Skip to main content

The Cautious Amorist

By JOL Admin | 11 May 2017

'The Cautious Amorist' by Norman Lindsay. 1st pub. N.Y., 1932

'The Cautious Amorist' by Norman Lindsay. 1st pub. N.Y., 1932

The Cautious Amorist was banned in Australia from May 1933 to October 1953, with the authorities citing both indecency and blasphemy.

A story of three men and a young woman cast away on a Pacific island, it explored "the effects of shipwreck on maidenly modesty, ministerial morals, and masculine rivalry" and the battle of the sexes which ensued - a battle from which our heroine Sadie emerged more or less triumphant.


The News (Adelaide), 11 Oct 1933, p.6

The News (Adelaide), 11 Oct 1933, p.6

The author lashed out at the censors and many newspapers took his side,  fulminating against the "farce of censorship" and "abuse of government" in Australia.

Sun (Sydney), 15 Oct 1933, p.52

Sun (Sydney), 15 Oct 1933, p.52

Booksellers in Brisbane, on the other hand, congratulated themselves for not having ordered too many copies;

Telegraph (Brisbane), 29 May 1934, p.2

Telegraph (Brisbane), 29 May 1934, p.2

although they were unanimous in condemning the "present censorship system", stating their suspicions that in many cases "Books were banned without even being read ... simply because somebody had forwarded an objection".

Telegraph (Brisbane), 24 May 1934, p.2

Telegraph (Brisbane), 24 May 1934, p.2

The Cautious Amorist was a best-seller in the UK and the US, but not many Australians have read it.   In banning it for twenty years the authorities pretty much denied Lindsay his Australian readership.

By the time the ban was lifted in 1953, the reasons for the original ban seemed quite innocent:

"The four had diarrhoea from eating unripe fruit; there was a modest reference to abortion; there was a play on the word 'periods' and so on".

Freedom Then, Freedom Now

The Cautious Amorist is one of many collection items to be featured in SLQ’s latest exhibition, Freedom Then, Freedom Now which runs from 5 May until 19 November 2017 at the State Library of Queensland.

Freedom then, Freedom Now is an intriguing journey into our recent past exploring the freedoms enjoyed and restricted in Queensland and examines what happens when collective good intersects with individual rights.  Freedoms often depend on age, racial or religious background, gender, income and where you live.  Freedoms change over time and with public opinion.  This exhibition draws on the extensive collections of SLQ to reminisce, reflect on and explore freedoms lost and won in Queensland.

State Library of Queensland Collections

SLQ has copies of several of the different editions of The Cautious Amorist, including the first U.S. edition from 1932 and the first U.K. edition from 1934.  Later publishers tried to update the look of the cover, although none surpassed the charm of the author's original illustrations.


Hetherington, John.  Norman Lindsay. (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1969)

Holt, Patricia. 'It's Enough to Drive a Bloke Mad' Norman Lindsay's Art and Literaturein BSANZ bulletin, v.27, no. 1 & 2, 2003. p. 62-81

Moore, Nicole. The Censor's Library. (University of Queensland Press, 2011)






Your email address will not be published.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments.

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.