D. H. Lawrence: Biography and Literary Works

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Born: Eastwood, England Date: September 11, 1885

Died: Vence, France Date: March 2, 1930

Principal Works

      Novels: The White Peacock, 1911: The Trespasser, 1912; Sons and Lovers, 1913; The Rainbow, 1915; Women in Love, 1920; The lost Girl, 1920; Aaron's Rod 1922; Kangaroo, 1923; The Boy in the Bush, 1924; The Plumed Serpent, 1926, Lady Chatter ley's Lover, 1928; The Virgin and the Gipsy, 1930.

      Poems: Love Poems and Others, 1913: Amoves, 1916; Look! We have Come Through, 1917; New Poems, 1918; Bay 1919; Tortoises, 1921; Birds, Beasts, and Flowers, 1923; Pansies, 1929; Nettles, 1930; Last Poemsy 1932; Fire and Other Poems, 1940.

      Short Stories: The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, 1914; England, My England, 1922; The Ladybird, 2923; St.Mawr, together with the Princess, 1925; The Woman Who Rode Away, 1928; Love Among the Haystacks, 1930; The Lovely Lady and Other Stories, 1933; A Modern Lover, 1934.

      Essays: Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious, 1921; Fantasia of the Unconscious, 1922; Studies in Classic American Literature, 1923; Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine, 1925; Phoenix, 1936.

      Plays: The Widowing of Mrs.Holroyd, 1914; Touch and Go, 1920; David, 1926; A Collier’s Friday Night, 1934.

      Travel Sketches: Twilight in Italy, 1916; Sea and Sardinia, 1921; Mornings in Mexico, 1927; Etruscan Places, 1932.

      Letters: The Letters of D.H. Lawrence, edited by Aldous Huxley, 1932. The passion, conflict, turmoil, and striving that were to mark the brief life and fiery art of David Herbert Lawrence were there before him, clustering about his cradle in the grimy mining town of Eastwood in Nottinghamshire, England. Ten years before his birth on September 11, 1885, a genteel, ambitious Schoolmistress. Lydia Beardsall, and married an untamed, intensely physical coal miner, John Arthur Lawrence, only to learn in bitterness thereafter that they inhabited different worlds even while they lived in the same house and raised five children. Physically delicate, their sensitive fourth child cleaved to his mother and with her encouragement excelled at school and went on to win a scholarship to Nottingham High School in his twelfth year. After graduation, he worked briefly and unhappily as a manufacturer’s clerk in 1899 until he suffered a serious attack of pneumonia. After a long convalescence, he took a position as a pupil-teacher in the Eastwood British School in 1902. He taught there and then at Ilkeston, Derbyshire, until September, 1906, when he entered Nottingham University (having two years earlier placed in the First Division of the First Class in the nationwide King’s Scholarship Examination) for a two years academic program leading to an Arts degree. Qualified as a teacher two years later, she became a junior assistant master at Davidson Road School, in Croydon, a suburb of London. He was to teach there until November, 1911, when he was struck down again by pneumonia.

      As early as 1905, however, his literary interests had begun to burgeon. Sharing the joys of voracious reading with Jessie Chambers, the daughter of a family at whose home he had spent part of his convalescence five years earlier, he had begun to experiment with verse and fiction. At the same time he was being tom by the conflicting emotional demands of Jessie and his mother, which he was to record so vividly in Sons and Lovers. His mother’s death, in January 1911, was followed in a few weeks by the publication of the novel he had begun with Jessie’s encouragement; The White Peacock. The story of a girl and two suitors, narrated by a character strongly resembling Lawrence, it enunciated many of the themes he was to treat throughout his career; competition between the over-cerebral, over-civilized man and the earthy, vital one, as well as the need for truth and naturalness in the relation between men and men, and men and women. The Trespasser, based on the work of a London friend, Helen Corke, was a very uneven novel of frustrated love which followed a year later. In 1913 Lawrence’s reputation began to grow, for he published not only a book of poems, but the powerful Sons and Lovers, one of the many of his finest novels. Strongly autobiographical, it related the growth of a sensitive young man in a coal mining environment through emotional turmoil in his relations with a spiritual sweetheart, an earthy one, and his possessive mother, from whose influence he liberates himself only after her death.

      A year earlier Lawrence’s personal life had undergone as great a change as his professional one. A month after they had met in April 1912, Lawrence had eloped with Frieda von Richthofen Weekley, mother of three small children and wife of a professor of Philology at Nottingham University. This was the first move of the many which were to continue for the rest of Lawrence’s life and to take him around the world. While Frieda and Lawrence lived in poverty on the continent pe continued at work on poems, short stories, a novel, and a play. They returned to England in 1914, when they were married, to find themselves the objects of hostility and absurd charges of pro-German sympathies with the outbreak of World War I. An added blow was the reaction to The Rainbow, published in 1915. This novel of three generations of people like Lawrence’s own, with its forthright treatment of sexual passion and conflicting values and philosophies, was denounced as obscene by many reviewers, and the entire edition was destroyed by court order. Poverty stricken, compelled to leave Cornwall by the military, and badgered by the conscription authorities despite incipient tuberculosis, the Lawrences briefly lived in borrowed apartments in London and cottages in Berkshire before departing for Italy for three years in 1919. The books of poems which had followed Rainbow were themselves followed by Women in Love, which used some of the same characters as the earlier novel and introduced clearly recognizable fictional portraits of J.M. Murry, Katherine Mansfield, Bertrand Russell, and Ottoline Morel as well as Frieda and Lawrence himself. The novel, which showed the influence of the new psychological concepts of Sigmund Freud, seemed to contain a rejection of European culture and to plead for allegiance to a vital and primitive one which would reinfuse life and awareness of fundamental human drives. Besides his preoccupation with what he felt to be healthy and spiritual sexuality, there was throughout the book his vivid intuition about people, his preternatural sensitivity to nature, and his ability to infuse life into whatever he described. Clear too was his belief in the necessity for following instinctual feelings, for blood consciousness, as he called it, rather than sterile cerebral consciousness. This book far overshadowed The Lost Girl of the same year, an attempt, after the manner of Arnold Bennett’s naturalism, to write a novel that would sell well. His ideas about psychology were elaborated in essay form in Psycho-analysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious.

      Invited in 1921 to come and live at Taos, New Mexico, by Mabel Dodge Luhan, who was building an artists colony there, Frieda and Lawrence set out for the American southwest by way of Ceylon, New Zealand, and Australia. Before they reached America, in September 1922, Lawrence was to have absorbed enough material for two novels of Australia. They were preceded by Aaron's Rod, which dealt with the attempt of an established man, in the familiar mining environment, to start all over in middle life. In addition to his earlier themes, Lawrence had introduced two new ones: the drive to power and to domination over one’s fellows. These studies were amplified by Kangaroo in 1923, a novel in which a man much like Lawrence is torn between the claims of Kangaroo, a political leader of the Australian miners, and those of his own wife. This idea of the prophet, the leader of an almost—Utopia, was to loom larger with time in Lawrence’s own thought after a month in a sanatorium, on his insistence he was moved to a villa at Vence, above Cannes. There on March 2, 1930, with Frieda at his side, he died. He left behind him an extraordinary personality. The Boy in the Bush of the same year is a rewritten version of a novel by Martin Skinner, an adventure novel of early nineteenth century West Australia.

      When the Lawrence arrived in Taos in September, 1922, he found himself as much at harmony as he was ever to be with any place. In Old and New Mexico the plains and mountains, the Indians with their tribal brotherhood and primitivism, all seemed to Lawrence a part of the answer to the problem of European decadence and personal fulfillment. Building, gardening, riding, baking, painting, Lawrence found time too to write verse and begin a novel presenting a modem incarnation of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. The Plumed Serpent was a violent novel in which both Christianity and sophisticated Europeans bowed before the strength of the blood consciousness of Indian primitivism and the primal instinctive behavior of its representatives. But now a near-fatal tuberculous hemorrhage complicated by malaria showed Lawrence how ill he was. His visa thus, unrenewable, Lawrence returned to England and thence to Italy. Here in 1928 he privately printed Lady Chatterley's Lover, whose reception, with charges of obscenity and with seizures and threats of prosecution, dwarfed those of his earlier works. With unprecedented frankness of language and accuracy of detail, Lawrence presented the fulfillment of the unsatisfied wife of a maimed aristocrat by an ex-officer, now a game-keeper and a vital Lawrentian hero. The Virgin and the Gipsy was also set in England and bore many similarities in tone and character to Lady Chatterley's Lover. Lawrence’s health steadily worsened, and after a month in a sanatorium, on his insistence he was moved to a villa at Vence, above Cannes. There on March 2, 1930, with Frieda at his side, he died. He left behind him an extraordinarily large body of work for so short a career, nearly all of it strongly marked by his unmistakable literary and philosophical imprint. His body was later reinterred at Taos.

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