Lady Chatterley and the Other Lovers; Real Lust Started in the 1960s, Says Top TV Writer ANDREW DAVIES - Who Was There. in a New Drama Inspired by the Obscenity Trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover, He Tells How the Banned Book Ignited the Suppressed Passion of a Nation

Daily Mail (London), March 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

Lady Chatterley and the Other Lovers; Real Lust Started in the 1960s, Says Top TV Writer ANDREW DAVIES - Who Was There. in a New Drama Inspired by the Obscenity Trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover, He Tells How the Banned Book Ignited the Suppressed Passion of a Nation


Byline: ANDREW DAVIES

The trial of D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, the most famous obscenity case ever to be heard in England, took place in late 1960 at London's Old Bailey. I was just 24, married for less than a year, and living with my wife, Diana, in a draughty top floor flat in London.

I was in my first job, as a teacher at a grammar school in west London, and was an aspiring but so far almost totally unsuccessful writer.

Every day I would get home from school by half past four and write my never-to-be published novels, while I waited for Diana to return from her office job. We were poor but happy, just about managing to get by on our joint salary. (Does anybody else remember buying mushroom stalks to make the risotto, because whole mushrooms cost too much?) Although poor, we considered ourselves pretty advanced and sophisticated: our risottos came from Elizabeth David's Book Of Mediterranean Food, our culinary inspiration.

And Lawrence, I guess, was one of our spiritual heroes. (One of mine, at any rate: he has always had rather a bumpy ride with women, who tend to see him as a bit of a preacher, and a bit of an emotional bully, too.) Anyway, he was a big influence on me - I never wanted to copy his style, but I loved the seriousness and intensity he brought to his studies of human relationships, and the boldness with which he pushed the boundaries of what could be said and thought and written about in the novel.

If only he'd had a bit more of a sense of humour. I had read the unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterley earlier that year. As the novel was banned in Britain I bribed one of my sixthform pupils to bring me back a copy from Paris.

It cost [pounds sterling]5 - a lot in those days - and, if I had waited a bit longer, I could have bought it here for three and sixpence.

The trial was a sensation. Front page headlines every day in all the newspapers; cartoons featuring bishops, four-letter words, ladies and gamekeepers. One of my favourites showed an aged yokel tottering into the courtroom and declaring 'Matter o'fact, Oi were Lady Chatterley's lover-' But, although there was a great deal of public ribaldry, there was a genuine sense that this was a very important trial, and that the verdict would say a great deal about the future for literature, for society, for the relations between the classes and the sexes, and the way we look at marriage, sex and adultery today. As poet Philip Larkin wrote: 'Sexual intercourse began in 1963- between the end of the Chatterley ban and The Beatles' first LP'.

So, on the morning of October 20, 1960, in a crowded court with a packed public gallery, the jury of nine men and three women were sworn in. Little is known about them, except their occupations - one of the women answered 'none' when asked her job. There was one Orthodox Jew who swore on the Old Testament. Five of them had difficulty in reading the oath aloud. How would they get on when it came to reading the book itself? Nobody knows. We just have to imagine what it was like for them. And it was this thought that gave me the inspiration for The Chatterley Affair.

'If your Lordship pleases. Members of the jury, I appear with my learned friend Mr Morton to prosecute in this case,' said Mr Mervyn Griffith-Jones, opening the case for the prosecution. Griffith-Jones was the senior Treasury counsel at the Old Bailey, a formidable prosecutor with many famous victories behind him.

Despite his very Welsh-sounding name, he was Establishment through and through, with a background of Eton and the Guards: perhaps slightly out of touch with the changing social world of 1960 - and it may have been this that led to his undoing. Griffith-Jones explained the new Obscenity Law as it related to the book: first the jury had to decide whether the book was obscene - whether it would tend to corrupt or deprave its readers - and if they decided in the affirmative, they then had to consider whether the book's literary merit outweighed that tendency to deprave. …

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Lady Chatterley and the Other Lovers; Real Lust Started in the 1960s, Says Top TV Writer ANDREW DAVIES - Who Was There. in a New Drama Inspired by the Obscenity Trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover, He Tells How the Banned Book Ignited the Suppressed Passion of a Nation
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