I first started keeping a reading journal when I was in Denmark in 2000. I was lucky enough to be in Copenhagen for a month or so. There had been a used book sale near the Round Tower. I think it was some local college. There were quite few English books there, including some of the old orange and white Penguins. I picked up several books including Lady Chatterley’s Lover (orange cover) and the Penguin publication of the trial, where Penguin was sued by the Crown for publishing the book. I read Lawrence’s book first and then read the trial. I was two years out after my masters and done my first year teaching, and I didn’t want to underline the book because it was old. So, I brought a notebook and began to take notes. The trial was in 1960.
There was a man named Graham Hough who answered a prosecutor’s question about authors quoting, “From my knowledge of the habits of authors, it is the last thing I would except for them to quote accurately. They do it from memory and they always get it wrong.” It isn’t only a comment on authors, the concerns that we have today about the influence of media on children are also very upfront. It is depressing when one reads testimony like that of Dr James Hemming who mentions how both girls and boys are led to believe certain things about sex. Or to read Miss Dilys Powell comment about how the book is less damaging than those shows on television. She said, “and a great deal of the contemporary cinema seems to degrade the whole sanctity of sex, treating it as something trivial. But in Lawrence’s book, which has great elements of sacredness, sex is taken as being something to be taken seriously and as a basis for a holy life” (150). Today there would be people who would take issue with her statement. Yet, she does have a point. It is both refreshing and depressing to see that people wrestling with the same issues that we do today. Refreshing because at least we’re not goofing it up but depressing because we have not solved it yet.
Penguin does stand by authors, for the most part. They also went to court when they and historian Deborah Lipstadt were sued by David Irving. Additionally, they published the decision of that trial as well.
What seemed to have been noteworthy to me at the time was the amount of people that Penguin called and the fact that the persecution didn’t call any which does leave one to wonder if the Crown was even trying. Cecil Day-Lewis and apparently outed himself as the mystery writer Nicholas Blake at the trial. This impressed me and I still wonder what people thought about that bit. Considering the kerfuffle that happened when it came out that Rowling was using a pen name for her Strike books.
Today, Lawrence’s book is overlooked as people get more concerned about book concerning penguins who raise a chick. But the question I asked in the writing journal is still good today, do people still fear what is in books because the printing press changed everything, made knowledge more widely accessible?