Evelyn Waugh and Lady Chatterley

The latest online edition of the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland contains a review of the book Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Studies published last year. The review mentions the case of R. v Penguin Books in which prosecution was brought against Penguin’s publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Hutchinson appeared for the defence and the book describes their selection of witnesses:

The defence vetted nearly 200 potential witnesses from the cultural world, grading them on a scale from A (“probably excellent or necessary”) to D (“those not in top category”). Intriguingly, the latter group included both Robert Graves and Evelyn Waugh, the latter dubbing Lady Chatterley “dull, absurd in places and pretentious”.

The quote is taken from the letter Waugh wrote to Michael Rubinstein, solicitor for Penguin Books, who was responsible for vetting potential witnesses. The text of the letter has not, apparently, been published, but Christopher Sykes (Penguin, p. 574) says that Waugh “declined the invitation to give evidence.” In a letter to Ann Fleming at about the same time (10 November 1960, Letters, p. 552), Waugh says that he wishes he had been called as a witness

to explain to the bemused jury that Lawrence’s reputation had been made by an illiterate clique at Cambridge. He couldn’t write for toffee. He is right down in the Spender class.

The clique at Cambridge is no doubt the group of scholars that gathered around F.R. Leavis, Director of English Studies at Downing College and editor of the magazine Scrutiny, and his wife Queenie.

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