'Lady Chatterley' just got ruder - and the Brits won't like it

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The Independent Online

It's quill pens at dawn! Doris Lessing is about to be unwittingly caught up in a dispute over sinister American attempts to "dumb-down" the work of DH Lawrence.

Later this year, Penguin's US arm will reissue Lady Chatterley's Lover, with a new introduction by Lessing, in American stores.

So far so good. But the new edition will also feature, on its front and back cover, a series of bizarre cartoon strips making unsavoury, controversial (and often untrue) allegations about DHL's private life.

A draft version seen by Pandora includes one cartoon in which the novelist beats his wife, Frieda - saying "I am the master, you bitch" - and another where he murders his mother with an morphine overdose.

Meanwhile, its back page contains a comic strip entitled: "who, aside from Frieda, DHL fucked and who he perhaps fucked".

The whole thing has outraged British scholars, who say almost every detail is inaccurate. Tomorrow, the DH Lawrence Society meets to decide how to respond.

"I think the design stupid and un-funny," says one member. "It's degrading of everything it shows, describes and suggests. I can't imagine that Doris Lessing will be too happy to be associated with it, either."

* When Christopher Eccleston quit as Dr Who after just one series, he was said to have tired of the superficial demands of prime-time TV.

Little surprise, then, to hear that the earnest actor, left, has agreed to make a (resolutely lofty) return to the London stage

He will play Christopher Marlowe in The School of Night, a play about the 16th-century playwright's mysterious death, which opens next month.

Eccleston's agent, Lorraine Hamilton, said yesterday that he's currently in rehearsal for the show. It will be staged at the Comedy Theatre, and directed by Bill Alexander.

Meanwhile, theatreland pundits are waiting with bated breath to see if the occasionally prickly Eccleston will be granting them interviews.

"In most West End plays, the leading man will do the rounds," reports one. "But Eccleston can be tricky, and hated the media circus that came with being a Doctor Who star. So we aren't exactly counting chickens."

* Never let it be said that John Reid's Ministry of Defence hasn't got its finger firmly on the button of modern international affairs.

Some bright spark from South Wales (where else?) recently contacted the MoD under the Freedom of Information act to ask: "I would like to know who won the Second World War."

A copy of the reply, by civil servant TP Simcock has fallen into my hands: "This letter is to inform you that we do not believe that the information you have requested is held by the Ministry of Defence."

Bizarrely, Mr Simcock then advises this Welsh genius to read a book. It is called Why the Allies Won.

* Not before time, old age is starting to catch up with The Who. Plans for a world tour this summer - their first since the 1980's - have hit trouble because Pete Townshend is going deaf.

This has (so far) prevented him writing enough new songs for the gigs, which are supposed to be complemented by a "comeback" album of fresh material.

"The tour depends on me writing new songs," says Townshend, left "Many people may wonder why such a simple thing should take so long.

"I've spoken about the problem of cracking the right kind of material, but there's something else: I have hearing trouble."

As a result, Townshend must now take lengthy breaks between recording sessions. "I've unwittingly helped to invent and refine a type of rock music that makes its principal proponents deaf," he complains.

* Has Jennie Bond had a boob job, at the grand old age of 55? Unlikely though it sounds, her gravity-defying cleavage is the talk of rural Devon.

Locals at the Pig's Nose pub in East Prawle, report that the BBC's former royal correspondent pitched up at a New Year's Eve fancy dress party, dressed as a burlesque stripper.

"Her costume left nothing to the imagination," I'm told. "It was the sort of thing Jordan might wear on a Hen night. She strode up to the bar, wiggled her enormous boobs in my face, and ordered a round of drinks. I'd had several pints, but still didn't really know where to look."

Sadly, Pandora was unable to track Bond down yesterday. But a friend denied that she'd been under the surgeon's knife: "She was actually wearing large fake latex boobs, like Gazza," I was told.