E. C. E. Hemsted was born in Anacapri, Isola de Capri in 1898. Hemsted attended St. John’s College, Oxford and graduated with a “double first,” a British undergraduate degree classification indicating that the individual received the highest possible scores on examinations in two separate subjects. Hemsted taught English in Japan, tutoring the sons of the current Emperor of Japan before becoming a professor at the University of Peking. Later, Hemsted relocated to India and served as the principal of an Islamic and Hindu school from 1927 to 1928. Hemsted also taught at prep schools in England. One of his students was the writer Louis MacNeice; MacNeice included memories of the teaching style of “Mr. Charles” in his memoir, The Strings are False (1965). Hemsted himself was a writer, publishing works in the genres of fiction, drama, and autobiography under the nom de plume “Edward Charles.” Given that MacNeice refers to Hemsted as “Mr. Charles” in his memoirs, it appears that “Edward Charles” was a sobriquet Hemsted assumed in his daily life as well as in his writing. Hemsted’s most famous work was The Sexual Impulse (1935), which triggered an obscenity trial in which his publishers were prosecuted for publishing the work.
Special Collections acquired the Edward Charles Collection (1979.010) in 1979. The collection includes correspondence between Hemsted and publishers, fellow authors, colleagues, and scientists; typescript drafts of reader’s reports, book reviews, essays, translations, short stories, and novels; as well as press notices for Hemsted’s first three novels and a syllabus for a course of four lectures on the theory and practice of socialism. Also featured in this collection are newspaper clippings detailing the obscenity trial of The Sexual Impulse, which provide a fascinating study of the changing mores surrounding sexuality in the early twentieth century.