On November 2, 1960, a landmark obscenity case over Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence, ends in the acquittal of Penguin Books. The publisher had been sued for obscenity in publishing an unexpurgated version of Lawrence’s novel, which deals with the affair between the wife of a wealthy, paralyzed landowner and his estate’s gamekeeper. The book had been published in a limited English-language edition in Florence in 1928 and Paris the following year. An expurgated version was published in England in 1932. In 1959, the full text was published in New York, then in London the following year.
Lawrence was born to a poor coal-mining family in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, in 1885. His mother struggled to teach her children refinement and a love of education. She depended heavily on Lawrence for emotional support and nurturing. He won a scholarship to Nottingham High School, worked as a clerk, and attended University College in Nottingham, where he earned a teaching certificate. His first novel, The White Peacock, was published in 1911.
The following year, Lawrence fell in love with Frieda Weekley, the German wife of a fellow teacher. The pair fled to Germany and wed after Frieda divorced her husband. In 1913, Lawrence published his first major novel, Sons and Lovers, an autobiographical novel set in a coal town. The couple returned to England, and Lawrence’s next novel, The Rainbow (1915), was banned for indecency. After World War I, Lawrence traveled to Italy, Australia, and Mexico and wrote several more novels, including Women in Love (1921). He died of tuberculosis in France in 1930, at the age of 44.
Call to save judge's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover used in famous obscenity trial
The annotated copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover used by the judge who presided over the 1960 obscenity trial is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the £56,250 asking price.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was D. H. Lawrence’s final novel before his death in 1930. While it was published privately in Florence in 1928 and in France the following year, the book was not published in full in Britain until 1960 due to fear of prosecution. Its eventual publication led to the trial in which this particular copy played a significant role.
The book was owned by Sir Laurence Byrne, the judge who presided over the now famous obscenity trial. It contains annotations and two pages of notes with a list of page numbers with short content summaries. The principal hand is that of Byrne’s wife Dorothy, who had studied the book and prepared a list of the pages she had annotated. Later notes have been made by the judge himself during the trial. Dorothy also sewed a blue-grey fabric bag for her husband to carry the book to and from court.
In 1960, Penguin Books decided to publish the uncensored work to test the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, which was designed to protect works of literature while strengthening laws against pornography. Potentially obscene works could now be published if they were of literary merit or contributed to the public good.
The trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a sensation with the acquittal of Penguin viewed as a landmark moment in cultural history. The trial’s drama, its class tensions and its explicit references to sex captured the public’s attention. After the trial, Penguin quickly sold 3 million copies.
Arts Minister Michael Ellis said:
The trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover captured the public attention in 1960. It was a watershed moment in cultural history, when Victorian ideals were overtaken by a more modern attitude. I hope that a buyer can be found to keep this important part of our nation’s history in the UK.
Chairman of the RCEWA, Sir Hayden Phillips, said:
The prosecution of Penguin Books for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover was one of the most important criminal trials of the 20th century. Judge Byrne’s copy of the novel, annotated by him and his wife, may be the last surviving contemporary ‘witness’ who took part in the proceedings.
Picture the scene: the High Court Judge presiding in his red robes, his wife beside him on the Bench (as was allowed in those days) as a succession of singular and distinguished witnesses for the Defence were cross examined day by day. I was 17 at the time and studying a DH Lawrence as a set text for A Levels – it was not Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but at least I could follow the riveting course of the trial in the daily papers. It would be more than sad, it would be a misfortune, if this last surviving ‘witness’ left our shores.
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) made its recommendation on the grounds that the departure of the book from the UK would be a misfortune because of its close connection to our history and national life.
The decision on the export licence application for the book will be deferred until 12 August 2019. This may be extended until 12 October 2019 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the item is made at the recommended price of £56,250.
Notes to editors
- Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the items should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.
Details of the book are as follows: DAVID HERBERT LAWRENCE, 1885-1930 LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER HARMONDSWORTH: PENGUIN, 1960, first impression 8vo, original decorated paper wrappers, THE JUDGE’S COPY FROM THE 1960 OBSCENITY TRIAL, ANNOTATED FOR HIM BY HIS WIFE, c.118 pages containing pencil markings, underlining, and occasional marginal notes (names of characters etc.), also with a list of significant passages (“love making”, “coarse”, etc.) with page numbers loosely inserted (four pages, 8vo, on headed stationery of the Central Criminal Court), housed in a blue-grey damask bag with blue ribbon tie, spine chipped at foot, text block partially detached from spine, paper clip with rust mark on lower wrapper
Provenance: It belonged to the family of the judge who originally owned the book until sold at Sotheby’s, London, 13 December 1993, lot 137 where bought by Christopher Cone & Stanley J Seeger until sold at Sotheby’s, London, 30 October 2018, lot 159
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by The Arts Council, which advises the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria.
Lady Chatterley trial - 50 years on. The filthy book that set us free and fettered us forever
Fifty years ago this week, amid extraordinary international publicity, the Old Bailey was the venue for a trial that did more to shape 21st-century Britain than hundreds of politicians put together. The case of the Crown versus Penguin Books opened on Friday, October 21, 1960, when courtroom officials handed copies of perhaps the most notorious novel of the century, D H Lawrence’s book Lady Chatterley’s Lover, to nine men and three women, and asked them to read it. They were not, however, allowed to take the book out of the jury room. Only if Penguin were acquitted of breaking the Obscene Publications Act would it be legal to distribute it.
What followed, said one eyewitness, was a “circus so hilarious, fascinating, tense and satisfying that none who sat through all its six days will ever forget them”. But it was a circus that changed Britain forever. Though few then could have realised it, a tiny but unmistakeable line runs from the novel Lawrence wrote in the late 1920s to an international pornography industry today worth more than £26 billion a year.
Now that public obscenity has become commonplace, it is hard to recapture the atmosphere of a society that saw fit to ban books such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover because it was likely to “deprave and corrupt” its readers. Although only half a century separates us from Harold Macmillan’s Britain, the world of 1960 can easily seem like ancient history. In a Britain when men still wore heavy grey suits, working women were still relatively rare and the Empire was still, just, a going concern, D H Lawrence’s book was merely one of many banned because of its threat to public morality.
Antediluvian as the early 1960s might seem to us today, however, they seemed at the time an era of dizzying change. Only a year before the trial, Roy Jenkins had secured the passage of a new Obscene Publications Act, leaving a crucial loophole – the question of literary merit – through which works might escape prohibition. And in May 1960, Penguin saw its chance, announcing its plans to publish 200,000 paperback copies at just 3s 6d each, the equivalent of £3 today.
Most accounts of the trial present it as a simple clash between the repressive old Establishment on the one hand, and the youthful forces of progress and enlightenment on the other. But this is not really fair. Under Jenkins’s legislation, the Crown had no choice but to prosecute: as the prosecuting counsel, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, told the director of public prosecutions: “If no action is taken in respect of this publication it will make proceedings against any other novel very difficult.” And contrary to myth, much of the Establishment, if such a thing ever really existed, actually supported the publishers. Almost every newspaper in the country agreed that the trial was a waste of time: the Daily Telegraph thought that the police should be hunting down “absolutely filthy” pornography rather than wasting their time with D H Lawrence.
In many respects, the celebrated landmark trial was actually something of a farce. The defence team, led by Gerald Gardiner, a founder member of CND, lined up 35 distinguished witnesses convinced of the book’s literary merit, including E M Forster, Cecil Day-Lewis, Rebecca West and Richard Hoggart. The Bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, the very prototype of a trendy Anglican clergyman, even told the court that Lawrence showed sex as “an act of holy communion”, and agreed vigorously when asked if it was a book that “Christians ought to read”.
By contrast, the Crown case was in trouble from the start. Although the prosecution drew up a long list of potential witnesses who might condemn Lawrence’s book as obscene, none of them agreed to testify. At one point they even considered flying over an American literary critic who had once condemned the book as “a dreary, sad performance with some passages of unintentional, hilarious, low comedy”, although they eventually abandoned the idea. Instead the prosecution team wasted time before the trial going through the book line by line with a pencil, noting down the obscenities: on page 204, for example, one “bitch goddess of Success”, one “––––ing”, one “s–––”, one “best bit of c––– left on earth” and three mentions of “balls”.
Poor Mervyn Griffith-Jones, a war hero awarded the Military Cross after his service in North Africa and Italy, was totally out of his depth. It was almost in desperation that, in high-Victorian style, he asked the jury: “Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?” Once the words were out of his mouth, the case was lost.
On November 2, after just three hours’ deliberation, the jury acquitted Penguin Books of all charges. Almost immediately, the book became a best-seller. In 15 minutes, Foyles sold 300 copies and took orders for 3,000 more. Hatchards sold out in 40 minutes Selfridges sold 250 copies in half an hour. In one Yorkshire town, a canny butcher sold copies of the book beside his lamb chops.
And yet there was another side to the story, often ignored by the history books. Outside intellectual high society, most ordinary people in 1960 remained deeply conservative, and the Home Office was flooded with letters of protest. In Edinburgh, copies were burned on the streets in South Wales, women librarians asked permission not to handle it from Surrey, one anguished woman wrote to the home secretary, explaining that her teenage daughter was at boarding school and she was terrified that “day girls there may introduce this filthy book”.
Although Philip Larkin famously wrote that sexual intercourse began “between the end of the Chatterley ban / and the Beatles’ first LP”, the truth is that Britain in the next few years remained a strikingly chaste and conservative society. It was in the early 1970s, not the 1960s, that the sexual revolution became a reality for most people, with millions of women taking the Pill, teenagers losing their virginity earlier and divorce, homosexuality and abortion becoming familiar elements of our social landscape.
In the long run, however, the end of the Chatterley ban was an enormously symbolic moment, representing the end of an era in which the state had regulated private morality as well as public behaviour. Other obscenity cases followed in the next two decades, but they all tended to have the same result: a triumph for liberation, a defeat for censorship. By and large, it is no exaggeration to say that after October 1960, the fetters were off.
Half a century on, the Lady Chatterley trial has become a cliché of the conventional Sixties narrative, a victory for youth and freedom against a repressive old order. But in a society where pre-pubescent girls stroll down the high street wearing T-shirts with the legend “Porn star”, I wonder whether its legacy is more double-edged. Britain in 2010 is unquestionably a much more open society most of us would think it intolerable to return to a time when the state regulated what we could and could not write. Few of us, I suspect, would wish that the verdict in the Chatterley case had gone differently.
Yet will future generations judge that we used our new freedom wisely? I doubt it. As the frescoes at Pompeii remind us, erotica and pornography have been elements of almost every society since the dawn of civilisation. But you do not have to be Mary Whitehouse to question the way pornography has filtered into our cultural mainstream, or to feel uneasy about the way very young girls are portrayed as willing and available sex objects. Kicking against their elders, the reformers of the Sixties worshipped freedom and self-expression as they saw it, discipline and self-restraint had manifestly gone too far. But 50 years on from the trial that changed Britain forever, living in a society where the bonds of community and courtesy have frayed almost beyond repair, we could surely do with rather more of Mervyn Griffith-Jones’s much-mocked puritanism. We might not be able to turn back the clock. But it is never too late to learn from the past.
Lady Chatterley's Lover
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Lady Chatterley’s Lover, novel by D. H. Lawrence, published in a limited English-language edition in Florence (1928) and in Paris (1929). It was first published in England in an expurgated version in 1932. The full text was published only in 1959 in New York City and in 1960 in London, when it was the subject of a landmark obscenity trial (Regina v. Penguin Books, Ltd.) that turned largely on the justification of the use in the novel of until-then taboo sexual terms. This last of Lawrence’s novels reflects the author’s belief that men and women must overcome the deadening restrictions of industrialized society and follow their natural instincts to passionate love.
SUMMARY: Constance (Connie) Chatterley is married to Sir Clifford, a wealthy landowner who is paralyzed from the waist down and is absorbed in his books and his estate, Wragby. After a disappointing affair with the playwright Michaelis, Connie turns to the estate’s gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, a symbol of natural man, who awakens her passions.
DETAIL: The publication history of Lady Chatterly’s Lover provides a plot itself worthy of a novel. Published privately in 1928 and long available in foreign editions, the first unexpurgated edition did not appear in England until Penguin risked publishing it in 1960. Prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959, Penguin was acquitted after a notorious trial, in which many eminent authors of the day appeared as witnesses for the defense.
Due to this infamous history, the novel is most widely known for its explicit descriptions of sexual intercourse. These occur in the context of a plot that centers on Lady Constance Chatterly and her unsatisfying marriage to Sir Clifford, a wealthy Midlands landowner, writer, and intellectual. Constance enters into a passionate love affair with her husband’s educated gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. Pregnant by him, she leaves her husband and the novel ends with Mellors and Constance temporarily separated in the hope of securing divorces in order to begin a new life together.
What remains so powerful and so unusual about this novel is not just its honesty about the power of the sexual bond between a man and a woman, but the fact that, even in the early years of the 21st century, it remains one of the few novels in English literary history that addresses female sexual desire. It depicts a woman’s experience of the exquisite pleasure of good sex, her apocalyptic disappointment in bad sex, and her fulfillment in truly making love. As if all this were not enough to mark Lady Chatterly’s Lover as one of the truly great English novels, it is also a sustained and profound reflection on the state of modern society and the threat to culture and humanity of the unceasing tide of industrialization and capitalism.
Trial of the Century: Lady Chatterley
When Penguin Books was acquitted of obscenity for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a door was kicked open to the social revolution of the 1960s. Geoffrey Robertson discusses the impact of the trial, a defining moment in modern legal history.
No trial in British history – other than that of Charles I – has had such profound social and political consequences as the trial of Penguin Books for publishing D.H. Lawrence’s novel of 1928, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It marked the first symbolic moral battle between the humanitarian force of English liberalism and the dead hand of those described by George Orwell as ‘the striped-trousered ones who rule’ a battle joined in the 1960s by issues such as the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion, abolition of the death penalty and of theatre censorship and reform of the divorce laws, all crucial to human rights.
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Sixty years of the ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ trial: A court case that defined free expression
The copy of the novel belonging to the judge in the case was acquired by Bristol University in 2019. By courtesy of the University of Bristol Library Special Collections DM2936 | Jamie Carstairs., CC BY-SA
The paperback copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover pictured above is of great cultural significance. Leafing through the pages one discovers hidden gems: pencil markings, underlinings, marginal annotations. Accompanying the book are sheets of headed stationery from the Old Bailey, containing handwritten notes relating to the novel along with a clumsily hand-stitched fabric bag – apparently made not to protect the book but rather the person carrying it by obscuring its title.
It is the “judge’s copy” of the book, used by Mr Justice Lawrence Byrne who presided over the 1960 Lady Chatterley trial in which DH Lawrence’s famous novel was at the centre of a test of Britain’s new censorship law.
The University of Bristol’s acquisition of the so-called “judge’s copy” in 2019 was an important moment and having assisted in making the case for its new home to be in the university’s special collections, examining it for the first time was thrilling. Now, on the 60th anniversary of the trial, it is timely to consider this intriguing volume. But first a reminder of the case with which it was connected.
In August 1960, by pre-arrangement, the police were handed copies of the unexpurgated Lady Chatterley by its publisher. Following this, Penguin Books Limited was charged with publishing an obscene article under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.
The 1959 act aimed both to strengthen the law concerning pornography and to protect literature. It created the publishing offence (the handing over constituted publication) and provided that material was “obscene” if its effect, taken as a whole, was such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who were likely to read, see or hear it.
But a public good defence meant a conviction would not result if it were proved that publication was justified “in the interests of science, literature, art or learning, or of other objects of general concern”. The Lady Chatterley trial was a test of the act. In particular, would the defence protect creative works?
In the courtroom, while the defence did not accept the book was obscene, their focus was on its literary merit. A line up of 35 witnesses (women and men) were called on behalf of publisher Penguin to speak in favour of the book, including authors, academics, clergy, a 21-year-old English graduate and a headmaster. The prosecution played a minor role, calling only one witness and sometimes putting no questions to those who appeared for the defence. In the end, after three hours of deliberation, the jury of three women and nine men returned a unanimous verdict. Penguin was acquitted.
Which brings us back to Lady Chatterley and, in particular, the book in the fabric bag. Copies of the unexpurgated novel were circulating before 1960, meaning some of those involved in the case had long been familiar with it – the first defence witness had read it in about 1940. The police had acquired a marked-up proof copy of the Penguin book before the publisher’s handover.
The lawyers had taken great pains to study the 1960 text in preparing for the trial. Defence files show that Penguin’s solicitors undertook an analysis not entirely dissimilar to that on show in the “judge’s copy” with its accompanying notes. As prosecutor Mervyn Griffith-Jones demonstrated in his opening to the jury, where he observed that the words “f***” or “f*****g” occurred at least 30 times within the novel’s pages, so too had the Crown.
The jury were given copies in court, just before the trial began. At the end of the first day, the judge adjourned the case, directing them to read the book but forbidding them from taking it home. After a gap of several days the proceedings resumed and the trial continued for a further five days.
Reports tell how copies of the novel were handed round the court during the trial, to the jury, witnesses and to the judge, with the players occasionally leafing through the pages in search of a particular passage. The judge, however, was given a copy of the book at the same time as the jury first received it, on day one of the trial, before proceedings got underway.
It seems that at some point Byrne shared the novel with his wife, as we are told that most of the markings in the book and all of the separate notes are in Lady Dorothy Byrne’s hand, with a few annotations apparently made by her husband. Accounts suggest she worked on the text before the trial (or perhaps during the jury’s reading days), with her husband adding notes during proceedings as she sat next to him. Lady Byrne is also credited with making the bag.
This all suggests that the couple worked together, with Lady Byrne taking the leading role. Moreover, they did so despite Griffith-Jones’s question to the jury on day one of the trial: “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”
How then did the “judge’s copy” journey to Bristol? The Byrne family auctioned it in 1993. It came up for sale again in 2018, selling to a private individual in the US. In an attempt to keep it in the UK, the book was placed under temporary export deferral and expressions of interest were sought. At Bristol we put together a case to acquire the book and fundraising efforts began, with contributions coming from organisations and individuals.
As a result, the “judge’s copy”, notes and bag now reside alongside the Penguin Archive and trial papers of Michael Rubinstein, Penguin’s solicitor. Given its history, however, I wonder if we might begin to reconsider how we refer to this Lady Chatterley. Because of her work, the judge’s wife seems to deserve credit. It is not only the “judge’s copy”, but it is also very much “Lady Byrne’s copy”.
Lois Bibbings is a Professor of Law, Gender and History at the University of Bristol.
This article first appeared on The Conversation.
Rough sex gives way to romance in the 2015 adaptation of Lady ChatterleyJust another pair of traditional romantics. BBC Pictures/Hartswood Films
The following article was published on 7 September 2015 in The Conversation. Here Andrew Harrison of University of Nottingham asks viewers to be cautious of Jed Mercurio’s adaptation of Lawrence’s iconic novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover as it “reinforces precisely the traditional values that Lawrence was trying to unpick”.
The latest adaptation of D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover has predictably prompted significant media interest. Strong and contradictory reactions appeared in the newspapers weeks before it aired (on September 6). The Sun called the BBC film “so steamy it borders on porn”, while the Telegraph noted that the sex scenes are “soft-focus” and expressed surprise at the omission of the novel’s infamous four-letter words.
Its writer and director, Jed Mercurio, must have anticipated such responses. In producing another adaptation of this iconic novel he knew that he stood either to outrage viewers by the inclusion of sex scenes and four-letter words, or to disappoint them by their omission. The Guardian cited his own reaction to the issues at stake:
It did not feel that today we would be breaking new ground if we were to use those [four-letter] words. If you want to use certain words you have to justify them, and it did not seem relevant … The idea was to tell this as a love story, a love triangle – to concentrate on the emotions of the characters.
On one level, Mercurio’s assertion of his right to focus on those aspects of the novel which seem to him most “relevant” is wholly justifiable. Lawrence wrote three versions of the novel between 1926 and 1928, and viewers are arguably more likely to be familiar with previous adaptations by Just Jaeckin (1981), Ken Russell (1993) and Pascale Ferran (2006) than the written source. Perhaps an adaptation should be judged on its originality.
But this adaptation not only departs from the original text, but also reinforces precisely the traditional values that Lawrence was trying to unpick.
Constance Chatterley (HOLLIDAY GRAINGER), Clifford Chatterley (JAMES NORTON)
BBC Pictures/Hartswood Films
The End of Obscenity : The Trials of Lady Chatterley, Tropic of Cancer & Fanny Hill by the Lawyer Who Defended Them
Up until the 1960s, depending on your state of residence, your copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer might be seized by the US Postal Service before reaching your mailbox. Selling copies of Cleland’s Fanny Hill in your bookstore was considered illegal. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence was, according to the American legal system, pornography with no redeeming social value.
Today, these novels are celebrated for their literary and historic worth. The End of Obscenity is Charles Rembar’s account of successfully arguing the merits of such great works of literature in front of the Supreme Court. As the lead attorney on the case, he—with the support of a few brave publishers—changed the way Americans read and honor books, especially the controversial ones.
Filled with insight from lawyers, justices, and the authors themselves, The End of Obscenity is a lively tour de force. Racy testimony and hilarious asides make Rembar’s memoir not only a page-turner but also an enlightening look at the American legal system.
Lady Chatterley's Lover trial
Lady Chatterley's Lover trial (act. 1960 ), or Regina v. Penguin Books Limited , took place between 20 October and 2 November 1960 in court number 1 at the Old Bailey, London, and involved the judge, jury, prosecution and defence counsel, and the thirty-five witnesses called to support Penguin's planned publication of an unexpurgated edition of D. H. Lawrence's final novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover .
First published in Florence in 1928 and Paris in 1929, the novel had not been published in Britain and the United States for fear of prosecution. British readers did have legal access to an expurgated text, from Heinemann , while uncensored editions smuggled in from continental Europe also circulated. However, these were regularly confiscated by customs officials with importers and retailers at risk of prosecution, as in the case of a Soho bookseller gaoled for two months in 1955. The trial of October–November 1960, which ended with Penguin's acquittal on charges of publishing an obscene article contrary to section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, attracted considerable interest and has become one of the best-known episodes in modern British legal history. More widely, in the hands of social commentators, creative writers, and historians, the trial has been cast as both a synecdoche for changing post-war attitudes to social order and public decency, and the starting point for a decade or more of conflict between champions of moralism and liberalism.
In January 1960, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Lawrence's death, Penguin Books agreed to publish seven additional works by the novelist—among them Lady Chatterley's Lover —to add to the existing thirteen titles in their catalogue. Aware that Heinemann had no interest in producing an unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley , Penguin's chairman Sir Allen Lane agreed to publish the novel in full with a print run of 200,000 copies and a publication date of August 1960. Lane later commented that he regarded this as an ideal test case of the new Obscene Publications Act , which had been introduced by the Labour MP Roy Jenkins as a private member's bill a year earlier. Under the new act works were to be considered in their entirety and could be defended in terms of their contribution to the public good after 1959 those convicted of obscenity would also face limited (in contrast to previously unlimited) punishments of a fine or up to three years' imprisonment.
Alerted to Penguin's intention to publish the novel, the director of public prosecutions, Sir Theobald Mathew , decided—albeit with reservations—to prosecute the firm under the act of 1959. It was a move welcomed by Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller and Sir Jack Simon , the Conservative government's attorney-general and solicitor-general, with Manningham-Buller expressing his hope that 'you get a conviction'. But the director of public prosecutions' decision also surprised many publishers and lawyers, given the recent appearance of an unexpurgated American edition and a refusal by the British authorities to bring proceedings against Weidenfeld and Nicolson for their forthcoming edition of Nabakov's Lolita . In response to the prosecution more than 300 writers, scholars, and public commentators were contacted on Penguin's behalf with the great majority asserting either the merits of Lawrence's novel or the unacceptability of its not being published in its original form. Those who replied in support of the publisher's intention (but who did not appear at the subsequent trial) included Aldous Huxley , T. S. Eliot , Bertrand Russell , John Betjeman , Stephen Spender , and Kingsley Amis . Graham Greene was similarly opposed to the prosecution but refused to defend a book that he considered of little literary merit, while Enid Blyton —who had not read the work—also declined on the grounds that 'my husband said NO at once' ( Lewis , 324 ). The crown also sought to gather witnesses but their search for public figures willing to speak up for the ban proved remarkably unsuccessful indeed two of those contacted—the literary scholar Helen Gardner and the historian Noel Annan —later appeared as defence witnesses. In August 1960 twelve copies of Penguin's new edition, constituting ‘limited publication’, were handed over to the Metropolitan Police the company was duly charged on the 16th, and the novel's publication—set for the 25th—was suspended.
Regina v. Penguin Books Limited began at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday 20 October and was presided over by Mr Justice Byrne (Sir Laurence Austin Byrne, 1896–1965) , who was accompanied throughout the proceedings by his wife, Lady Dorothy (d. 1969) . Described by the New Yorker 's journalist as a 'compactly-built grey-haired man with a quietly pugnacious expression' ( Lewis , 326 ), Byrne —a devout Roman Catholic with fifteen years' experience as a High Court judge—was understood to be sympathetic to the prosecution case, which was led by Mervyn Griffith-Jones QC , with the assistance of (Stephen) Alastair Morton (1913–1992) . Clearly hostile to the proposed publication, Griffith-Jones cut an imposing figure to Allen Lane he was 'a bit fearsome', while Sybille Bedford , reporting on the trial for Esquire , commented on his 'voice quivering with thin-lipped scorn' ( ibid., 327 ). Penguin's defence team was led by Gerald Gardiner QC with support from Jeremy Hutchinson (b. 1915) and Richard Du Cann (1929–1994) . As directors of Penguin Books —the sole defendant— Allen Lane and Hans Schmoller (1916–1985) sat at the solicitors' table. The jury comprised nine men and three women of whom, according to subsequent reports, three-quarters had already decided to acquit Penguin before any evidence was heard ( Rolph , 7 ).
In his opening statement Griffith-Jones advised jury members that they must answer two questions: first, whether the novel, taken as a whole, was obscene in terms of section 2 of the new legislation ('to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read the matter contained in it') and, second, if this proved so, whether publication was still justified for the public good. Having warned the jury against acting as censors or approaching the case 'in any priggish, high-minded, super-correct Victorian manner', Griffith-Jones set out the prosecution's contention that the novel 'does tend, and certainly that it may tend, to induce lustful thoughts in the minds of those who read it' ( Rolph , 16 ). This was followed by what became the defining, and now best-known, statement of the trial:
You may think that one of the ways in which you can test this book, and test it from the most liberal outlook, is to ask yourselves the question, when you have read it through, would you approve of your young sons, young daughters—because girls can read as well as boys—reading this book. Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?
Griffith-Jones had raised a similar point when, as the prosecutor in an earlier obscenity trial (brought against Heinemann and Walter Baxter for his novel The Image and the Search , 1953), he had asked jurors whether, 'when Christmas comes', they would 'hand [copies] round as presents to the girls in the office—and if not, why not?' ( quoted in Lewis , 317 ). However, as repeated in 1960, Griffith-Jones's strategy, and in particular the reference to wives and servants, was clearly detrimental to his case: in C. H. Rolph's opinion the question 'had a visible—and risible—effect on the jury, and may well have been the first nail in the prosecution's coffin' ( Rolph , 17 ). Griffith-Jones's statement was followed by the prosecution's only witness, Detective Inspector Charles Monahan , who, having described the novel's removal from the Penguin offices, was cross-examined by Gerald Gardiner . In turn Gardiner's opening statement for the defence outlined Penguin's reasons for publishing a new edition, asserted Lawrence's importance as a novelist, and denied that the book was obscene, being not merely a collection of sexual encounters (as Griffith-Jones suggested) but rather Lawrence's celebration of 'the relationship of a man and woman in love' and a critical commentary on aspects of 1920s society ( ibid., 29, 32 ). With the opening addresses completed, the case was adjourned for three days to allow jurors to read the novel, which Mr Justice Byrne instructed they do in the court rather than at home.
The trial resumed on Thursday 27 October and lasted for a further five days of which the first three were taken up with statements by thirty-five witnesses called for the defence. According to their principal occupations at the time of the trial, the witnesses included nine university academics who were (in order of appearance): Graham Goulder Hough (1908–1990) , lecturer in English and fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge Helen Gardner , of St Hilda's College, Oxford Joan Bennett (1896–1986) , lecturer in English and fellow of Girton College, Cambridge Vivian de Sola Pinto , professor of English at Nottingham University Richard Hoggart (b. 1918) , lecturer in English at Leicester University Raymond Williams , then a staff tutor at Oxford University's extramural department Kenneth Arthur Muir (1907–1996) , professor of English at Liverpool University and the provost of King's College, Cambridge, Noel Annan ). They were accompanied by thirteen authors, journalists, and editors who gave evidence in the following order between 27 and 29 October: Rebecca West [see Andrews, Dame Cicily Isabel ] (Cicely) Veronica Wedgwood Edward Francis Williams Edward Morgan Forster Walter Allen the magazine editor Anne Eleanor Scott-James Jack Lambert Dilys Powell C. Day Lewis Stephen Potter Janet Adam Smith the critic and reviewer John Henry Robertson Connell (1909–1965) the newly appointed editor of the Yorkshire Post (Charles) Kenneth Young (1916–1985) and (Hector) Alastair Hetherington of The Guardian . The remaining defence witnesses included three publishers, Penguin's editor-in-chief William Emrys Williams , Allen Lane , and Stanley Unwin four Anglican churchmen, John Robinson , bishop of Woolwich, A. Stephan Hopkinson , vicar of St Katharine Cree, London, and editor of the London Churchman , (Theodore) Richard Milford , and the Revd Donald Alexander Tytler (1925–1992) , director of religious education in the diocese of Birmingham and two schoolteachers, Francis Cammaerts , of Alleyne's Grammar School, Stevenage, and Sarah Beryl Jones , of Keighley Girls' Grammar School. Other testimonies came from the lawyer and future Conservative MP Norman St John-Stevas (1929–2012) , the Labour politician Roy Jenkins , the educational psychologist (Clifford) James Hemming (1909–2007) , and Bernadine A. Wall (b. 1939) , a recent Cambridge graduate, of Ladbrooke Grove, London. A further thirty-six witnesses had been asked to testify for the defence but were not called due to the absence, in the later stages, of cross-examination by the prosecuting counsel.
The first witnesses for the defence— Gough , Gardner , and Bennett —were English scholars who each confirmed Lawrence's standing as a novelist, refuted the prosecution's suggestion that the work was no more than a string of sexual encounters between Constance Chatterley and the gamekeeper Mellors, and also justified Lawrence's repeated use of ‘four-letter words’ as integral to the novel's overall literary effect. They were followed by two of the most notable witnesses to give evidence on 27 October, the author Rebecca West and John Robinson , bishop of Woolwich. While acknowledging the shortcomings of selected passages in the novel, West dismissed claims of excessive and unnecessary sexual description by interpreting the relationship—in a theme that reprised Gerald Gardiner's opening address—as Lawrence's 'allegory' of a 'culture that had become sterile and unhelpful to man's deepest needs' ( Rolph , 67 ). Robinson continued this theme, stating that Lawrence had sought to 'portray the sex relation as something sacred … in a real sense an act of holy communion', even if this was not consonant with a 'Christian valuation of sex'. In his cross-examination Griffith-Jones pressed Robinson on the novel as a 'valuable work on ethics' and made the first of several sharp, and ultimately counter-productive, rebukes to witnesses whom he accused of indulging in lectures rather than answering his questions. The bishop's testimony concluded with further questions from Gardiner , prompting Robinson's controversial assertion that the novel was one that 'Christians ought to read'—a statement that gained widespread media coverage ( ibid., 71–3 ).
The first day of defence testimonies concluded with Richard Hoggart , a 'self-composed, determined and unshakeable witness', with whom, it was generally agreed, the case moved in favour of the defence ( Rolph , 92 ). Like those before him Hoggart denied that the novel's sex scenes were excessive or gratuitous. He also offered the firmest statement yet of the novel's literary merit, identifying it as one of the best twenty books published since 1930. Recalled on 28 October, Hoggart addressed the subject of the novel's language, which he acknowledged had initially been shocking— Lawrence's words being those that 'don't go into polite literature normally'—but argued that their use was justified, given the absence of alternatives and their diminishing impact as the novel progressed ( ibid., 98–9 ). In his cross-examination Griffith-Jones sought, unsuccessfully, to belittle Hoggart , first mocking his claim that the novel be considered 'puritanical' and then asking that the court be spared another lecture: 'You are not at Leicester University at the moment' ( ibid., 100 ). Hoggart refused to respond in kind and was praised by observers for his sincerity and thoughtfulness while Griffith-Jones's tendency towards high-handedness was further exposed.
Hoggart's arguments were reiterated by subsequent witnesses, including E. M. Forster , Roy Jenkins , and Norman St John-Stevas , who each addressed Lawrence's ability as a writer and his novel's literary and moral qualities. Speaking on Monday 31 October, St John-Stevas , a practising Roman Catholic, also described the book as 'consistent with my own faith' and one 'every Catholic priest and every Catholic would profit by reading' ( Rolph , 136 ). Later in the day Penguin's founder, Allen Lane , took the stand. Replying to questions from Jeremy Hutchinson , Lane explained the aims of his company ('a University Press in paper backs' and his reasons for publishing an unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley , highlighting its importance for a complete series of Lawrence's works, the company's policy of not producing edited versions, and the opportunity presented by the legislation of 1959 ( ibid., 142 ). Penguin's contribution to British cultural life was subsequently endorsed by Lane's fellow publisher Stanley Unwin , who was followed by Dilys Powell , who argued for the superiority of Lawrence's depictions of sex when compared with many of those in contemporary cinema, and by C. Day Lewis , who defended Connie Chatterley against the prosecution's charge of immorality. The potentially damaging effects of her and Mellors's conduct on the young was in turn dismissed by the educationist Donald Tytler , who claimed that the novel was an important corrective to an increasingly common view that sex was 'unimportant' and hence promiscuity 'the normal course' ( ibid., 159 ). The final word went to one such young reader, Bernadine Wall , who began by describing the obvious shortcomings of the novel in its censored form. Asked what she had made of Lawrence's language in the unexpurgated version, she replied that his choice of words contained no surprises as 'I knew all of them at that time' ( ibid., 171 ).
Closing speeches for the defence and prosecution were made on 1 November. Gerald Gardiner claimed that the prosecution's argument had been overwhelmed by the calibre and consistency of the defence witnesses he also instructed jurors that they were not judging a pornographic bookseller but a highly regarded publisher whose directors clearly did not consider the novel obscene. In response Mervyn Griffith-Jones stated, somewhat duplicitously, that he had been unable to call witnesses as, according to the legislation of 1959, experts were restricted to commenting on the artistic merits of a work—something that was not under investigation in this case. He went on to question whether the opinions of university lecturers and writers were those of the 'ordinary common men and women' who would read Penguin's cheap paperback edition, and reiterated that the novel contained depictions of sexual activity of the kind that could only be found 'some way in the Charing Cross Road, the back streets of Paris and even Port Said' ( Rolph , 224 ). Summing up, Mr Justice Byrne instructed jurors of the need to decide whether, in its unexpurgated form, the novel was 'beyond reasonable doubt … obscene' and thus likely to deprave and corrupt. In doing so the jury was not expected to consider themselves a 'board of censors' but to behave as 'men and women of the world—not with prudish minds but with liberal minds' ( ibid., 229–30 ).
The verdict and its aftermath
On Wednesday 2 November, after three hours' deliberation, the jurors returned a verdict of not guilty, so opening the way for the legal distribution of a novel no longer deemed obscene under the act of 1959. Initially the ruling applied only to England and Wales, though it was later extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Under the banner 'Now YOU can read it' Penguin's new edition went on sale on 10 November, at 3s. 6d. , and by the end of the first day the complete run of 200,000 copies had been sold. Newspapers subsequently reported how queues—'mostly of men'—had gathered outside the principal London booksellers and that stocks of ‘Lady C’ had gone in minutes. Others greeted the novel's publication with dismay. The Times , while acknowledging 'a great shift in what is permissible legally', denied an equivalent transformation in popular morality and spoke up for the many 'sincere people … deeply concerned about public and private morals … [who] will be asking themselves exactly where the consequences will stop'. Further questions were also predicated about the weakness of the crown's case and why it had not been possible to match Penguin 'bishop for bishop, don for don, with a similar parade taking exactly the opposite view' ( The Times, 3 Nov 1960 ).
In 1961 Penguin published a full transcript of the trial, edited by C. H. Rolph [see Hewitt, Cecil Rolph ], a former police officer turned journalist who had previously served as secretary to the Herbert committee (1954), a gathering of publishers and booksellers who sought reform of the law on censorship. Within a year of its publication Lady Chatterley had sold more than 2 million copies and has since been frequently adapted for theatre, film, and television. In 2006 the trial itself formed the basis for a BBC drama, The Chatterley Affair , scripted by Andrew Davies .
The events in court number 1 became a staple in discussions of British society during the mid-to-late 1960s, with frequent reference to influential testimonies like those of John Robinson and Richard Hoggart and, above all, to Mervyn Griffith-Jones's misplaced question on the subject of the book's suitability for jurors' wives and servants. Such comments ensure that the episode was, and continues to be, regarded as more than a literary debate on the boundaries between obscenity and decency: 'not just a legal tussle, but a conflict of generation and class', as Penguin claimed in its publicity for the transcript of 1961. That the trial was significant is seldom disputed. Yet it remains open to discussion how far the verdict provided evidence of an earlier shift in public opinion—as suggested by Penguin's solicitor, Michael Rubinstein , who thought it 'signalled changes which had already occurred in society's attitudes' ( Marwick , 146 )—and how far it marked the start of a coming revolution in which, at least for Philip Larkin , 'Sexual intercourse began' between 'the end of the Chatterley ban' and the ' Beatles' first LP' ( Annus mirabilis, in High Windows, 1967 ).
'Lady Chatterley’s Lover' obscenity trial ends - HISTORY
DH Lawrence's sexually explicit novel was published in Italy in 1928 and in Paris the following year. It has been banned in the UK - until now.
Last month, after a dramatic and much-publicised trial, Penguin won the right to publish the book in its entirety.
For those who can manage to find a copy, it is available in paperback for 3s 6d.
London's largest bookstore, W&G Foyle Ltd, said its 300 copies had gone in just 15 minutes and it had taken orders for 3,000 more copies.
When the shop opened this morning there were 400 people - mostly men - waiting to buy the unexpurgated version of the book.
Hatchards in Piccadilly sold out in 40 minutes and also had hundreds of orders pending.
Selfridges sold 250 copies in minutes. A spokesman told the Times newspaper, "It's bedlam here. We could have sold 10,000 copies if we had had them."
Lady C, as it has become known, has also become a bestseller in the Midlands and the North where demand has been described as "terrific".
The book tells of Lady Chatterley's passionate affair with Mellors, the family gamekeeper, and details their erotic meetings.
Last year the government introduced the Obscene Publications Act that said that any book considered obscene by some but that could be shown to have "redeeming social merit" might still published.
This prompted Penguin to print off and store 200,000 copies with the aim of completing a set of works by DH Lawrence to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death this year.
Penguin sent 12 copies to the Director of Public Prosecutions challenging him to prosecute, which he duly did.
The six-day trial at the Old Bailey began on 27 October and gripped the nation.
The defence produced 35 witnesses, including bishops and leading literary figures, such as Dame Rebecca West, EM Forster and Richard Hoggart.
The prosecution was unable to make a substantial case against the novel and at one point prosecution counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones shocked the jury by asking: "Is it a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?"
The famous trial of Lady Chatterley was not only a victory for Penguin but for all British publishers, as from then on it became much more difficult to prosecute on grounds of obscenity.
The likes of Mary Whitehouse and her National Viewers' and Listeners' Association founded in 1964 turned their attention to violent and sexual scenes broadcast on television and in film.
The Broadcasting Standards Council was set up in 1988 to monitor taste and decency.
In 1993 the BBC dramatised Lady Chatterley's Lover in a film directed by Ken Russell although the more explicit scenes were toned down.