Almost a week ago now I went to a public lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE) called ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover: 50 Years On‘, and it did not go as I’d expected. I was hoping for a retrospective by the great Geoffrey Robertson QC, on the 50th anniversary of the acquittal of Penguin Books, in its obscenity trial for publishing an uncensored British edition. He duly did just that, but he also brought with him Lord (Jeremy) Hutchinson QC, one of the two men who actually won the trial, helping to kick start an evolution in social norms in this country. What a beautiful evening it turned out to be, listening to a 95 year old man rail against intolerance, against censorship and faux puritanical behaviour. He ended with this rant which inspired me more than anyone has in years:
I end by saying to you, this audience, what’s wrong with this country of ours, what is wrong with us? Lawrence loved this country so deeply, we still flounder around in our embarrassment and our treatment of sex. Can’t we accept two fundamental things: one, that since the creation of man most humans are attracted by the opposite sex and a minority are attracted by the same sex, and a minority are attracted by both? Secondly that nobody can and nobody ever will know what one human being feels for another human being in the privacy and depth of their own heart. Can’t we treat sex with a little more seriousness and respect as Lawrence wanted people to do? Can’t we grow up and calm down? We still have the four-letter words unpurified and no other words we could use. The Times is still full of asterisks, the Church is torn from head to foot and continues to humiliate women and gays and yet they still sit in the House of Lords. Martin Amis had announced that it’s impossible to write about sex; perhaps Lawrence did have the last word.