November 1960: The end of the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover

John Frost Newspapers

Larkin is describing the time in 1963 when sexual intercourse “began” for him, when he would have been 40. This must be some sort of metaphor, because since his teens he had been in several long term relationships with women. The time span in Larkin’s poem covers 29 months, between November 1960 and March 1963. For me, this is from shortly before my eleventh birthday to shortly after my thirteenth. It was a pivotal time for a fairly precocious child, old enough to be fascinated by what was going on in the world. Every day, I would watch the television news on our little Ekco set, and read my parents’ newspapers, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, from cover to cover.

I therefore plan to write a monthly diary about the events that occurred during that time, and how they impacted on me as I grew up.

We lived in a large detached house in Gerrards Cross, a family of five children. In 1960 we had lodgers, a married couple who lived in two rooms on the top floor, and also a 17 year old live-in mother’s help, called Sheila, who had the third room up there. My eight year old brother and I were day boys at a prep school called Thorpe House, ten minutes walk away. My father, who had joined the navy at the age of 13 as an officer cadet at Dartmouth, had retired from the service in his mid-thirties under the “golden bowler” scheme, which gave him a pension for life. He got a job as an engineer at the Guinness brewery in Park Royal, a 30 minute train journey away.

Reading the papers in November 1960, I could hardly have missed the coverage of the trial of Penguin Books under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing a novel by D H Lawrence called Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The day by day coverage referred euphemistically to the novel’s extensive use of “four letter words”, but the actual words were known to ten year old boys in school playgrounds up and down the country.

The trial was nominally the prosecution of Penguin Books for publishing an obscene work, but during its course it became obvious that the book had plenty of literary merit, and could therefore be justified. The prosecution therefore moved on to what Bernard Levin would later call an “entirely new complexion” in which it became a case against Lady Chatterlelf for committing adultery, for which act the jury was invited to condemn her.

The sequence of how the case came about is interesting to examine.

The thirtieth anniversary of D H Lawrence’s death fell in 1960, and to mark this anniversary Penguin Books decided to publish the final seven of his novels which had never been published in paperback. There was no controversy about the first six but the seventh was Lady Chatterley’s Lover, completed by him in 1928, but never published in a complete edition in the UK. His hardback publishers, Heinemann, had an expurgated edition available but at various stages between 1950 and 1960 nineteen different printings of the full text had been imported from the continent and seventeen had been issued with destruction orders. In another case a London bookseller had been prosecuted for selling an edition printed in Sweden.

In the meantime, in 1959, a new Obscene Publications Act had come onto the statute book, pushed through Parliament by future Home Secretary Roy Jenkins. This did away with the common law offence of obscenity, interpreted in different ways by magistrates and judges in different parts of the country. In one case in 1954, the Recorder of London actually declared that it was essential to “take a very solid stand against this sort of thing”, thereby prefiguring the writers of Father Ted by a good 40 years. In another case the same year, the prosecution of a serious literary novel was led by Mervyn Griffith-Jones QC who, using similar language to that he would later use in the Chatterley trial, asked if the jury would at Christmas time “buy copies of the book and hand them round as presents to the girls in the office – and if not, why not? The answer is that it is not the type of book they ought to read.”

[More to follow]

 

Sources:
Steve Hare, Allen Lane and the Penguin Editors 1935-1970, Penguin 1995
Bernard Levin, The Pendulum Years: Britain and the Sixties, Pan Books 1972
Jeremy Lewis, Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane, Viking 2005
CH Rolph, The Trial of Lady Chatterley, Penguin 1961

 

With The Beatles

By November 1960, some of the musicians in the band that became the Beatles had been playing together for over three years. They made the final change of their name in August 1960, when Pete Best became their drummer. At this stage the rest of the band consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe.

They spent the whole of November 1960 playing gigs at the Kaiserkeller, Hamburg, although Harrison was deported on 21 November, when the German police discovered he was under 18.  On 30 November McCartney and Best were also deported, on suspicion of arson.
[Source: beatlesbible.com]

The month’s UK Top Tens

3 November 1960:
1. It’s Now or Never: Elvis Presley
2. As Long as He Needs Me: Shirley Bassey
3. Only the Lonely: Roy Orbison
4. Rocking Goose: Johnny and the Hurricanes
5. Lucille/So Sad: Everly Brothers
6. Dreamin’: Johnny Burnette
7. How about That: Adam Faith
8. Let’s Think about Living: Bob Luman
9. Nine Times out of Ten: Cliff Richard
10. Tell Laura I Love Her: Ricky Valance

10 November 1960
1. It’s Now or Never: Elvis Presley
2. As Long as He Needs Me: Shirley Bassey
3. Only the Lonely: Roy Orbison
4. Rocking Goose: Johnny and the Hurricanes
5. Dreamin’: Johnny Burnette
6. Let’s Think about Living: Bob Luman
7. Lucille/So Sad: Everly Brothers
8. Nine Times out of Ten: Cliff Richard
9. My Love for You: Johnny Mathis
10. How about That: Adam Faith

17 November 1960
1. It’s Now or Never: Elvis Presley
2. As Long as He Needs Me: Shirley Bassey
3. Rocking Goose: Johnny and the Hurricanes
4. Only the Lonely: Roy Orbison
5. Dreamin’: Johnny Burnette
6. My Heart has a Mind of its Own: Connie Francis
7. Man of Mystery/The Stranger: The Shadows
8. Save the Last Dance for Me: The Drifters
9. Let’s Think about Living: Bob Luman
10. My Love for You: Johnny Mathis

24 November 1960
1. It’s Now or Never: Elvis Presley
2. As Long as He Needs Me: Shirley Bassey
3. My Heart has a Mind of its Own: Connie Francis
4. Rocking Goose: Johnny and the Hurricanes
5. Dreamin’: Johnny Burnette
6. Save the Last Dance for Me: The Drifters
7. Man of Mystery/The Stranger: The Shadows
8. Goodness Gracious Me: Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren
9. Only the Lonely: Roy Orbison
10. My Love for You: Johnny Mathis

[Source: officialcharts.com]

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