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Today is the 50th anniversary of the landmark “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” decision

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Lady Chatterley's Lover film edition

On November 2, 1960, a judge in Britain handed down what would become a landmark decision and the first in a series of groundbreaking obscenity cases that would end government intervention in publishing. More importantly, when Penguin Publishing received a "not guilty" ruling in the obscenity trial against Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence, it helped kick off the sexual revolution.

Chatterley (seen above in its later film adaptation) had been around since 1928 but only in a truncated and unreadable edition in the U.K. When Penguin defied the censors in publishing the book in an unexpurgated edition in 1959, they were testing the power of the new Obscene Publications Act, which was designed to protect artistic works with objectionable content. Penguin quite correctly predicted that as soon as one book passed muster, many (and most) others would soon follow and collapse the entire system of censorship.

Authors E. M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh joined a stunning array of pastors, community leaders and politicos in testifying for the defense. With both sides forced to repeat Lawrence's use of the words "fuck" and "cunt," the trial transcript was itself banned when reproduced in book form in Australia.

Of course, the most famous phrase wasn't from the book at all but from the chief prosecutor, who reportedly referred to Chatterley as not being a book "you would wish your wife or servants to read."

Today, the book you once wished you could even pick up is required reading in some high schools and many colleges.

Here's an excerpt from Philip Larkin's poem on the case:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And The Beatles' first LP.