The Post Office Seizes the Unexpurgated “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

May 13, 1959, Vol. IV, No. 29

The Lively Arts

By Gilbert Seldes

When the Grove Press began planning its unexpurgated version of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” about two years ago, it made up copies of the book and sent them round to various people for comment — in case of future trouble. These copies provided the acid test — because they were the usual paperback edition with all of the deleted matter typed out on flimsy paper and inserted in the text. Those pieces of paper stuck out — inevitably, the eye and the hand went directly to them. As any hunter for pornography would. As the Post Office apparently has done.

Our law now says that passages and words must be taken in context. Lawrence wrote a whole book, not a collection of excerpts. I have, indeed, read the whole book. But the special report I want to make is on the excerpts.

Some of them are brief, a line or two, the sort of thing represented like this *****in translations from the Persian and other classics. But many of them are pages long, and they are the finest poetry Lawrence ever wrote; each is a series of lyrics, ecstatic songs rising one from the other…

There is something fishy about the procedure in this case. The books have been “retained,” not “seized,” according to the general counsel for the Post Office Department which, on this showing, needs a better general counsel. The distinction must make a lot of difference to the Grove Press, which cannot sell retained books any more than it can sell seized books…

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