Last night the ABC showed the Lady Chatterley Affair.  This is a dramatised reflection on the trial of Penguin for publishing the DH Lawrence novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lovers” for 3 and 6.  It was an interesting reflection on the issues of freedom of speech and what is really important in relationships is it the almighty orgasm or true love and commitment?

I don’t want to spend much time on the show itself as there are many who would be appropriately offended by the language, graphic nature and sexual acts discussed.  Yet this is on TV which is part of the original issue. If the book had “literary merit” Penguin would not be sued.  Nowadays we can’t sue TV stations for breaching common standards.

What this made me realise was that this is a rubicon of the 50s and the 60s, an event not often discussed.  With the acceptance of the book as having literary merit, words that were used by the working class and the upper class were made available and eventually acceptable to the middle class at least according to the show.  Thinking about it I see no reason why this is not true.

In the process the novel also seems to have shown in 1928 that happy sexual relationships could be had outside marriage and that sexual acts not previously discussed by most people were possibly available for mutual enjoyment.  These then become part of the modern psyche with the book out selling the Bible after the trial.  The swinging 60s becomes more understandable if we realise the message of this book was so readily available.

In the end I see the history of the 50s and 60s as many forces coming together but this was one I had not noticed before.  The trial and the book bring the change of language and set of expectations that ultimately leads to the worst of the net today.  While I do not want to turn back time and reverse all the decisions I now see how the church failed at that time.  It could not say, and often does not do so today, that sexual relations are best when exercised in a marital relationship.  They may be good outside that but without commitment, love and Jesus Christ the sexual relationships become less than what God wants them to be.

John Robinson, the Bishop of Woolwich, and of a fairly liberal ilk, was supportive of the novel, so was most of the intelligentsia. The church has had a subtle process of censorship of books like these.  For once I agree on censorship, but only when done this way.  The book is available but no one is encouraged to read it.  I have never read the novel and still have little interest in doing so. Yet to understand the environment in which those outside the church live we need to understand the significance of such a book.  This changes how people think and behave, especially when there is such controversy.  We need to still be careful today when we are offended by works of art that have “merit” but we do not like.

I am sort of glad I saw the show for its history but the rest I can leave.

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