DH Lawrence And The Paperback Novel At Durban House

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 07 September 2007
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a paperback book cover with a woman in the arms of man

DH Lawrence as pulp fiction? An American paperback of A Modern Lover that appeared in 1950. Courtesy University of Leicester

A new exhibition at The Durban House in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, traces the history of DH Lawrence in paperback and looks at the way his public image has been shaped and changed by paperback marketing.

DH Lawrence and the Paperback Revolution is showing in the Rainbow Gallery at the house until November 1 2007 and is part of the DH Lawrence Festival in the area celebrating the author’s life and works.

The publicity surrounding the famous obscenity trial of Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960 ensured the book became a million best-seller as a Penguin paperback.

a paperback with a plain cover

The Tauchnitz edition of St. Mawr and The Princess from the 1930s. Courtesy University of Leicester

Yet even before 1960, Lawrence had been one of a very few British writers published by Penguin in print runs of thousands. As early as the 1930s he had also been published in paperback by publishers Tauchnitz and Albatross.

Following his death in 1930 his growing popularity coincided closely with the paperback revolution of the 20th century.

The exhibition that explores this phenomenon and Lawrence’s role in it has been put together by Peter Preston from the University of Nottingham and Dr Paul Poplawski from the University of Leicester.

a photograph of a man in a bowler reading a paperback behind a copy of the Times watched by men on either side of him

The publicity surrounding the famous obscenity trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover ensured the book became a million best-seller. Courtesy University of Leicester

“Paperbacks are taken for granted now, but they are a relatively recent phenomemnon,” said Dr Poplawski. “From the 1930s they had an important democratising effect on British society by making high-quality books easily affordable and available to everyone.”

“It’s fitting that a working class writer like Lawrence would have been one of the first to have been widely promoted in this format and, in surveying the history of Lawrence in paperback, our exhibition also surveys an important phase in publishing and social history.”

The Durban House is well placed to hold the exhibition as it is only a short walk from D.H. Lawrence's birthplace and Eastwood's town centre. Today it houses an important permanent collection relating to Lawrence including the original court copies of Lady Chatterley's Lover.

a photograph of several Penguin paperback books

The iconic Penguin paperbacks. Courtesy University of Leicester

It was also the former wages office of the Barber Walker mining company where DH Lawrence's father worked and where the young Lawrence would have gone to pick up his father’s weekly pay.

This year’s DH Lawrence Festival, which runs until September 14 2007 is the fourth annual celebration of the life and work of the author.

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