November 2 in Literary History: Lady Chatterley is Acquitted

The most significant events in the history of books on the 2nd of November

A momentous day indeed for literary history: on November 2nd 1960, a trial takes place that will reflect a changing attitude to the notion of ‘obscenity’ in books…

1950: George Bernard Shaw dies. The author of over fifty plays – perhaps most famously, Pygmalion, which gave us Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle – Shaw also devised his own phonetic alphabet and was a co-founder of the London School of Economics, or LSE. Here are 10 of George Bernard Shaw’s best and wittiest quotations.

1960: Penguin Books is found not guilty of obscenity in the trial R v Penguin Books Ltd. The trial had lasted nearly a Shaw2fortnight, with a novel written by an author who had been dead for thirty years in the dock: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. The prosecuting lawyer, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, famously asked the jury, ‘Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?’

But the tide had turned and such views now seemed outdated – even a bishop took to the stand to defend the novel – and, because it was found to possess ‘redeeming social merit’, Chatterley, and its publisher, Penguin Books, was found not guilty. It went on to become a bestseller, 32 years after D. H. Lawrence had completed it.

2000: Robert Cormier dies. He was an American author of numerous novels including the young adult novel The Chocolate War (1974), in which a mob of youngsters gang up on one student at a Catholic school.

Image: George Bernard Shaw (1936), Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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