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The act had finally won an important victory for serious writing by ruling that a work might be pronounced obscene and yet be published if it was shown to be “for the public good” and “in the interests of science, literature, art, learning, or of other objects of general concern.” Furthermore, if a publisher was prosecuted under the new act he would be allowed to call expert witnesses to testify to the merit of the work in question, evidence that had not been admissible in previous prosecutions.
He began by reminding the jury of how the new Obscene Publications Act worked, and then passed on to outlining the book that was to be their weekend reading. Now he came to Lawrence’s deliberate experiment with the use of Anglo-Saxon four-letter words. Griffith-Jones had been counting them up, too, and his arithmetic rang through the court as baldly as a grocery list—this one thirty times, that one thirteen times, this and that six times each.
If the jury registered any shock then, by the end of the case it was clearly regarding the items as neutrally as though they were indeed salt, pepper, or mustard. Griffith-Jones said solemnly, was whether they would wish their wives or their servants to read such a book.
Now the eighteenth-century portrait stretched to include not only a spaniel but a wife and a row of blooming, mobcapped maidservants, all literate but needing to be sheltered, and in slight bemusement we stared at Mr.
Griffith-Jones, who could thus make the centuries roll back from the Old Bailey and leave us with Sir Clifford Chatterley at unchanging Wragby, dressing to go down to dinner.
A microphone was placed in the witness box, but if anybody concerned in the proceedings lowered his voice the least bit, what he was saying disappeared into the woodwork, and the whole place sighed and creaked and groaned disconcertingly at every footfall.
The barristers, in their wigs and gowns, sat on the right-hand side of the courtroom, and Sir Allen Lane, a compactly built gray-haired man with a quietly pugnacious expression, sat at a table in the center with another Penguin director, Mr. There was no one in the dock, since the Director of Public Prosecutions had named Penguin Books as defendant in a general lump, without isolating Sir Allen or any of his fellow-directors.
The Old Bailey today is hygienic but as gray as an airport terminal or a railway station.
Voices occasionally boom messages over the public-address system, and people sit endlessly on benches clutching documents and handbags with the distrait air of being in transit between destinations and having left their ordinary lives, like surplus baggage, with one of the policemen at the door. 1 Court, where Penguin Books was to be tried, is the court where many big murder trials have been held—an unexpectedly small chamber, full of light woodwork, at one end of which the judge sits in a high-backed chair with a sword in a velvet scabbard hanging on the wall behind him.
Griffith-Jones had been busy with his sums of addition? They were to continue the reading party on Monday, and, if necessary for slow readers, on Tuesday and Wednesday.