples, old and new, foreign and Romanian consider similar lines. Do you, gentlemen, have another means of establishing the truth? I think you cannot show me any; because if now the respective excerpt unfortunately displeases so and so gentleman this is far, and even very far, from being an argument of public immorality, but just an example of individual taste. The history of literature and wholesome judgment, this is what will help me prove to the honorable tribunal that things are not so bad as they seemed to the respectable prosecutor. Afterwards I will gladly address the press law, and also answer accusations and anything else you would like, gentlemen!I would have to speak three days and three nights uninterruptedly in order to be able to enumerate a tiny part of the similar excerpts, and others much more impudent that can be found in the old literature. The example most extensively known and at the same time the most difficult to condemn is, no doubt, The Song of Songs of the wise Solomon. Have you ever read the Greek Aristophanes, gentlemen? Do not do it for else you will be compelled to instigate a gray press trial against the celebrated comedian. While the Latins... well, Ovid, Petronius, Apuleius, Plautus, etc. would have to be fined thousands of lei, and banished to a monastery for several months, based on the articles invoked by the prosecutor! Passing to more modern literature, you will not be able to devise a sufficiently harsh punishment for the French Rabelais, the Italian Boccaccio, the British Shakespeare, the German Goethe, etc. And yet, my dear sirs, these authors are called classics per excellentiam, and are acknowledged all over the world as models, as giants, as luminaries of the letters! In Romanian literature I could quote, gentlemen, several non-moralities in The Bumblebee, in The Old Nick, in the writings of Mr. V. Alexandrescu-Urechea, etc.; I fear though that you might, somewhat with justification, doubt their capacity of literati, and deem too amusing these obscure names after my listing of ancient and modern literary masterpieces. Therefore, my sirs, I shall select only the foremost representatives of our young literature: Messrs. Alecsandri, Negruzzi, Eliad, Beldiman, Conachi. Without contenting myself with a simple mention of the works of these national geniuses, I shall bring excerpts from them, although I am convinced there is nobody who has failed to read and admire their works repeatedly. Gentlemen, I for one, know for sure that I'd rather spend some time in hell with Messrs. Alecsandri, Negruzzi, Eliad, Beldiman, or Conachi, than romp in the heavenly kingdom in the company of a "Bumblebee", "Old Nick" or of Mr. Alexandrescu-Urechea! Nevertheless, before I start my quotations I am in duty bound to warn you that I have been granted too little time, barely a few days, to prepare my defense against an accusation which, were it solid, would lead to my punishment of several months on the basis of the articles mentioned by the prosecutor. It was impossible for me, in solely one week, or a little more, to extract all excerpts from Romanian authors similar to those incriminated in my writing; thus, I have collected only as much as I could come up with quickly, two, three pieces. They are sufficient to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that either the excerpt from my novel is innocent, and then the prosecution's accusation is faulty, or that the respective excerpt is peccant, and then so are all our foremost authors, the pride of Romanian literature without whom it would resemble the Iroquois or Hottentots' one, authors with whom, gentlemen, I would gladly share, under any circumstances, both laurels and blame!Recently, the vaudeville of Mr. Alecsandri, already presented on stage and entitled Whitsuntide in the Village of Cremene, was printed here, in Jassy. Sub-prefect Resvratescu is depicted courting the beautiful captain wife Susana. Resvratescu: Susana, you know something?Susana: Not a thing.Resvratescu: I have a good mind to work for you as a hired hand.Susana: What for?Resvratescu: Remember the saying "Better with the hired hand than with the husband." You see very well what this "Better with the hired hand than the husband" means. I am downright shocked that the prosecutor does not denounce furiously this anti-social principle! Disinheriting husbands in favor of hired hands?! Oh, no! Let's delve into the articles of the press law! Let's instigate a trial! etc.In The Lambs, Mr. Negruzzi's vaudeville staged at the Jassy theater in 1849, and printed in 1857, that is already under the harsh rule of press laws, a young master, Lionescu asks a young peasant girl, Voikitza, to give him... but you will see right away what it is that he desires. "Voikitza: I don't understand you. Tell me what you want from me, young master?Lionescu: When pappy from mummyAsked a favor sweetMummy like a honeyServed him really neat.Copy mummy, be my guestTo play pappy I'll do my best." So, as you can see, in Mr. Negruzzi's play you have a mummy like in my novel. And more, it is a mummy who makes something with pappy so that even children come to know about it! Is this excerpt more moral than my quasi-immorality? You should recall, dear sirs, that high school students performed the respective play this year under the direction of Mr. Maiorescu!After Messrs. Alecsandri and Negruzzi we should grant due place to Mr. Bolintineanu, the first poet from across the river Milcov, as some put it. Well, his novel Manoil, printed in Jassy not very long ago, presents the hero as he receives in his chambers a procession of girls not named in decent society. And he goes on like this: "Hardly had we entered the house that the butler informed me of the arrival of a daughter of joy. I asked him to show her in.'What is your name, dear?' I inquired.'Where do you come from, man?' she retorted. 'I'll be... there's only one Zlatca The Jewess from the sea to the Danube in the whole land of Walachia...'Then came another, still a child and a greenhorn: she was shy and spooky like a birdie caught in a noose. She lowered her eyes and seemed to be turning purple at the trade she was plying. She came accompanied by her mother. A mother who brought her daughter to a place where she would be sacrificed on the altar of vice! What a mother!The door opened; the whole assembly clapped their hands.It was Marioara.'Who's the master of the house?' she asked me.'There he is!' someone replied. 'Manoil...''Can he see?' she turned to a young man.'He surely can,' the youth retorted.'Hit this!' Marioara told me, putting out her hand.'Why did you ask if I could see?''Don't you dig our patter? got money? That's what I asked him. Here is Curly, Despina, Lady's Daughter! Long live the Sultan!... oh, how dearly we'll love you!''Starting tomorrow.''Tomorrow? I want ...tonight...'" Gentlemen, a mother who sells her daughter is more immoral than one who sacrifices herself freely for her offspring, like in the novel incriminated! To say nothing of Zlatca, Marioara, Curly, etc.! Why has nobody risen against the lack of morality of Mr. Bolintineanu? Why, mister prosecutor? But what by far exceeds the excerpts I presented, leaving much behind Messrs. Alecsandri, Negruzzi, Bolintineanu, Eliad, and Beldiman... what beats hollow the story of Emilia and her mother are the famous poems by Conachi. Is there anyone who ignores them? I shall read for you, gentlemen, just one of them: Last night of days so volatileYou fully made me taste the thrill.Oh, my astounding ruthless dameYou had me readily believeThat nothing precious out you'll leaveOf all the beauties that you claim.Eyes, mouth, cheek, breast opulentYou solely are my sacrament.And you, secretive paradiseI wonder who can comprehendWhat painful effort I did spendModes of acceptance to devise!How very quickly her heart beat Right under mine, oh, so replete.Breath swifter now, panting a lot,Chest pressing hard the other chestMouth biting mouth, and no protestWhen titties surge from the capote. Conachi's poem, as you see, gentlemen, is not just an explicit depiction of love, but also the very mechanics of voluptuousness, a genuine practical course! And do you know who the editor was? A lady, Princess Vogoride, whose moral sense is anyway much more developed than any man's, be he a prosecutor.Conachi's writings reach everybody and nobody is shocked! Was there any press accusation, any mention of law articles? I ask my very accuser and he keeps mum! That is why The Song of Songs, Aristophanes, Ovid, Petronius, Apuleius, Plautus, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Rabelais, Goethe, Alecsandri, Negruzzi, Eliad, etc. are not liable for the characters depicted in their works. They are not, and cannot be, immoral! Immoral are those who recognize themselves in such characters and oppress or libel out of selfishness! Immoral are those who wouldn't like people to find out who they really are! NOTEThe public present when this defense was made had never before been seen in the Criminal Court at press suits: the cream of Jassy, as one of the listeners put it. More than two hundred persons whose sympathy for the defendant erupted every now and then in content murmurs.After a discussion followed in two consecutive days, June 3 and 4, the court came to the following conclusion with a majority, rejecting the prosecutor's accusation:"The Criminal Court has found Mr. Hasdeu not guilty of the charge made and consequently rules that he should be free of any responsibility in this case." Members: D. Gherghel, L. Catargiu, V. Florescu, S. Mano. I now ask all Romanians, friends and not friends alike: by what right did the Minister of the Cults discharge me from the position of college professor on account of a writing that was legally found innocent? But this thread we prepare to unravel more carefully in a future issue.

by B. P. Hasdeu (1838-1907)