Letter: Early glimpse of Lady Chatterley

I WAS interested to read the article "Publish and be damned", about the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover (Insight, 31 October).

At that time I was a first-year student, at 18, at Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University. I was much amused by the publication of DH Lawrence's controversial book. Readers may remember the Paperback Bookshop in Crichton Street. It was on the ground floor and basement. The shop was run by Jim Haynes, the co-founder of the Traverse Theatre.

When Penguin's Lady Chatterley's Lover arrived in this shop, an elderly lady from the flat above came down to buy a copy, picked the book up with tongs, and ceremoniously burned it on the wall outside, in the view of the stuffed rhinoceros head that adorned the shop front. I think she had a student audience, but I'm sorry to say I was not there, I was at classes, and read about it afterwards in a Scotsman Publications newspaper.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I did not buy a copy of the book because I had already read it at the age of 14! It was at that age that to my amazement I discovered a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover published in Norway, in a brown paper cover, amidst leather-bound classics, on the bookshelf in my father's study. I have to say he was probably unaware of the naughty book in the study. He had hundreds of books, and was more concerned with business matters than scanning his bookshelves. My father was an extraordinarily generous host, and the house was often full of all sorts of guests, young and old. The naughty book had probably been put there as a prank by a mischievous guest. But what a find for a 14-year-old, and needless to say, I read it.

After I graduated in 1965, my first exhibition of paintings was (in the Festival) in the basement of the Paperback Bookshop, which was then run by Bill Donkin, and it was well reviewed by Sir Sidney Goodsir Smith in The Scotsman, but I'm afraid I never met the old lady who burned the book.

Lady Lucy Mackay, Edinburgh