Ahead of Valentine’s day we take a look at the chequered past of Nottinghamshire’s own DH Lawrence’s seminal novel.
In 1960 Penguin Books wanted to do something daring.
The previous year, the Obscene Publications Act 1959 had come into force.
Whilst the legislation gave police a new method of seizing any materials the establishment didn’t want on the street, it also gave a defence to the publication of such books if they are also beneficial to the public.
It was time to put this new law to the test, and DH Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ would be Penguin’s champion.
Written in 1928, and published privately in Italy and France, Lady Chatterley’s Lover follows the titular Lady Chatterley as she reckons with her husband returning from the great war injured and impotent.
The novel explores the themes of individual regeneration, as well as a person’s needs whilst breaking down sexual stigmas and classist prejudices.
For a book written almost a century ago, it was way ahead of it’s time.
DH Lawrence, born to a working class family in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, died only two years after it’s initial publication and never got to see the chain reaction of social revolution it would eventually ignite.
James Walker, speaking for the DH Lawrence society, said: “Lawrence is a crucial part of Nottinghamshire’s history for so many reasons.
“I admire him so much is because he was a scrawny kid from a mining village who dared to turn his back on his roots and travel the globe in search of a better world.
“The Penguin trial was a cultural turning point because it gave everyone the permission to talk more openly about their emotional and sexual identity.”
The court convened, the jury took their seats.
But from the start it was clear there was a disconnect between the public and the establishment.
Much to the mirth of the jury, Prosecutor, Mervyn Griffiths-Jones, said: “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”
This example demonstrated just how out of touch those in charge were.
After 35 witnesses had been called, including the then Bishop of Woolwich, Dr John Robinson, it was unanimously decided there was in fact merit in publishing D. H. Lawrence’s seminal work.
Within a day penguin’s first run of 200,000 copies had sold out, within a year a total of two million sold outselling even the bible.
Now, 60 years later we can see that the book symbolises more than just a piece of banned risqué literature, it represented the beginning of a cultural revolution.
A revolution which led to divorce reform, abortion, and the legalisation of homosexuality.
The Nottinghamshire author produced a book about rebelling against class and sexual stigma, 30 years later the book was centre stage in a court case rebelling against the out of place establishment.
It definitely earnt a place in Nottingham’s rebel city.