Enid Blyton and Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Enid Blyton and her husband, Kenneth Darrell-Waters.
Constance, Lady Chatterley, and her gardener Oliver Mellors.

My favourite Enid Blyton story (about her, not by her) is of when Penguin Books tried to enlist her support prior to the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial in 1960. It gives a very clear picture of how socially and intellectually divided Britain was at the time. Penguin Books was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 following the publication of D. H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It tried with significant success to recruit literary figures and others of high standing prepared to support LCL in the interests of free speech. E. M. Forster, Noel Annan and a host of others rose to the occasion and gave evidence at the trial, while many others wrote fulsome letters of support. Blyton did not, politely but firmly explaining why. “I’d love to help Penguin Books Ltd.  – they are doing a fine job with their publications – but I don’t see how I can. For one thing I haven’t read the book – and for another thing my husband said NO at once. The thought of me standing up in Court solemnly advocating a book “like that” (his words not mine – I feel he must have read the book!) made his hair stand on end.” What makes her husband’s reaction noteworthy and amusing, bearing in mind how the subsequent trial proceeded, are the remarks made to the jury by Counsel for the Prosecution, Mervyn Griffith-Jones. Having suggested to the jury that LCL might provoke “lustful thoughts in the minds of those who read it”, he then asked: “…when you have read it through, would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read? [my italics]” The jury were unmoved by this appeal and Penguin was acquitted. So here we see two very different Britains very clearly. In one Britain, it was grudgingly conceded that “girls can read as well as boys” and that a husband has the power of veto over what his wife or servants read. The other Britain, represented by a jury of 9 men and 3 women, thought the whole thing absolutely absurd. Their Not Guilty verdict was unanimous and took only three hours of deliberation, not long given the enormous amount of evidence that had to be considered.  

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