Lady Chatterley's Lover  

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"The publication of the book caused a succès de scandale due to its explicit sex scenes, including previously banned four-letter words such as fuck (four times) and cunt (ten times), and perhaps particularly because the lovers were a working-class male and an aristocratic female." --Sholem Stein

R v Penguin Books Ltd

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Lady Chatterley's Lover is a novel by D. H. Lawrence written in 1928.

Printed privately in Florence in 1928, it was not printed in the United Kingdom until 1960. Lawrence considered calling this book Tenderness at one time and made significant alterations to the original manuscript in order to make it palatable to readers. It has been published in three different versions.

The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from Ilkeston in Derbyshire where he lived for a while. According to some critics the fling of Lady Ottoline Morrell with "Tiger", a young stonemason who came to carve plinths for her garden statues also influenced the story.


Plot introduction

The story concerns a young married woman, Constance (Lady Chatterley), whose upper-class husband, Clifford Chatterley, has been paralyzed and rendered impotent. Her sexual frustration leads her into an affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. This novel is about Constance's realization that she cannot live with the mind alone, she must also be alive physically.


Mind and body

In his introduction to the 2nd edition in 1961, Richard Hoggart argues that the main subject of Lady Chatterley's Lover is not the sexual passages that were the subject of such debate, but the search for integrity and wholeness. Key to this integrity is cohesion between the mind and the body for "body without mind is brutish; mind without body…is a running away from our double being." Lady Chatterley's Lover focuses on the incoherence of living a life that is "all mind", which Lawrence saw as particularly true among the young members of the aristocratic classes, as in his description of Constance and her sister Hilda's "tentative love-affairs" in their youth:

So they had given the gift of themselves, each to the youth with whom she had the most subtle and intimate arguments. The arguments, the discussions were the great thing: the love-making and connexion were only sort of primitive reversion and a bit of an anti-climax.

The contrast between mind and body can be seen in the dissatisfaction each has with their previous relationships: Constance's lack of intimacy with her husband who is "all mind", and Mellors' choice to live apart from his wife due to her "brutish" sexual nature. These dissatisfactions lead them into a relationship that builds very slowly and is based upon tenderness, physical passion, and mutual respect. As the relationship between Lady Chatterley and Mellors develops, they learn more about the interrelation of the mind and the body; she learns that sex is more than a shameful and disappointing act and he learns about the spiritual challenges that come from physical love.


British obscenity trial

Lady Chatterley's Lover British obscenity trial

When it was published in Britain in 1960, the trial of the publishers, Penguin Books, under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 was a major public event and a test of the new obscenity law. The 1959 act, introduced by Roy Jenkins, had made it possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit. One of the objections was to the frequent use of the word "fuck" and its derivatives.

Various academic critics, including E. M. Forster, Helen Gardner, Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, Norman St John-Stevas were called as witnesses, and the verdict, delivered on November 2 1960, was not guilty. This resulted in a far greater degree of freedom for publishing explicit material in the UK. The prosecution was ridiculed for being out of touch with changing social norms when the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked if it were the kind of book "you would wish your wife or servants to read".

In 2006, this was dramatised by BBC Wales as The Chatterley Affair.


Not only was the book banned in Australia, 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 easing of censorship of books in the country. However the country still retains the Office of Film and Literature Classification. When the office considers material to be too offensive or obscene it will refuse to classify the material. Material that fails to receive a classification cannot be distributed. Its officers are called "classifiers", not "censors". [1]

United States

Lady Chatterley's Lover was one of a trio of books (the others being Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill), the ban on which was fought and overturned in court with assistance by lawyer Charles Rembar in 1959.

The French language film version was the subject of attempted censorship in New York State on the grounds that it promoted adultery. The Supreme Court held that the law prohibiting its showing was a violation of the First Amendment's protection of Free Speech. See Kingsley International Pictures Corp. v. Regents, 360 U.S. 684 (1959)] .


  • July 21 1959 - American censorship: A federal district court at New York lifts a U.S. Post Office ban on distributing the 1928 D. H. Lawrence novel Lady Chatterley's Lover despite protests that the book uses such words as fuck and cunt and is explicit in its descriptions of the sex act. Grove Press has distributed an unexpurgated version of the book; Postmaster General Arthur Ellsworth Summerfield has banned it from the mails; and Judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan, 55, rules in Grove's favor. His 30-page decision in Roth v. the United States says not only that the book is not obscene but also that the postmaster general is neither qualified nor authorized to judge the obscenity of material to be sent through the mails; he is empowered only to halt delivery of matter already judged obscene.


In 1964, bookseller Ranjit Udeshi in Bombay was prosecuted under Sec. 292 of the Indian Penal Code (sale of obscene books) for selling an unexpurgated copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1968 SC 881) was eventually laid before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India, where in a highly erudite judgement, Chief Justice Hidayatullah declared the law on the subject of when a book can be regarded as obscene and established important tests of obscenity such as the Hicklin test.

The judgement upheld the conviction, stating that
"When everything said in its favour we find that in treating with sex the impugned portions viewed separately and also in the setting of the whole book pass the permissible limits judged of from our community standards and as there is no social gain to us which can be said to preponderate, we must hold the book to satisfy the test we have indicated above."

Cultural influence

In the United States the free publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover was a significant event in the "sexual revolution". At the time the book was a topic of widespread discussion and a byword of sorts. In 1965, Tom Lehrer recorded a satirical song entitled Smut, in which the speaker in the song lyrics cheerfully acknowledges his enjoyment of such material; "Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately?/I've got a hobby: rereading Lady Chatterley."

British poet Philip Larkin's poem "Annus Mirabilis" begins with a reference to the trial:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And The Beatles' first LP.

By the 1970s, the story had become sufficiently safe in Britain to be parodied by Morecambe and Wise; a "play wot Ernie wrote" was obviously based on it, with Michele Dotrice as the Lady Chatterley figure. Introducing it, Ernie explained that his play was "about a man who has an accident with a combine harvester, which unfortunately makes him impudent".



Lady Chatterley's Lover has been adapted for BBC Radio 4 by acclaimed writer Michelene Wandor and was first broadcast in September 2006

Film and television

In 1955 Danielle Darrieux starred in the film Lady Chatterley's Lover. Due to its content, the film was banned by the Catholic censors in the United States.

Main article, see Lady Chatterley's Lover (film)

There have been three major adaptations. A 1981 film version by Just Jaeckin starring Sylvia Kristel and Nicholas Clay and in 1993 a version entitled Lady Chatterley directed by Ken Russell starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean for BBC Television.

In 2006 the French director Pascale Ferran [2] filmed a French Language version with Marina Hands as Constance and Jean-Louis Coulloc'h as Parkin, which won the coveted Cesar Award for Best Film in 2007. Marina Hands was chosen best actress at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival [3]. The film was based on "John Thomas and Lady Jane", Lawrence's second version of the story. When this film appears on French TV it will be presented as Lady Chatterley et l'homme des bois (Lady Chatterley and the Man of the Woods). It was broadcast on the Arte channel on 22 June 2007.


Not generally known is that Lawrence's novel was successfully dramatized for the stage in a 3-Act play by a young British playwright named John Harte. Although produced at The Arts Theatre in London in 1961 (and elsewhere later on) his play was written in 1953. It was the only D.H.Lawrence novel ever to be staged. And his dramatization was the only one to be read and approved by Lawrence's widow, Frieda. Despite her attempts to obtain the copyright for John Harte to have his play staged in the 1950s, Baron Philippe de Rothschild did not relinquish the dramatic rights until his film was released in France.

Only the Old Bailey trial against Penguin Books for alleged obscenity in publishing the unexpurgated paperback edition of the novel prevented the play's transfer to the much bigger Wyndhams Theatre, for which it had already been licensed by The Lord Chamberlain's Office on August 12th 1960. It was fully booked out for its limited run at The Arts Theatre and well reviewed by Harold Hobson, the prevailing west end theatre critic of the time.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lady Chatterley's Lover" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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