D.H. Lawrence
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Lady Chatterley's Lover - Study Guide
Sons and Lovers
The Rainbow
The Rainbow - Study Guide
Women in Love
Introduction
(1885-1930)

"The Bridge to the Future is the phallus" (Sex, Literature and Censorship (1955))

David Herbert Lawrence was born on September 11, 1885 at Eastwood in Nottinghamshire, the son of a coalminer and a woman who had been a teacher. He spend much of his childhood ill and confined to his bed, on one occasion due to contracting tuberculosis. His parents would argue constantly and Lawrence tended to side with his mother, to whom he grew very close. Living in near poverty his mother was determined that he should not become a miner like his father. Instead she encouraged him academically and Lawrence was persuaded to work hard at Nottingham High School until the age of fifteen when he had to seek employment in a surgical goods factory. This period of his life and his friendship with Jessie Chambers is reflected in Sons and Lovers, a novel published in 1913 and its character Miriam. Saving the necessary 20 fee, Lawrence attained a scholarship to University College, Nottingham where he worked to get a teacher's certificate from 1906 onward.

At this time he began writing and produced a first novel, The White Peacock (1911) and the follow-up, The Trespasser (1912). However, his teaching career was soon destroyed by the death of his mother which predictably shook him up terribly. He became extremely ill and was encouraged to give up teaching whereupon he wrote and published one of his most famous novels, the autobiographical Sons and Lovers (1913). Initally, though, it was rejected by Heinemann and Lawrence wrote to his friend Edward Garnett, "Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rutters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse-less lot that make up England today. They've got the white of egg in their veins and their spunk is that watery it's a marvel they can breed". In all his rage, he had clearly not foreseen the incredible publishing hurdles to come. His fine letters were edited by Aldous Huxley himself.

In 1912, he had eloped to the continent with the German wife of his old Nottingham professor, Frieda Weekley, and he married her in 1914. However, this was by far the worst time for a British subject to marry a German and the Lawrences unsurprisingly despised the First World War and became very unhappy until its end in 1918. The couple moved continually and Lawrence wrote four very personal travel books as a result. They were, however, very poor and their relationship was often marred by tempestuous spririts. At least during the war they had stayed put in England, unfit for service, making friends in literary circles such as Huxley, Mansfield and Russell. In 1913 he published Love Poems. The next novel, The Rainbow (1915), began Lawrence's troubles with the censor. His descriptions of sex and usage of swear words left him with his first difficulties with the law. A volume of poems, Look! We Have Come Through! was published in 1917 and two years later he and Frieda left for Italy.

With continued difficulties with publishers, Lawrence managed to release Women in Love, the sequel to The Rainbow. Other novels such as Aaron's Rod (1922) appeared with new subject matter and the influence of Nietzsche. A year later, his Australian novel, Kangaroo, was published along with a critical book about Classic American Literature. Lawrence travelled around the world, in New Mexico producing The Plumed Serpent (1926) along with many short stories and poems. Difficulties and arguments with Frieda continued and after she left for Europe alone he followed her to England. Miserable at the experience they moved to South America again then to England again, Germany and Italy. More trouble was to come with his last novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), which was initially only printed privately in Florence. It caused a furore when it was pronounced obscene. Only thirty years later did it appear uncensored in the United Kingdom and America. In his dying last years, Frieda took Lawrence to Germany and the South of France looking for cures but he died at Vence, near Nice, on March 2, 1930.

It is hard to see in many cases why Lawrence's works caused such an uproar, and are tame compared to much that has come since. His brutal honesty, realism, and often didactic sense of man's potential to experience life with true sensitivity keep his works in the literary canon however. Unusually for an author, except perhaps Thomas Hardy, his poems, short-stories and novels are all almost equally respected and studied. His eight plays have never received much attention at all, however, and three were only published in the 1960s. Lawrence had this to say on the subject: "I always say, my motto is, 'Art for my sake'".

Links
The Rananim Society Archive of information about the novelist. Includes an extensive biography covering his early life and his entire writing career

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