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And yet there was another side to the story, often ignored by the history books.Outside intellectual high society, most ordinary people in 1960 remained deeply conservative, and the Home Office was flooded with letters of protest.What followed, said one eyewitness, was a “circus so hilarious, fascinating, tense and satisfying that none who sat through all its six days will ever forget them”. Though few then could have realised it, a tiny but unmistakeable line runs from the novel Lawrence wrote in the late 1920s to an international pornography industry today worth more than £26 billion a year.Now that public obscenity has become commonplace, it is hard to recapture the atmosphere of a society that saw fit to ban books such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover because it was likely to “deprave and corrupt” its readers.
All buyers should beware that when you buy a property, the law assumes that you have seen the information that would have been revealed by searches whether or not you have actually carried them out, so you buy the property subject to the results.And in May 1960, Penguin saw its chance, announcing its plans to publish 200,000 paperback copies at just 3s 6d each, the equivalent of £3 today.Most accounts of the trial present it as a simple clash between the repressive old Establishment on the one hand, and the youthful forces of progress and enlightenment on the other. Under Jenkins’s legislation, the Crown had no choice but to prosecute: as the prosecuting counsel, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, told the director of public prosecutions: “If no action is taken in respect of this publication it will make proceedings against any other novel very difficult.” And contrary to myth, much of the Establishment, if such a thing ever really existed, actually supported the publishers.By contrast, the Crown case was in trouble from the start.Although the prosecution drew up a long list of potential witnesses who might condemn Lawrence’s book as obscene, none of them agreed to testify.
Almost every newspaper in the country agreed that the trial was a waste of time: the Daily Telegraph thought that the police should be hunting down “absolutely filthy” pornography rather than wasting their time with D H Lawrence.