The Chatterley Trial 60 years on: a court case that secured free expression in 1960s Britain



Judge’s copy: the copy of the novel belonging to the judge in the case was acquired by Bristol University in 2019.
By courtesy of the University of Bristol Library Special Collections DM2936, photograph by Jamie Carstairs., CC BY-SA

Lois Bibbings, University of Bristol

The paperback copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover pictured above is of great cultural significance. Leafing through the pages one discovers hidden gems: pencil markings, underlinings, marginal annotations. Accompanying the book are sheets of headed stationery from the Old Bailey, containing handwritten notes relating to the novel along with a clumsily hand-stitched fabric bag – apparently made not to protect the book but rather the person carrying it by obscuring its title.

It’s the “judge’s copy” of the book, used by Mr Justice Lawrence Byrne who presided over the 1960 Lady Chatterley trial in which DH Lawrence’s famous novel was at the centre of a test of Britain’s new censorship law.

The University of Bristol’s acquisition of the so-called “judge’s copy” in 2019 was an important moment and, having assisted in making the case for its new home to be in the university’s special collections, examining it for the first time was thrilling. Now, on the 60th anniversary of the trial it is timely to consider this intriguing volume. But first a reminder of the case with which it was connected.

In August 1960, by pre-arrangement, the police were handed copies of the unexpurgated Lady Chatterley by its publisher. Following this, Penguin Books Limited was charged with publishing an obscene article under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

The 1959 act aimed both to strengthen the law concerning pornography and to protect literature. It created the publishing offence (the handing over constituted publication) and provided that material was “obscene” if its effect, taken as a whole, was such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who were likely to read, see or hear it.

But a public good defence meant a conviction would not result if it were proved that publication was justified “in the interests of science, literature, art or learning, or of other objects of general concern”. The Lady Chatterley trial was a test of the act; in particular, would the defence protect creative works?

In the courtroom, while the defence did not accept the book was obscene, their focus was on its literary merit. A line up of 35 witnesses (women and men) were called on behalf of publisher Penguin to speak in favour of the book, including authors, academics, clergy, a 21-year-old English graduate and a headmaster. The prosecution played a minor role, calling only one witness and sometimes putting no questions to those who appeared for the defence. In the end, after three hours of deliberation, the jury of three women and nine men returned a unanimous verdict. Penguin was acquitted.

Judge’s copy

Which brings us back to Lady Chatterley and, in particular, the book in the fabric bag. Copies of the unexpurgated novel were circulating before 1960, meaning some of those involved in the case had long been familiar with it – the first defence witness had read it in about 1940. The police had acquired a marked-up proof copy of the Penguin book before the publisher’s handover.

The lawyers had taken great pains to study the 1960 text in preparing for the trial. Defence files show that Penguin’s solicitors undertook an analysis not entirely dissimilar to that on show in the “judge’s copy” with its accompanying notes. As prosecutor Mervyn Griffith-Jones demonstrated in his opening to the jury, where he observed that the words “fuck” or “fucking” occurred at least 30 times within the novel’s pages, so too had the Crown.

The jury were given copies in court, just before the trial began. At the end of the first day, the judge adjourned the case, directing them to read the book but forbidding them from taking it home. After a gap of several days the proceedings resumed and the trial continued for a further five days.

Reports tell how copies of the novel were handed round the court during the trial, to the jury, witnesses and to the judge, with the players occasionally leafing through the pages in search of a particular passage. The judge, however, was given a copy of the book at the same time as the jury first received it, on day one of the trial, before proceedings got underway.

Lady Byrne

It seems that at some point Byrne shared the novel with his wife, as we are told that most of the markings in the book and all of the separate notes are in Lady Dorothy Byrne’s hand, with a few annotations apparently made by her husband. Accounts suggest she worked on the text before the trial (or perhaps during the jury’s reading days), with her husband adding notes during proceedings as she sat next to him. Lady Byrne is also credited with making the bag.

This all suggests that the couple worked together, with Lady Byrne taking the leading role. Moreover, they did so despite Griffith-Jones’s question to the jury on day one of the trial: “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”

How then did the “judge’s copy” journey to Bristol? The Byrne family auctioned it in 1993. It came up for sale again in 2018, selling to a private individual in the US. In an attempt to keep it in the UK, the book was placed under temporary export deferral and expressions of interest were sought. At Bristol we put together a case to acquire the book and fundraising efforts began, with contributions coming from organisations and individuals.

As a result, the “judge’s copy”, notes and bag now reside alongside the Penguin Archive and trial papers of Michael Rubinstein, Penguin’s solicitor. Given its history, however, I wonder if we might begin to reconsider how we refer to this Lady Chatterley. Because of her work, the judge’s wife seems to deserve credit; it is not only the “judge’s copy” it is also very much “Lady Byrne’s copy”.The Conversation

Lois Bibbings, Professor of Law, Gender and History , University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How literary censorship inspired creativity in Victorian writers



Forbidden Books.
Alexander Mark Rossi

Stephanie Meek, University of Reading

In an open letter published in Harper’s Magazine, 152 writers, including JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood, claim that a climate of “censoriousness” is pervading liberal culture, the latest contribution to an ongoing debate about freedom of speech online.

As we grapple with this issue in a society where social media allows us all to share extreme views, the Victorian writers offer a precedent for thinking differently about language and how we use it to get our point across. How limits of acceptability and literary censorship, for the Victorians, inspired creative ways of writing that foregrounded sensitivity and demanded thoughtfulness.

Not causing offence

There are very few cases of books being banned in the Victorian era. But books were censored or refused because of moral prudishness, and publishers often objected to attacks on the upper classes – their book-buying audience. Writer and poet Thomas Hardy’s first novel, The Poor Man and the Lady, was never published because the publisher Alexander Macmillan felt that his portrayal of the upper classes was “wholly dark – not a ray of light visible to relieve the darkness”.

Charles Edward Mudie.
Mudie family archive/Ruth Tillyard

However, more common than publishers turning down books was the refusal of circulating libraries to distribute them. These institutions were an integral part of literary consumerism during the Victorian period as the main means of distributing books.

Most influential of these was Charles Mudie’s Select Library, established in 1842. Mudie’s library was select because he would only circulate books that were suitable for middle-class parents to read aloud to their daughters without causing embarrassment.

This shaped how publishers commissioned and what writers could get away with. Victorian literary censorship, while limiting, managed to inspire writers to develop more creative and progressive ways to get their points across.

Censorship as productive

George Eliot’s publisher, John Blackwood, criticised her work for showing people as they really were rather than giving an idealistic picture. He was particularly uncomfortable when Eliot focused on the difficulties of working-class life.

In Mr Gilfil’s Love Story(1857), Eliot’s description of the orphan girl, Caterina, being subjected to “soap-and-water” raised Blackwood’s censorious hackles:

I do not recollect of any passage that moved my critical censorship unless it might be the allusion to dirt in common with your heroine.

George Eliot.
National Gallery/Wikimedia

As well as dirt, alcohol consumption was also seen as an unwanted reminder of working class problems. Again in Mr Gifil’s Love Story, Eliot describes how the eponymous clergyman enjoys “an occasional sip of gin-and-water”.

However, knowing Blackwood’s views and anticipating she may cause offence galvanised Eliot to state her case directly to the reader within the text itself. She qualifies her unromantic depiction of Mr Gilfil with an address to her “lady” readers:

Here I am aware that I have run the risk of alienating all my refined lady readers, and utterly annihilating any curiosity they may have felt to know the details of Mr Gilfil’s love-story … let me assure you that Mr Gilfil’s potations of gin-and-water were quite moderate. His nose was not rubicund; on the contrary, his white hair hung around a pale and venerable face. He drank it chiefly, I believe, because it was cheap; and here I find myself alighting on another of the Vicar’s weaknesses, which, if I cared to paint a flattering portrait rather than a faithful one, I might have chosen to suppress.

Here, literary censorship enriches Eliot’s writing. Eliot’s refusal to suppress her work becomes part of the story and reinforces her agenda to portray Mr Gilfil as he really is, a vicar who mixes gin with water because he is poor.

Power in not telling

As well as inspiring narrative additions, censorship was also powerful because of what was left out of a text.

One of Hardy’s most loved books, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, highlights the crimes of sexual harassment in the workplace and of rape. Because Hardy had to be careful about the way that he presented the sexual abuse of Tess, his descriptions were very subtle. This is how he portrays the scene where Tess is sexually assaulted by her employer, Alec D’Urberville:

The obscurity was now so great that he could see absolutely nothing but a pale nebulousness at his feet, which represented the white muslin figure he had left upon the dead leaves. Everything else was blackness alike. D’Urberville stooped; and heard a gentle regular breathing. He knelt, and bent lower, till her breath warmed his face, and in a moment his cheek was in contact with hers. She was sleeping soundly, and upon her eyelashes there lingered tears.

The influence of censorship meant that Hardy could not describe this scene in graphic detail. Instead, his depiction is more sensitive and thoughtful. Hardy does not dehumanise Tess by depicting her as a sexual object to entertain the reader.

By focusing on Tess’s “gentle regular breathing” and the poignant image of her tear-stained eyelashes, Hardy avoids gratuitous depictions of violence while at the same time making us painfully aware of the injustice she has suffered. This makes his portrayal of Tess more powerful and poignant. It can be argued that this was achieved because of the limits placed on his writing, not in spite of them.

In these instances, we can see how literary censorship influenced writers to tread more carefully upon difficult territory. It made them think about whether including violence or socially controversial depictions were necessary or gratuitous to their narratives.

For Hardy and Eliot, censorship and its limits inspired creativity, sensitivity and thoughtfulness. These examples can provide food for thought in the debate today about free speech and censorship. As Hardy and Eliot wrestled with as they wrote, can things be said differently and, in some cases, do they need to be said at all?The Conversation

Stephanie Meek, PhD Candidate in English Literature, University of Reading

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Franco’s invisible legacy: books across the hispanic world are still scarred by his censorship


File 20190415 147508 1x39xik.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Spanish practices.
Dani Oliver

Jordi Cornellà-Detrell, University of Glasgow

It’s exactly 80 years since the end of the Spanish Civil War, when General Francisco Franco’s populist forces finally overcame the leftist resistance and plunged the country into full-blown dictatorship. Decades after his death, Franco continues to cast a long shadow over Spain, from the rise of the far-right Vox party to the hundreds of mass graves of people who died in the war that are still waiting to be exhumed.

One other hugely important legacy that few people are aware of is the continuing effect on books, both in Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking world. To this day, translations of many world classics and works of Spanish literature are being reprinted using expurgated texts approved by the dictator’s censors – often without publishers even realising it, let alone readers. It has had a chilling effect on freedom of speech over the years, and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Between 1936 and 1966, every single book published in Spain had to be submitted to a national board of censors for examination. The censors would decide whether the text should be banned altogether or was fit for publication, in which case they would stipulate any necessary changes. After 1966, when a new law that partly liberalised freedom of speech was introduced in the country, publishers could voluntarily decide whether to submit a text for censorship. However, the authorities still retained the ability to withdraw any book from circulation that they deemed unacceptable.

Franco’s censorship laws sought to reinforce Catholicism and promote ideological and cultural uniformity. The censors enforced conservative values, inhibited dissent and manipulated history, especially the memory of the civil war. Sexually explicit material was banned, as were alternative political views, improper language and criticisms of the Catholic church.

El caudillo.
Wikimedia

Spain abandoned these policies after Franco’s death in 1975, yet most of the same texts are still widely available today. Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby is available in more than 20 different Spanish-language editions, for instance, including an electronic one, all of which lack two extended passages that according to the censors glorified Satan. James Baldwin’s Go and Tell it on the Mountain is only available in a version with cuts that include references to birth control and details about the sex lives of the main characters. The publication of this expurgated text is sponsored by none other than UNESCO.

Many literary works by some of Spain’s most important 20th-century writers have suffered similar fates, including those by Ana María Matute, Camilo José Cela, Juan Marsé and Ignacio Aldecoa. In some cases, such as George Orwell’s Burmese Days and Ian Fleming’s Thunderball, censored parts have even survived in retranslated and restored versions.

With no one under the age of 40 even alive during the dictatorship years, few people are even aware of the problem. Public libraries are encouraging people to read thousands of volumes without realising they are censored. Many of these texts have been imported to Latin America, sometimes even being republished in different countries with their censored parts intact. It means that a fairly large proportion of the world’s population is being routinely denied access to literature as it was intended to appear.

Why censorship never ended

It is a well known fact that Spaniards have found it difficult to confront their traumatic recent history. The so-called “pact of forgetting”, a tacit decision among the Spanish political elites not to question or examine the past, was seen by many as vital to make the transition to democracy possible in the late 1970s and 1980s. For years, this included a general amnesia about Franco’s cultural policies: even when books were retranslated to restore censored parts, few people said anything about it.

Spain’s 2007 Law for the Recovery of the Historical Memory was a major step away from these years of forgetting. It condemned the dictatorship and established compensations for people who endured political violence during the regime. It also initiated the removal of statues and other public symbols which glorified Franco’s reign. Yet other cultural artefacts, such as books, were overlooked.

The upshot is that Spain’s literary censorship problem is alive and well today. Indeed, it is arguably getting worse: it is easy to release digital versions of these classics, so Franco’s hand even reaches into Kindles and tablets. We are talking about one of the most long-lasting yet invisible legacies of his regime. The effect on culture in Spain and in other hispanic countries is almost incalculable. Censorship has certainly distorted many people’s perception of the civil war and its consequences. Many readers will also be ignorant of writers’ real points of view regarding important social issues such as gender roles, birth control and homosexuality.

The question is how to deal with this complex problem – particularly now that the Vox party, which is expected to do well in the upcoming election, has promised to repeal the Law of Historical Memory on the grounds that it manipulates the past.

The most important task is to raise awareness among the reading public. This needs clear support from the Spanish government, plus serious engagement from the whole literary sector, including libraries, publishing houses, translators, archives, cultural publications and writers themselves. The technologies that are giving new life to the problem could be used to help: a public database of restored texts, for instance, could become an important tool.

The point is that while Spain has increasingly been addressing the impact of Franco’s regime in the country’s social and historical memory since the early 2000s, the process of coming to terms with the past is far from complete. The pact of forgetting has not only marred Spain’s democratic progress, it has severely damaged the country’s cultural heritage. Spain and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world will not be free from Franco’s censorial shadow until this issue is publicly and decisively addressed. With people on the ascendant who would prefer to turn back the clock, there is no time to lose.The Conversation

Jordi Cornellà-Detrell, Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, University of Glasgow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Antony Beevor on State Censorship


The link below is to an article reflecting on state censorship by Antony Beevor, who had his book ‘Stalingrad’ banned by the Ukraine government.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/feb/03/antony-beevor-stalingrad-ukraine-ban-censorship

Iraq: Islamic State Destroys Books in Mosul Library


The link below is to an article reporting on the censorship of libraries by Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and in Mosul in particular.

For more visit:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2015/02/01/iraqi-libraries-ransacked-islamic-state-group-mosul/g5YDl4dV8kMDK01HGrQMHJ/story.html

Article: Censorship of Teen Books


The link below is to an article that takes a look at censorship and teen books – should they be censored?

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/27/discussion-should-teen-books-be-banned

Goodreads’ growing pains: Attempt to curtail author bullying angers many users


Gigaom

What makes for a proper book review? Reading-based social network Goodreads says reviews that focus on an author’s behavior, rather than a book’s content, don’t have a place on the site — and announced Friday that it is going to start automatically deleting those reviews.

The new guidelines are infuriating some users who say that some authors’ bad behavior online should be a factor in book purchases. And the entire episode highlights the challenges that Goodreads, which was acquired by Amazon (s AMZN) earlier this year, faces as it adds users (CEO Otis Chandler recently announced the site has over 20 million members) and becomes more influential.

A ban on “the author is an a**hole” reviews

Goodreads wants book reviews to be focused on a book’s content, not on an author’s behavior online. Until now, it had moderated reviews that seemed too personal, but those reviews remained on members’ profiles…

View original post 1,070 more words