Here’s a famous quote from Mervyn Guthrie Griffith-Jones, who was notorious for leading the prosecution case against Penguin Books back in October 1960. Penguin had the temerity to publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover in paperback, and the British establishment went absolutely apeshit. They prosecuted Penguin under the Obscene Publications Act of 1958.

Here’s what my learned friend asked in his opening address.

“…when you have read it through, would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book. Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”

Astonishing isn’t it? The degree of patronisation, the blind acceptance of his own prejudices. All credit to the jury, this was greeted with a great deal of amusement, and was widely regarded as the first nail in the prosecution’s coffin lid. That may not be surprising. A good few of the jury members would likely have been servants or tradespeople, and since the book is based on the idea of a lady of the manor falling for a bit of rough, they might well quite like that. As for the language, well Mellors the gardener/servant was the one who introduced the fair and blushing Constance to that, and indeed to the organs and processes involved. He gives her a good seeing to on many an occasion. All in all I can’t see the servants taking too much exception to things, can you?

Now we come to the gentler sex, as Griffith-Jones must have perceived them. It was nice of him to acknowledge that ‘…girls can read as we’ll as boys…’ don’t you think? Very egalitarian. Then we come to the thorny problem of ‘wife.’ I reckon the twelve men good and true felt rather sorry for my learned friend’s wife. They probably suspected, as indeed even I did, that the between the sheets action in the Griffith-Jones household might not be all that one might wish for.

There’s a serious side to this. The people who would ban you, or me, or all the world and his brother, from reading books have one motive, and only one motive. They want to save you from yourself. They know better than you do about every aspect of your life, and they know you aren’t in a position to control yourself. They must control you for your own good. They know better. And you’d best not forget it.

Just to round this off, before the bile eats through the monitors of the world, a comment. I truly wish this book had never seen the light of day, in casebound or paperback formats. The reason for this is that David Herbert Lawrence is guilty of the heinous crime of writing badly. It’s a badly written book. The theme is a hackneyed one, the sex scenes are toe-curlingly twee to the point of being saccharin, and I simply did not care one jot what happened to the main protagonists. I thoroughly disliked this book.

Lots of other people think I’m wrong. Good. I may well be. But at least we all got the chance to read it without some pompous buffoon with a rod up his arse deciding that we really weren’t mentally, emotionally, or morally prepared to deal with the story of an illicit love affair across class divides.

Thanks once again to the free thinkers over at http://tipsylit.com/ for making war on the banners. And I should warn you I’ll be banging on about this for the next two days as well.