of the Work
of D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence 1885-1930
I came to D. H. Lawrence as most young people through the promised sexiness of Lady Chatterley's Lover. I prefer The Rainbow actually, with its biblical references, natural world of rain and the moon at night, opposites, and hope, rooted in the country, village, mining and finding oneself through a complexity of relationships. I've only read blocks of it (and some others) but then I'm a hopeless reader of fiction. Then there are the films often by Ken Russell which I have seen but I preferred The Rainbow with Imogen Stubbs and Kate Buffery shown on BBC TV.
Main works (only)
As well as novels he wrote poetry, short stories, plays, travel writings, essays, and translated books.
Some well known films
Chronology of Life
Born Eastwood, Nottinghamshire
Beauvale Board School, Eastwood; Nottingham High School
Pupil/ assistant teacher at the British School, Eastwood; p/t student at Ilkeston Pupil-Teacher Centre
Student at University College, Nottingham
Teaching at Davidson Road School, Croydon; engaged to Louie Burrows; death of mother; no longer engaged; resigns after long illness
To Nottinghamshire again; meets Frieda Weekley and both go to Germany and then Italy
Marries Frieda Weekley (in England)
Settles in Mexico (with much world travel as far as Australia, United States, European countries)
Italy travel (also sees Eastwood) and settles
Settles in France
Dies in France
- Lawrence works are quite autobiographical and rooted in his formative experience in Nottinghamshire.
- Uncompromising writing, to attempt to go beyond boundaries.
- Pushes what is possible from writing and fiction, working the language, though to get through the language to the reality of the core experience. Culture is a mask to remove.
- Lawrence moved from sensitivity and humanity in Sons and Lovers to doctrines and language-texture in The Plumed Serpent.
- D H Lawrence was also a painter and was pursued by censors for them too.
- Lawrence is interested in the interior person.
- Lawrence looks at the personality and the body, and both intimacy and distance in relationship, and does this through phraseology that has some ambiguity but delivers a power of response and emotion.
- Characters respond to events or happenings, sometime extreme or profound, with new insights, wisdom or meaning.
- Sex and death are reflections upon the breadth of life.
- Scenes are not just geographical settings but meant to add symbolic power.
- People live, of course, in social context, but in the end the meaning derived comes down to how people relate to one another or do not at many levels at both conscious and less than conscious (or becoming conscious) levels.
- Ideas are played with in the books and sometimes rejected by characters
- Lawrence grows at a distance to society around him.
- He reflects this distance in how he writes, sometimes bitterly.
- The intention is to draw the reader in, and even demand agreement with the voice he presents.
- The moment is part of the flow of time.
- What is ordinary is added to with the extraordinary.
- His sense of place is divided between the natural, the mythic and the imposed mechanical.
- Most of all Lawrence wants to represent and heighten life itself.
- Humanity is revered.
On Sons and Lovers
- Sons and Lovers is highly autobiographical.
- Lawrence illustrates class and social background and transition through personalities.
- Lawrence heightens the lack of gentility in Paul Morel (here from rural mining to artist), that in his raw working state he seems natural and he prefers the company of common people.
- But, encouraged by his social climbing mother, she points out how he has moved on already, and his old allegiance is sentimentality.
- Lawrence in later writer increasingly sympathises with the workers and less with the instrumental bosses, as in Women in Love, and so perhaps it is Lawrence who sentimentalises, even when working men are unreasonable.
- This is so with the gamekeeper in Lady Chatterley's Lover.
- But he hadn't started doing this in Sons and Lovers, and so Paul Morel is exposed for the man he becomes.
- In his carpentry and metalwork he has a relationship with his children, not seen elsewhere, and as he becomes more of an artist his personal relationships change - less attached to his mother.
- Lawrence uses changing social conditions as more than a backdrop to changing personal relationships, but the focus is on the personal relationships and these can be seen as a form of social history.
- There are some opposites represented like village life set against emerging urban life and the rural year set against industrialised continuation
- Merrie England village life is sees happy people compared with Tom Inger's view of soulless working people.
- Winifred Inger is an idealist feminist, but more practical seeking, and for a time is an assistance for Ursula's own idealism and passion.
- Ursula Brangwen represents the individualist, romantic and passionate.
- Ursula Brangwen also represents the natural, the big wide world, and freedom
- Winifred lets Ursula down by falling for and marrying into the otherness of the moneyed world of her oppressing uncle.
- At one time Ursula wanted money, but not his kind, and she was optimistic about achieving through schoolteaching.
- After experiencing and falling under the crushing nature of urban schooling, she achieves more potential in college.
- Anton Skrebensky represents the nation and order, though he has an internationalist background, and without home.
- In love, Ursula follows her grandmother's advice to seek love for who you are, not what you are wanted for.
- In the end, the gap between her individualist idealism and Skrebensky's collective conformity cannot be bridged.
- Ursula's father represents the fulfilled if unambitious craftsman and art lover, and though proud his possessiveness downplays her hope for more.
- Ursula has a religion
of Christ the divine not human, not of human striving but a pure ideal, for which the moon is a symbol.
- Winifred rather has a Buddhist like neutrality against passion and pain, but takes pleasure where it presents itself.
- The rain is dangerous and in a flood swallows up (it can kill), the moon represents idealised passion, and heavy night time warmth involves sexual passion as can water and fire.
- The Rainbow is a symbol of hope.
- The Rainbow and Women in Love are attempts to get into unconscious motives behind actions.
- The Rainbow maintains the myths
of Noah, the Israelites' self understanding and the promised land.
- There is a reworking of religious myth deemed to be true if in the secular.
- Lawrence is ambiguous about Christianity.
- On the one hand he draws on the biblical myth, as in The Rainbow.
- He also sees the church and cathedral as a place of art.
- However, Christian codes and manners restrict.
- With Ursula, in The Rainbow it is Christ unbound with God, not Christ suffering, that is preached.
- Lawrence came to reject Christianity more as he grew older.
- He also rejected universalism.
- Religion is instead in sexuality and love of the particular.
- The most profound comes from the impact of the body.
Lady Chatterley's Lover
- The novel protests against hypocritical morality: a love affair between a member of the aristocracy and a gamekeeper, and in the explicit style of the literature itself.
- Connie and Mellors shape their moral code themselves beyond contemporary culture.
- Mellors seems to want sex rather than love and humours love.
- It includes, in its depth, the female as well as male experience of sex.
- There is perhaps deliberate humour in the book around the sex which can expose those who treat it too earnestly or with serious disapproval.
- Sir Clifford, with the influence of Mrs. Bolton, wants to restore his male power through hiring an engineer, going into a coalmine and commanding technology, as well as by getting into politics.
- This form of power is contrasted with sexual power.
- Mrs Bolton leaves behind her past life linked to her dead husband to promote Clifford's social and economic goals and thus herself, whereas Connie would have had him doing anything much but inconsequential story writing (what does this say about D. H. Lawrence at his last novel?).
There were three Lady Chatterley's Lover versions:
The First Lady Chatterley (1928)
||This was not particularly sexual and although it has the affair it is more social and political.
John D. H. and Lady Jane (1932)
||The gamekeeper is called Parkin, not Mellors, who is more tender and not bitter. She is Lady Jane, not Lady Chatterley. There is more discovering themselves and not just about sex, though the sexual healing is in it.
Lady Chatterley's Lover (1959)
||This is the swearing version, with a hard and bitter gamekeeper engaging in the sexual act with her ladyship, and led to the notorious and ground breaking trial.
Some general points from dialogue between Mark Kinkead-Weekes and Ian Gregor in Watts (1976), 135-152
An interpreted summary of points made about Sons and Lovers in dialogue by Laurence Lerner and Barry Supple in Watts (1976), 49-52.
(intro.) (1976), The English Novel, Questions in Literature series, London: Sussex Books.
Links and detail