An edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in Britain in 1932 by Martin Secker; reviewing it in The Observer, Gerald Gould noted that "passages are necessarily omitted to which the author undoubtedly attached supreme psychological importance – importance so great, that he was willing to face obloquy and misunderstanding and censorship because of them". An authorized abridgment of Lady Chatterley's Lover that was heavily censored was published in America by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1928. This edition was subsequently reissued in paperback in America by Signet Books in 1946.
British obscenity trial
When the full unexpurgated edition was published by Penguin Books in Britain in 1960, the trial of Penguin under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 was a major public event and a test of the new obscenity law. The 1959 act (introduced by Roy Jenkins) had made it possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit. One of the objections was to the frequent use of the word "fuck" and its derivatives. Another objection related to the use of the word "cunt".
Various academic critics and experts of diverse kinds, including E. M. Forster, Helen Gardner, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams and Norman St John-Stevas, were called as witnesses, and the verdict, delivered on 2 November 1960, was "not guilty". This resulted in a far greater degree of freedom for publishing explicit material in the United Kingdom. The prosecution was ridiculed for being out of touch with changing social norms when the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked if it were the kind of book "you would wish your wife or servants to read".
The Penguin second edition, published in 1961, contains a publisher's dedication, which reads: "For having published this book, Penguin Books were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960. This edition is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of 'not guilty' and thus made D. H. Lawrence's last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom".
In 2006, the trial was dramatized by BBC Wales as The Chatterley Affair.
Not only was the book banned in Australia, but a book describing the British trial, The Trial of Lady Chatterley, was also banned. A copy was smuggled into the country and then published widely. The fallout from this event eventually led to the easing of censorship of books in the country, although the country still retains the Australian Classification Board. In early October 2009, the federal institution of Australia Post banned the sale of this book in their stores and outlets claiming that books of this nature do not fit in with the "theme of their stores".
In 1945, McGill University Professor of Law and Canadian modernist poet F. R. Scott appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada to defend Lady Chatterley's Lover from censorship. However, despite Scott's efforts, the book was banned in Canada for 30 years due to concerns about its use of "obscene language" and explicit depiction of sexual intercourse. On 15 November 1960 an Ontario panel of experts, appointed by Attorney General Kelso Roberts, found that novel was not obscene according to the Canadian Criminal Code.
In 1930, Senator Bronson Cutting proposed an amendment to the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which was then being debated, ending the practice of having United States Customs censor allegedly obscene imported books. Senator Reed Smoot vigorously opposed such an amendment, threatening to publicly read indecent passages of imported books in front of the Senate. Although he never followed through, he included Lady Chatterley's Lover as an example of an obscene book that must not reach domestic audiences, declaring "I've not taken ten minutes on Lady Chatterley's Lover, outside of looking at its opening pages. It is most damnable! It is written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would obscure even the darkness of hell!"
Lady Chatterley's Lover was one of a trio of books (the others being Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill), the ban on which was fought and overturned in court with assistance by publisher Barney Rosset and lawyer Charles Rembar in 1959. It was then published by Rosset's Grove Press, with the complete opinion by United States Court of Appeals Judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan, which first established the standard of "redeeming social or literary value" as a defence against obscenity charges.
A 1955 French film version based on the novel and released by Kingsley Pictures was in the United States the subject of attempted censorship in New York on the grounds that it promoted adultery. The Supreme Court held that the law prohibiting its showing was a violation of the First Amendment's protection of free speech.
The book was famously distributed in the United States by Frances Steloff at the Gotham Book Mart, in defiance of the book ban.
The publication of a full translation of Lady Chatterley's Lover by Sei Itō in 1950 led to a famous obscenity trial in Japan, extending from 8 May 1951 to 18 January 1952, with appeals lasting to 13 March 1957. Several notable literary figures testified for the defence, and the trial ultimately ended in a guilty verdict with a ¥100,000 fine for Ito and a ¥250,000 fine for his publisher.
In 1964, bookseller Ranjit Udeshi in Bombay was prosecuted under Sec. 292 of the Indian Penal Code (sale of obscene books) for selling an unexpurgated copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover.
Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1965 SC 881) was eventually laid before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India, where Chief Justice Hidayatullah declared the law on the subject of when a book can be regarded as obscene and established important tests of obscenity such as the Hicklin test.
The judgement upheld the conviction, stating that:
When everything said in its favour we find that in treating with sex the impugned portions viewed separately and also in the setting of the whole book pass the permissible limits judged of from our community standards and as there is no social gain to us which can be said to preponderate, we must hold the book to satisfy the test we have indicated above.