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Antediluvian as the early 1960s might seem to us today, however, they seemed at the time an era of dizzying change.Only a year before the trial, Roy Jenkins had secured the passage of a new Obscene Publications Act, leaving a crucial loophole – the question of literary merit – through which works might escape prohibition.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.In many respects, the celebrated landmark trial was actually something of a farce.At one point they even considered flying over an American literary critic who had once condemned the book as “a dreary, sad performance with some passages of unintentional, hilarious, low comedy”, although they eventually abandoned the idea.Instead the prosecution team wasted time before the trial going through the book line by line with a pencil, noting down the obscenities: on page 204, for example, one “bitch goddess of Success”, one “––––ing”, one “s–––”, one “best bit of c––– left on earth” and three mentions of “balls”.

In a Britain when men still wore heavy grey suits, working women were still relatively rare and the Empire was still, just, a going concern, D H Lawrence’s book was merely one of many banned because of its threat to public morality.They were not, however, allowed to take the book out of the jury room.Only if Penguin were acquitted of breaking the Obscene Publications Act would it be legal to distribute it.In Edinburgh, copies were burned on the streets; in South Wales, women librarians asked permission not to handle it; from Surrey, one anguished woman wrote to the home secretary, explaining that her teenage daughter was at boarding school and she was terrified that “day girls there may introduce this filthy book”.Although Philip Larkin famously wrote that sexual intercourse began “between the end of the Chatterley ban / and the Beatles’ first LP”, the truth is that Britain in the next few years remained a strikingly chaste and conservative society.