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Lady Chatterley's Lover

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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 publication of the book caused a scandal due to its explicit sex scenes, including previously banned four-letter words, and perhaps particularly because the lovers were a working-class male and a bourgeois female.

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 [1].


The story concerns a young married woman, Constance, Lady Chatterley, whose upper-class husband has been paralyzed and rendered impotent. Her sexual frustration leads her into an affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. The novel closes with Constance and Mellors expecting a child. They are physically separated from one another, pending successful divorce suits with their respective spouses, and are hopeful of being able to build a life together one day.


In Chapter 15, there is a passage in which Mellors approaches Lady Chatterley from behind "and short and sharp, he took her, short and sharp and finished, like an animal." Even the normally explicit Lawrence does not spell out whether this was vaginal or anal sex, but some events and language in the scene that follows suggest the latter. At the time, even the mention of anal sex was so highly taboo that the very existence of the practice was unknown to many people. There is no way to know how the prosecution interpreted that passage, and whether the outcome might have been different had Lawrence been explicit.

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 for the frequent use of the word "fuck" and its derivatives.

Various academic critics, including E. M. Forster, Helen Gardner and Raymond Williams, 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 was the kind of book "you would wish your wife or servants to read".

In 2006, this was dramatised by BBC 4 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".[2]

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 by lawyer Charles Rembar in 1959.

The movie 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.[3]

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".

Standard editions

  • Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), edited by Michael Squires, Cambridge University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-521-22266-4
  • The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels, edited by Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-47116-8. These two books,The First Lady Chatterley and John Thomas and Lady Jane were earlier drafts of Lawrence's last novel




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

There have been two major film adaptations: the 1981 version by Just Jaeckin starring Sylvia Kristel and Nicholas Clay and the 1993 version entitled Lady Chatterley by Ken Russell starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean.

In 2006 the French director Pascale Ferran[4] filmed a French Language version with Marina Hands as Constance and Jean-Louis Coulloc'h as Parkin. When this appears on French TV it will be presented as "Lady Chatterley et l'homme des bois": "Lady Chatterley and the Man of the Woods".


The Trial of Lady Chatterley, C. H. Rolph, ISBN 0-14-013381-X

External links

  • Lady Chatterley's Lover text online
  • Project Gutenberg of Australia text of Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • Project Gutenberg of Australia titles including, as of 2003, nine of D. H. Lawrence's works
Caution: Australian copyright law protects literary works for only 50 years after the author's death. However, they are still copyrighted in many countries including the United States. If you live in a country where these works are copyrighted, downloading them may constitute copyright infringement.
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