The Nudie Book Dr. Seuss Wrote

Jan 03, 2014 • Books

Most of us probably couldn’t name all the books he authored, but I doubt there is someone out there who doesn’t know Dr. Seuss as a brilliant creator of children’s books. Of course, like many authors, Theodor Seuss Geisel wasn’t content to stick to one genre. When he left Vanguard for Random House, he stipulated only one thing: that he would be allowed to write a book for grown-ups.

The new publisher agreed and in 1939, The Seven Lady Godivas came out in print. Per Amazon:

This revisionist farce attempts to rectify the “shameful” story of “a big blond nude trotting around the town on a horse” and Peeping Tom, the “illicit snooper.” The frothy, historical romp presents seven Lady Godivas (Ladies Godiva?) whose father, the Lord of Coventry, is thrown from a horse and killed. The noble daughters vow to postpone their marriages to the seven Peeping brothers until they discover “some new and worthy Horse Truth, of benefit to man.” This gives Seuss the opportunity to contrive the origins of such wisdoms as, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.”

Seuss’s only prose work (according to promotional material) lacks the sparkle of his children’s verse, his women aren’t as interesting as the real Lady G[odiva,] an 11th century maverick who sacrificed her modesty to force her husband to lower taxes and readers will wonder why the protagonists (who bear unsettling resemblances to children in later Seuss works) are unclothed.

Maria Popova has collected some of the pages at Brain Pickings. Here’s a small sampling:

The Seven Godivas
The Seven Godivas
The Seven Godivas

Of the 10,000 printed copies, only 2,500 were sold, causing Geisel to lament being unable to draw sexy babes that didn’t look absurd. What a different time it was — we often think that people were less liberal in previous generations, but I can’t imagine what would happen to a children’s author today if he or she had the audacity to make a book for adults with even the slight suggestion of an attempted sexy babe. He or she certainly would not endure as a loved author of books for children.