R v. Penguin Books Ltd was the public prosecution at the Old Bailey of Penguin Books under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for the publication of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The trial took place over six days in No 1 court between 20 October and 2 November 1960.
The jury found for the defendant in a result that ushered in the liberalisation of publishing, and which some saw as the beginning of the permissive society in Britain.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was first published in 1928. The first edition was printed privately in Florence, Italy, with assistance from Pino Orioli; an unexpurgated edition could not be published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960. (A private edition was issued by Inky Stephensen’s Mandrake Press in 1929.) 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 words.
On the 10th November 1960 on the first day of its publication, bookshops all over England sold out of Penguin’s first run of the controversial novel – a total of 200,000 copies!
Did You Know?..
The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence’s own unhappy domestic life.
Lawrence took inspiration for the settings of the book from Eastwood, 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. Lawrence at one time considered calling the novel Tenderness and made significant alterations to the text and story in the process of its composition. It has been published in three versions.