The Lutetian Society

In the later part of the Victorian era many novels by foreign authors were considered too erotic, or otherwise explicit, and banned from publication in Great Britain.  This resulted in a number of literary societies being set up to publish unexpurgated translations of such novels and distribute them, in a somewhat clandestine manner, to limited, educated & wealthy members of society.  In this way the otherwise banned novels could be privately circulated (at a high price) among the discerning who were keen to read novels in English that were commonplace in Europe.

One of the most interesting of these societies was the Lutetian that comprised the six translators Ernest Dowson, Havelock Ellis, Arthur Symons, Victor Plarr, Alexander Teixeira de Mattos and our Percy Edward Pinkerton.  These translators were of particular interest because, as a group, they were dedicated to producing unexpurgated translations of the works of Émile Zola; one of the most revered, and Nobel Prize winning, authors in France. Thus in 1894/5 the Lutetian Society published translations of six of Émile Zola’s banned novels.

There is some controversy as to who set up the Lutetian Society. The main body of opinion seems to argue that Teixeira de Mattos masterminded the society - he was certainly the main member of it.  But these societies in general were surrounded in secrecy and there are other hypotheses that rather convincingly point to other involvement.  We may never know!

Professor Denise Merkle, in her research paper: The Lutetian Society, TTR: traduction, terminologie, rédaction 16:2 (2003) states:

"We know that the members of this Francophile group [Lutetian] socialized and travelled together (except Pinkerton about whom we have found very little information)."

Evidently demonstrative of the fact that the least well known of the group was our Percy Edward Pinkerton.

And this fact I took as a challenge!