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Thomas Bowdler: Wreck of the Hesperus

Victorian to the core, the English editor Thomas Bowdler earned a measure of fame for his "bowdlerized" versions of various works, among them a child-friendly Old Testament and a 10-volume Family Shakerpeare, from which all traces of sexual allusion and baudy language had been carefully excised. Bowdler also "cleaned up" Longfellow's poem The Wreck of the Hesperus, expurgating, for example, the offensive term "bull." His substitution? "Gentleman cow."

[This story is likely apocryphal; The Wreck of the Hesperus was written 14 years after Bowdler died. The term 'gentleman cow,' however, is still used to refer to extreme cases of censorship.]

[It was common practice during the Middle Ages for animals to be tried for injuring human beings. The French parliament once ordered the execution of a cow; it was hanged, then burned at the stake.]

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