In 1960, a trial took place that changed socio-political attitudes in the literary world and beyond. And it was all down to one pesky four letter word. Well, it wasn’t just down to that, but D H Lawrence’s attempt to replace clumsy love-making euphemisms with a cleaner, purer and more direct Anglo-Saxon ‘fuck’ in Lady Chatterley’s Lover ruffled more than a few feathers. The fact that it is a strong-willed and independent-minded woman doing the fucking can’t have helped either…
Connie (the eponymous Lady Chatterley) finds herself encouraged by her husband – who returns from war impotent and paralysed from the waist down – to provide him with an heir by any means. She is nudged towards emotionless encounters and longs for a more fulfilling existence, both mentally and physically. She finds this with Mellors, the gamekeeper, a man who is coarse, direct and well below her in the social hierarchy. At the time of publication, the sex scenes grabbed the headlines and the immorality of extra-marital activity condemned. The book was published privately in 1928, and when Penguin made the decision to publish the original uncensored text in January 1960, all hell broke loose. Within one year, the trial had changed everything – the accusations of obscenity and threats to moral values were thrown out, and exploration of sex in art and entertainment was no longer taboo. The book went straight on to sell 3 million copies.
To celebrate this triumph of moral reason and literary freedom, Penguin have released a beautiful 50th Anniversary Edition, a reminder that the book challenged class divides and sexual politics, gender stereotypes and the psychology of relationships. Not only that, but Lawrence’s success beyong this novel is down to his writing talent, a lyricism and ability to create fully realised characters; a re-reading of the book now, when the sex scenes are less shocking, allows a fuller enjoyment of the text. This edition contains “the complete, unexpurgated text first published by Penguin in November 1960 along with new afterwords by Geoffrey Robertson QC and by Steve Hare, as well as a timeline of the events leading up to and following the trial and publication.”
You can join the debate, read more about the trial and discuss – in a world where fucks barely raise an eyebrow and where sex in literature is par for the course – what the fuss was all about on this great Penguin mini-site.
Released today, Lady Chatterley’s Lover: 50th Anniversary Edition is available on Amazon for a mere £6.29
Post by Alex Herod