Legal cartoons and humorous comment (c) Paul Brennan. All rights reserved.

I decided on 101 reasons as I didn’t want to depress the entire legal profession by having 1,001.
Paul Brennan, Lawyer, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sex in the Dock - The Lady Chatterley’s Lover Trial

In 1960 at the Old Bailey, Penguin faced prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act for its publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence who had died in 1930.

In the book, Lady Chatterley has an affair with her husband’s gamekeeper as her husband is unable to have sexual intercourse due to a WW1 injury.

Did the book tend to deprave and corrupt? If so, was its publication 'for the public good' on the grounds of its literary merits?

Apart from the “f” word being used 30 times, the Prosecutor listed sexual intercourse taking place “thirteen times” including in “her husband’s house,…a hut,…the undergrowth,…when stark naked and dripping with raindrops…" He concluded, “And finally…we have it all over again in the attic in a Bloomsbury boarding-house.”

The Prosecutor asked, “Would you approve of your… young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book?... Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or servants to read?”

The Defence said that society cannot fix its standards by what is suitable for a 14-year-old.

Over a six-day trial there were a number of witnesses, including:

1. Author Rebecca West who gave evidence that the book had literary merit, but was badly written by a man who had no sense of humour and no background of education in his home.  
2. The Bishop of Woolwich who agreed that Christians ought to read it. This led to the headline in the evening papers, “A Book all Christians should read”.

The Defence contended that Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra may as well have been a “story of a sex-starved man copulating with an Egyptian Queen.”

The Judge summed up suggesting that the jury think of “factory girls reading in their lunchtime.”

After a six-day trial, the Jury found Penguin not guilty.

(c) Paul Brennan 2015. All rights reserved. 

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