§ 5.42 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT rose to draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the verdict of the court in regard to the book entitled Lady Chatterley's Lover; to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take such steps as are possible to ban for all time writings of this nature, particularly those of the author of this book; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I propose, with your Lordships' permission, to make one or two preliminary remarks before I get down to my Motion. My Lords, what are we coming to? This is a very serious matter. We have the verdict of a British jury which many of us, certainly I myself, deplore. We also have certain recommendations in the Wolfenden Report to which I equally take the greatest exception. What are we coming to? It is all very well for one noble Lord to laugh. This is not a laughing matter; it is a very serious issue that we are facing to-day.
§ It appears that we can think, we can write, we can print, we can publish, we can act and we can recommend whatever we like. Talk about liberty! This is not a question where liberty comes in at all; it is a question of licence. Have we 529 the licence to do anything we like in any direction? I hold a very strong view on giving unbridled licence to everybody in the country, and I am very anxious lest our world become depraved and indecent, to put it mildly. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor told us the other day that there is no appeal from the verdict of the jury. Surely, if the British Government and the Ministers concerned wish to bring in legislation to alter this state of affairs they can do so, if they put their hands to the plough.
§ Let me get to something rather different. Love—and I mean the word in every sense—is one of the strongest influences in the world for good, but if it abused it seems to me that it becomes the work of Satan, indecent and quite dreadful. This question of the true love of one man to another, of one people to another, of one society to another, is being, in my view, undermined by the sort of thing that is going on. It is an affront to the public mind, an insult to our social and moral standards, on which we, my Lords, used to be the leaders. There is nothing finer than the devotion of man to woman, in fact the emotion of devotion between the sexes. What do we have? We have the well-known saying at the time of tragedy, at the time of ships sinking, "Women and children first". That is a sentiment which is the strongest thing in our nature, and I believe that we are now faced with the threat that all those fine feelings that I have tried to describe will he undermined.
§ The policy of the Government, as was so admirably set out in the gracious Speech, is to encourage and advance the social welfare of our people. Is this sort of thing going to do that? It is said that there will be encouragement and expansion of youth services: is this sort of thing going to do that? They say there should be physical recreation for the young: is this sort of thing going to help towards that end, that splendid end, that the Government are aiming at? What I have referred to in my Motion cannot help the minds of young people. No good can come of it. As I see it, only evil can come of it. What object can possibly be gained by advertising and exploiting private intimacy of the nature described in these 530 writings? And I will come presently to another book which I have not even now made up my mind I am going to quote, because it is perfectly appalling. These writings are quite terrible, in my view, and I am sure in the minds of your Lordships. I have had letters from all parts of the country, and another one this morning, with splendid ideas in it. The public generally are horrified at what has taken place.
§ There is in the House of Commons a Bill which has just been initiated there —it has only received, I am afraid, the First Reading; I do not know where it will get to—but which is a very proper Bill to carry out the ideas I, and I am sure many others, have. It was introduced by Sir Charles Taylor, and. as I understand it, there are many Members of Parliament—quite a number, of different Parties—who are supporting it.
§ Let us get down to the realities and the origin of this deplorable book. It emanates from the warped mind of the author. The story he tells is pure invention; it never actually happened. I believe that at one time this book was banned, and then it was freed. I wonder why, and by whom? It is evident to me that the Director of Public Prosecutions must have considered it obscene, otherwise this court action, with its resultant verdict, would never have taken place. Having put down the Motion following the verdict, I found that I had not read the book, so I immediately tried to get a copy, and eventually managed to borrow one. In a way, I wish I had never read it. It was far worse than anything that I could possibly have thought could be published in this country. It was supported, of course, by the jury and by the witnesses, including, I regret to say, the Bishop of Woolwich. I am in entire agreement and align myself most strongly with what the Archbishop of Canterbury said on that subject. All the letters I have received view the whole of this question as obscene, immoral and, in fact, shocking in every way. All express a deep sense of shock at this disgusting, filthy affront to ordinary decencies. Those are expressions that I have had mentioned in the correspondence which has been sent to me.531
§ Now I come to something that I am not at all sure is not worse than the book mentioned in my Motion. Only this morning I had a magazine sent to me which referred to this book, the title of which is The Man Who Died. I am doubtful whether I can really give your Lordships the theme of that book, but I want to make my case as strong as possible because I want something to be done about this matter. The theme of the book is this—I have made up my mind, and I am going to give it to your Lordships now—that Jesus Christ came down from the Cross alive, that he wandered into the Temple of Isis where he seduced a priestess and she eventually became pregnant. Could there be anything more profane, more blasphemous, than that? Yet this same author wrote that book. It is difficult for me, or for anybody speaking on this subject, to go into the details of the book. We have heard a lot about words with four letters, but that is nothing compared to what one can read in this book; the language of it, the sentences in it, are perfectly dreadful. Then to bring religion into it! The Bishop of Woolwich approved of it; he said it was Holy Communion. It is all very well, but we ought to take this matter very seriously.
§ I am glad to see that the Lord Archbishop of York has come here to-day to this debate, and I am also glad to see the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, whose name appears on the list of speakers. I had a letter this morning from my friend the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, who says that the Lord Lieutenant of the County within his Diocese has died and he has to attend the funeral. He expresses regret that he cannot be here, and I know that he feels strongly on this subject. Everyone who ms written or spoken to me takes the strongest possible view about this situation, and disapproves of allowing this book to be accessible to family or respectable society. To-day I am an old man. In the earlier days of my life as a miner. I mixed with tough fellows on the frontiers of the Empire, and also through the war; but there is nothing that has been said during my life, nothing that has been brought to my notice, that touches the horrible state of affairs which I see in this situation to-day. We must do something about it.532
§ Some of my friends have said, "You know, Charles, you are late. This thing will die; it will be a nine days' wonder." Let me give your Lordships my experience of the last few days. There was an article in the Sunday Express and another article in the Evening Standard of last week; and yesterday, I think, in the Daily Telegraph yet another article appeared. They are going now to make gramophone discs on the subject. This thing is not dead. We must do everything we can to stop any furtherance of its publication. I cannot believe that the Obscene Publications Act can permit it to be called a classic or that it is a thing of literary merit. It cannot possibly have anything of that sort in it.
§ Then there is the question, where is the law now? It seemed to me that when divorce proceedings were brought, the question of adultery was the final question. What about that now? In view of the verdict of the court is adultery wrong? Is it something that can be put forward as a reason for divorce? I should like to know about that. I have a letter which asks me to do everything I can to have a new administration of the law. I have spoken longer than I usually do but I feel very strongly about this question, and from what some noble Lords have said to me in the last few weeks on this subject I am sure they feel the same way that I do. I beg my noble and learned friend who is going to reply to do everything he can to try to persuade the Ministers concerned and Her Majesty's Government to do everything possible to prevent the furtherance of what is going on now. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I must apologise for addressing your Lordships twice to-day, and I must say straight away that I do not find this subject, on which feelings run so strongly, the easiest to speak to. I fully acknowledge the strength and sincerity of feeling of the noble Lord who raised this matter to-day. But one of the things he said was: How does it come about that this book, Lady Chatterley's Lover, is published now and was not published in the past? The noble Lord asked, by implication, who was responsible. I will say to him that he, and all of us in the House who passed 533 the Obscene Publications Act in the last Session—passed it without a Division, and freely adopted it—are responsible.
This is an Act which is now on the Statute Book. A case has been brought under it by the Director of Public Prosecutions. I do not agree with the noble Lord that because the Director of Public Prosecutions brings a case under this Act that case is automatically proven. It is no: proven until a British court of law has passed judgment on it. I believe that in bringing this matter forward—and if it is appropriate and proper for us to do that so soon after passing legislation—we must again look at what we did when we passed the Obscene Publications Act. I have already mentioned that it went through this House without a Division; and, so far as I know, the noble Lord himself made no protest on that occasion. Any noble Lord who feels inclined to-day to protest ought, I think, to give his reasons as to why he did not object to an Act of Parliament which we so freely passed into law.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, surely, the Obscene Publications Act is the very Act which now is being abused and broken by all this. Surely that is so. I do not think it is the fault of the Act itself.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not wish to try to trap the noble Lord in a discussion of this kind, but to say that the Act is being broken when a British jury in a court of law has come to a verdict, is, I think, to suggest that justice is being frustrated. I believe that it might perhaps help if at this moment I were to refer to the provisions of the Act and to the particular points that were made which were adopted at the time we passed the Act so that it became law. The important change—perhaps the most important—was that in the first section it was laid down that:An article shall be deemed to he obscene if its effect… is…and I assure noble Lords that any words I leave out do not affect the sense—taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave: aid corrupt persons…This is the test that was applied. Then there were other changes that were brought into effect. It was possible to 534 plead that the publication of an article (in this case a book) wasin the interests of science, literature, art or learning,or indeed of general concern. It was also made possible under the Act to call experts to give evidence purely on the literary or other merits of the book. We cannot re-try this case, but the course envisaged in the words I have read out is precisely that which was followed. And after a pretty full discussion, and after a large number of witnesses had gone into the witness box, twelve British people came to the conclusion that the publishers of this book were not guilty under the Act.
Whether or not the Judge could have asked the jury to give a split opinion, and whether they could have answered other questions, I am not lawyer enough to say. It is possible that they might have regarded the book as tending to corrupt while at the same time regarding it as in the public interest that it should be published. We do not know this, but the book has survived the ordeal of a trial in which there is no suggestion that the prosecution, the Director of Prosecutions or the Judge were in any way soft" to the publishers and to those responsible for publishing the book.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting, because I do not do so wantonly? May I point out to him that in the discussion on the measure to which he refers these technical points were raised by quite a number of noble Lords. They were found to be very difficult, and I believe that a majority of Members of this House can be forgiven for having been unable, at that stage, completely to understand the technical possibilities in the working of the Act. I feel that that fact ought to be mentioned and understood, for it was brought up to a very large extent.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sure we should all be willing to forgive our fellow-Peers if they failed to understand a technical matter of law. But this was a matter of great importance, and the potentialities were, I believe, as clear as they could be. It seems lo me that the Act was very fully debated. It was the subject of repeated 535 discussions in another place and reached the Statute Book only after a number of attempts.
I want now to turn briefly to the book itself. I do not wish to argue its merits very strongly, beyond pointing out that a large number of people, for some of whose opinions I have certainly a high regard, held this to be a good book and one which, taken as a whole, did not tend to corrupt. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, will disagree with them. He is entitled to disagree with them, but they are equally entitled, in a free country where censorship does not exist, to their opinion. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, has suggested that the writings of D. H. Lawrence, in particular (he refers especially to this book, but no doubt includes many others) ought to be banned. I am happy to say that the Government have no power to ban books in this country, and this is one of the freedoms which we should be very careful to preserve. But if we are to take this book and go again to what the Act requires and look at particular parts of it, which I believe is what the noble Lord has done, then he exposes a very wide range of literature to the same processes as those to which he would subject Lady Chatterlev's Lover.
The noble Lord may know that Mr. Partridge wrote a book on the bawdy in Shakespeare; that there are many scenes in Shakespeare and in many other writings —indeed, there are parts of the Bible—which are of a kind which, taken out of context, might be held by some to have a tendency to corrupt and deprave. When I look at the books that schoolboys are given to read at school, those of us who have done the classics, whether it be The Golden Ass of Apuleius, the plays of Terence, or, indeed, the performances of many of the gods and goddesses of mythology, I should have thought there were plenty of other matters which the noble Lord would wish to remove from our view.
My Lords, the book we are discussing to-night is certainly about an adulterous relationship. But many other books are also about that. I have not yet heard the noble Lord speak out against a book called Forever Amber, and others. But there is one thing this book is not about. The noble Lord said at the beginning (though it is not relevant to this Motion), 536 that he was opposed to the Wolfenden proposals; and I take it he was referring to the proposals with regard to the reform of the law in the matter of homosexuality. But the one thing this book does not do is to advocate perversion or sadism or violence: and there are many such books which are continually available and which are peddled by the pedlars of pornography, which, among other things, this Act has sought to control. It is an Act, among other things, designed to strengthen the law concerning pornography. And I can tell the noble Lord that if there is one book which is not likely to be peddled by the pedlars of pornography it is Lady Chatterley's Lover, because the books they sell are essentially those which are concerned with sadism, violence and perversion. This book is not, as those many people who have read it, know; and the people who look for that type of thrill will very quickly get bored with Lady Chatterley's Lover.
I would say only a word or two more. Psychologists—and they may be right or they may be wrong—have said that, generally speaking, no single book has been responsible for corrupting an individual: that it is an atmosphere of corruption; an atmosphere of perversion, and particularly an atmosphere of violence; and indeed the type of atmosphere to which I know the noble Lord objects and which may be generally spread throughout society. I should like to know whether the noble Lord would now wish to turn his attention to attacking some of the newspapers, some of the Sunday newspapers, some of the violence that goes on on television. For these are matters which must be taken into account as part of the broad picture in the same way as this Act requires us to look at an article as a whole.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Is this not, in fact, a good test: that we should look at an article as a whole, or a book as a whole, and judge whether it has a tendency to corrupt? Or are we to take little pieces out of life and say that life itself is obscene?—because this is, with the greatest respect, the conclusion that one must come to if one follows the arguments of the noble Lord.
I do not wish to be too personal, but it is not long since the noble Lord 537 advocated in this House another form of censorship. We know he favoured that only the Government should be allowed to make statements on the radio and in other places in regard to matters of foreign affairs. On that occasion most noble Lords, including the Government spokesmen in particular, dealt very effectively with that argument. Does the noble Lord now wish to introduce a form of censorship of a kind that we are proud does not exist in this country? Would he, in fact, ban a book like Dr. Zhivago, which has certainly been a subject of considerable comment in the West because it is not available freely behind the Iron Curtain? In Dr. Zhivago there are certainly incidents of a kind and tendencies of a kind to which the noble Lord would take exception.
I would only say, conclusion, that any noble Lords who support this Motion must disagree, and show that they disagree, with the principles contained in an Act of Parliament which we in this House passed freely through, without a Division. They must also show in the process that they distrust their fellow men in regard to this matter, and they must be prepared to accept a curtailment of cultural freedom; and that, whatever evil there may or may not be in one hook, would, in my opinion, be a far greater evil and far more damaging to the ideals and principles under which we live. I would end on only one point: that there are sins, and though adultery may be a sin, it is also a sin to revile your fellow men.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, the noble Lord asked me a definite question in regard to, I think, a Motion I put down —it is some time ago. I still adhere to my view that matters of international and national importance which are the responsibility of Ministers and the Government should not be exploited and advertised by the British Broadcasting Corporation, particularly in "Panorama", without the permission of the Government and those responsible. I adhere to my original opinion on that. I know that my noble friend Lord Boothby, whom I see here, will not agree with me.
§ LORD BOOTHBY: No; certainly not.538
§ 6.15 p.m
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ALBANS
My Lords, I find myself in some difficulty. I was prepared to speak to the unamended Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, drawing attention to this subject, and it was only this morning that I saw his amendment. I have not had time to reconsider what I was going to say, and certainly there has been no time to read D. H. Lawrence's other books, which I should have to do before discussing any ban on them. I am not, therefore, in a position to support this Motion. But I hope in the brief speech that I propose to make that I may give reasons for this statement.
I am reluctant to add more words to the great number that have been spoken on the subject of Lady Chatterley's Lover. It is widely held that too much has already been said. But a tradition of reticence has been broken and this may be a necessary moment to take stock. My Lords, I read the book. I first turned to the second half and understood as I went along the praise that was given to the beauty of certain passages. I then read the whole book and found myself increasingly bored with conversation and description which I should have found disquieting at an earlier age. I do not question that much of the hook is written with tenderness and compassion; nor that censorship may be harmful. In fact, I accept the argument that, after so much publicity, it may be better that the book should be published and openly read rather than smuggled into this country from overseas and passed surreptitiously from hand to hand. This is the sort of thing that surely would happen if the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, received sufficient support.
But, my Lords, this book deals with an adulterous relationship; and Christian teaching is that adultery, whether in fact or in lustful longing, is always a sin. I recognise that hundreds of books on this subject are published each year, but the fact that a million and a half copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover have been sold makes my comments necessary. I have no intention of referring here to certain evidence given in the trial by Christian ministers of religion. Rather, I want just to do two things: first, to consider the effect of this book on young people and on adolescents of all ages; and, secondly, 539 to consider what advice should be offered to parents. Now that it is published, where do we go from here? I quote from a priest with 32 years' experience in Oxford:I am convinced"—he has written—that purple passages such as occur in this book stimulate the imagination in an undesirable way and often lead to the sort of sins which young people themselves eagerly desire to overcome.What advice, my Lords, can be offered to some youngster who has read it and been disturbed by it; who has been roused by it and finds himself thinking too much about it? I answer: let him talk about it with some wise adult, a parent or someone accustomed to dealing with people—a priest, a doctor, a teacher, a probation officer, a youth leader. If he is thinking of reading it but has not begun to do so, my further advice would be that he should postpone reading it until he is about to marry, until he is on the threshold of marriage. Then I would recommend him to buy a booklet, the sales of which are approaching the million mark, called, The Threshold of Marriage. It costs 8d., and it is published by the Church Information Board. Here, in the brief compass of some 32 pages, will be found advice on the three-fold aspect of marriage.
Here is a sentence from a Report of one of the Lambeth Conference Committees:Sexual intercourse is not by any means the only language of earthly love but it is, in its full and right use, the most intimate and the most revealing.That sentence, my Lords may well be in tune with a man's mind after reading Lawrence. But there is in this booklet complementary teaching making three points: that it would be wrong to exaggerate the importance of intercourse—it is not the be all and end all of married life; that married couples differ greatly in the value they place upon it, for some find it increasingly precious as they grow through bodily union to one-ness of heart and mind; that others, on the other hand, find it becoming less and less important. But in either case—and here I am indebted to a note from a wise vicar—the understanding to be reached is surely that of the physical relationship as neither a 540 supreme end in itself, nor an enjoyable triviality, but as a deeply spiritual experience and vocation within marriage. A relationship whose exercise calls forth all those gentle, sincere. thoughtful, tender and compassionate qualities which, flowing throughout the life of the home and the family, make matrimony truly holy and life long. When this is understood, the many practical questions that remain can more easily be answered.Is there any advice that may be offered to parents?—and many parents must be wondering what is their best course to follow. The publication of this book underlines the responsibility carried by parents and by others concerned with the upbringing and education of children, particularly all who profess to be Christians, to see that the right attitude to sex and marriage is presented to the minds of young people before they are of an age to read Lady Chatterley's Lover. Headmasters and headmistresses whom I know are throwing the responsibility back on the parents; they are refusing to have the book in their school libraries. If parents want their children to read it, let opportunity be given in the holidays; and then, if they know it is being read in their families, parents can encourage their children to talk about it.
Young people growing up in 1960 have, besides novels, a choice of many stimulants, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton has mentioned—magazines and comics, strip-tease, dance fever, violence shown on the cinema and T.V. This book must be seen and considered in that wide context. It has passages of greatness, and reading it is not necessarily damaging but can be used constructively. The publicity may soon be forgotten. Then, we hope, a decent reticence will be restored, and sexual discussion will chiefly be kept within the context to which it belongs—that is to say, the private affairs of husband, wife and family. In passing, it is good to note that many booksellers refuse to exhibit this book or even to stock it, and to hear that librarians decline to put it on public shelves. As has already been said, we must not forget the quantity of printed matter already on sale of which the effect is clearly pornographic. Let no one doubt the menace of such literature to our national life.
To sum up, my Lords, I consider the most important question to be faced 541 to-day is not whether the book is to be banned, but, rather, how those responsible for the welfare of young people can be encouraged and helped to make the best use of the opportunity which is now open to them. A point of contact with many puzzled adolescents has been created. We all know how advertising and the Press, as well as the factors already mentioned, help to keep sex in the foreground of the minds of those still at school. The younger age of puberty, the freedom from conventions, for many the lack of religious ties—these, as your Lordships know, are some of the elements that make young people more vulnerable to-day, and more in need of clear guidance about physical relationships. It is the responsibility of all parents—or, failing them, of leaders and teachers—to try to pass on a view of the sex relationship as neither passing nor selfish, but deep and enduring; a lifelong link, and the true background of the happy, married home from which a new generation of wise parents can again come forward. My Lords, the Church has resources of books and literature and trained personnel who are helping to give this teaching, and who are willing to train others who wish to fit themselves to give it.
§ 6.27 p.m.
My Lords, we are told that this is the century of the common man, but I often wonder how true that is, because so many experts are rising on so many different subjects that I sometimes feel that there is some danger of the common man, or even the common Peer, feeling guilty of effrontery in having opinions of his own. In this particular case, we have had evidence from experts on the interpretation of the law, experts on Christian ethics, experts on public morals and experts on art and literature, and the jury have given a verdict that this book is no menace to public morals—a verdict which has been hailed in some quarters as a vindication of some great principle, though I am not quite certain what that principle is.
My Lords, I am quite ready to leave it at that. I do not agree with my noble friend that the law should be changed. I am quite ready to leave the question of public morals to those who are experts and who understand those things. But there is also the question—a much 542 less important question, no doubt—of public taste, and this is a matter very difficult to define. It is still more difficult to reduce to a statutory code. It varies from age to age, and it varies from country to country. It is in some ways most illogical, for we seem much more easily shocked by our eyes than by our ears. We have just passed laws to keep prostitutes off the streets, largely because the spectacle of prostitution was held to be distasteful; and I think that even the strongest champion of liberty would have some hesitation in suggesting that this book, in all its detail, should be translated into a film for a public exhibition.
But, in spite of all these inconsistencies, there is, I think, a general consensus of opinion at any given point in history as to what is seemly and what is not. At the present moment, if any of us started introducing some of the language of this book into our speeches, I do not suppose that any of us would feel corrupted or depraved. As has been stated, most of us know these expressions, probably—Her Majesty's judges included. Nor do I think that we should be searching diligently to discover whether there had been some breach of Standing Orders. I am sure your Lordships would resent that kind of language simply because you would not think it a very becoming way to talk in your Lordships' House.
Really, that is the way I feel about this book. I do not think it is a very becoming book to find on our bookstalls, and that is why I am glad that at least one of the largest firms of book distributors do not display it. But if you take that very mild, modest view, that it is a book in had taste, I must say that some of the evidence we have been reading does sound a trifle portentous. When I read about the expert on Christian ethics dwelling on the sacramental aspects of the book, and when I read the long and elaborate explanation of the publisher, giving the reasons why he published the book, I feel no sense of hostility or criticism, only a considerable sense of the ridiculous. It is about as ridiculous as if 'one Member of your Lordships' House seriously proposed an Amendment to the Standing Orders of this House to enable four-letter words to be used in speeches in the interests of complete freedom of debate.
543 In fact, my Lords, the comment I appreciated the most was that attributed to a Member of your Lordships' House who, on being asked whether he did not object to his daughter reading the book, replied that he had no such objection, but that he had the strongest objection to the book being read by his gamekeeper. Perhaps I should apologise to your Lordships for that. There has been a feeling of solemnity to this debate and I am anxious not to displease my noble friend in front of me; but when I think of all the earnest endeavour which has gone into defending what, in my humble estimation, is just a rather bad book in very bad taste, I do not think an element of levity is entirely out of place.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, speaking in such learned company I should like to express my feelings as a very ordinary witness, not liable to be depraved and open to immoral influences. I should like briefly to deal first with the case, and secondly with the existing law. As for the case, possibly under the existing law it was a correct verdict; but for myself I find it wholly unacceptable. I find it difficult to accept many of the expert witnesses evidence. Of certain passages in the book, learned counsel—and I am not ashamed to quote the learned counsel for the prosecution—said this:You would have to go some way along the Charing Cross Road, the back streets of Paris, and even Port Said, to find a description of sexual intercourse that was perhaps as lewd as that.Was the ordinary girl working in the factory going to view the book as a treatment of sex on a holy basis, or was the right reverend Bishop, who regarded it as such, wholly out of touch with the people? Whether one judges the book as a whole or in parts. in my humble opinion I regard it as quite unfit for the young.
As was so rightly pointed out, there are standards which must be maintained in morality, in conversation and in conduct, in respect for the conventions of society. It is these standards which I feel so strongly the law must protect for the young. My Lords, who to-day are the persons the law has tried to protect for so long? It is the youth. No one 544 can suggest that adults will come to much harm from reading a so-called "sex novel"; but the law may be in grave doubt when uninformed minds of children can easily be led astray. The law gives certain protection with regard to licensing laws for public houses, and for films, and I would suggest that similar protection should be given for literature.
The law, as it stands now, invites a jury or a court to consider whether a book should be published on grounds of its literary or artistic merit, in balance with its obscenity. I would ask whether a further distinction could not be made between an adult and a juvenile book? As a result of the verdict of the court, the book in question can be purchased by any child now for 3s. 6d. It might be a great book by a great writer, or a thoroughly boring book. But whichever the answer is, the writer surely never wrote it for any other purpose than as an adult book. There are many books, important and unimportant, which are in the same category as Lady Chatterley's Lover. If some censorship based on age were introduced, no doubt it would be open to abuse. On the other hand, no one would think that, just because the licensing laws can be abused by youths drinking at home rather than in a public house, this law should be repealed. Why could not certain books be listed as not available to those under 17 to 18 years of age? At least it would act as a deterrent.
In announcing last week, as has already been stated, that 1½ million copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover have so far been sold, the managing director of Penguin Books, who gave evidence for the defence at the Old Bailey, said that he was not so happy about the sales of the book as about the result of the case, and that, to quote him—A lot of people are buying it for the wrong reasons".If it is accepted that, in a free society, adults should be allowed, broadly speaking, to read what they like, surely that statement by the managing director makes out the best possible case for a degree of censorship based on age discrimination.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
My Lords. I am no plaster saint. Neither am I 545 a plaster philosopher—I hope! But, all things considered, I have the greatest understanding for youth; and I can say, along with a great many other noble Lords, that I have lived and done things that perhaps I would wish to undo now if I possibly could. I feel that there will be a very considerable degree of support for the new Bill which Sir Charles Taylor is introducing. It is not my purpose to anticipate it, but I will pay him the tribute which he deserves for his courage, and I am convinced that many of your Lordships will be with me.
I was a little worried, when listening to your Lordships, because I found that I was in agreement with many remarks made by each and every one of you. I realise that this problem is an extremely difficult one; it is not simple by any manner of means. But to-day I wish to support the noble Lord who is the instigator of this debate, Lord Teviot, to the greatest and fullest extent that I can. Parents are in fear of the inferior laws we are making in this country, which are dividing and destroying families, while offering no protection when it is most needed. We hasten to listen to, and legislate for, a vociferous minority who desire unlimited liberty to live immoral lives. We cast out the cries for justice of those members of society who, by the very orderly quietness of their citizenship, are not by nature vocal. Furthermore, so much that we make the law seems to be so hastily flung together, and rushed into operation, that we are unable to construct our Acts of Parliament in such a way that they take care of all contingencies
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? Is he aware that, in fact, the book we are discussing is fully available in practically every country in the world, and is not on the Papal Index?
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
I have not looked up the Papal Index to find out whether this book is in it. In fact, I do not know where to get hold of it; but I would hardly dispute what the noble Lord says. The Papal Index is mostly what our consciences tell us and has little to do with what is actually written down on a piece of paper, but I will bring this out a little later.
546 To resume, the excuse for what I have been describing lies in the pressure of business. As a result, we form a legal box into which anything can be tossed, and thus anything can be twisted in its interpretation in any direction which suits the mind blowing in a particular Ministry at that moment—and, I may add, in other minds—provided that it does not jump outside the box. Government by statutory instrument, and as often as not by no more than a directive, is what we have to-day in place of the carefully worded Acts of the past, which preserved and protected the fundamentals of our social code and which kept society in reasonable stability for well over 1,000 years. The Lady Chatterley's Lover case, in my opinion is nothing more nor less than an extension of this principle. One bad law deserves another. I will repeat that, my Lords: one bad law deserves another.
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
A little bit of both, if you like it that way. We try to set the base of moral security on the shoulders of man alone, so that he is left to decide, in his unenlightened loneliness, wherein lies the foundations of society. We leave our justice to personal interpretation. And this is patently absurd. There are two people in every human being—a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde. Of course, this is a simplification of something that every psychologist, philosopher or theologian will recognise and tabulate according to his level of intellectual activity.
Our desire for good may always be constant, but our capacity to achieve it is very much regulated by our understanding of the principles involved. What appears to one person to be good may appear to another to be desirable but unlawful. Most of us have received the promises of Eve's apple, and many of us have fallen to its temptations. There are many sorts of failure in life. Spiritual failure is far more harmful than material failure. The problems and suffering of those who are chained by their bad habits are of a magnitude which can bring about self-destruction. This world is a battleground in which many go under. The cowardly do not try to fight. They just go with the stream and find 547 excuses for their lack of personal discipline. Others, with courage, struggle all their lives to conquer self. I am not speaking "without the book" when I say this, because I have at least tried to fight this battle myself and I know how profoundly difficult it is and how often one is tripped up. The aged who have failed or never try at all look down cynically as they sneer at attempts of others to know the beauties of truth and purity.
These are the very real problems we are setting before youth when we relax our laws governing social obligations and standards of moral behaviour. Let me illustrate it further. I made a trip up the M.1 the other day, on my way to Manchester, and stopped at Forte's restaurant, which spans the motorway. It was the day that Lady Chatterley's Lover was on sale to the public and there, at every serving counter, sat a snigger of youths. Every one of them had a copy of this book held up to his face with one hand while he forked nourishment into his open mouth with the other. They held the seeds of suggestive lust, which was expressed quite blatantly, by glance and remark, to the girls serving them. That I saw with my own eyes.
The truth points to a book with a filthy reputation known to every schoolboy troubled by desire. We all know that lust starts in the mind and not in the actual reading of this or any book. Yet there is nothing to prevent these children from purchasing a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover, as so many noble Lords have told us, with intent to indulge in a feast of mental, and probably physical, impurity. Do not let us fool ourselves that youth with a mind bent on experiment and feeling the first flush of these desires will buy this book for the sake of art. This book exemplifies adultery and fornication, and I find it impossible to understand how anyone can discover in such licensed rubbish the beauty of a sacrament with the cleanliness of mind and the honour of God-fearing ideals. Contrary to some predictions, may I say categorically that we have opened the gate to any book which presents lust and unfaithfulness in what some concupiscent minds will call art. We have given a shove to the ball of social promiscuity which is, in any case, rolling downhill at an alarming rate.
548 The Christian virtues of our ancestors are being violated in order to fill the ever-bulging pockets of unscrupulous publishers with gold filched from the virtues of our children. Such men do not give a button—I could say "damn", which is a four-letter word—for virtue or the health of social morals. And as for love, charity and self-sacrifice, such so-called naive doctrines become completely unintelligible to their earthy and materialistic philosophy of personal gratification.
Let me repeat words of wisdom uttered by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham (if he will forgive me), in his speech of inauguration as Rector of Glasgow University on Friday, October 21, of this year. I am not going to quote it all; it is much too long. He said:When I survey the emotional, the intellectual, the moral, the political, even the physical litter and chaos of the world to-day, when truth has almost ceased to be regarded as objective, when kindness is made to depend on the political, class or racial affiliations, when only the obvious stands in need of publicity; when I look at popular idols with the bodies of gods and goddesses and with the morals of ferrets, lurching from one demoralising emotional crisis to another and never guessing the reason,…I will stop there, my Lords. I think I have read enough already. I cannot help feeling that the noble Viscount's words are also applicable to the kind of moral disorder we are bent on creating in this country. I believe that his original intention was to show the buffoonery that is set on the world's stage.
What is the result? Purity is sacrificed on the altar of promiscuity as woolly-headed intellectuals pour their vociferous sewage into the ears of the public. The god of progress takes up the cloak of a shabby but sensuous Bacchus washed by science and narcotics, while things of the spirit are relegated to the inferior position of discredited fairy tales. I added this in the train coming up. If Omo adds brightness to material whiteness, we surely need a spiritual detergent for the mind. What is the good of our implementing all the social justice contained in such publications as the Albemarle Report, on the one hand, and commencing a process of complete destruction, on the other, through the corruption of the very nature of youth? Why do we talk about giving parents greater responsibilities, only to deny 549 them the powers and protection which in any case is a natural God-given right through the Marriage Act and the miracle of birth? Such complete and abysmal lack of understanding of the social forces can spring only from a deeply morbid interpretation of right and wrong.
I hope that the noble Viscount who replies will not wave all this aside with the plea that I am romancing, because if he does I shall refer him to something which he has easily to hand—the means lo compare the present and the past in the pattern of social delinquency, whether adult or adolescent. Some will say that other Western countries have the liberties that we seek, but let me point out that these nations have accustomed themselves to their problems, and the social matrix has taken on a pattern which can absorb much of the harm over long periods of time In this respect I do not include Sweden as an example, because here we see the course that we ourselves are starting to develop to an even greater extent; and the harvest they are reaping—including, I believe, the problem of the suicide rate, which is higher than in any other country, and is a certain mark of despair—is well known to all thoughtful men. Also, please note the desire in many nations to clean up these running sores of society. For instance, France is at this moment trying hard to clean up her house and put it in order; and she is not alone.
In the Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health for 1959, which was published in mid-November, we find that the number of new cases of the more common form of venereal disease diagnosed at clinics in 1959 was 31,344—not a very pleasant thought—
§ LORD BOOTHBY
May I ask the noble Earl one question? What has all this to do with Lady Chatterley's Lover?
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
Corruption of youth has quite a lot to do with Lady Chatterley's Lover, if the noble Lord will forgive me for saying so. This figure of 31,344 is the highest reached since 1947, when the situation was still affected by war-time disturbance. This Report specifically mentions young people, and another Report notes that among patients attending 147 centres the largest increase 550 was in the age group between 18 and 19, the increase being 27 per cent. for females and over 36 per cent. for males.
There was a letter sent to Sir Charles Taylor, about which I heard only secondhand—and I am going to bring the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, into this, if he does not mind.
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
The letter says:I read your article… also I saw a T.V. programme about free speech with Lord Boothby on the same Sunday. Much to my regret I am an authority on pornographic literature"—that is not myself; I am only quoting the letter.Scotland Yard and some of your M.P. colleagues will vouch for this statement. I do not know when obscenity starts or when it stops, but I do know when a person comes to my shop for pornographic books for the first time I would start them off with 'Lady C.', and then they would ask for something more bold; and when they read that they would come back and ask for something even more pornographic —teenagers and these juveniles.It was like taking dope, and now that the four-letter words are no longer obscene you will have much more filth sold openly in the shops.Most of the pornographic books are written by the best authors in Britain and France under a nom de plume. In the area in 1947 there were eight book shops selling pornographic books. To-day in the same area you have forty and in each shop the weekly takings are no less than £500.I conclude the quotation, and also what I have to say.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, would he give some examples of the leading authors who write these works under noms de plume? Otherwise, I think he should withdraw such a statement.
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
If the noble Lord went to plenty of these little bookshops he may know about, I am sure he would find them there. I do not read them. I am quoting from a letter.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
But the noble Earl has made a statement which I think he should withdraw. He has said that the leading authors of this country write pornographic books under noms de plume. Will he please give some examples or withdraw that statement?
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
I certainly will not withdraw the statement, for the simple reason that I was quoting from a letter.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, with every respect to, but in complete defiance of, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, I intend to have something to say about matters that do not directly apply to the particular book, Lady Chatterley's Lover. I shall attempt to answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot: "Where are we going?"—because the issue is a much bigger one than this particular trial and its outcome. I must say that I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans that it is unfortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, should have found it necessary at the last moment to change the terminology of his Motion. The result in both our cases, I think (certainly in mine), will be that if this Motion does happen to reach the Division Lobby we shall not be able to vote for it.
I am a libertarian—one of the few libertarian Socialists that are left—and I do not like banning books. I do not like censorship. I do not think it is necessary to talk about banning books at all, because, after all, the question really is: should we have made this book easier to be obtained by youth, or age, for that matter—it does not matter so much as all that—or made it more difficult? This one makes it easier rather than more difficult. I would not ban the book. I would let the libraries, both private and public, have the book in its unexpurgated form. But I would apply this condition to it: that anyone who wants to read the book should produce his bona fides that he is not pornographically minded, and that he has some consideration for the future of literature and the interests of art. And he can best do that by asking for the book. Possibly a certain amount of courage will be needed in doing that, on the part of the majority of people. I think that would meet the case. But I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, will not press on any other occasion for interfering with the freedom of the printed word and the expression of views and opinions.
552 But do we understand, or have we grasped, what this argument is really about? I am perfectly sure that by any standard of decency you like to put up you cannot avoid saying that this book is an indecent book. Whether you like it or not, whether you defend it or whether you do not, it is an indecent book. The point about it is that it is indecent in a certain way that is very offensive, I think, to the majority of the people of this country, and certainly to the majority of people who think about matters of this kind and are at all sensitive in considering such matters. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made a speech in which, if he will allow me to say so, I thought his logic was about as full of holes as a Henry Moore statue. He used long analogies and false applications. He spoke, for instance, about boys acting Shakespeare or acting the plays of the Elizabethan era in their schools.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sorry to correct the noble Lord—I have had an exchange like this with him before—Ibut I never mentioned boys or acting at any time.
§ LORD AMWELL
It was another speech? That is the second time I have done that. The noble Lord will remember it. Whoever said it, the point is that that particular kind of argument is still as "holey" as ever. Last night I saw a play acted by the boys of a London grammar school, and acted very well. The play was Ben Jonson's The Alchemist as full of bawdy stuff as you can find in any play of the period. But I do not think much harm was done to the boys, who, since they have been given lectures upon the dramatists of that time, probably did not lack an understanding of what the words meant. I doubt whether the audience understood much of it. They did not express themselves, at any rate. The point, surely, is this: the bawdy expressions in that play were not rolled round the tongue; they were not sensuous or passionate; they were not repeated.
There may be an argument for being frank and open, using Anglo-Saxon words, and all the rest of it. There may 553 be a case for saying that an author ought to he allowed to face facts, and to describe things that are factual. That is not the point. In this book not only is the sexual act described, but it is described in intimate detail and in passionate terms—a very sensuous thing in every case. It is not a matter of just a passage here arid there, purple or otherwise. That is repeated in that book thirteen times. Why? The four letter words we have heard so much about are repeated over seventy times. Why? If it is not intended to be pornographic in its effect, what purpose is served by it? What is meant by it?
It is rather a delicate thing to refer to, but we are discussing a very important matter. I will come to the levity in a few minutes—I think this deserves a little levity on occasions. But there is one rather delicate point here. Everyone who is knowledgeable on tie subject knows that D. H. Lawrence was a sufferer, and every doctor knows that the kind of thing he was suffering from is an encouragement to an obsession. That is a fact which is generally known. He had had it on the brain from boyhood. I want to know why his obsession should be spewed out upon the laps of the rest of humanity quite so easily as is allowed at the present time.
My grandchildren can go to the end of my road and can spend 3s. 6d. of their pocket money upon a book that everybody is talking about, arousing their curiosity; and, without going into the shop, they can find it displayed and advertised in big letters in order to obtain trade for that particular book. I do not think that is necessary. I do not think that is desirable. All this talk about the interests of science and the interests of art and literature is so much poppycock. Nobody interferes with the interests of literature and the historical side of British literature. The British Museum still exists, and it has always been possible to get Lady Chatterley's Lover in the unexpurgated edition. That is a lot of nonsense, and not the only nonsense in the discussion which is taking place and has been taking place—I hope it will finish soon—upon this particular book. There is a lot of cant, and we have been told—I forget who it was who said it—to clear our minds of cant. I 554 remember there was a phrase used by the late Lord Morley, in which he said:Of all cant, the worst possible kind of cant is the cant of anti-cant.I think that is very true. We have had quite a lot of it.
I must not say anything about the jury. I do not know what kind of considerations came before their minds. But I do know what this pew of eminent authors, parsons, and all the rest of it, have said upon the matter. We had authors like Dame Rebecca West, and we had Dr. John Robinson, the Anglican Bishop of Woolwich, Sarah Beryl Jones, who is Senior Catholic Mistress at the Keighley Grammar School, Mr. G. Hough of Cambridge University, and other people, including Sir Richard Compton, and the author who retired so frequently—I wish he would come back and correct some of the impressions that he has lately made—Somerset Maugham. People of that kind have defended—
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MIN ISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord does not want to state anything which is inaccurate. I have looked through the transcript of this trial. I think the noble Lord is quite wrong in saying that Mr. Somerset Maugham was a witness for the defence. I have read the transcript of the trial, and I may he mistaken, but I think it is not I but the noble Lord who is mistaken.
§ LORD AMWELL
The noble Viscount is not mistaken. The reason why I hesitated was that it is not upon my list of witnesses. But he has had a lot to say about it, and supports the attitude of these people who, after all, were just out for a joy ride. They were out in order to "cock a snook"—if that is the expression—at their ancient opponent, the censor. There is nothing more to it than that. Of course, there is a great deal in being in the swim. I do not know about the Labour Party—
§ LORD AMWELL
I know. But I cannot understand why the Left Wing, who can find nothing at all good in capitalism, and find everything associated with the capitalist society so bad, are always 555 ready to rush to the defence of the nastiest aspects of capitalism. I wonder why the Labour Party should forget its ancient pride and its Nonconformist roots. I also wonder what would have happened to Mr. Michael Foot if he had run the recent election upon the basis of Lady Chatterley's Lover.
I do not understand the moderns—these people who call themselves modern and whose standards of value seem to be governed by clocks and railway timetables. To paraphrase Mr. G. K. Chesterton, ten-past-five on a Friday afternoon is so much better than five-to-ten on a Monday morning, simply and solely because of the passage of time. These modernists are the people who talk about Anglo-Saxon literature and Anglo-Saxon words. In my youth I did some study of English literature, and I do not remember those words. I dare say there were some words equally bad, but I certainly do not remember those particular words in any Anglo-Saxon literature that I read. But it is easy to say things like that. Anyhow, why go back to the Anglo-Saxons? Why not go back to the ancient Britons or to the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah? It would not make any difference to the argument. But that is the kind of argument which is put forward.
We have Dame Rebecca West, who says:The baronet and his impotence is a symbol of the impotent culture of his time. The love affair was a calling for the return of the soul to the more intense life that he felt people had in a different culture.That I call just humbug and poppycock, and Dame Rebecca West ought to know that it is poppycock. The idea of a story like that—it is not a story at all—the idea of a book like Lady Chatterley's Lover being a question of the soul, and impotence, and all the rest of it, reminds me of Bunthorne's song in Patience:If you're anxious for to shinein the high æsthetic lineas a man of culture rare,You must get up all the germsof the transcendental terms.and plant them everywhere.You must lie upon the daisiesand discourse in novel phrasesof your complicated state of mind,The meaning doesn't matterif it's only idle chatterof a transcendental kind.And every one will say,556As you walk your mystic way,'If this young man expresses himselfin terms too deep for me,Why, what a very singularly deep young manthis deep young man must be!'And that is the kind of basis of this modern advertising business. It is the same kind of thing that puts "pop" records up to sales of over a million. It is the racket that is called art and literature at the present time; and that is the direction in which we are going.
Somerset Maugham, who defends all this, writes about infidelity in some of his writings—and very fine they are. But he does so with reticence. Why does he take it at second-hand? If these things are so cultural and valuable, why does he not use them? The same with Dame Rebecca West. I challenge that lady to repeat the words she defends at a Foyle's luncheon, and I will undertake to arrange the luncheon for her. She will not do anything of the kind. The Bishop of Woolwich, who talks literary bunk when he ought to be looking after his own business, talks like this:Lawrence's description cannot be taken out of his whole quite astonishing sensitivity to the beauty and value of all organic relations".We know about people who are sensitive to the beauty and value of certain organic relations—the police are looking for a couple of them at the present time. That is the kind of cant and humbug that is being spread about at the present time, and the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is justified in asking where we are going.
Does the Bishop of Woolwich think that these words that he praises, that he defends and recommends as the basis of our literature, are so soulful and useful and necessary, repeated 70 times, if you please?—that is one point. If he does, why does he not use them in his own pulpit? You cannot undertake a campaign in favour of youth clubs upon the basis of the language of the urinal, because that is what it amount to. You can find all these things in lunatic asylums written upon walls. Why should they be defended by people of the calibre of these eminent authors and the rest of them who, as I have said, were out for a joy-ride on this particular occasion? We are going far away from the normal, and I doubt if this is not a question of history, repeating itself.
If the Bishop of Woolwich wants crusading material, I will undertake to 557 find him some on his own side of the water. There was a case only this year of a girl of fifteen who taunted her parents at the juvenile court with being old-fashioned and confessed to being the call-girl of 100 men of all ages and colours. Let the Bishop of Woolwich deal with a cesspool of that kind. Take our cinemas. I will take him, if he wishes, to one of the plushiest cinemas in North-West London. There he will find boys and girls, of any age from thirteen upwards, chain-smoking, shrieking and wolf-whistling whenever any near-fornication bit comes upon the screen in front of them. Only a few days ago I was at a cinema and I saw a film which, as a joke for the pleasure, if you please, of the juvenile members of the cast in the picture, spotlighted and brought to the surface the actual copulation of animals. That was in a London cinema only a few days ago, and the film is still running, I believe, at that particular cinema. Would anybody say that any purpose is served by showing that kind of stuff. Yet it was done—not a word said against it; it was done in the name of liberty, this freedom and frankness and openness, and the rest of it.
I have heard it said in this and other debates of a similar kind that there is nothing wrong with the human body. Who said there was? That is not the point. The fact that there is nothing wrong with the human body is no excuse for indecent exposure. It is the same with these animals on the screen. It could easily be said that there is nothing wrong with the animal body. I suppose that a Christian would say there is nothing wrong with creation, but there is a lot to be put right within creation. That is the kind of cant we hear at the present time. It is wrong to spread an atmosphere such as D. H. Lawrence does by such a book as Lady Chatterley's Lover, and then we are told this is such a wonderful piece of writing, such a beautiful piece of sonorous or fine literature, that we ought not to interfere with the prevalence of its distribution. We ought not to touch it. No one is touching it. Anyone who wants it can get it. I would allow him to have it. That is not the subject of the trial we are discussing at the present time
I am not a literary expert, although writing was my trade for quite a num- 558 ber of years and I do know something of the technique of writing. I do not put myself up as a pillar of judgment on literary matters, but in my own view this book is not a patch upon Sons and Lovers. That is a matter of opinion; whether it is agreed with or not is not the point. Here we have a book which would not exist but for the kind of thing we are talking about now. It is not just a few purple patches; it is the whole atmosphere of the book, the whole background of the book, and it is due to the obsession which everyone knows D. H. Lawrence had. We can, of course, be fair about that: we know; we can forgive and understand. But that is no reason, as Whistler said about certain painters, for flinging a pot of paint in the faces of the multitude.
§ LORD AMWELL
Ruskin said that about Whistler. It is very refreshing to be corrected on matters of detail so freely. I do not mind in the least. Please correct me if I am wrong. That bit of cant about the Anglo-Saxons I have referred to. Then there were Sir Compton Mackenzie and Stephen Potter. Take this idea of the human body being something that is not to be regarded as indecent or wrong. Of course that is perfectly correct. No one does. The Venus de Milo in the Louvre is a very beautiful thing. But put a pair of nylon stockings and suspender and a picture hat on the Venus de Milo and it becomes something else. That is what has happened with Lady Chatterley's Lover. It is a definite and purposeful attempt to corrupt because it comes from a corrupt mind.
I realise that it is a delicate matter, but everyone knows that on these particular issues the mind of D. H. Lawrence was corrupted. Why should we defend it? I do say, though, that Lord Teviot's idea of banning must be driven from our minds. We do not want that. We do not want a one-Party State. We do not want that kind of thing. We want to be as free as possible. I would have it all as free as possible, except when it comes to a question of obscenity. Then we should not make it easy, but should make it more difficult for the book to have a general and broad circulation, open to youth as well as to age. That 559 is all that I want to say, my Lords, I apologise for having been perhaps as blunt as some of those old Anglo-Saxon people were, but I wanted to emphasise what I consider to be the fact: that there is a tremendous amount of cant talked about the whole thing from all sides.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, before my noble and learned friend replies to the debate I hope the House will forgive me if I return to the Motion on the Order Paper. I should not intervene in this debate but for two things. I think it is desirable that some mention should be made of the Act of Parliament under which the prosecution took place, particularly by one like myself who supported my noble and learned friend Lord Birkett when he was piloting the measure through this House. The second ground on which I venture to intervene is that I should hate it to be thought that I agreed with most of the speeches that have been made, or, indeed, that most of the Back Benchers agreed with them. Although an attack has been made upon the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, I must say that I thought he put many cogent considerations before the House; and I also agree with a good deal of what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans. Of course, when we are discussing this question of obscenity we are dealing with a notoriously difficult matter, because the problem that every sane person wishes to solve is how to reconcile two desirable things—not to interfere with literature, but to discourage and to prevent pornography.
Nobody supposes that that is a simple matter. But in my opinion, if the House will study the matter, they will certainly come to the conclusion that the Obscene Publications Act, 1959, is a great improvement on the law as it previously existed, and that nothing that has happened since that Act came on the Statute Book gives us any reason to revise that opinion. Of course, that does not mean that this Statute is perfect. There are many matters in the construction of that Statute which will not be finally clear until they have been considered by the Court of Criminal Appeal in an appropriate case. If I may mention one of 560 those matters, I think it is by no means clear precisely what is meant by an "expert" in Section 4 of that measure, or how some of the witnesses who gave evidence in the recent case came to be considered experts.
What is the general principle of that Act? It is this. When a book is prosecuted under the Act the questions to be considered are, quite briefly, these two: first, is the book obscene? That means, is the book, taken as a whole, such as to deprave and corrupt the reader? Secondly, even if it is, is publication justified as being for the public good, on the ground that it is in the interests of science, literature, art or learning, or of other objects of public concern? It is on this last point, whether publication is justified as being for the public good, that the opinions of experts are admissible in evidence.
In the case that is mentioned in the Motion on the Order Paper the jury decided in favour of the defence. This may have meant either of two things. It may have meant that they did not think the book, taken as a whole, was such as to deprave and corrupt, or it may have meant that they thought that publication was justified as being for the public good. Nor is it at all certain that each member of the jury decided the case on the same ground. Provided that each member of the jury thought that one or other of those conditions was satisfied, the jury was rightly unanimous in deciding against the prosecution and in favour of the defence. Neither of those two questions is easy to determine. What I strongly suggest to the House is this: that a jury is a much better body for their determination than any single man, who may be prejudiced. I believe that the better the Judge the more he will think that a jury is the appropriate body to decide these questions. Of course, it is open to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot to say that, if he had been on the jury, he would have decided differently. I dare say he would. But that does not mean to the rest of us that he would necessarily have decided more wisely. The fact is that if you think that the general principles of this Act are right, as I do, and that a jury is the right body to decide the matter, it seems to me that it would be mischievous if every decision of a jury were to be questioned in either House of Parliament.
561 Having said that, let me go on to say that I am not going to discuss the merits of this book, which have, I think, been fantastically exaggerated. It is not, in my opinion, at any rate—here I agree with the last speaker—anything like the best book of this author. But although every one of us is fully entitled to disapprove of this book, or to dislike it, what really appals me is that some noble Lords should apparently advocate the suppression or barring of a book because they dislike or disapprove of it. At this late hour I do not wish to weary the House, but I wish to give one final assurance and recommendation to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot. I would assure him that, if he finds Lady Chatterley's Lover shocking, I find his Motion on the Order Paper more shocking. May I conclude with a word of friendly advice to the noble Lord? Let him stop reading the works of Mr. D. H. Lawrence. They obviously do him no good and seem to give him very little pleasure. Instead let him read, or re-read, John Milton's Areopagitica. It will do him all the good in the world.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, after this prolonged, heated and rather fœted debate I will not detain your Lordships for more than two minutes, but my name, for some reason which escapes me, has been dragged in on one or two occasions. I should just like to say that no one doubts the sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, less than I do. I have the highest regard for him. Indeed, my regard for him can be measured only in terms of my total disagreement with him on every single topic of to-day. But my high regard for him remains very great. The noble Lord knows that we disagree about things like television and censorship and, I am afraid, about Lady Chatterley's Lover. But he is perfectly entitled to hold his opinions, and I respect them.
The noble Lord, however, made a rather astonishing statement at the beginning of his speech, when he said that this book not only deals with adultery but deals with adultery that did not happen. That is the thing about fiction; it does not happen. That is something we have to bear very much in mind. And if the noble Lord and 562 the noble Earl, Lord Craven, who rather fortified him on this point, believes that all books or works of fiction which deal with adultery should be banned, that covers a large number of most interesting books. Anna Karenina, held by some to be a very good novel, would be entirely "out" as far as the noble Lord was concerned; and Madame Bovary, too. I could go on with the list indefinitely. I believe that if the noble Lord's thoughts were carried to their logical conclusion the whole fiction of the world would be almost quartered.
The noble Earl, Lord Craven, in his deeply morbid speech, advocated a dogmatic absolutism with a fervour such as I had never yet heard in public life. I only want to ask him: who is going to do all this to us? He said we must all be subjected to this tremendous disciplining The noble Earl thought it would be quite a good thing if we disciplined ourselves, but that because very few of us are able to do so, therefore we should have to be disciplined; and I want to know who is going to do the disciplining. I suggest that we might have a good try at doing a little self-disciplining. I am sure I carry the right reverend Prelate on that point.
§ THE EARL OF CRAVEN
My Lords, I am glad to see that the noble Lord backs me up in the view that we ought to do a little self-disciplining; but I did not mean to direct the expression at him personally.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
No, but the noble Earl seemed to imply that most of us are unable to discipline ourselves, and that someone else would have to do it in a big way; and I was only mildly curious to know who was to do it. I am bound to say that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans came as a refreshing stream of delightful cold water in the middle of an otherwise rather heated debate. I should only like to say on the subject of this particular book that I agree with noble Lords who have said that a great deal of the evidence at the trial seemed to be pretty fair nonsense. I agree with everybody who says that this is not, by any means, the best book of the author. I think it is pretty boring.
I am happy to report to noble Lords that the only two children of 15 that I 563 know myself to have taken up the book to read, both stuck in it at a quite early stage, because they were so bored, and could not finish it. I do not think it is deliberately pornographic, nor do I think it is deliberately cynical, as undoubtedly were a great many Restoration works which are in free circulation and can be purchased at any library. And I think cynicism is a far more dangerous thing, from the point of view of youth, than the kind of lunatic sincerity, though passionate sincerity, that D. H. Lawrence undoubtedly had.
Speaking in broken tones, the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, asked the rhetorical question: where are we all going? I would suggest to him that we are all getting along pretty well, and going fairly well in the right direction. He suddenly dragged in, for no reason that I can see, the Wolfenden Report—I do not know why, or what that has to do with Lady Chatterley's Lover, or why it should indicate that we are going anywhere in particular. But I want, if I can, to cheer him up a little, because he sounded so frightfully depressed at that point. I see no reason at all for his pessimism. I hate censorship. There has been a healthy distaste of censorship expressed on both sides of the House this afternoon. I am absolutely in agreement with my noble friend who preceded me that the jury is the best judge in all these matters. I think this is an excellent Act. I think this is not a very good Motion. I shall certainly vote against it if it comes to a Division.
The only thing I should like to suggest to your Lordships and to Her Majesty's Government is that if anything is going to be done, then this Act might be extended a little to cover the Press and horror comics, because while I am not in the least concerned about Lady Chatterley's Lover, I am concerned about the stuff we have been having to read in recent months, particularly about things that have happened or are alleged to have happened, in some Sunday newspapers, some of which are a real disgrace to any civilised country. I am concerned, too, at some of the horror comics which are on sale to children everywhere and which encourage sadism in any shape or form. I am inclined to think that it might be a good idea to widen the scope of this 564 Bill to such a point that juries might be given the opportunity of considering whether a particularly vicious article or horror comic was not having a really bad effect on the younger generation, because I believe that these things are far worse than Lady Chatterley's Lover.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, why does the noble Lord imagine that such things are not already within the scope of the Act?
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I should like, first of all, to assure my noble friend Lord Boothby that the articles and things to which he was referring in his more recent discussion are most certainly within the Act, without amendment. There is no question about that, and my noble friend Lord Cones-ford was perfectly right. As my noble friend has reminded us, the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, asked at the beginning of his speech: "Where are we going to?" This is a question I have asked myself, I am afraid, rather more than once during the course of this rather wide discussion. I feel that if I do take a little longer to answer than perhaps I might, I ought really to do so for the sake of clarifying one or two issues. Before I do so I have two confessions to make.
The first is that Penguin Books, who were the firm of publishers involved in the case, published two of my books in 1947 and 1959. I do not think that that is a circumstance which has influenced my mind in any way, nor do I think, strictly speaking, it is an interest, in a sense, that one is bound to declare. But, lest others should take a different point of view, I hasten to disclose the facts myself. Both books sold rather well. Neither of them sold quite as many as 1½ million copies, nor was any second printing of this scale contemplated by Sir Allen Lane. But we all know that, thanks to the eminent but somewhat humourless crowd of experts who gave evidence at the trial, the 1½ million copies of this book are, of course, entirely distributed among those whose sole regard is for its literary merit.
565 The other confession I have to make is that, like some other speakers, when this book was first published between hard covers some 30 years ago I was just in the intermediate stage between "Mods" and "Greats" and tried to read it, but utterly failed. It was not because it was disgusting but I am bound to say I found it dull. I was in some doubt in my mind whether I ought to read the book in order to qualify myself for this debate. I thought that perhaps it would be more fun to be unprejudiced; but in the end I succumbed to whatever temptation my noble friend Lord Teviot had placed before me, and perhaps I am now thoroughly depraved and corrupted. But having read, I suppose, every word of it, I am bound to add that my opinion of my literary judgment as a young man of 21 is considerably fortified by my experience of reading the entire book. But this is a personal judgment and I do not propose to rely on it for the purpose of my answer. I may also add that I have read the transcript of the trial for the same purpose, in order to qualify myself to reply to the debate.
I cannot forbear to ask your Lordships whether we really ought to have held a debate like this at all. I am of the opinion, very strongly, that this House ought not to be very lightly made a Court of Appeal from a verdict of a jury in a criminal case. What would people say if, for instance, we substituted in the words of the Motion "Dr. Bodkin Adams" for Lady Clzatterlev's Lover? What kind of precedent is it that my noble friend has set for us this afternoon? Where are we going to, when a trial in a criminal case, properly conducted by one of the most distinguished and experienced criminal Judges, has resulted in an acquittal? Other noble Lords have disagreed with him, but my noble friend, especially in an interruption of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, does not pretend that he complains of the law. What he is complaining of is the verdict,
Of course, in Parliament it must be, as a residual function of the Constitution, open to everybody to discuss everything on a substantive Motion. I am bound to say I am not sure, having read the re-amended version several times, 566 whether this is a Motion or an Unstarred Question. But it must be open to anybody in Parliament to discuss anything, including the verdict of a jury or judgment of a judge, on a substantive Motion. I give my noble friend the credit for having drafted a substantive Motion. But I think it is a right in relation to criminal trials, especially when these result in acquittals, which should be exercised with the greatest caution; and I very much doubt whether some of the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon exercised that caution.
I believe myself that public opinion generally would say that, whatever the merits or demerits of any particular case, once a defendant has been put in peril on an indictment in a criminal cause and acquitted, he should be allowed to go free without further interference, except in so far as the general law can be stated to be at fault. And if the general law is to be held in question. then it is my own opinion that it is far better discussed in principle as a general question of policy than in relation to a particular verdict. Having said that, I must say that it was not plain from the Motion whether what my noble friend was complaining of was the general law, but it is now plain from what he has said that he is not doing so; he is complaining of the particular verdict. Whatever may be the desirability of the House discussing particular verdicts, I am quite sure of one thing; it would not be tolerable for a Minister to express an opinion, and I do not propose for a moment to say whether I approve or disapprove of the verdict of the jury, who were seized of the matter and heard the evidence and saw the witnesses.
But I should like to endorse one or two general questions of policy which I think arise out of this debate, and I may, if I feel I have not imposed too far on the House, make one or two general observations about the book. But I would start at the point at which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, began his speech. That is, we passed less than two years ago an Act of Parliament, the Obscene Publications Act. This was not, if I may venture to correct the noble Earl, Lord Craven, a statutory instrument /his was a most carefully drafted 567 Act of Parliament, passed after prolonged discussion in both Houses, hardly, in the end, with dispute. It succeeded a prolonged discussion in the Press and in the country. There were at least two sessions of a Select Committee of another place which preceded and recommended it. It was supported by the Government. It was introduced into this House by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, in one of the most splendid speeches which he has given us, and it was passed with general approval.
My Lords, the principles of that Act I do not understand my noble friend to dispute. They are that something is obscene if, taken as a whole, it tends to deprave and corrupt. What could be better expressed than that? If there is a better definition no one has suggested it this evening. There was then further provision: it being recognised that there are a number of works which contain obscene matters and which might come within the definition but which ought, none the less, to be printed, it was decided that expert evidence should be given and that it should be open to a jury to find—the burden of proof resting, unusual in criminal trials, upon the defence—that it was for the public good. notwithstanding the obscene character of a particular work. I have yet to know that there is anything wrong with that Act of Parliament. I have yet to see any particular criticism of it which has been made in this House or outside it which would justify the general jeremiads which have emerged from the noble Lord. Lord Amwell, or the noble Earl, Lord Craven.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, I must correct the Minister there. I made no attack upon the Act. I am not a lawyer, and I thought it would be out of place to do anything of the kind. My attack was on the book and upon the possibility of that book having sanction and recommendation from a body of people who, in my opinion, ought to know better.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I repeat, where are we going? It was under this Act, which I now have it directly from the noble Lord he accepts, and which contains the provisions which I have described, that the book was tried properly before a jury: and the jury decided either that it was not obscene at 568 all or that, notwithstanding that it was of an obscene character, it was in the public interest and for the public good that the book should be printed.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, the point is that I did not raise that issue. I do not think the subject should have been discussed as it has been discussed this afternoon. Once having it upon the Order Paper, surely I am entitled to say what I think of the issue at large and of the book we are discussing.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords nobody is in the least objecting to the noble Lord's saying what he thinks; and the noble Lord should not object to my saying that I do not agree with him. That is the first point I would make. It is to my mind utterly unthinkable that, so soon after an Act has been deliberately passed by Parliament, after so much discussion and with such a degree of unanimity, we should be asked, as a result of a single verdict, to amend it in a material respect. I think it would be utterly unthinkable that we should.
The point is this. My noble friend Lord Teviot did not ask us in terms to amend the general law. I should like to know what he really is asking us to do. He has asked us specifically to take steps to ban—merciful word!; what does it mean?—or to prevent further publication of works of a particular but, none the less, not specified kind—
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
—especially those of a particular named author. This we have no power to do, unless we are to contemplate legislation against individual authors or works, which I should have thought was utterly out of the question. But if that is not what we are being asked to do, I really do not know what my noble friend is asking for.
The other point I would make while discussing the question of law is this. The test of obscenity, whether under the old law or the new, is not whether we agree with the matter or like the matter; it is not even whether the matter is shocking or disgusting. The question, since the new Act, is whether the tendency of the work, taken as a whole, is to deprave or corrupt. And the jury's verdict, in my submission, ought to be 569 accepted on its face value: that either the book does not come within the definition or, if it does, there are substantial reasons of the public good justifying its publication. I hope I shall not be wearying the House—
§ LORD AMWELL
Why not? You interrupt enough, and it is an important point here. The question has now gone from my mind and I shall have to leave it now. I am sorry.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I never mind the noble Lord interrupting me: I am always glad to answer his questions, and nothing would stop me from doing so if it had not slipped his mind.
My Lords, this brings me to the book itself, because, if I am not wearying the House at this late hour, there are one or two issues of general policy which (if I might forget for the moment the fact that I am officially answering for the Government) I should like to put before the House on the general issues which have been raised. The book does raise one or two quite separate issues—and I am afraid I am going to be fairly outspoken about this, for a reason which wilt emerge. The first is the issue of the so-called four-letter words. My Lords, I must say at once that I do not like these words. They do not exalt, although Lawrence undoubtedly did intend them to exalt, the seriousness, and certainly not the spirituality, of the sexual relationship; still less do, they exalt, as Lawrence certainly did intend to exalt, the tenderness which should subsist between sexual partners.
I find that this view is very generally shared. Incidentally, it was shared by one of the witnesses for the defence, Mr. Graham Hough, who wrote a book about Lawrence in which he said this about the four-letter words:There are arcana in nature as well as religion, and nothing that affects the emotional life as intimately and individually as sex can or ought to be fully' in the open'.He goes on:The passages we have just discussed, describing the sexual act more fully than has ever been done before, can be justified by the whole intention of the book. But when we 570 come to the obscene words and Lawrence's campaign for their revival, I think we encounter an excessive reaction to censorship and prudery. Lawrence uses in Lady Chatterley live four-letter words not commonly seen in print, and uses them probably not more than a hundred times in the course of a longish novel…Of course, it is true that we have no proper vocabulary to discuss sex … Lawrence's remedy is to use the obscene words, familiarly and seriously, so that the tabooed acts and parts of the body can be talked about in natural and native words. An admirable intention, no doubt, but doing no great credit to his literary sense. Writers are masters of language, but they can only become so by respecting its nature. No writer can alter the connotations of a whole section of the vocabulary by mere fiat, and the fact remains hat the connotations of the obscene physical words are either facetious or vulgar. And very useful they are in these contexts. But in any context where dignity, tenderness, respect for one's own person or that of another, is concerned they are impossible. The effect of putting them into Mellor's mouth as they are is either to create the impression that he is, as one of Lawrence's acquaintances described him, a crude sexual moron, or that whole passages of his discourse are disastrously out of character.My Lords, I entirely endorse that view. But, to come back to the Motion, I would add that I cannot think that your Lordships should waste much lime in discussing the four-letter words. They are generally known to everybody above a certain age, and I cannot believe that there are many people who will take much harm by seeing them in print, although I personally regard such printing as an act of had taste. In certain contexts they might be extremely offensive and obscene; and in such contexts they would certainly be prosecuted; and, if they were, would quite certainly be convicted by juries. I would tell my noble friend, if it comforts him, that, since the Act of Parliament was passed, there have been quite a number of prosecutions which have been successful. There is only one, I believe, which has been unsuccessful, and that is this one which we are discussing to-night.
Now, my Lords, I believe that one's attitude to the book must in the end be determined by one's attitude to the repeated, detailed and colourful descriptions which occur in it of the sexual act. I should like to say that in my belief some of these are exceedingly tasteless, and some others are vulgar and absurd. I cannot conceive of anything more calculated to arouse the sniggering and offensive attitude to sex, which Lawrence particularly disliked, than Mellors' 571 lengthy, and to my mind ridiculous and offensive, apostrophe to a portion of his own anatomy in a local dialect. Again, I am exteremly glad to see that this view was supported by at least one witness for the defence in his evidence in the case. I could also refer to the long and, to my mind, highly ludicrous passage in which the lovers entwined wild flowers in each other's bodies. I do not myself believe that this is the stuff of which great literature is made. I do not believe that it achieves the purpose Lawrence undoubtedly had in mind. In the mind of the average adult or adolescent, I can only think that it would excite derision at the author and want of respect for the very thing the author is asking them to hold in reverence.
My Lords, I come now to the more difficult and fundamental question. No one criticises Hamlet because it is a play about murder no one criticises Phedre because it is a play about incest; and no one criticises Antony and Cleopatra because it is a play about adultery. Why, then, should they criticise Lady Chatterley's Lover because it is a novel about sex?—moreover a novel about sex which preaches mutuality and tenderness between lovers, and reverence, and not levity, about the subject? Surely the answer is because, unlike the authors of the plays I have mentioned, who allowed the dramatic quality of the situations they described to stimulate reflexion in their hearers, Lawrence consciously, deliberately, and even stridently, preaches at his readers. Other authors can complain if their works are criticised for their subject matter as distinct from their words: Lawrence cannot.
But, my Lords, the real question underlying this debate (which is, at least in my view, irrelevant to the jury's verdict. but highly relevant to our attitude towards public affairs) is whether it is really legitimate, as my noble friend Lord Conesford said, to seek to prevent the publication of books simply because they embody a philosophy with which one does not happen to agree. My Lords, I am one of those who do not agree with that philosophy. Unlike some of the eminent but, to my mind, as I have said, somewhat humourless witnesses for the defence, I would not recommend the book as reading material 572 for the young and impressionable. It is, I think, essentially a book for those with sexual experience rather than for those without it. But is it to be said that such books cannot be published at all for fear of harming the innocent? It is possible that this view exaggerates the extent to which the innocent are likely to be harmed by works of this nature. Although, frankly, I should have preferred to see it between boards and priced at 30s. than in a paper back and priced at 3s. 6d., I am afraid I must tell your Lordships that I personally know of no principle of jurisprudence which can differentiate between 30s. and 3s. 6d. or between boards and a paper back.
My Lords, I do not myself value very highly even the artistic integrity of the work. Its whole purpose is to describe a relationship as valid and about to become permanent. But, to me at least, the mise en scène is unlikely and the principal characters improbable; and the story ends just when a writer of real artistic integrity ought to have begun answering some of the questions he has raised. Before I accepted as valid or valuable, or even excusable, the relationship between Lady Chatterley and Mellors, I should have liked to know what sort of parents they became to the child, as yet unborn, that they were made to hunch rather irresponsibly into the world; I should have liked to see the kind of house they proposed to set up together; I should have liked to know how Mellors would have survived living on Connie's rentier income of £600, introduced, it seemed to me, solely for the purpose of avoiding the question, which other lovers, adulterous and otherwise, have to face, of how they are going to earn their living; and I should have liked to know whether they acquired a circle of friends, or, if not, how their relationship survived social isolation. It is not, I believe, hard to accept that a physical relationship can become absolutely delightful in the first transports of sexual encounter. But if Lawrence was going to discuss the sexual act at all, I should have been interested if he had gone on to tell us what Mellors and Connie did about it after fifteen years of cohabitation.
Of course, the Bishop of Woolwich made an ass of himself. I wish Bishops would sometimes consult their educated laity before humiliating them in this way. 573 But the true Christian criticism of Lawrence's book is not that it is too realistic, but that it is not realistic enough; not that it is too outspoken, but that it is not outspoken enough. If he had been a story-teller, he would have been entitled to leave the story unfinished as he did. But he was not content to be a storyteller: he set himself up as the prophet and preacher of a new religion in opposition to Jesus Christ. In such circumstances, to have left unanswered the questions which I have indicated was to stigmatise himself. whatever his literary skill, not only as irresponsible but, by the standards upon which he chose to be judged. as a charlatan and a fake.
My Lords, I end with a word to my noble friend, and to other people who, like myself, share the Christian faith. It may well be that we should like to preserve the innocence of our children and of society from the disasters which we believe will follow from the adoption of false creeds, false prophets and false Christs. We cannot do so by prohibiting their works by an act of law. We have to gird our loins and fight, and the battle must involve a willingness on our part to meet our enemies in the open; to defeat them in argument armed with the like weapons of tongue and pen which they themselves have selected, prepared to show that our own beliefs are more realistic and more rational than theirs. We shall not succeed in this day and age by prohibiting their works merely because we regard their opinions as destestable.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I am very gratified by the speech of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. There is an enormous amount in it, which makes me feel justified in putting down this Motion. I should just like to say this to the noble Viscount. He mentioned, I think at the beginning of his speech, that there was some doubt in his mind, or that I ought to have had some doubt, about the legality or advisability, in the eyes of the law, of this Motion being put down at all. But I would remind the noble Viscount that I had a little talk with him, quite privately in his room, about the terms of the Motion, and I went away quite satisfied that I was not out of order in any sense of the word.
574 There are just one or two things that I should like to say with regard to this word "expert". Who is an expert? Simply because someone or other has an opinion, is he or she to be called an expert? If your Lordships remember, the note of the cross-examination of one of these experts at the trial by learned counsel, Mr. Griffith-Jones, included this passage:Q. "That is your opinion? A. Yes, it is.Q. "You would not mind if it was put on the television, would you? A. Oh no, that must not be done.Q. "But why not? If there is nothing wrong about this and it is not obscene, why not put it anywhere?Actually, I think that now, if anything of that sort were put on to a gramophone record—and I understand they are now being manufactured—or shown in a cinema, there is no penalty.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am not anxious, of course, to interrupt my noble friend, but it might do a great deal of harm if that remark went unchallenged. The fact that a novel in print has been acquitted by a jury should offer no encouragement to anyone to offer it in any other medium, illustrated by pictures or recorded in sound. They would be different works, and there has been no verdict of a court in relation to them. Nor would I give an expression of opinion as to whether there is a penalty.
§ LORD TEVIOT
In that case, am I to understand that the manufacture of these discs, as reported in the Daily Telegraph. would be illegal?
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Only a jury can say whether a particular work is illegal, but obviously they would have no kind of protection from the verdict in relation to the novel.
§ LORD TEVIOT
Then, my Lords, there it is. I wish to inform the House that in no circumstances am I going to ask leave to withdraw the Motion. I therefore beg to press the Motion standing in my name.
§ On Question. Motion negatived.
§ House adjourned at six minutes past eight o'clock.