Scandal in the Office

What book could be so scandalous that Joan is discreet about it? In “Marriage of Figaro”, Joan (Christina Hendricks) discretely returns Lady Chatterley’s Lover to another secretary, Marge (Stephanie Courtney). When Marge gives it to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), Joan advises her that it would attract the wrong type of person if she read it on the train. Written by Englishman D.H. Lawrence in the early 1920s, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was one of the most commonly banned books of the early 20th Century. It is the story of an aristocratic woman in post-WWI England whose husband became injured after their marriage, driving her to elicit affairs with a playwright and the gamekeeper on her estate. The novel’s explicit descriptions of sex and its use of words that were unprintable at the time led to its being banned in the United States.

Book banning was a major issue across America in the early 20th Century. In 1930, US Senator Smoot petitioned the recent repeal of banning foreign published books. The Senator declared “I'd rather have a child of mine use opium than read these books” and “I've not taken ten minutes on Lady Chatterley's Lover, outside of looking at its opening pages. It is most damnable! It is written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would obscure even the darkness of hell!” His fire and brimstone speech convinced the Senate to return to the old system of banning foreign published books. In 1959, however, a court case repealed the ban and salacious foreign novels could then be legally enjoyed by Joan, Peggy and Marge. Even though the book was legal, its themes were still extreme taboos in polite society. Fortunately, we can all now enjoy Lady Chatterley’s Lover by simply visiting our local bookstore; just don’t take it on the Metro, as it still attracts the wrong kind of people.

Links Referenced: Bibliomania and "National Affairs: Decency Squabble" from Time.

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