Romance online exhibition
Accession number CENM2004.14
Perhaps one of the most controversial love stories of the twentieth century was the book Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence. The sexually explicit novel was published in Italy in 1928 and in Paris the following year, but was banned in the UK for more than 3 decades because it was considered to be obscene.
During the ban many travellers purchased copies of the book abroad and attempted to sneak them into the UK. Some people innocently bought the book when they were abroad without realising that it was banned in this country. Ignorance was not an excuse though, and Customs officers confiscated all copies of the book - and any other material considered to be obscene - that people attempted to bring into the country.
The 1932 Customs seizure ledger from the port of Dover is shown above. The ledger details all items that were seized when travellers attempted to bring them through the port. Two separate entries on the open pages above detail how passengers tried to bring copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover into the UK. One lady had a copy concealed in her handbag, while a male passenger hid his in a coat draped over his arm. In another column the fate of both copies of the book is written, 'Book to be burned', with the date 11 August 1932.
Perceptions of what we consider to be obscene have changed over time. In 1960, after a much-publicised trial, Penguin won the right to publish the book in its entirety. The initial run of the novel, a total of 200,000 copies, sold out on the first day of publication.
The hand written excerpts from the ledger below show the date 'When received in King's Warehouse', followed by the description of the items seized, the quantity, where and how the items were concealed and the ship that the passengers had travelled on.
Back to the top