13 FEBRUARY 1959, Page 8

IN HIS LETTER last week Mr. Douglas Woodruff created two

abstractions, 'the law' and 'literary merit.' In his letter this week 'literary merit' still holds its place, but this time it is opposed not by 'the law,' but by 'indecency.' The abstractions of this week seem to me as unreal as those of last week. Up till recently the Lord Chamberlain banned any play that dealt with homosexuality; and the pre-war Hollywood Hay's Office code had similar silly rigidities—you could not, for example, show man and wife together in a double bed : they had to be in twin beds. Now on these matters neither the Lord Chamberlain nor Holly- wood any longer acts by rule of thumb. In other words, they realise it is wrong to think a par- ticular situation indecent as such : whether or not something is indecent depends upon how it is treated. And, of course, the same thing applies to books. Nobody is suggesting that literary merit should be pleaded as a defence to a charge of pornography.. What the defenders of Lolita are saying is that because of the way Lolita is written it is not pornographic.