Why it’s wrong to rewrite Roald Dahl’s children’s books

Few literary reputations have suffered as great a reversal as that of Thomas Bowdler, and even fewer so deservedly. The “family” edition of Shakespeare that he and his sister created, methodically stripping out the faintest trace of “profaneness or obscenity,” was for a while the best-selling edition of the Bard’s works. Over time, however, people noticed that he had removed some of Shakespeare’s most vivid and enduring phrases, such as “the beast with two backs.” Bowdler’s work fell out of print, his name forgotten except as a synonym for all the purse-lipped virtue vandals who would “bowdlerize” great books in the name of protecting children.

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