Alhoewel D.H.Lawrence zijn “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” reeds in 1928 had geschreven en in Florence was verschenen, werd het in Engeland pas in 1960 uitgegeven door de populaire Penguin Editions. Meteen hadden die een proces aan hun broek als test van de nieuwe Obscene Publications Act uit 1959. De wet uit 1959 maakte het mogelijk om de uitgevers aan vervolging te laten ontkomen als ze konden aantonen dat een werk van literaire waarde was. Een van de objectieven was de frequentie van woorden als “fuck” en afgeleiden. Meerdere academische critici, onder wie E.M.Forster, Helen Gardner en Richard Hoggart werden als getuige opgeroepen. Op 2 november 1960 werd Penguin Books onschuldig verklaard. Als gevolg hiervan werd een grotere vrijheid in het publiceren van expliciet materiaal in het Verenigd Koninkrijk gegeven. In 1961 kwam de tweede editie op de markt, deze werd opgedragen aan de twaalf juryleden, drie vrouwen en negen mannen, die Penguin Books onschuldig hadden verklaard. In 2006 werd het proces door BBC Wales verfilmd als The Chatterley Affair.
Constance Reid is the daughter of a Scottish low nobleman and artist. He is a member of the Fabian society and so she is brought up in a socialist and artistic atmosphere. During her studies in Germany she has her first sexual experience with a German fellow student. She is, however, more thrilled by this conversations than by the physical pleasure.
1914. War. The German boy dies and Constance is engaged to Clifford Chatterley, the only heir (after his brother’s death) of the large property of Wragby. They marry quickly because Clifford’s father is keen on a grandson. This lingers on, however, and it is a catastrophy for him when Clifford is paralysed from the waist down during the war.
They live at Wragby now, near Tevershall, a collier village, completely dependent on the Chatterleys. Clifford starts writing novels and becomes fairly popular. This brings other writers to Wragby, such as the Irish playwright Michaelis, with whom Connie has a dull sexual relationship. Just when she’s getting bored by hm, she meets the game-keeper, Oliver Mellors, who intrigates her because he has a certain pride which matches the power of Clifford.
At first Mellors is bored by her, because she’s disturbing his loneliness in his cottage (not to mention his chickens), but at last he’s moved by her dull life and he makes love to her. He relies extremely on the physical and succeeds at convincing Connie to do the same. She begins to hate Clifford’s selfishness now and to get rid of him she hires mrs.Bolton to look after him. Mrs.Bolton is a miner’s wife and deep inside she hates nobility, but she doesn’t show it, in fact, she’s very good for Clifford.
Who is Mellors? He’s nearly forty, he is still married and has a ten-year-old child, which lives with his mother. Mellors’ wife, Bertha Coutts, whom he married only because she was good at love-making, is a mean and vicious woman who left him. In the army he was a lieutenant, which explains his behaviour as “an officer and a gentleman”.
Connie is going to have a baby from him and therefore she asks Clifford if he would like to have an heir. He agrees, as long as it doesn’t spoil their relationship. Therefore Connie plans to make a trip to Venice with her sister Hilda (the only person, besides mrs.Bolton, who knows the truth) and with her father. In Venice they try to persuade an artist, Duncan Forbes, to pretend to be the father.
Meanwhile, Oliver tries to divorce his wife, but she’s making a scandal, when she finds out that he loves Lady Chatterley. When Oliver denies having an affair with Lady Chatterley, Bertha is forced to flee for the Court. Oliver on the other hand is sent away by Clifford anyway.
That being so, Connie refuses to return. She sees Oliver again, but he informs her taht if he wants to get a divorce they mustn’t be seen together for six months. Thus he goes to the countryside, to work on a farm.
Connie sees Clifford one more time, but he refuses to divorce her. Connie returns to Scotland and Clifford gets intimate with mrs.Bolton.
The novel ends with a letter from Oliver, summing up the ideas of the book once again. The letter closes with a goodnight to Lady Jane from John Thomas (the names they had given to their genitals).
Ronny De Schepper
You want to read more about D.H.Lawrence? It’s in Dutch, though!