Lady Chatterley’s Lover

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

The Work

In this story Constance Chatterley is married to Sir Clifford Chatterley, a wealthy older man whose paralysis from war wounds has left him sexually impotent. As Lady Chatterley enters into a passionate affair with the gamekeeper, the novel focuses on their passionate couplings, often describing them in graphic detail, and using language considered taboo in literature when the book was published.

Opponents of this novel have identified four aspects of the book that they regard as “obscene”: its portrayal of a woman as a sexually aggressive being; its depiction of an interclass relationship in which an aristocratic woman couples with a man “beneath her station”; its coarse language, which includes words such as “fuck” and “cunt”; and its depiction of “unnatural” (anal) intercourse.

In defending his book, Lawrence called attention to industrial England’s negative and paralyzing influence on people. He argued that his novel contrasted the cold anti- intellectual bent of his fictional Sir Clifford and his friends with the warm passion of Lady Chatterley and her lover, describing their acts not in moral, scientific, or judicial terms, but in sincere and “accurate” ways.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover was first published in Florence, Italy, in 1928 by Guiseppe Orioli. It was banned almost immediately in Great Britain, whose home secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, declared it obscene. This banning overlooked a British law permitting books with tendencies to “deprave and corrupt” to be reconsidered if they could be shown to serve some “public good,” such as a contribution to literature or learning. The British banning was imitated in the United States, where the book did not publicly surface until 1957, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roth v. United States ruling, defending “obscene” publications with “redeeming social importance,” was made.

Grove Press published the first unexpurgated edition of...

(The entire section is 827 words.)