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Encyclopedia > Lady Chatterley's Lover

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Lady Chatterley's Lover

The publication of D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover caused a scandal due to its explicit sex scenes, including previously banned four-letter words, and perhaps particularly because the male lover was working-class.

Warning: wikipedia contains spoilers

The story concerns a young married woman whose upper-class husband has been paralysed and rendered impotent. Her sexual frustration leads her into an affair with the gamekeeper, Mellors, eventually culminating in their marriage. The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he made significant alterations to the original manuscript in order to make it palatable to readers.

An obscenity trial followed its publication in Britain in 1960 (having been rejected when Lawrence originally took it to publishers in 1930, and eventually published in France). The Obscene Publications Act of 1959, introduced by Roy Jenkins, had made it possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit.

The British publisher, Penguin Books[?], won the court case that ensued. A string of expert witnesses, including E. M. Forster, Helen Gardner and Raymond Williams, testified on behalf of the defence.

The outcome of the trial is thought to have been influenced by the famous remark by the prosecuting counsel, Mervyn Griffiths-Jones: "Would you want your wife or servants to read this book?" which reinforced the image of an out-of-touch judiciary.

About three-quarters of the way through the book there is a passage concerning anal sex between the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, and Lady Constance Chatterley. Even the normally explicit Lawrence felt it necessary to imply this, rather than spell it out. It is interesting to speculate whether the outcome of the case would have been different if the prosecution had realised what was really happening in that passage.

In Australia, not only was the book itself banned, but a book describing the British trial, "The Trial of Lady Chatterley", was also banned. A copy was smuggled into the country, and then published widely. The fallout from this event eventually led to the virtual abandonment of censorship of books in the country.

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