George Bedborough Higgs
|Died||1940 (aged 71–72)|
|Occupation||Bookseller, journalist and writer|
|Known for||The Bedborough case|
|Criminal charge(s)||Publication of an obscene libel|
|Criminal penalty||Fined £100|
George Bedborough Higgs[note 1] (born c. 1868[note 2] – 1940) was an English bookseller, journalist and writer who advocated for a number of causes, including sex reform, freethought, secularism, animal rights, vegetarianism, and free love. He was the secretary of the Legitimation League and editor of the League's publication The Adult: A Journal for the Advancement of freedom in Sexual Relationships. Bedborough was convicted for obscenity in 1898, after being caught selling a book on homosexuality; the case of Regina v. Bedborough, has also been referred to as the Bedborough case or Bedborough trial.
Life and work
Bedborough was born in London in the late 1860s; his father was a retired Church of England preacher and his mother was a poet. He was educated at Dulwich College and began work at the age of 16, founding the Workhouse Aid Society with W. T. Stead. Bedborough later attended university.
In 1887, Bedborough was present at Bloody Sunday, in Trafalgar Square. He later wrote for a number of publications including the Sunday Chronicle, Shafts (a feminist journal), University Magazine, the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle and South London Mail. Bedborough was a close friend and collaborator with Henry S. Salt, Bertram Dobell and Ernest Bell.
Bedborough was a member of the Legitimation League and edited its journal The Adult between 1897 and 1898; the League advocated for the legitimation of illegitimate children and free love. He married for the sake of his family and had an open relationship with his wife Louie. She was the treasurer of the League.
On 31 May 1898, Bedborough was arrested, along with the sex-radical feminist Lillian Harman and charged with obscenity for attempting to "corrupt the morals of Her Majesty's Subjects". He was indicated on 11 counts, including selling a copy of Studies in the Psychology of Sex Vol. 2, a book on homosexuality, by Havelock Ellis, to an undercover agent, as well as selling other pamphlets considered to be indecent, including one by Oswald Dawson, the founder of the Legitimation League. He was also indicated for his articles published in The Adult. Bedborough had been under surveillance because of the suspected anarchist connections of the League; Bedborough, himself, was not an anarchist.
A Free Speech Defence Committee was formed to attempt to fight the case; members included Henry Seymour, Frank Harris, Edward Carpenter, George Bernard Shaw, G. W. Foote, Mona Caird and Grant Allen. Just before being prosecuted, Bedborough collaborated with the police and pled guilty on three counts. This led the committee to denounce him and publish the details of the case. On 31 October 1898, Bedborough was fined £100 (equivalent to £11,221 in 2019), for selling Ellis' book. He agreed to no longer be associated with the League or The Adult, writing in the December issue "I adhere to my resolution not to excuse myself. I am a coward […] I thank Henry Seymour, Mr. Foote, and others with all my heart and soul for their work, which I have requited illy indeed".
In 1906, Bedborough became the editor of The Children's Realm, a children's magazine published by the Vegetarian Federal Union and London Vegetarian Society; he remained as editor for the majority of its existence; the magazine ceased publication in 1914.
Bedborough was a contributor to the American Journal of Eugenics, published between 1907 and 1910. He was also an active member of the discussion circles of the journal The Freewoman, which was published between 1911 and 1912.
Bedborough published three books of aphorisms, Narcotics and a Few Stimulants, Vacant Chaff Well Meant for Grain and Subtilty to the Simple and one book of Epigrams, Vulgar Fractions. In 1914, Bedborough published Stories from the Children's Realm, a children's story book with animal rights, anti-vivisection and vegetarian themes; it contained several illustrations by L. A. Hayter, former illustrator and contributor to The Children's Realm. Bedborough published The Atheist in 1919, a poem which advocated for atheism and was critical of the killing of animals for human consumption; it was dedicated to Anatole France.
During the 1920s and 30s, Bedborough reconnected with the secular movement, writing for the The Freethinker, he published an attack on the Ku Klux Klan in 1936 and a reflection on Havelock Ellis after his death in 1939. He also contributed to the Birth Control Review. In 1934, he published Arms and the Clergy, a compilation of clerical declarations made during the First World War. His last work Prayer: An Indictment, published in 1938, was a secular criticism of prayer.
Bedborough died in 1940.
- Narcotics and a Few Stimulants (1913)
- Vacant Chaff Well Meant for Grain (1914)
- Stories from the "Children's Realm" (Vegetarian Federal Union, 1914)
- Wordsworth: A Lecture (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1913)
- The Bright Side and Other Verses (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1915)
- The Dogs of War, and Other Stories (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1915)
- Vulgar Fractions (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1915)
- Subtilty to the Simple (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1916)
- Harmony or Humbug? An examination of Mr. Ralph Waldo Trine's book "In Tune with the Infinite." (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1917)
- Love and Happiness: Letters to Tolstoy, Written in 1897 and Now First Published (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1917)
- Sayings of George Bedborough (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1917)
- The Will to Love (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1917)
- Dark Sayings, with Some Fair Ones (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1918)
- Not Only Men (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1918)
- The Atheist (Letchworth: Garden City Press, 1919)
- Arms and the Clergy, 1914–1918 (London: Pioneer Press, 1934)
- Prayer: An Indictment (London: Pioneer Press, 1938)
- Calder-Marshall, Arthur (December 1971). "Havelock Ellis & Company". Encounter: 8–23.
- Laytone, Sidney (1898-06-25). "Truth in Extremes". Lucifer, the Light Bearer. 11 (25).
- "George Bedborough". Old Bailey Online. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Ellis, Havelock (1940). My Life. London: William Heinemann Ltd. pp. 306–314.
- Sears, Hal D. (1977). The Sex Radicals: Free Love in High Victorian America. Regents Press of Kansas. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-7006-0148-6.
- Jones, Sarah Lyndsey (October 2015). Constructing 'Free Love': Science, Sexuality, and Sex Radicalism, c. 1895-1913 (PDF) (Doctor of Philosophy in History thesis).
- Edmundson, John (2013-11-05). "The Isle of Vegetariana by G. Bedborough". HappyCow. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Goldman, Emma (2008). Falk, Candace (ed.). Emma Goldman, Vol. 2: A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 2: Making Speech Free, 1902-1909. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-252-07543-8.
- Hunt, Karen (2002). Equivocal Feminists: The Social Democratic Federation and the Woman Question 1884-1911. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-521-89090-8.
- Greenway, Judy (2013-09-25). "Speaking Desire: anarchism and free love as utopian performance in fin de siècle Britain". Judy Greenway. Retrieved 2020-07-03.
- Dawson, Oswald (1897). Personal Rights and Sexual Wrongs. London, Leeds: WM. Reeves. p. 3. Retrieved 2020-07-03.
- Longa, Ernesto A. (2009). Anarchist Periodicals in English Published in the United States (1833-1955): An Annotated Guide. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. pp. 20, 158. ISBN 978-0-8108-7255-4.
- Jones, Derek (2001). Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 733. ISBN 978-1-136-79864-1.
- Humpherys, Anne (2003-04-01). "The Journal that Did: Form and content in The Adult (1897-1899)". Media History. 9 (1): 63–78. doi:10.1080/1368880032000059980. ISSN 1368-8804. S2CID 144979532.
- Brake, Laurel; Demoor, Marysa, eds. (2009). Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Gent: Academia Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-90-382-1340-8.
- Cook, Matt (2003). London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-521-82207-7.
- Bedborough, George (December 1898). The Adult: 331.
- Edmundson, John (2014-09-09). "Some of The First Ever Magazines For Vegetarian Children". HappyCow. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Gregory, James (2007). Of Victorians and Vegetarians: The Vegetarian Movement in Nineteenth-Century Britain. London: I. B. Tauris. p. 248. ISBN 978-1-84511-379-7.
- "Bedborough, George". WorldCat Identities.
- Edmundson, John (2013-09-19). "100 years old plant-eating identical twins! The Ernest Bell Memorial Library". HappyCow. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Bedborough, George (1919). The Atheist. London: Garden City Press. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Bedborough, George (November 1932). "G. K. Chesterton versus Birth Control" (PDF). Birth Control Review. 16 (9): 286.
- Brierley, Michael W.; Byrne, Georgina A., eds. (2018). Life after Tragedy: Essays on Faith and the First World War Evoked by Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. Bristol, Connecticut: ISD LLC. pp. 11, 242. ISBN 978-0-7188-4761-6.
- Bedborough, George (1938). Prayer: An Indictment. London: Pioneer Press.
- Ellis, Henry Havelock (1898). A Note on the Bedborough Trial. Watford: University Press.
- Coulson, Frederick Raymond; Singer, George Astor (1898). "Judicial Scandals and Errors". Darwin on Trial at the Old Bailey. London: University Press. p. 46.
- Quotations related to George Bedborough at Wikiquote