Chapter 9: Indecent, Immoral, Obscene
The Angry Penguins obscenity trial was listed for Tuesday, 5 September 1944 at 10 a.m., in the Adelaide Police Court, a modest two-storey sandstone edifice with shuttered windows, on Victoria Square, before Stipendiary Magistrate Mr L.C.Clarke. Clarke was rather English in appearance, a tall, thin, white-haired man in spectacles. His manner was dry and plain and he was not famous for his wit. The usual business of his court was to punish misdemeanours: public drunkenness, reckless driving, petty theft.
Mr D.C.Williams, of the Crown Solicitor’s Department, a tough and gritty barrister only a few years older than Harris, prosecuted. Eric Millhouse, who was well-reputed in Adelaide legal circles, appeared for the defence. Harris entered a plea of ‘Not Guilty to the alleged offence of ‘Indecent Advertisements’.
He had been preparing his defence ever since Detective Vogelesang’s unwelcome visit. Reed flew to Adelaide as soon as he heard about the possibility of a prosecution. He arrived on Thursday, 3 August and left the following Monday, after helping to arrange legal representation for Harris. While the Penguins anxiously waited for a summons to be issued, they planned their strategy. Harris tried without success to get the librarians at the university and the public library to give evidence, since both institutions made Angry Penguins ‘available for tender minds, and apparently consider it does no harm’. It was not clear what Harris would be charged with: obscenity or — far more seriously — blasphemy, or both. When the summons did arrive on 25 August, Harris telegrammed Reed at noon: ‘NO REFERENCE TO BLASPHEMY... FINGERS CROSSED’. A few days later Harris thought he might have found an Adelaide parson to give evidence for the Penguins, but then wired: ‘PARSON HERE HAS RATTED IS SKIPPING TOWN’. He sought out other witnesses to appear for them. Reed would give evidence, of course, J.I.M.Stewart, Reg Ellery and Brian Elliott agreed to testify. In the lead-up to the trial. Professor Stewart was summoned to the registrar’s office at the University of Adelaide. Here he found a judge of the South Australian Supreme Court waiting to advise him ‘most strongly’ not to testify in Harris’s favour. Five decades later Stewart could not recall the name of the judge, but the Vice Chancellor, Sir Herbert Parsons, also sat on the Supreme Court. Whoever applied the pressure, Stewart stood his ground.
In a moment of pique Harris declared he was finished with Australia but Reed pulled him up short on the idea that the country was not a fit place to publish serious work. ‘For goodness sake, don’t let us have that,’ he told him. A few days later Reed added: ‘It is not any picnic, but on the other hand, we can’t pretend that we never envisaged such a thing as this and the very role we play has made it fairly inevitable.’ Harris warned that ‘if a policy of persecution and moral gangsterism develops in the cultural field of this country, then the whole tendency will be to destroy the integral impulse to creativity’. He was ‘fairly calm’, he said, ‘but overall the past few months are making a pretty deep and permanent impression on me’. He began to realize just how isolated and precarious his position was in the Athens of the South. If a vendetta was being waged against him, it was possible the police would not only prosecute Angry Penguins but his novel The Vegetative Eye as well. Bundles of unsold copies sat in Harris’s office. What if the authorities came after these too? At The Women’s Weekly Catherine Caris came up with a solution. In secret she and Harris carried his copies of The Vegetative Eye down Grenfell Street into her office and stashed them in the storeroom under back numbers of the Weekly. The police would never think of looking there.
Harris believed the case derived directly from the ‘personal reactions’ of the Crown Solicitor, Tacky Hannan, to himself and Angry Penguins. It is quite certain Catholic Action is the guiding force,’ he wrote to Reed. Near the end of August ‘a complaint’ was laid against Harris under Section 108 of the South Australian Police Act, which alleged that in Adelaide, in June 1944, he sold certain ‘indecent advertisements’. Hannan signed the letter to Angry Penguins identifying thirteen passages in the magazine the Crown found offensive, seven of them in Ern Malley, the rest in Harris’s writing, and the work of other contributors, including Peter Cowan and Dal Stivens, and the poet Laurence Collinson.
Section 108 defined ‘indecent advertisements’ as ‘printed matter of an indecent immoral or obscene nature’. It had been on the books since 1897, when expurgated editions of the classics, especially for consumption in classrooms, were common. There was no allowance for literary or artistic merit as a defence: the only materials the section exempted were ‘bona fide medical works’. The chief legal test of obscenity applied by Australian, British and American courts in 1944 dated from the Victorian era. In Regina v. Hicklin (1868) Mr Justice Cockburn specified the test as ‘whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall. Strictly applied, this meant that if the kids could flick through a copy of Angry Penguins on the coffee table or in a bookshop, then the magazine’s claim to be a serious literary and artistic forum could not constitute a defence against obscenity.
When Harris was summonsed this was the first official attempt ever to suppress Australian poetry. But censorship was common in Australia. In the 1930s the Customs Department prohibited thousands of books from entering the country. The NSW Collector of Customs, in a crude affirmation of Hicklin, announced in 1930 that the department’s test was ‘whether the average householder would accept the book in question as reading matter for his family’. Among the proscribed authors were Joyce (Ulysses and Dubliners), Defoe (Moll Flanders), Huxley (Brave New World), Orwell (Down and Out in Paris and London), Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms), Dos Passes (1919) and Hermann Broch (The Sleepwalkers). By 1944 many of these books had been released but hundreds of others were still banned.
The Angry Penguins trial concluded a script which nobody without a sense of humour could have invented, and nobody with one could resist. If the Ern Malley poems were surreal, so was the situation. The trial confirmed all over again that the hoax had demolished its literary boundaries, and invaded the world. It made Ern Malley even more famous and legitimized the shrieks of approval that greeted the hoax. McAuley and Stewart had not for a second intended to trick Harris into the courts. They failed to realize that Ern Malley would hand out guns to philistines — and now the state was providing the bullets. The trial was a shambles, with none of the rapier wit of the hoax. The police evidence was risible, the Crown prosecutor a lowbrow bulldog, and the defence counsel out of his depth.
The trial was the hottest show in town. Nothing like this had ever happened in Adelaide before. On the morning of 5 September, the courtroom on Victoria Square was ‘crowded as a picture theatre’, and buzzing with anticipation. The national press was in attendance, and the trial was reported throughout the country. Many had come to watch the law in action as a form of spectator sport though not everybody there was friendly to Harris. He reported to Reed that there were ‘hordes of Catholics’ in the courtroom. A few Angry Penguins turned up to lend moral support: Geoff Dutton wore his air-force uniform to raise the tone among the bohemians.
First witness for the prosecution was Reg Carter, manager of the Argonaut Business Library in Adelaide, who had done a very brisk trade in the Ern Malley edition of Angry Penguins. Under questioning by Williams, he testified that he had ordered in four separate batches of the magazine for public sale. Cross-examined by Millhouse, Carter informed the court that in ‘quite a number of modern books’ the words ‘loving’, ‘bugger’ and ‘bastard’ could be found and seemed to offend nobody. This was a very inauspicious start for the Crown case. It had been Williams’ idea to have the bookseller testify and his eyes ‘popped’ in disbelief as Carter stepped down.
The Crown then called its major witness, Detective Vogelesang, whose name translates into English as ‘birdsong’ but who was known around town as ‘Dutchie’. Vogelesang was Nordic in appearance: he was a tall, well-built man with an open face, square jaw, fair hair and blue eyes. He stood up straight in his uniform and obtained the court’s permission to recount from notes his questioning of the defendant on ‘I August. That afternoon, the court learned, Jacobus Andries Vogelesang, Detective stationed at Adelaide, armed with a copy of Angry Penguins (Autumn number, 1944), had visited Maxwell Henley Harris, Student, of 20 Churchill Avenue, Glandore, in his office at Room 83, Second Floor, Brookman Buildings, Grenfell Street, Adelaide and for the attention of the defendant had opened the magazine to page 11, where Ern Malley’s poem ‘Sweet William’ was printed.
‘Are you acquainted with all the poems in the Ern Malley section?’ asked Vogelesang.
‘Yes,’ said Harris.
Vogelesang waved a hand at the magazine where the poem was fully visible.
‘What is the theme of that poem?’ he asked, like a teacher prodding a student.
‘I don’t know what the author intended by that poem,’ Harris replied. ‘You had better ask him what he meant.’
Vogelesang was not about to tolerate any sophistry about literary intention. He had his own ideas about the theme of the poem and they had nothing to do with who wrote it. There was another thing too — if the gossip was true, finding the author might prove a slippery task. Harris was the man he wanted.
‘What do you think it means?’
‘I am not going to express an opinion.’
Vogelesang saw straight through this. ‘That means you have an opinion but you are not prepared to express it.’
Harris paused. ‘I would have to give it two or three hours consideration before I could determine what it means,’ he said.
Detective Vogelesang did not have that long. The kind of meaning he had in mind was easier to find. It was time to drop a hint. The magazine was spread open on its spine. ‘Do you think it is suggestive of indecency?’
‘I haven’t got an opinion,’ said Harris.
The suspect was being difficult. Detective Vogelesang turned the page and pointed with his policeman’s finger at ‘Boult to Marina’. He renewed the exegetical pressure. ‘What do you think this poem is about?’
Harris looked at him. ‘Do you know anything about the classical characters?’ he asked.
A bluff, best ignored. ‘What I want to know is what it means,’ said Detective Vogelesang in a gruff voice. The scene of the crime lay still on the page.
‘Pericles and Boult are both classical characters and, when you know what they stand for, you can understand the poem.’
‘Do you think the poem is suggestive of indecency?’ inquired Detective Vogelesang, sticking to his task.
‘No more than Shakespeare or Chaucer or others.’
Vogelesang thrust into this opening. ‘You admit then that there is a suggestion of indecency about the poem?’
‘No I don’t,’ said Harris. If you are looking for that sort of thing, I can refer you to plenty of books and cheaper publications that you can fill your department with. Our publication is intended for cultured minds, who understand these things, and place ordinary thoughts on a higher level.’
Vogelesang was not about to place ordinary thoughts on a higher level. ‘What does it mean when it says “Part of me remains, wench, Boult-upright / The rest of me drops off into the night”?’
‘I can’t help the interpretation that some people might place on it.’
‘Do you think that some people could place an indecent interpretation on it?’ Vogelesang could, but didn’t want to say so.
‘Some people could place an indecent interpretation on anything,’ said Harris.
‘Well, what is your opinion of the poem?’
‘I haven’t got one,’ said Max Harris, learning fast.
They stumbled through ‘Night Piece’ and its alternative version. When Harris confessed he didn’t have an opinion on either poem, Vogelesang thought it time for some straight talk and told the court he informed the defendant, ‘I think they suggest sexual matters, and I consider they are immoral.’ Harris had no opinion either about ‘Perspective Lovesong’ and ‘Egyptian Register’. Detective Vogelesang did and fixated on the word ‘genitals’: ‘The genitals refer to the sexual parts,’ he remarked brightly. ‘I think it unusual for the sexual parts to be referred to in poetry.’
Detective Vogelesang thought it unusual for the sexual parts to be referred to in prose as well. He was worried by the phrase ‘You can stick the money’ in Peter Cowan’s story ‘The Fence’ and asked Harris, ‘Do you think it might mean “stick it up your anus”, or the word that is used more vulgarly?’ He isolated this passage of dialogue between a woman and a man in Dal Stivens’ story, ‘You Call Me By My Proper Name’:
‘You men,’ she said. ‘You’re all the same. You always reckon it must be another fellow when a girl says she don’t want to see you any more. You’re all the same, the lot of you. You only want one thing.’
‘It ain’t like you to talk this way.’
‘What the hell do you know about me?’ Vera said loudly. ‘All you men only want one thing from a girl.’
‘You like it,’ he said.
The girl’s face went red and her head went down. Her hair fell over her face and she said, softly: ‘It’s all right for men. It’s different for girls.’
Harris didn’t think this indecent or immoral but Vogelesang did. ‘Have you considered its effect on, say, high school children?’ he asked. The detective also alerted Harris to dangerous tendencies in his own poetry. Harris had published a poem called ‘Birdsong’ in the Autumn issue of Angry Penguins but Vogelesang passed over it. About others he was troubled, including this passage from ‘The Journey North’ which he read aloud:
New Year brought its concertinas in,
the redundant festivities of piano and song
for the flatchested women of the camp,
whose genitals ached like very hell
for the passionate copulation in satin
and passivity by the lowtuned radio,
waking to the morning aubade of trams.
‘Does it mean that the woman’s sexual parts are aching for an evening dress?’
Harris, perhaps in amazement, agreed.
‘Don’t you think that is immoral?’ asked Detective Vogelesang. He finished reading from his notes, and Williams tendered the Ern Malley issue of Angry Penguins as an exhibit.
Vogelesang’s evidence under cross-examination by Millhouse was a sensation. He brought the house down. Williams had already tried to silence the simpering gallery by remarking that he would like to have some of the audience in the witness box. ‘They would look a lot sillier than they look at present,’ he said in a loud voice. Now the circling guffaws elicited a warning from Clarke, the SM [Stipendiary Magistrate]: ‘I want to make it clear that this is not an entertainment and on any more outbursts of laughter the persons responsible will be ejected.’
Vogelesang had not volunteered for this job. He admitted under cross-examination from Millhouse that he had only read Angry Penguins in order to question Harris about it. His opinions about the immorality of the material were his own, he added. He declared he had heard the expression ‘you can stick it’ several times, but ‘not among other members of the police force, never’. (Gales of laughter swirled around the courtroom.) ‘I did regard it as part of a phrase, such as “stick it up your anus”,’ Vogelesang explained. ‘It is frequently used, abbreviated. There are lots of endings to it, all meaning the one thing. I have heard other meanings to it. It was on account of my hearing other meanings to it that I attached a meaning to it. I think that meaning would apply to other people, even if they heard other things.’
Meanings budded, flowered and died. If Ern Malley was written to be misread, no one had misread him like this. In ‘Sweet William’ Vogelesang objected ‘to the thing as a whole’, he said. ‘The last five lines of the first verse are suggestive of sexual intercourse and the second verse is suggestive of the person or whoever it is having yielded to the temptation of sexual intercourse.’ Is this person a man or a woman, Millhouse asked. ‘In the second verse I should think perhaps it is a man. I think it is a man or somebody who has yielded to sexual temptation.’ Prodded further, Vogelesang admitted, ‘I couldn’t say if it is a man or woman. In the second verse, because it is related to the five lines of the first verse, it refers to sexual intercourse. In the second verse, “My white swan of quietness lies quiet in the black swan’s breast”, the person “I” is testifying how he yielded to the temptation.’ Again he insisted, ‘That has not been suggested to me by anyone, that is the meaning I attached to it.’
Millhouse took the detective through ‘Boult to Marina’. Vogelesang had read Pericles but ‘before I interviewed Mr Harris, I did not know who Boult was, nor who Marina was. I knew the play of Pericles. I have read it, but I did not associate Boult with it, nor Marina.’ In this poem Vogelesang objected to the words ‘Boult-upright’ and ‘You shall rest snug tonight and know what I mean.’ ‘I don’t think it could mean Boult was an upright man,’ he said. ‘It offends my decency to suggest that a character means that he wants sexual intercourse. I think that is immoral. That governs my opinion with regard to all these matters, where intercourse is referred to, I take it as immoral, in the circumstances in which we find them here. I would consider under certain circumstances that it was indecent to talk about the sexual act, to discuss it with a friend, for example.’
Ern Malley had no friends. Perhaps his lonely existence drew him to write about parks at night, a subject that had Vogelesang fingering his truncheon. ‘Apparently someone is shining a torch in the dark,’ he said, ‘visiting through the park gates. To my mind they were going there for some disapproved motive.’ His clue was the iron birds with rusty beaks. ‘The nature of the time they went there and the disapproval of the iron birds, make me say it is immoral. I have found that people who go into parks at night go there for immoral purposes,’ Vogelesang told the court. ‘My experience as a police officer might under certain circumstances tinge my appreciation of literature.’
‘Perspective Lovesong’ suggested ‘that someone is inquiring for intercourse’. Vogelesang vouched for the independence of his interpretation. ‘That was all out of my mind,’ he said. ‘No one has mentioned it to me.’ Of the word ‘genitals’ from ‘Egyptian Register’, he observed, confusing object and referent, ‘they don’t fit into the rest of the poem.’ And he regarded the word ‘incestuous’ as being indecent. ‘I don’t know what “incestuous” means,’ Vogelesang added. ‘I think there is a suggestion of indecency about it.’ But not about ‘concupiscence to foin’ from ‘Young Prince of Tyre’ which Vogelesang had not read when he interviewed Harris and confessed he did not understand when he did.
‘I object to any description of any female parts in poems,’ said Vogelesang. He complained about the line ‘from the mother’s womb the child is scraped away’ which he stumbled on in a poem by Laurence Collinson. ‘I wouldn’t object if someone said, “Mrs Brown had a curette”. If you said in the street, “Mrs Brown had her womb scraped”, I would regard that as immoral.’
Millhouse announced he had no further questions and Detective Vogelesang stepped down. It was an astonishing performance. [Note 1]
Williams summarized in an attempt to bring the Crown case back to life after the mauling Vogelesang had given it. The poetry of Ern Malley offended public standards, he suggested, and its spurious authorship was somehow related to this. ‘Rumour had it,’ said Williams, ‘that Ern Malley did not even exist.’ It was not easy to tell if the poems were on trial for obscurity or indecency and the confusion of the two had already become central to the Crown’s case in Vogelesang’s evidence. ‘In parts, the so-called literature in the publication is impossible to understand,’ Williams told the magistrate. ‘From an ordinary man’s point of view one cannot comprehend some of the sentences and criticisms. Reference to sex is dragged in by the heels by some authors and it did not always fit in with the matter in question. There are not many pages in the book that do not refer to sex in some form or other, but I do not claim that they are all indecent. It is true that in places it is difficult to understand what the references to sex do or mean to imply but in other places no doubt exists what the authors meant.’
The prosecution rested its case. The show had lasted three hours. At 1 p.m. the court was adjourned until 26 September.
Ninety minutes later Harris walked across Victoria Square beneath the baleful stare of the grimy monarch and wired a triumphant message to Reed from the post office, ‘MILLHOUSE THRASHED DUMB DETECTIVE’. A day or so later he dismissed Vogelesang as ‘terribly pure’. But Harris — whose wife Von recalled how the couple were hissed at and cat-called in the streets of Adelaide — admitted he was feeling ‘rather queer’ and complained to Reed of
an irrational fear of physical violence, of being followed, of a secret powerful enemy in anyone who stares at me — & the cumulative effect is that I am now very much stared at in a small town like this. I can stand the fight, the force of mind, but the notoriety is distracting me so that I’m having to pull myself together all the time. I’m taking too much Nembutal for the sake of sleep. I have not mentioned these things to anyone else — I try to face them out in verse. You’re a sort of deus-ex-machina of sanity.
The adjournment was to allow Millhouse to fit the defence of Angry Penguins around his schedule. On 11 September Harris reported that in reaction to the trauma of the case he was experiencing ‘an intellectual burst’ and was writing poetry ‘at fever pitch’. Then, exactly one week later, the Angry Penguins defence was left in ‘chaos and confusion’ when Millhouse announced his timetable would not allow him to appear in court on 26 September after all. Two days later a replacement barrister was found, Mr E.Phillips, who called Harris as the first witness for the defence when the case resumed.
There was a minor victory, against the objections of the Crown, when Stewart, Ellery and Elliott were permitted to remain in court as expert witnesses. Harris was led through the contentious passages by Phillips and accounted for each in turn. Williams objected to almost every question.
‘Sweet William’, Harris testified, ‘discusses entirely a man at conflict with himself, without reference to anything else beside his mental condition. He has been subject to some image of desire symbolized by the “English eyes” and he finds himself within a mental or almost schizophrenic conflict. The “stone feet down the staircase of flesh” is a reference or an associative image from Mozart’s Don Giovanni where the stone statue walks, and it is used to symbolize the conflict between his emotions of desire and what he later calls “self-denial”. These two emotions are in conflict with each other, and the idea of the different mental aspects of the man struggling to destroy him is obscene in that dictionary sense which refers to “obscene” as “repulsive”; and “rape” of course is used in its classical sense “rapio” to seize, and need not have any sexual connection at all.’
The point of ‘Boult to Marina’, Harris claimed, was that ‘for the first time some sort of noble trait is evoked in Boult, for although as the poem claims he might have silken eyes to kiss, part of him preserves integrity. The rest is still as before or drops off into the night.’ ‘Perspective Lovesong’ introduced ‘biographical elements’ into the series: ‘Malley is treating the moment of plighting of troth between himself and his beloved,’ said Harris, ‘but having a sense of impending death, the moment contains within itself not the finality of lovers plighting their troth, associated with the guillotine, but the abattoirs, which is associated with the carcass. His premonition of death gives a sense of unreality to the scene, and it is as if they were under sea with the wise grinning shark, his premonition of death, confronting him.” Harris denied the prosecution’s contortionist claim that ‘Egyptian Register’ dragged in ‘the genitals by the heels’. The poem was ‘a study of the magical qualities of nature’, he said. Court was adjourned at 12.50 until 2.15 p.m. After lunch Harris was cross-examined by the Crown.
‘Do you consider yourself one of the greatest Australian writers?’ opened Williams.
‘I do not,’ answered Harris. ‘I wrote a book called The Vegetative Eye.’
‘Do you consider that a great work?’
‘I am not in the position, as being so near to it, I leave that to the critics.’
‘Do you consider the poems of Ern Malley to be great literary work?’
‘I consider them serious literary work.’
‘Are they a major event in Australian literary history?’
‘In certain respects. Their technique has not been developed before.’
This line of questioning had nothing to do with the alleged indecency of Ern Malley. Harris was getting his come-uppance, and the poems, it seemed, were on trial for the fact that they existed.
‘Take a person, myself, whose only training in literature is up to English I at the university. Should I be able to understand the poems of Ern Malley?’
‘Most English I students can.’
‘That is to say, I suppose, that most people of ordinary intellect should be able to understand Ern Malley?’
‘I don’t think it reflects on their intellect, it is a matter of if you can understand it. If you are quite illiterate you couldn’t understand them.’
‘Do you think that a court should be able to understand Malley’s poems without any assistance from you?’
It may be able to, it may not, it depends on the court.’
‘Then do you say that a person who cannot understand the Ern Malley poems is not necessarily a fool?’
Ern Malley was a bastard son. Williams aired the delicate question of his parentage. There were no objections from Phillips.
‘You believe now that no such person as Ern Malley exists, don’t you?’
‘Whom do you now believe to be the author or authors of those poems?’
‘As rumour has it, Mr McAuley and Mr Stewart.’
‘And have you any belief as to the purpose which the authors had in mind in writing the Ern Malley poems?’
‘They claimed to be hoaxing the members of a modernistic culturism.’
‘Don’t you believe that Ern Malley’s poems were never intended to be serious work at all?’
‘I have no opinion on their intentions. I only worry about their content as poems.’
‘Assuming that the poems were written by the gentlemen you mentioned, and that they wrote them as a hoax and with no serious purpose in view, do you still say their work is significant?’
‘And you say that it doesn’t matter if the significance is accidental or otherwise?’
‘I don’t know if the significance is accidental. I am concerned with the significance.’
‘So that this is the position, is it not, that nothing would shake your faith as literary work in the Ern Malley poems?’
Williams now sought to establish that the Ern Malley poems were meaningless gibberish. He took Shakespeare as his model of clarity in English verse: ‘The majority of people in Australia would regard the poems as nothing but rubbish.’
‘Yes, and Shakespeare.”
‘But you don’t claim that a person reading Pericles, Prince of Tyre, after reading it wouldn’t know what he had read?’
‘He would find initial difficulty in following it if he had not been trained in literature. The ordinary person could understand it given the necessary energy and intellectual effort which I doubt he would give it.’
‘What about Hamlet, there are any amount of passages in that which the ordinary person can understand without difficulty.’
‘Yes, there are many passages they can understand without difficulty.’
‘Having finished reading Hamlet, the reader would at least have some idea of what it was about?’
‘He would have a general outline in his mind, the ordinary reader, of the emotional tension of the play and a rough outline from stage directions and the context in which it takes place — although he may have no idea what is biting Hamlet.’
‘As You Like It is a play which is frequently set for school children to study, isn’t it?’
‘And school children would have no difficulty in understanding a good deal?’
‘As a child I had difficulty in all Shakespeare’s works, I found it necessary to take out annotations by the teacher, and have the meanings of the words explained.’
‘You don’t mean to say there are passages in As You Like It which are not intelligible to sensible children?’
‘I concede that.’
‘There is nothing in Ern Malley’s poems which a child of ordinary intelligence could understand, is there?’
‘I think any child of normal intelligence could understand “Night Piece”. Given the same explanation that we got of Shakespeare, I would say they would have no difficulty in either of the “Night Pieces”, neither would they in the first poem.’
‘Are you serious in that?’
‘I don’t think it is any more difficult than As You Like It.’
‘You understand me when I said that there was not any passage in As You Like It the ordinary child wouldn’t have difficulty in understanding?’
‘Yes. I will concede that certain words like “interloper” would need to be explained, and “cowled”. You would have to go to a child psychologist, but all I can say is that it is a simple poem. “Night Piece” and “Durer: Innsbruck” are the only two instances in the Ern Malley poems which are simple. With gradations, some of the others are extremely difficult. In my opinion, “Egyptian Register” is the most difficult.’
‘What is difficult about it?’
‘I think it requires or suggests a high degree of sophisticated intellect and remote images in the mind of the author, and a complex attitude to man and nature.’
OLIVER: This was not counterfeit. There
is too great testimony in your complexion
that it was a passion of earnest.
ROSALIND: Counterfeit, I assure you.
As You Like It, Act IV, Scene iii
Discussing Shakespeare put Ern Malley in lofty company, something McAuley and Stewart did when they consulted a Collected Works to write his poems, perhaps because Herbert Read had sponsored a revival of Shakespeare in the thirties and urged the surrealists to claim him ‘as an ally’. Malley is pretty familiar with the Bard. With nice ironic timing he quotes from The Merchant of Venice at the close of ‘Culture as Exhibit’ (‘See how the floor of Heav’n is thick / Inlaid with patines of etcetera...’) and he drops in a couple of lines from ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ at the right moment in ‘Petit Testament’.
Malley is also obsessed by the late, minor play Pericles, an interloper in the canon. It was excluded from the 1623 folio and nobody knows just how much of it Shakespeare wrote. With its drivelling dumb-shows and sea-swell music, the ‘apocryphal’ Pericles may be Shakespeare’s most Malleyesque moment, and Ern draws on it for two poems, ‘Boult to Marina’ and ‘Young Prince of Tyre’. The trouble is that Ern heads straight for the scenes everyone is sure Shakespeare wrote — the encounters in the brothel between Boult and Marina. Pericles is stuffed with wretched Jacobean doggerel which might have tested Harris’s ability to distinguish good verse from bad, but the hoaxers were drawn to the liveliest, saltiest language in the play.
‘Boult to Marina’ suggests, plausibly enough, that Boult’s conversion to virtue in the play is fake by his own standards. ‘Part of me remains, wench, Boult-upright / The rest of me drops off into the night’ is too charming a construction for Shakespeare’s Boult, but Ern, in the person of Boult, is punning on the Bawd’s orders to him which read like the catalyst for the poem itself:
Boult take her away, use her at thy pleasure, crack the glass of her virginity and make the rest malleable.
Make the rest malleable indeed! Before his capitulation to Marina’s shining light of goodness, Boult gets to bark out lines such as ‘if she were a thornier piece of ground than she is, she shall be ploughed’. One way to fake Shakespeare is to copy him out (‘What would you have me do? Go to the wars?’) but the final stanza of ‘Boult to Marina’ is all Ern and constitutes — though it may take Boult’s delivery up a notch or two — a dazzling bit of ventriloquy:
Sainted and schismatic would you be?
Four frowning bedposts
Will be the cliffs of your wind-thrummelled sea
Lady of these coasts,
Blown lily, surplice and stole of Mytilene,
You shall rest snug to-night and know what I mean.
Snatches of ‘Young Prince of Tyre’ were copied from Pericles too. The rusty armour and the ill-advised ‘concupiscence to foin’ which stumped Vogelesang are, however, pastiche. There were some popular lines in this poem, written with Elizabethan confidence, which Ern didn’t find in Shakespeare. Sidney Nolan thought ‘The new men are cool as spreading fern’ among the most beautiful Australian images he’d ever read, and described the whole passage as ‘a beautiful example of the English language being renewed in Australia, while the older poets fall away’. Even the title of Ern’s Works, The Darkening Ecliptic, sounds like Shakespeare, though it derives from Ern’s original account of Boult bragging to Marina: ‘So blowing this lily as trumpet with my lips / I assert my original glory in the dark eclipse.’ [Note 2]
Malley often breaks into ‘Shakespearean’ when he wants to talk about sex. Mostly this is the language of the comedies (‘Milord / Had his hand upon that snowy globe / Milady Lucy’s sinister breast... / Knowst not, my Lucia, that he / Who has caparisoned a nun dies / With his twankydillo at the ready?’), though sometimes his vision of women is tortured and full of terror, as if snatched from the tragedies (‘Take it for a sign, insolent and superb / That at nightfall the woman who scarcely would / Now opens her cunning thighs to reveal the herb / Of content’). A few of his ‘ribald interventions’ are cynical barracks-room humour, though some have a sensual and psychological credibility — ‘The body’s a hillside, darling, moist / With bitter dews of regret’ — in keeping with Ethel’s account of the haughty, thwarted lover who ‘had some sort of difference’ with a girl in Melbourne. This was all lost on the prosecution.
Williams took Harris through ‘Egyptian Register’ line by line. Though it was never stated with such clarity, the Crown case seemed to be that where the poetry was not obscene it was unintelligible, and that was almost as bad. They teetered into the ridiculous: Williams sought to deny a paraphrasable content where he could detect nothing risque, but was on the alert for meaning if the poetry looked naughty.
‘Are you able to take either of the stanzas in the verse of “Egyptian Register” and tell the Court what it means?’
‘I can communicate to you the kind of emotional impact that the stanzas in question will have. You start off with the man as it were examining the body.’
‘Where do you get that from?’
‘Because he takes in turn various parts of the body, hand, skull, spine, lungs, etc., and lets his associations play about the kind of emotions they suggest to him.’
‘Where do you get that from? You can’t point to any word or sentence about that, can you?’
‘Each thing he takes up suggests to him, within the context of the larger idea he is developing, that of the inexplicability of human life, the exotic or mysterious qualities in these physical things.’
‘Where does he say anything about the inexplicability of human life?’
‘A dark purpose I would say would be inexplicable.’
‘That is what you are relying on for what you have said about the inexplicable purpose of human life?’
‘I merely gave you one instance. “The skull gathers darkness” assimilates from without itself those things which are inexplicable.’
‘It wouldn’t be possible that what you have just read is meaningless gibberish, would it?’
‘What else is there which indicates that the author is talking about the inexplicable things of life?’
‘Another suggestion of vagueness and inexplicability is associated with the spine reference.’
‘But what is there inexplicable about that except the language?’
‘The spine contains part of the brain, and the author links it with the harsh and inquiring element of the brain which pierces or attempts to pierce the obscurity of life.’
‘What is the harsh and inquiring element of a brain? Where do you get that from?’
‘What actual words are there referring to the harsh and inquiring elements of the brain?’
‘I am conceding that it is difficult to put these things into intellectual terms but it is apparent that the general emotional suggestion is there.’
‘When you use the phrase “putting into intellectual terms” do you mean putting it into terms which the ordinary person can understand?’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘It is rather like trying to write out what a Beethoven symphony contains: you can talk about storm ad infinitum. In other words you are putting it into intellectual terms. If you read out the terms, the same effect is not communicated to you as if you listen to the symphony.’
‘Is there anything else which you want to refer to which to your mind suggests the inexplicable purposes of life?’
Take the first line, “The hand that burns resinous in the evening sky”. What does “resinous” mean?’
‘I don’t know, I think it refers to “residence”. I did not look it up in the dictionary. That is not that it can’t be understood, that is bad studentship on my part. There might well be other words in Ern Malley’s poems which I can’t understand.’
‘Is that because you are too lazy to look them up, or did not think it was necessary to get a satisfactory reaction from the poems?’
‘Partly both. Even though I don’t know what it means, it evokes an image in mind.’
They clawed their way to the end of the stanza: ‘I suppose you contend that a person would have to be particularly nasty minded to suggest that the words “immense index” used in connection with the genitals might refer to a large phallus?’
In other words you would have to be deliberately looking for some nasty meaning before you could suggest it meant that?’
‘I think so.’
‘You don’t think it would be possible for any fair-minded person to think that the author in using the word “index” was referring to a penis in the state of erection.’
‘Only the mentally depraved, I should think.’
‘Do you consider that the standard of decency for writers such as yourself is the same or different from the standard of decency in ordinary polite conversation?’
‘Yes, Shakespeare says things you wouldn’t say in your drawing room.’
This was not good enough for Williams. He repeated the question. ‘Do you consider that the standard of decency for writers such as yourself is the same or different from the standard of decency in ordinary polite conversation?’
‘It is different.’
‘Because through centuries of tradition the writer’s job has been to present human life to human life, and not to present drawing-room conversation.’
At 4.15 p.m. court was adjourned until the day after next. It was all taking a long time. Harris had spent the entire day in the box, and seemed to be ahead on points, even if some of his interpretations of the poetry were not altogether convincing. But the cross-examination had one unforeseen result: it conjured Ern Malley into renewed existence.
At the resumption John Reed took the stand and testified under cross-examination that the hoax poems were ‘great’. Williams persisted with this line of questioning — without objection from Phillips — until the magistrate began to wonder if he had read the summons correctly. ‘Does it matter whether the Ern Malley poems are great or not?’ Clarke asked.
‘I won’t pursue that line any further,’ said Williams, and sat down. He did not ask Reed one question about the alleged indecency of the material he published.
Reg Ellery, consulting psychiatrist at the Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, was sworn in. It was difficult for him to say anything since Williams objected to every question. Finally he got in an answer to Phillips’ inquiry about the effect the Ern Malley poems might have on the average individual.
‘Bewilderment,’ said Ellery, perhaps with the example of Detective Vogelesang in mind. ‘The majority of persons are mentally lazy and would not interpret them. Those not mentally lazy would interpret them and come to conclusions along the lines of Mr Harris. There are others again whom I do not think would try to reach a specific interpretation but would be satisfied with an emotional satisfaction such as one gets from listening to music, because the various sentences in these poems so far as I can see are held together not by logic so much as association of ideas.’
Ellery also gave his opinion to Phillips that ‘the sexual references in these poems were too involved in their meaning to have a direct sexual effect or appeal to the reader’. This was an oasis of common sense in the drought that had overtaken the case. Williams, sensing that his terrier tactics might get him nowhere here, informed the court he had no questions.
He recalled Harris instead. The temperature went up.
‘Would you enlighten me on what an “unforgivable rape” is, as used in “Sweet William”?’
‘All rape is unforgivable, the phrase in vacuo is a redundancy.’
‘The man in the street, hearing the term “unforgivable rape”, don’t you think he would take it as having sexual connotation?’
‘I don’t know what the ordinary man in the street thinks.’
Williams had been waiting for this. ‘You consider yourself above the ordinary man in the street, don’t you?’
Phillips objected and the magistrate asked Williams to put the question another way.
‘Do you consider you are not one who could be classified an ordinary common man?’
‘I have been born one, so I assume I am.’
‘You will notice that in the poem “Sweet William” the sixth line ends with the word “flesh”?’
‘The next line ends with the word “embrace”?’
‘Then the last line of the first stanza ends with “rape”.’
‘Don’t you think it reasonable in view of the recurrence of the words “flesh” and “embrace” before “rape” for one to assume that sexual rape is referred to?’
‘It is difficult for parts of mental personality to indulge in sexual activity.’
‘Please put that in another way.’
‘The images of the mental conflict are depicted in “rape” and the symbol “staircase of flesh” can bear no connection with the last part of the sentence. Your use of the words “flesh”, “embrace” and “rape” as an association of ideas is utterly arbitrary, having been torn from the general meaning of the sentence.’
‘Doesn’t all that amount to this, that you refuse to try andinterpret literally, not in the sense that you won’t, but that youdon’t believe it is the proper way to study “Sweet William”?’
‘When the words “staircase of flesh” are used, I don’t intend to interpret it as a staircase made of flesh.’
The court adjourned for lunch. Harris resumed the stand in the afternoon and Williams continued in the same niggling vein.
In the middle of a protracted exchange over ‘Boult to Marina’, he queried Harris’s interpretation: ‘How do you get that out of it?’
‘I can’t explain how I get things, Mr Williams.’
‘You are unable to suggest to me why I don’t come to the same conclusion.’
‘I can’t suggest your defects, Mr Williams.’
‘You assume that you are a super-intelligent being.’
‘I assume nothing.’
‘You assume that I haven’t got the intelligence or the background to understand this.’
‘I assume you are not trying to understand it. I do not assume that if you try to understand it you would come to the same conclusion as myself.’
‘Do you concede that if I tried to understand it I could come to some conclusion quite different from yours?’
‘I can concede there might be minor differences of interpretation but substantially we would have the same emotional experience. Further than that one is unable to go in modern poetry.’
Williams was indefatigable. Harris became increasingly abrupt though he never ceased to co-operate with this absurd exercise in practical criticism. Line by line the two of them sparred their way through ‘Boult to Marina’, ‘Night Piece’, ‘Perspective Lovesong’ and ‘Young Prince of Tyre’. If Harris was too inventive or defensive in his answers he was dealing with a prosecutor who made no attempt to disguise his contempt and paraded his refusal to digest what the defendant was saying. He was still in the box when the court adjourned for the day, and stepped back into it next day for Williams to quiz him about the remaining passages in Angry Penguins the Crown objected to. It was mid-morning before they completed what seemed an increasingly futile activity. Harris had spent the best part of two days giving evidence and had analysed the poems to death. The overwhelming impression given by the prosecution case was not that the poems had outraged the community by their obscenity but that the moment had come to address anxieties about their anomalous condition, their failure to have been written by Ern Malley, their failure to mean anything.
J.I.M.Stewards testimony was heard with ‘oppressive respect’. He declared that Angry Penguins was a ‘serious literary journal’. He took an aesthete’s view that some of the writing in the issue was ‘indecent in the sense of offending against delicacy’ but ‘would not deprave or corrupt save in point of literary style’. He also repeated Judge Woolsey’s famous remark about Ulysses being ‘emetic rather than erotic’ though he did not refer the court to his source. Nobody took any notice.
Brian Elliott’s evidence was brief and in agreement with Stewart: there were passages which were ‘distasteful to one’s sense of literary delicacy without any moral judgement being involved’. The case was adjourned for addresses by counsel on 4 October. Reed and Ellery took a crowded overnight train back to Melbourne. Ellery sat up until dawn reading The Vegetative Eye.
‘The test of indecent language,’ argued Phillips on 4 October, ‘was that it should be highly offensive to the recognized standard of propriety. The only way that you can find anything pornographic and lewd in these articles is by converting what is put forward as self-analysis as sexual emotions, and seeing what you can read into it, regardless of the context.’ Phillips described Angry Penguins as a serious magazine, though he seemed to concede ground when he admitted it might be crude or vulgar in parts but that it did not intend to deprave or corrupt. The Crown had seized words out of context, he said, and attempted to create an atmosphere of cheapness. Here Phillips had his grandest moment. He glanced across at Williams and declared, ‘I can only give the answer in the words which Dr Johnson used to the woman who protested against words which appeared in his dictionary — “Madam, you are looking for them”.’
Williams was blunter. ‘The so-called Ern Malley poems have deliberately been used for the purpose of referring to sex,’ he contended. ‘It is revolting to common sense to say that these Ern Malley poems in particular have any clear meaning at all. It is only in one case that I can follow the defendant’s explanation. The approach of Harris to this sort of rubbish, a man who said that minds have to be attuned to higher things, is shown by the fact that he could not tell me the meaning of one of the words he was questioned about.’ Williams described the end of ‘Egyptian Register’ as ‘a sting. If it means what I think it does it is clearly indecent. People can’t be allowed to go around writing that sort of thing.’ He referred to various passages as ‘twaddle’, ‘meaningless nonsense’, ‘revolting and crude in the highest degree, deliberate pieces of smut’ which ‘must arouse the most lascivious thoughts in the minds of those open to the influence of impure thoughts and ideas’.
Judgement was reserved. Harris telegrammed Reed: ‘DEFENCE WEAK WILLIAMS VICIOUS OUTLOOK BLACK’.
Reed remained optimistic even though he felt the evidence the Penguins had given in their defence was ‘confused’, and he was disappointed with Phillips’ ‘dithering’. Harris held out no hope, and wrote a press release assuming they would lose. A few weeks later, on Friday, 20 October, the bespectacled Clarke delivered his twenty-page judgement. He interpreted ‘indecent’ as a ‘milder and wider term’ than ‘obscene’ which defined language ‘highly offensive to the recognised standards of common propriety’. ‘Immoral’ he took simply to mean ‘not moral’. He took Hicklin as the test for ‘obscene’. Clarke accepted that standards of decency were not absolute and commented that ‘the public is so used to somewhat gross literary aphrodisiacs that a work must be rather more daring than could have been published fifty years ago in order to unbalance the susceptible”. But it did not follow that ‘writers can fix their own standard of decency without regard to the standard of the reasonable man of his time’.
Clarke was troubled, though, that the section did not allow literary merit as a defence, and thought it might be possible to prosecute certain plays by Shakespeare if their wording were interpreted literally. He got around this by citing decisions in favour of material that was prima facie obscene after the argument was successfully put that publication for the ‘public good’ was ‘necessary or advantageous to religion, science, literature or art.’ A prosecution under Section 108 might be defended in this way, Clarke suggested, and it ‘would avoid the absurdity of a bookseller having to be convicted’ because Shakespeare was on the shelves. This looked good for Harris — until the magistrate declared in the next breath that the passages complained of in Angry Penguins were certainly not advantageous to the pursuit of literature and art.
Clarke also addressed the question of the true authorship of the poems and decided it was not material. At the time of publication Harris ‘firmly believed that the poems were Ern Malley’s and that Ern Malley, whom he regarded as a great poet, was dead’. Thus, when it considered the matter, the court declined to rule that Ern Malley did not exist, though the magistrate was struck by ‘the ludicrous aspect of a solemn and serious attempt to interpret seriously poems which may have been written in a far from serious spirit’.
Clarke analysed each of the troubling passages in turn. ‘I do not attempt to set myself up as a literary expert,’ wrote the magistrate in his discussion of ‘Sweet William’, ‘but, in my opinion, the interpretation of this poem given by the defendant in evidence is sheer guesswork, and it seems to me impossible to give any satisfactory interpretation of the meaning of the poem as a whole. If the poem were intended to have a poetic meaning it seems to me that the poet has carefully disguised it so that no one but himself will know that meaning. To attempt to interpret this poem seems to me rather like attempting to unravel a crossword puzzle from a newspaper with the aid of only half the clues, and without the satisfaction of seeing the solution in the next issue.’
Clarke wanted it both ways: to deny ‘satisfactory’ meaning and then to interpret the poetry as he did in the next sentence: ‘Although it is “my toppling opposites” which “commit the obscene, the unforgivable rape” after the person in the poem has or shall have proceeded “down the staircase of flesh” to where it happens, the image conjured up... “in a shuddering embrace” is the act of sexual rape, and even if “my toppling opposites” can refer to the emotions of self-denial and desire, in my opinion, the language used is poetically quite unjustifiable.’ He found the poem to be neither obscene nor immoral, but indecent.
‘Boult to Marina’ was ‘impossible to treat as a serious poem’, the magistrate declared. ‘“Boult-upright” is obviously a very poor pun... ‘He is referring to his purpose of having sexual intercourse with her. “The rest of me drops off into the night” may well have an indecent meaning, but it is not absolutely clear... I have no doubt at all in finding that the first stanza is indecent.’ Clarke found that neither of the ‘Night Piece’ poems were indecent, immoral or obscene, and he could not make sense of some of ‘Perspective Lovesong’ — though the third stanza gave ‘the mental picture of a woman with naked breasts and loins’ in which the poet was ‘rather gloating of the recollection of the physical attributes of her nakedness... The rest of the poem to my mind does not need this from any poetic point of view. The passages are simply dragged in without apparent reason.’ Guilty of indecency.
‘Egyptian Register’ was ‘nonsense’ which referred to the ‘genitals’ without justification, though the judge could not understand the phrase ‘make an immense index to my cold remorse’ and that saved it from constituting indecent language. In ‘Young Prince of Tyre’ the lines: ‘Poor Thaisa has a red wound in the groin / That ill advises our concupiscence to foin’ were pronounced to mean that ‘Thaisa has her menstrual periods so as to make it inadvisable to have sexual intercourse’. The judge agreed with J.I.M.Stewart that the lines, though ‘offensive to delicacy’, would ‘not be likely to deprave or corrupt save in point of literary style... Words can, however, be indecent without being likely to deprave or corrupt.’ Harris was done for.
Ern Malley’s lack of decorum and want of literary politeness convicted his publisher. Professor Stewards use of the term ‘indecent’ in evidence did not help here, and Williams’ dogged attack on the quality of the poetry proved to have been a shrewd lactic. Section 108 was far more restrictive than the Hicklin test which only defined ‘obscene’. Denying a tendency to deprave or corrupt as Stewart and Phillips had sought to do would not get Harris off the hook. Hicklin was irrelevant. All the magistrate needed to be sure of was a lack of propriety. Clarke found none of the passages obscene or immoral but some indecent within the meaning of the term ‘indecent advertisements’. Harris’s contributions and Peter Cowan’s ‘The Fence’ were found indecent too. ‘There must therefore be a conviction,’ Clarke wrote, and warned Harris that he displayed ‘far too great a fondness for sexual references... I cannot but regard it as an unhealthy sign even from a literary point of view. Boldness in sexual reference is too often mistaken for brilliance. I think that the defendant should either acquire that art of delicacy in the handling of sexual topics which is so necessary in Literature, or avoid the topic altogether.’
Harris was fined £5 in lieu of six weeks’ imprisonment. Costs of £21/11/- were awarded against him. He strode from the court and told reporters the Penguins would appeal all the way to High Court if necessary. Angry Penguins would continue being published but would not be available in South Australia. Then he walked past the triumphant, glowering Victoria once more and telegrammed to Reed: ‘MAGISTRATE GAVE VICIOUS SUNDAY SCHOOL SPEECH’. Reed was shattered and reported a feeling of disgust. ‘The guardians of our morals take liberties which are quite unpardonable,’ he said, ‘though one doesn’t know whether to lay most blame on them or on the legislators or on the public which permits them to function in this way.’ There was talk of establishing a Defence Fund, and the opinion of Ligertwood, a top Adelaide KC [King’s Counsel, a barrister], was sought. His assessment was blunt. The law made no allowance for literary and artistic works; it was arguable a case could be brought against Shakespeare in South Australia and succeed. Clarke had interpreted the law correctly. The Penguins’ best recourse would be to have the statute amended. [Note 3]
The besieged Penguins had no contact with the inventors of Ern Malley either before or during the court case. McAuley and Stewart made no public comment on Harris’s troubles. It is hard to see how the pair, given their opinions of Ern Malley’s work, could have assisted the defence, though a cross-examination of what they understood as their motives and methods would have been fascinating. They were embarrassed and appalled by the actions of the police. Alec Hope expressed dismay at the ‘Harris obscenity hunt’. The conviction was widely condemned by writers, artists and civil libertarians, including some who thought poorly of Harris and Angry Penguins. On 16 October, the Argus in Melbourne published a multiply signed letter of protest from writers and others ‘vitally interested in Australian creative talent’. The signatures of the hoaxers were absent. Harold Stewart remembers they did draft their own letter to the Advertiser, pointing out that ‘if anyone ought to be prosecuted it was the authors, but then since we were quoting Shakespeare, the Oxford Dictionary, and the Bible, perhaps they should be indicted’. It was never sent.
A few weeks later McAuley explained to Brian Elliott:
Harris’s little court drama was a pity. By a rather strained extension of the word literature, the police attack on his and Ern’s effusions constitutes an attack on literary freedom, which no one can view with equanimity. Clive Turnbull, in an article on the Dobell and Harris cases, saw fit to raise the question whether Stewart and myself foresaw the courtroom sequel — a suggestion unworthy even of a journalist. A letter of protest against the police action was sent to the papers by a number of people who described themselves, rather quaintly, as ‘vitally’ interested in Australian creative talent etc... Among the vitalists was Henrietta Drake-Brockman: she at first ‘supposed we would not want to sign it’; then, having been told the contrary, thought we should not sign it, because it was our ‘work’ which was under attack! Our only course would have been to write a separate letter. But in those circumstances, the purpose of the letter would have been less to promote Harris’s cause than to clear ourselves of the grubby imputations of the Turnbulls and Brockmans — a rather unworthy motive. You might explain this to Harris, though I don’t imagine he nurses any such suspicions.
There was no appeal.
By the end of November 1944 invading Allied armies were opening up a huge front on German soil. The Russians were advancing through Hungary. American planes bombed Tokyo at will. On 29 November Eisenhower and Montgomery met near the Dutch frontier to design the final defeat of Germany. On the same day, in Adelaide, the South Australian Commissioner of Police announced he had awarded a special mention to Detective Vogelesang for ‘zealousness and competency in securing evidence for the prosecution of an indecent publication’.