Lady Chatterley's Lover
Lady Chatterley's Lover, The First Lady Chatterley, John Thomas and Lady Jane
a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1928. The novel is inseparable from its notoriety. The plot centres on the unhappy marriage of Sir Clifford Chatterley and his wife Constance, and her affair with the gamekeeper Oliver Mellors in the years after the First World War. Sir Clifford's wartime wounds have left him paralysed, and his physical and psychological injuries symbolize for Lawrence the debilitated state of post-war Britain. Sir Clifford, who is both a writer and an industrialist, owns the mines whose environmental damage contrasts with the sexual regeneration of Connie and Mellors. The novel contrasts the slowly flourishing affair between Connie and her lover, in the pastoral woodlands around Sir Clifford's estate, with the sexual and cultural hollowness represented by the country house. Written in the wake of the General Strike of 1926, which Lawrence witnessed, the book is an argument about both political debility and sexual renewal, and ends on a note of uneasy, but forward-looking poise as, socially ostracized and expecting a child, Connie and Mellors are temporarily separated. The novel is fiercely iconoclastic, with fulsome sexual descriptions and a free use of four-letter words through which Lawrence tried to rescue a non-prurient language for sexuality. None the less, the novel was calculated to offend the sexual, social, and literary decorums of the day, and it is unlikely that Lawrence seriously expected it to be published in Britain in a period of intense Home Office scrutiny of ‘immoral’ publications during which his poems and paintings were seized by the police in London. So the novel was privately published in Italy in 1928 and an expurgated version appeared in Britain in 1932, after his death. However, the first British edition of the full text was not published until 1960 when Penguin Books, with the support of many leading writers of the day (including E. M. Forster, Richard Hoggart, and Helen Gardner), won a celebrated trial, one of whose long-lasting consequences was the popular reputation Lawrence acquired as a merely erotic writer. Lawrence, in fact, took great literary pains with Lady Chatterley's Lover. The novel exists in three distinct versions, and the first two are published as The First Lady Chatterley and John Thomas and Lady Jane. However, his original title, ‘Tenderness’, gives a good sense of the positive effect he looked for despite the novel's deliberate political and erotic challenge which he defended in 1930 in one of his best essays, À Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover.