illustrated portrait of English author D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence

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David Herbert Lawrence was a well-known English writer who published a range of works including novels, short stories, poems, plays, and other content. He became one of the best known writers in the early twentieth century, with much controversy surrounding him because of works such as the novels Sons and Lovers, published in 1913, Women in Love, published in 1920, and particularly Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published in 1928.

Reflecting what were viewed as overly detailed sexual depictions and language in the book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in the U.S. in 1929 for obscenity. It was not until decades later that legal rulings in New York and London enabled publishers and booksellers to make the book available legally. Just a few decades before Lawrence, Victorian writers would not even describe a couple sharing a kiss, so his writings were shocking at the time.

What was particularly controversial was not only the detailed descriptions of Lady Chatterley’s affair with her lover, but also that the lover was from a different socioeconomic class (he was the gardener). This crossed class divisions, which was something seldom explored in literature to that point and when it was (Pamela, for example), it was generally a story of a wealthy man who enters into a relationship with a young woman from a lower economic class. Moreover, like Emma in Madame Bovary, which was published in 1857 in France and also resulted in a trial for the author, Lady Chatterley was married. This made the story of her extramarital affair very risqué. Moreover, Lawrence's use of words to describe their sexual encounters was also considered shocking at the time.

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