From the decade that fashion forgot, a men’s style catalog that reflects more innocent times with some questionable dress sense and a bizarre advert for “New Adam Scented & Flavored Genital Towelettes.”
The Ah Men Super Summer Catalog 1972 can be viewed here.
It is surprising to think that fifty years ago today, D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published and sold legally in British bookshops for the very first time.
The initial print run of 200,000 sold out, and within a year a total of 2m copies were sold, outselling the Bible. As was reported by the BBC at the time:
London’s largest bookstore, W&G Foyle Ltd, said its 300 copies had gone in just 15 minutes and it had taken orders for 3,000 more copies. When the shop opened this morning there were 400 people - mostly men - waiting to buy the unexpurgated version of the book.
Hatchards in Piccadilly sold out in 40 minutes and also had hundreds of orders pending.
Selfridges sold 250 copies in minutes. A spokesman told the Times newspaper, “It’s bedlam here. We could have sold 10,000 copies if we had had them.”
Lady C, as it has become known, has also become a bestseller in the Midlands and the North where demand has been described as “terrific”.
Originally published in Italy in 1928, Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been banned in the UK on grounds of obscenity, though a limited, expurgated and heavily censored imported version had been available, where words, such as ‘penis’ were replaced by ‘liver’, and sections of sexually explicit “purple prose” removed.
All this was to change, when in 1959, the Obscene Publications Act stated that any book considered obscene by some but could be shown to have “redeeming social merit” might still published. This encouraged Penguin Books to prepare 200,000 unexpurgated copies of Lady C for release in 1960 (to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of Lawrence’s death), in a bid to test the novel’s merit against the Act. This led to a now infamous trial in October 1960, where a host of established authors lined-up to give evidence in defense of the Lawrence’s novel, including T. S. Eliot, Doris Lessing, Aldous Huxley, Dame Rebecca West. Defense lawyer, Michael Rubinstein had cleverly contacted over 300 potential witnesses, ranging from writers, journalists, teachers, politicians, academics, TV celebrities and theologians. Many writers wrote letters in support to Rubinstein including:
E. M. Forster wrote:
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a literary work of importance, written by a leading 20th-century novelist. It is surprising that such a work should be prosecuted here, and if it is condemned, our country will certainly make itself look ridiculous in America and elsewhere.
I do not think that it could be held obscene, but am in a difficulty here, for the reason that I have never been able to follow the legal definition of obscenity. The law tells me that obscenity may deprave and corrupt, but as far as I know, it offers no definition of depravity or corruption.
I am certain that it is neither erotic nor pornographic, nor, from what I knew of the author, would there have been any erotic or pornographic intention in his mind.’
Graham Greene, August 22 1960:
‘It seems to me to be absurd that this book should ever have been classed as obscene and I should say that its tendency as Lawrence intended is to treat the sexual side of a love affair in an adult fashion. I can’t Imagine that even a minor could draw any other conclusion from the book than that sexual activity was at least enjoyable.
I am myself dubious how far Lawrence was successful in his intention. I find some parts of the book rather absurd and for that reason I would prefer not to be called as a witness in case I was forced into any admission harmful to the Penguin case.
Aldous Huxley, October 9 1960:
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an essentially wholesome book. Its treatment of sex is at once matter-of-fact and lyrical. There is no prurience in it and no trace of that sadistic perversion which is such an odious feature of many popular novels and short stories that, because their authors prudently avoid the use of certain four-letter words, are permitted to circulate freely.
That a beautiful and serious work of art should run the risk of being banned because its creator (for aesthetic and psychological reasons into which I need not enter) chose to make use of certain words that it is conventional to regard as shocking – this surely is the height of absurdity.
Evelyn Waugh, August 21 1960:
‘Your MBR/VS of 18th. I have not read Lady Chatterley’s Lover since it first came out. My memory of it is that it was dull, absurd in places and pretentious. I am sure that most of its readers would be attracted by its eroticism. Whether it can “corrupt” them, I can’t tell, but I am quite certain that no public or private “good” would be served by its publication. Lawrence had very meagre literary gifts.
Not everyone was happy about supporting the book, Doris Lessing wrote: “I don’t think this novel is one of Lawrence’s best, or a great work of art, I’m sorry, if there is to be a test case, that it will be fought over this particular book.” Likewise, Iris Murdoch tempered her support with “Lady Chatterley’s Lover certainly may strike one as an eminently silly book by a great man.”
Surprisingly, support came from unlikely sources, the Bishop of Woolwich supplied a written deposition, which stated:
‘Archbishop William Temple once said that Christians do not make jokes about sex for the same reason that they do not make jokes about Holy Communion – not because it is dirty, but because it is sacred.
‘Lawrence did not share the Christian valuation of sex, but he was always straining to portray it as something sacred, in a real sense as an act of Holy Communion. I believe that Christians in particular should read this book, if only because Lawrence believed passionately, and with much justification, that they have killed and denied the natural goodness of creation at this point.’
The trial lasted 6 days and marked the demise of one generation, and the arrival of another. This was most notable when the Prosecuting Counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones asked:
“Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”
If there was a line that negatively affected the Prosecution’s case then this was it. For it revealed Griffith-Jones lived in an archaic and class-divided world where everyone apparently had servants; a world separate from that of wives and servants, and this the majority of Britons. It was the clearest picture of the two worlds that existed back then - the world of “class, rank and privilege, ranged against ordinary people.”
Griffith-Jones’ comment highlighted this divide, and re-enforced the notion Penguin was on the side of “the common man.” In his closing speech, defense lawyer, Gerald Gardiner said:
“I do not want to upset the prosecution by suggesting that there are a certain number of people nowadays who as a matter of fact don’t have servants. But of course that whole attitude is one which Penguin Books was formed to fight against, which they have always fought against…
“Isn’t everybody, whether earning £10 a week or £20 a week, equally interested in the society in which we live, in the problems of human relationships including sexual relationships? In view of the reference made to wives, aren’t women equally interested in human relations, including sexual relations?”
Penguin’s success was a victory for all publishers, and the release of the Lady Chatterley’s Lover, on November 10 1960, marked the start of the cultural and political change that defined the decade.
In London this week, the Wellcome Trust opens an exhibition called High Society exploring “the role of mind-altering drugs in history and culture,” which challenges “the perception that drugs are a disease of modern life.”
From ancient Egyptian poppy tinctures to Victorian cocaine eye drops, Native American peyote rites to the salons of the French Romantics, mind-altering drugs have a rich history. ‘High Society’ will explore the paths by which these drugs were first discovered - from apothecaries’ workshops to state-of-the-art laboratories - and how they came to be simultaneously fetishised and demonised in today’s culture.
Mind-altering drugs have been used in many ways throughout history - as medicines, sacraments and status symbols, to investigate the brain, inspire works of art or encounter the divine, or simply as an escape from the experience.
Exhibits will include: Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ manuscript, said to have been written after an opium dream; a hand-written manuscript by Captain Thomas Bowrey describing his crew’s experiments with Bhang - a cannabis drink - in 17th-century Bengal; a bottle of cocaine eye drops; and a hallucinogenic snuff set collected in the Amazon by the Victorian explorer Richard Spruce. The exhibition will also feature contemporary art pieces exploring drug use and culture, including Tracy Moffat’s Laudanum portrait series and a recreation of the Joshua Light Show by Joshua White and Seth Kirby.
Last week, the news took on a decidedly trippy tinge. First, Professor David Nutt, sacked as an adviser to the Labour government for criticising its policy on drugs, sparked controversy when he published research suggesting that heroin was less damaging than alcohol. The following day, Californians went to the polls to vote on a proposal to legalise cannabis. In a dramatic move, President Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, threatened to intervene if the outcome was a “yes” (it wasn’t).
It is timely, then, that this Thursday, the Wellcome Trust will open the doors on High Society, an exhibition exploring the history of mind-altering drugs. In keeping with the Wellcome ethos, the exhibition blends a scientific and cultural approach, with curiosities such as a 20 metre opium pipe – an installation by the Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping – sitting alongside more scientific (if no less bizarre) exhibits, such as a Nasa experiment that studied the strange webs spiders spin after they are given different types of drugs.
Amid the debate about drugs, one thing is often ignored: their surprising potential in medicine. Most people are familiar with the idea that cannabis can be used therapeutically, chiefly in relieving pain or the nausea caused by chemotherapy, but also to moderate autoimmune and neurological disorders. But according to Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and director of the Beckley Foundation – a charity that promotes research into drugs and consciousness – we have not fully harnessed its potential. “The prohibition of the past 50 years has dramatically slowed the advancement of knowledge in the area,” she says. “In combating the recreational use of cannabis, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water.”
More surprising is the fact that harder drugs may also have therapeutic potential. Class A substances such as LSD and ecstasy, Feilding claims, may have a wealth of health benefits. “We need to wash these substances of their taboo by using the best science,” she says. “Opium and heroin are already widely used in hospitals. Hallucinogenic drugs, however, are victims of a prohibition that came into place in the Sixties.”
“The potential of Class A hallucinogens for clinical use is tantalising,” says Mike Jay, curator of the exhibition. “Psychedelic drugs have been subjected to the most stringent legislation. Yet when administered clinically, they are non-addictive, non-toxic and effective in the smallest quantities.”...
...“Every society is a high society,” he says. “The question is, what are we going to do about it? If illegal drugs can be used as effective medical treatments, it would be wrong not to research that rigorously.”
High Society runs from11 November 2010 - 27 February 2011 at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, Admission Free
Derek Jarman died too soon, and his loss has been immeasurable to world cinema.
I first met Derek in 1989, when he was interviewed about his work, by Richard Jobson, on a BBC lunchtime magazine program. It was a coup to get him, more so as he openly discussed AIDs, and his own HIV status, at a time when large sections of the media were spouting hatred and bigotry against the gay community. At the time, Jarman was in Glasgow for an exhibition he was presenting at the Third Eye Center, the show consisted of homophobic front pages culled from tabloid newspapers, plastered on the walls around a tarred and feathered, barbed-wire cage, inside which, two young men lay naked on a bed. The effect was powerful and moving.
Steve Carr, a film-maker and on-line content editor, has made this excellent new short film about Jarman, and as he exclusively tells Dangerous Minds:
The film was part of a work related project. We were asked to produce something that has or had a huge influence in our own life/lives. Derek Jarman’s work influenced my interest in queer art in the late 80s at a time when Britain was dominated by anti-AIDS rhetoric and a Thatcherite run government. My short film is composed of clips from many of Derek’s films and documentaries, compressed into a 10 minute short about his life and the difficulties people had from finding funds to show their work. Derek, being a film maker and being HIV positive was an example of the prejudice he faced in this right-wing Britain of the time.
Bonus clip of Jarman’s Super 8 footage after the jump…