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THE TRIAL OF LADY CHATTERLY: Regina v....

THE TRIAL OF LADY CHATTERLY: Regina v. Penguin Books Limited edited by C.H. Rolph (Penguin: $8.95, illustrated). In 1960, Penguin Books Ltd. was brought to trial under British obscenity statutes because the publisher planned to release of an unexpurgated edition of D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover.” This edited version of the transcript of the courtroom proceedings includes the testimony of such eminent witnesses for the defense as Rebecca West, C. V. Wedgewood and E. M. Forster. Overwhelmed by the literary equivalent of a Panzer division, the prosecutor shifted the focus of the case from the alleged obscenity of the book and Lawrence’s use of four-letter words to the adulterous behavior of Constance Chatterly. As the title suggests, Lady Chatterly herself seemed to be on trial. This clever strategy failed: Sir Allen Lane and Hans Schmoller of Penguin were acquited, and an unabridged edition of D. H. Lawrence’s novel was published in his native land for the first time. Thirty years after that landmark decision, when First Amendment rights in the United States are being attacked under the guise of public decency and family values, Rolph’s dispassionate account of the trial makes compelling reading.


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