Quite a number of books are now becoming available as e-books and many of them for free. This is because they are out of copyright and so you can retrieve some of the books that became lost during moves from country to country. Some were sold, others given to charity shops; I remember a car fully loaded with boxes of books that were given to a local shop rather than trying to move them all into a new home. In this way, I lost all of D.H. Lawrence’s books, including Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Afterwards there is always a sense of loss, you remember that you had such and such a book and now it just is not there anymore. Nevertheless, somehow different ones creep back into your house, books I mean, shelves full, and again you are lost for space to put them all.
E-books, though never a full replacement for the physical thing, really are a wonderful substitute: I can restock the books I used to have, all loaded in one simple paperback size electronic gadget. I came across the e-pub version of Lawrence’s Lady C and I reread the book: it must be at least 30 years ago that I read it first and although you remember the story because of the controversy it caused when it was first published, I could not really remember what I thought about the writing itself, how it was written, whether I enjoyed the style. It seems strange to reread it now remembering all the furore and how at the time you read it with glee. Now it all seems a bit dated, the lady and the gamekeeper, the obsession with the lovemaking: all old hat now. We have got used to reading much more graphic stuff and then more again. Although I read it through in one go, even the writing seems at times stilted, as if the author is hovering slightly above all that is going on there between the lady (Connie) and Mellors. But then I suppose that was the way people behaved, there never was the gush of confessions that come at us from all sides, in newspapers, on the internet, facebook, videos and DVDs and films etc. etc. Everyone opens up everything to everyone else. These characters in Lawrence’s books have more dignity; there is an outward appearance to be kept.
To my pleasant surprise, a number of newspapers also have taken up the story of ‘Lady C’, quite recently in connection with the house in Derbyshire where DH Lawrence used to live and then in today’s Guardian, John Sutherland considers the impact the book had on the evolution and acceptability of words such as ‘fuck’ into the public domain. It seems incredible and fantastic that the book, once publication was allowed, sold 2m copies in a year. And now we are still downloading the e-pub version. For free.