Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover is a novel by English author D. H. Lawrence, first published privately in 1928 in Italy, and in 1929 in France.[1] An unexpurgated edition was not published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960, when it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books. Penguin won the case, and quickly sold 3 million copies.[1] The book was also banned for obscenity in the United States (1929–59), Canada, Australia, India, and Japan. 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 (four-letter) words.

Lady Chatterley's Lover
First edition cover
AuthorD. H. Lawrence
CountryItaly (1st publication)
PublisherTipografia Giuntina
Publication date
Preceded byJohn Thomas and Lady Jane (1927) 

The story is said to have originated from certain events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from the county of 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.[2] Lawrence at one time considered calling the novel "Tenderness", and made significant alterations to the text and story in the process of its composition.

Plot introduction

The story concerns a young married woman, the former Constance Reid (Lady Chatterley), whose upper class husband, Sir Clifford Chatterley, described as a handsome, well-built man, has been paralysed from the waist down due to a Great War injury. In addition to Clifford's physical limitations, his emotional neglect of Constance forces distance between the couple. Her emotional 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 realization that she cannot live with the mind alone; she must also be alive physically. This realization 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 Constance has left.

Mind and body

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.[3] 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."[4] 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 connection were only sort of primitive reversion and a bit of an anti-climax.[5]

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.[6] 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.

Jenny Turner maintained in The Sexual Imagination from Acker to Zola: A Feminist Companion (1993) that the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover broke "the taboo on explicit representations of sexual acts in British and North American literature". She described the novel as "a book of great libertarian energy and heteroerotic beauty".[7]


Lady Chatterley's Lover also presents some views on the British social context of the early 20th century. This is most evidently seen in the plot; the affair of an aristocratic woman (Connie) with a working class man (Mellors). This is heightened when Mellors adopts the local broad Derbyshire dialect, something he can slip in and out of. Critic and writer Mark Schorer writes of 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). He considers this a familiar construction in D.H. Lawrence's works, in which the woman either resists her impulse or yields to it.[8] 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 favourite topic in his work.

There is a clear class divide between the inhabitants of Wragby and Tevershall, bridged by the nurse Mrs Bolton. Clifford is more self assured in his position, whereas Connie is often thrown when the villagers treat her as a Lady (for instance when she has tea in the village). This is often made explicit in the narration, for instance:

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.[9]

There are also signs of dissatisfaction and resentment from the Tevershall coal pit colliers, whose fortunes are in decline, against Clifford who owns the mines. Involved with hard, dangerous and health-threatening employment, the unionised 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 centres of widespread non-conformist (Non-Anglican Protestant) religion, which tended to hold especially proscriptive views on matters such as adultery. References to the concepts of anarchism, socialism, communism and capitalism permeate the book. Union strikes were also a constant preoccupation in Wragby Hall. Coal mining is a recurrent and familiar theme in Lawrence's life and writing due to his background, and is also prominent in Sons and Lovers and Women in Love, as well as short stories such as Odour of Chrysanthemums.

Industrialisation and nature

As in much of Lawrence's fiction, a key theme is the contrast between the vitality of nature and the mechanised monotony of mining and industrialism. Clifford wants to reinvigorate the mines with new technology and is out of touch with the natural world.[10] In contrast, Connie often appreciates the beauty of nature and sees the ugliness of the mines in Uthwaite. Her heightened sensual appreciation applies not just to her sexual relationship with Mellors, but to nature too.


An edition of the novel was published in Britain in 1932 by Martin Secker; reviewing it in The Observer, the journalist 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".[11] An authorised and heavily censored abridgment was published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1928. This edition was subsequently reissued in paperback in the United States by Signet Books in 1946.

British obscenity trial

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 was 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".

In 2006, the trial was dramatized by BBC Wales as The Chatterley Affair.


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 1962, 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. Scott represented the appellants, booksellers who had been offering the book for sale.

The case arose when the police had seized their copies of the book and deposited them with a judge of the Court of Sessions of the Peace, who issued a notice to the booksellers to show cause why the books should not be confiscated as obscene, contrary to s 150A of the Criminal Code.[12] The trial judge eventually ruled that the book was obscene and ordered that the copies be confiscated. This decision was upheld by the Quebec Court of Queen's Bench, Appeal Side (now the Quebec Court of Appeal).[13]

Scott then appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. That Court allowed the appeal on a 5–4 split, holding that the book was not an obscene publication.[14]

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.[15]

United States

Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned for obscenity in the United States in 1929. 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!"[16]

A 1955 French film version based on the novel and released by Kingsley Pictures was the subject of attempted censorship in New York in 1959 on the grounds that it promoted adultery.[17] The US Supreme Court held on 29 June 1959 that the law prohibiting its showing was a violation of the First Amendment's protection of free speech.[18]

The ban on Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tropic of Cancer, and Fanny Hill was fought and overturned in court with assistance by publisher Barney Rosset and lawyer Charles Rembar in 1959.[19] 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. Fred Kaplan of The New York Times stated the overturning of the obscenity laws "set off an explosion of free speech".[20]

Susan Sontag, in a 1961 essay in The Supplement to the Columbia Spectator that was republished in Against Interpretation (1966), dismissed Lady Chatterley's Lover as a "sexually reactionary" book, and suggested that the importance given to vindicating it showed that the United States was "plainly at a very elementary stage of sexual maturity."[21]


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.


In 1964, bookseller Ranjit Udeshi in Bombay was prosecuted under Sec. 292 of the Indian Penal Code (sale of obscene books)[22] for selling an unexpurgated copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover.

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.[23]

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.

Cultural influence

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:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

By 1976, the story had become sufficiently safe in the United Kingdom 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 "concerns a rich, titled young lady who is deprived of love, caused by her husband falling into a combine harvester, which unfortunately makes him impudent."[24]

Standard editions

  • First published privately in 1928 in Florence, with assistance from Pino Orioli, and in France in 1929. A private edition was issued in Australia by Inky Stephensen's Mandrake Press in 1929.[25]
  • Michael Squires, ed. (1928). Lady Chatterley's Lover. Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-22266-4.
  • Soon after the 1928 publication and suppression, an unexpurgated Tauchnitz edition appeared in Europe. Jock Colville, then 18, purchased a copy in Germany in 1933 and lent it to his mother Lady Cynthia, who passed it on to Queen Mary, only for it to be confiscated by King George V.[26]
  • In 1946, Victor Pettersons Bokindustriaktiebolag Stockholm, Sweden published an English hardcover edition, copyright Jan Förlag. It is marked "Unexpurgated authorized edition". A paperback edition followed in 1950.
  • Dieter Mehl & Christa Jansohn, ed. (1999). The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47116-8. These two books, The First Lady Chatterley and John Thomas and Lady Jane, were earlier drafts of Lawrence's last novel.
  • The Second Lady Chatterley's Lover. Oneworld Classics. 2007. ISBN 978-1-84749-019-3. Lawrence's 1927 version.



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.[27]

Film and television

Lady Chatterley's Lover has been adapted for film and television several times:

Use of character

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.


Lady Chatterley's Lover has been adapted for BBC Radio 4 by Michelene Wandor and was first broadcast in September 2006.[34]


Lawrence's novel was successfully dramatised for the stage in a three-act play by British playwright 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 D.H. 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 version 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.

A new stage version will open in autumn 2016 adapted and directed by Philip Breen opening at Sheffield Theatre and going on a UK tour Produced by English Touring Theatre and Sheffield Theatres.

See also


  1. QC, Geoffrey Robertson (22 October 2010). "The trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. Kennedy, Maev (10 October 2006), "The real Lady Chatterley: society hostess loved and parodied by Bloomsbury group", The Guardian, London, United Kingdom, retrieved 19 June 2008.
  3. Hoggart 1961, p. viii.
  4. Hoggart 1961, p. viii.
  5. Lawrence 1961, p. 7.
  6. Hoggart 1961, p. x.
  7. Turner, Jenny (1993). Gilbert, Harriett (ed.). The Sexual Imagination from Acker to Zola: A Feminist Companion. Jonathan Cape. p. 149.
  8. Schorer, Mark (1993), "Introduction", Lady Chatterley's Lover, New York: Grover Press, p. 17.
  9. Lawrence 2003, p. 5.
  10. Ebbatson, Roger (1980). Lawrence and the Nature Tradition: A Theme in English Fiction 1859-1914. Harvester. p. 44.
  11. "New Novels", The Observer, 28 February 1932, p. 6.
  12. Criminal Code, SC 1953-54, c 51, s. 150A, as enacted by SC 1959, c 41, s 12.
  13. Brodie v The Queen (1961), 36 CR 200 (Que QB (App Side)).
  14. "Brody, Dansky, Rubin v. The Queen, [1962] S.C.R. 681". 1962. Archived from the original on 4 January 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  15. "News". Archived from the original on 10 December 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  16. "Decency Squabble" Archived 27 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Time magazine, 31 March 1930
  17. Crowther, Bosley (11 July 1959). "Controversial Movie has Première Here". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  18. Kingsley Pictures Corp. v. Regents, 360 U.S. 684, Find law, 29 June 1959.
  19. Grove Press, Inc. v. Christenberry, 175 F. Supp. 488 (SDNY 1959), 21 July 1959.
  20. Kaplan, Fred. "The Day Obscenity Became Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  21. Sontag, Susan (1990). Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Anchor Books. pp. ix, 256. ISBN 0-385-26708-8.
  22. "Laws – IPC – Section 292". Indian penal code. Vakilno 1. Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  23. "Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra (1964)". Worldlii. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  24. “The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968–1977). Episode #9.2”. IMDb.
  25. Winter, Barbara (2005), The Australia-First Movement and the Publicist, 1936–1942, Carindale, Queensland: Glass House, ISBN 1-876819-91-X.
  26. Footprints in Time. John Colville. 1976. Chapter 6, Lady Chatterley's Lover.
  27. Belle, Logan (May 2013). Miss Chatterley. Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster.
  28. Edelstein, David (17 June 2007). "Mariane's Labyrinth: A Mighty Heart is a powerful journey down terror's rat holes. Plus: French erotics and Hollywood piety".
  29. Milenec lady Chatterleyové (1998 Czech-language television version) on IMDb.
  30. Pascale Ferran on IMDb
  31. Soares, André (5 May 2007), "Tribeca Film Festival Awards – 2007 Winners", Alternative Film Guide, retrieved 19 June 2008.
  32. BBC Archived 18 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  33. "BBC One: Lady Chatterley's Lover". BBC Online. 6 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  34. "BBC Radio 4: Open Book". BBC Online. 17 September 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2015.



  • Lawrence, D. H. (2002). Squires, Michael (ed.). Lady Chatterley's Lover and A Propos of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of D. H. Lawrence. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. ISBN 0-521-00717-8. Edited with an introduction, explanatory notes, glossary, textual apparatus and various appendices by Michael Squire. The standard and definitive text.

Further reading

  • Rolph, C. H. (1961). The Trial of Lady Chatterley. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-013381-X.
  • Hoggart, R. (1973). "Introduction". Lady Chatterley's Lover (2nd ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-001484-5.
    • (1961), "Introduction", Lady Chatterley's Lover (2nd ed.).
  • Lawrence, DH (1961) [1928], Lady Chatterley's Lover (2nd ed.).
  • (2003) [1928], Lady Chatterley's Lover, New York: Signet.
  • Sybille Bedford: The trial of Lady Chatterley's lover; with an introduction by Thomas Grant, London : Daunt Books, [2016], ISBN 978-1-907970-97-9
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