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|Author||D. H. Lawrence|
|Country||Italy (1st publication)|
|Preceded by||John Thomas and Lady Jane (1927)|
|Author||D. H. Lawrence|
|Country||Italy (1st publication)|
|Preceded by||John Thomas and Lady Jane (1927)|
Lady Chatterley's Lover is a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1928. The first edition was printed privately in Florence, Italy, with assistance from Pino Orioli; an unexpurgated edition could not be published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960. (A private edition was issued by Inky Stephensen's Mandrake Press in 1929.) The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words.
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 Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where he grew up. 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. Lawrence at one time considered calling the novel Tenderness and made significant alterations to the text and story in the process of its composition. It has been published in three versions.
The story concerns a young married woman, Constance (Lady Chatterley), whose upper-class husband, Clifford Chatterley, described as a handsome, well-built man, has been paralysed from the waist down due to a war injury. In addition to Clifford's physical limitations, his emotional neglect of Constance forces distance between the couple. Her sexual frustration leads her into an affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. The class difference between the couple highlights a major motif of the novel which is the unfair dominance of intellectuals over the working class. The novel is about Constance's realisation that she cannot live with the mind alone; she must also be alive physically. This realisation stems from a heightened sexual experience Constance has only felt with Mellors, suggesting that love can only happen with the element of the body, not the mind.
In Lady Chatterley's Lover, Lawrence comes full circle to argue once again for individual regeneration, which can be found only through the relationship between man and woman (and, he asserts sometimes, man and man). Love and personal relationships are the threads that bind this novel together. Lawrence explores a wide range of different types of relationships. The reader sees the brutal, bullying relationship between Mellors and his wife Bertha, who punishes him by preventing his pleasure. There is Tommy Dukes, who has no relationship because he cannot find a woman whom he respects intellectually and, at the same time, finds desirable. There is also the perverse, maternal relationship that ultimately develops between Clifford and Mrs. Bolton, his caring nurse, after Connie has left.
Richard Hoggart argues that the main subject of Lady Chatterley's Lover is not the sexual passages that were the subject of such debate but the search for integrity and wholeness. Key to this integrity is cohesion between the mind and the body for "body without mind is brutish; mind without body... is a running away from our double being." Lady Chatterley's Lover focuses on the incoherence of living a life that is "all mind", which Lawrence saw as particularly true among the young members of the aristocratic classes, as in his description of Constance's and her sister Hilda's "tentative love-affairs" in their youth:
So they had given the gift of themselves, each to the youth with whom she had the most subtle and intimate arguments. The arguments, the discussions were the great thing: the love-making and connexion were only sort of primitive reversion and a bit of an anti-climax.
The contrast between mind and body can be seen in the dissatisfaction each has with their previous relationships: Constance's lack of intimacy with her husband who is "all mind" and Mellors's choice to live apart from his wife because of her "brutish" sexual nature. These dissatisfactions lead them into a relationship that builds very slowly and is based upon tenderness, physical passion, and mutual respect. As the relationship between Lady Chatterley and Mellors develops, they learn more about the interrelation of the mind and the body; she learns that sex is more than a shameful and disappointing act, and he learns about the spiritual challenges that come from physical love.
Neuro-psychoanalyst Mark Blechner identifies the "Lady Chatterley phenomenon" in which the same sexual act can affect people in different ways at different times, depending on their subjectivity. He bases it on the passage in which Lady Chatterley feels disengaged from Mellors and thinks disparagingly about the sex act: "And this time the sharp ecstasy of her own passion did not overcome her; she lay with hands inert on his striving body, and do what she might, her spirit seemed to look on from the top of her head, and the butting of his haunches seemed ridiculous to her, and the sort of anxiety of his penis to come to its little evacuating crisis seemed farcical. Yes, this was love, this ridiculous bouncing of the buttocks, and the wilting of the poor insignificant, moist little penis." Shortly thereafter, they make love again, and this time, she experiences enormous physical and emotional involvement: "And it seemed she was like the sea, nothing but dark waves rising and heaving, heaving with a great swell, so that slowly her whole darkness was in motion, and she was ocean rolling its dark, dumb mass."
Besides the evident sexual content of the book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover also presents some views on the British social context of the early 20th century. For example, Constance's social insecurity, arising from being brought up in an upper-middle-class background, in contrast with Sir Clifford's social self-assurance, becomes more evident in passages such as:
Clifford Chatterley was more upper-class than Connie. Connie was well-to-do intelligentsia, but he was aristocracy. Not the big sort, but still it. His father was a baronet, and his mother had been a viscount's daughter.
There are also signs of dissatisfaction and resentment of the Tevershall coal pit's workers, the colliers, against Clifford, who owned the mines. By the time Clifford and Connie had moved to Wragby Hall, Clifford's father's estate in Nottinghamshire, the coal industry in England seemed to be in decline, although the coal pit was still a big part in the life of the neighbouring town of Tevershall. References to the concepts of anarchism, socialism, communism, and capitalism permeate the book. Union strikes were also a constant preoccupation in Wragby Hall. An argument between Clifford and Connie goes:
”Oh good!, said Connie. “If only there aren’t more strikes!”
“What would be the use of their striking again! Merely ruin the industry, what’s left of it; and surely the owls are beginning to see it!”
“Perhaps they don’t mind ruining the industry,” said Connie.
“Ah, don’t talk like a woman! The industry fills their bellies, even if it can’t keep their pockets quite so flush,” he said, using turns of speech that oddly had a twang of Mrs. Bolton.
The most obvious social contrast in the plot, however, is that of the affair of an aristocratic woman (Connie) with a working class man (Mellors). Mark Schorer, an American writer and literary critic, considers a familiar construction in D.H. Lawrence's works the forbidden love of a woman of relatively superior social situation who is drawn to an "outsider" (a man of lower social rank or a foreigner), in which the woman either resists her impulse or yields to it. Schorer believes the two possibilities were embodied, respectively, in the situation into which Lawrence was born, and that into which Lawrence married, therefore becoming a favorite topic in his work.
Familiar, too, to much of Lawrence's work is the nearby presence of coal mining. While it has a more direct role in Sons and Lovers and in Women in Love, it casts its influence over much of Lady Chatterley's Lover too. Lawrence's own father was a miner, and the author was intimately familiar with the region of the Derby/Notts coalfield, having been born at Eastwood, Nottingham. The significance of coal in the background to Lawrence's novels cannot be overstressed, when considering his treatment of social class issues. Involved with hard, dangerous and health-threatening employment, the unionized and self-supporting pit-village communities in Britain have been home to more pervasive class barriers than has been the case in other industries (for an example, see chapter two of The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell.) They were also centers of widespread non-conformist (Non-Anglican Protestant) religion, which tended to hold especially proscriptive views on matters such as adultery.
An edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in Britain in 1932 by Martin Secker; reviewing it in The Observer, Gerald Gould noted that "passages are necessarily omitted to which the author undoubtedly attached supreme psychological importance – importance so great, that he was willing to face obloquy and misunderstanding and censorship because of them". An authorized abridgment of Lady Chatterley's Lover that was heavily censored was published in America by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1928. This edition was subsequently reissued in paperback in America by Signet Books in 1946.
When the full unexpurgated edition was published by Penguin Books in Britain in 1960, the trial of Penguin under the Obscene Publications Act 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 to the frequent use of the word "fuck" and its derivatives. Another objection related to the use of the word "cunt".
Various academic critics and experts of diverse kinds, including E. M. Forster, Helen Gardner, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams and Norman St John-Stevas, were called as witnesses, and the verdict, delivered on 2 November 1960, was "not guilty". This resulted in a far greater degree of freedom for publishing explicit material in the United Kingdom. The prosecution was ridiculed for being out of touch with changing social norms when the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked if it were the kind of book "you would wish your wife or servants to read".
The Penguin second edition, published in 1961, contains a publisher's dedication, which reads: "For having published this book, Penguin Books were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960. This edition is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of 'not guilty' and thus made D. H. Lawrence's last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom".
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, although the country still retains the Australian Classification Board. In early October 2009, the federal institution of Australia Post banned the sale of this book in their stores and outlets claiming that books of this nature do not fit in with the "theme of their stores".
In 1945, McGill University Professor of Law and Canadian modernist poet F. R. Scott appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada to defend Lady Chatterley's Lover from censorship. However, despite Scott's efforts, the book was banned in Canada for 30 years due to concerns about its use of "obscene language" and explicit depiction of sexual intercourse. On 15 November 1960 an Ontario panel of experts, appointed by Attorney General Kelso Roberts, found that novel was not obscene according to the Canadian Criminal Code.
In 1930, Senator Bronson Cutting proposed an amendment to the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which was then being debated, ending the practice of having United States Customs censor allegedly obscene imported books. Senator Reed Smoot vigorously opposed such an amendment, threatening to publicly read indecent passages of imported books in front of the Senate. Although he never followed through, he included Lady Chatterley's Lover as an example of an obscene book that must not reach domestic audiences, declaring "I've not taken ten minutes on Lady Chatterley's Lover, outside of looking at its opening pages. It is most damnable! It is written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would obscure even the darkness of hell!"
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 with assistance by publisher Barney Rosset and lawyer Charles Rembar in 1959. It was then published by Rosset's Grove Press, with the complete opinion by United States Court of Appeals Judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan, which first established the standard of "redeeming social or literary value" as a defence against obscenity charges.
A 1955 French film version based on the novel and released by Kingsley Pictures was in the United States the subject of attempted censorship in New York 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.
The book was famously distributed in the United States by Frances Steloff at the Gotham Book Mart, in defiance of the book ban.
The publication of a full translation of Lady Chatterley's Lover by Sei Itō in 1950 led to a famous obscenity trial in Japan, extending from 8 May 1951 to 18 January 1952, with appeals lasting to 13 March 1957. Several notable literary figures testified for the defence, and the trial ultimately ended in a guilty verdict with a ¥100,000 fine for Ito and a ¥250,000 fine for his publisher.
Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1965 SC 881) was eventually laid before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India, where Chief Justice Hidayatullah declared the law on the subject of when a book can be regarded as obscene and established important tests of obscenity such as the Hicklin test.
The judgement upheld the conviction, stating that:
When everything said in its favour we find that in treating with sex the impugned portions viewed separately and also in the setting of the whole book pass the permissible limits judged of from our community standards and as there is no social gain to us which can be said to preponderate, we must hold the book to satisfy the test we have indicated above.
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:
By 1976, the story had become sufficiently safe in Britain to be parodied by Morecambe and Wise; a "play what Ernie wrote", The Handyman and M'Lady, 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".
In the third Mad Men episode in season 1, "The Marriage of Figaro" (2007), Joan Holloway returns her borrowed copy of the book to one of the other administrative pool members, sparking conversation about its racy themes and the book's commentary about marriage.
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Lady Chatterley's Lover has been re-imagined as a love triangle set in contemporary Silicon Valley, California in the novel Miss Chatterley by Logan Belle (the pseudonym for American author Jamie Brenner) published by Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster, May 2013.
Lady Chatterley's Lover has been adapted for film and television several times:
The character of Lady Chatterley appears in Fanny Hill Meets Lady Chatterly [sic] (1967), Lady Chatterly [sic] Versus Fanny Hill (1974), and Young Lady Chatterley (1977). Bartholomew Bandy meets her shortly after her 1917 marriage in the novel Three Cheers for Me (1962, revised 1973) by Donald Jack.
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Lawrence's novel was successfully dramatised for the stage in a three-act play by a young British playwright named John Harte. Although produced at The Arts Theatre in London in 1961 (and elsewhere later on), his play was written in 1953. It was the only DH Lawrence novel ever to be staged, and his dramatisation was the only one to be read and approved by Lawrence's widow, Frieda. Despite her attempts to obtain the copyright for Harte to have his play staged in the 1950s, Baron Philippe de Rothschild did not relinquish the dramatic rights until his film was released in France.
Only the Old Bailey trial against Penguin Books for alleged obscenity in publishing the unexpurgated paperback edition of the novel prevented the play's transfer to the much bigger Wyndham's Theatre, for which it had already been licensed by the Lord Chamberlain's Office on 12 August 1960 with passages censored. It was fully booked out for its limited run at The Arts Theatre and well reviewed by Harold Hobson, the prevailing West End theatre critic of the time.