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D. H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Yes, Virginia, it is porn. Privately printed in 1928, it was not published in an unexpurgated edition in Britain and the United States till 1960. You all know the story. Constance Chatterley is married to Sir Clifford Chatterley, who is in a wheelchair because of injuries suffered in World War I. After a not very satisfying affair with a playwright, she fucks the gamekeeper, Mellors. She goes off to Venice when she finds that she is pregnant but comes back and tells her husband the truth. Both she and Mellors plan to divorce and marry.

That Lawrence could write a story in the 1920s that shows a woman wanting sexual fulfillment in such a blatant way is to his credit. But this does not necessarily make for great literature. What this book did – or least the 1960 trial did – is open up Britain’s archaic censorship laws and allow greater freedom of expression, and for this we must thank Lawrence. But, no Virginia, it is not great literature. Incidentally, the best review of the book was by Field and Stream in 1959 which said This pictorial account of the day-by-day life of an English gamekeeper is full of considerable interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midlands shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion the book cannot take the place of J. R. Miller’s Practical Gamekeeping. There is, of course, no such book as J. R. Miller’s Practical Gamekeeping.

Publishing history

First published 1928 privately in Florence, printed by Tipografia Giuntina