Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories
‘Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?’ Rakewell’s readers will likely be familiar with those infamous words from the obscenity trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960. What might not be commonly known is the fact that the presiding judge, Sir Lawrence Byrne, had reason to shift in his seat a little at that point in the prosecution’s preliminary address. As an upcoming sale of the judge’s copy of D.H. Lawrence’s novel reveals, his wife had not only read it (good God!), but made marginal notes for her husband, underlining the sexually explicit passages. On the Central Criminal Court’s headed stationery, Lady Byrne had also helpfully scribbled a cheat-sheet of significant moments in the novel, adding damning commentary such as ‘love making’ and ‘coarse’.
Included with lot 159 (estimate £10,000-15,000) in Sotheby’s A Private View sale on 30 October is also a blue-grey damask bag, thought to have been specially stitched by Lady Byrne so that His Honour could carry the offending opus into court undetected. It puts Rakewell in mind of what the Kindle did for bashful readers of Fifty Shades of Grey. But times have happily moved on: no need, as there was for Lady Chatterley, to try the quality of E.L. James’s prose to establish literary merit before allowing publication. Lucky, that.