David Herbert Lawrence

(11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930 / Nottinghamshire / England)

Biography of David Herbert Lawrence

David Herbert Lawrence poet

David Herbert Lawrence, novelist, short-story writer, poet and essayist, was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England, in 1885. Though better known as a novelist, Lawrence's first-published works (in 1909) were poems, and his poetry, especially his evocations of the natural world, have since had a significant influence on many poets on both sides of the Atlantic. His early poems reflect the influence of Ezra Pound and Imagist movement, which reached its peak in the early teens of the twentieth century. When Pound attempted to draw Lawrence into his circle of writer-followers, however, Lawrence decided to pursue a more independent path.

He believed in writing poetry that was stark, immediate and true to the mysterious inner force which motivated it. Many of his best-loved poems treat the physical and inner life of plants and animals; others are bitterly satiric and express his outrage at the puritanism and hypocrisy of conventional Anglo-Saxon society. Lawrence was a rebellious and profoundly polemical writer with radical views, who regarded sex, the primitive subconscious, and nature as cures to what he considered the evils of modern industrialized society. Tremendously prolific, his work was often uneven in quality, and he was a continual source of controversy, often involved in widely-publicized censorship cases, most famously for his novel Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). His collections of poetry include Look! We Have Come Through (1917), a collection of poems about his wife; Birds, Beasts, and Flowers (1923); and Pansies (1929), which was banned on publication in England.

Besides his troubles with the censors, Lawrence was persecuted as well during World War I, for the supposed pro-German sympathies of his wife, Frieda. As a consequence, the Lawrences left England and traveled restlessly to Italy, Germany, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, the French Riviera, Mexico and the United States, unsuccessfully searching for a new homeland. In Taos, New Mexico, he became the center of a group of female admirers who considered themselves his disciples, and whose quarrels for his attention became a literary legend. A lifelong sufferer from tuberculosis, Lawrence died in 1930 in France, at the age of 44.

Views

Critic and admirer Terry Eagleton situates Lawrence on the radical right wing, as hostile to democracy, liberalism, socialism, and egalitarianism, though never actually embracing fascism. Some of Lawrence's beliefs can be seen in his letters to Bertrand Russell around the year 1915, where he voices his opposition to enfranchising the working class, his hostility to the burgeoning labour movements, and disparages the French Revolution, referring to "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" as the "three-fanged serpent." Rather than a republic, Lawrence called for an absolute Dictator and equivalent Dictatrix to lord over the lower peoples.

Lawrence continued throughout his life to develop his highly personal philosophy. His unpublished introduction to Sons and Lovers established the duality central to much of his fiction. This is done with reference to the Holy Trinity. As his philosophy develops, Lawrence moves away from more direct Christian analogies and instead touches upon Mysticism, Buddhism, and Pagan theologies. In some respects, Lawrence was a forerunner of the growing interest in the occult that occurred in the 20th century.

Poetry

Although best known for his novels, Lawrence wrote almost 800 poems, most of them relatively short. His first poems were written in 1904 and two of his poems, Dreams Old and Dreams Nascent, were among his earliest published works in The English Review. His early works clearly place him in the school of Georgian poets, a group not only named after the reigning monarch but also to the romantic poets of the previous Georgian period whose work they were trying to emulate. What typified the entire movement, and Lawrence's poems of the time, were well-worn poetic tropes and deliberately archaic language. Many of these poems displayed what John Ruskin referred to as the pathetic fallacy, the tendency to ascribe human emotions to animals and even inanimate objects.

Just as the First World War dramatically changed the work of many of the poets who saw service in the trenches, Lawrence's own work saw a dramatic change, during his years in Cornwall. During this time, he wrote free verse influenced by Walt Whitman. He set forth his manifesto for much of his later verse in the introduction to New Poems. "We can get rid of the stereotyped movements and the old hackneyed associations of sound or sense. We can break down those artificial conduits and canals through which we do so love to force our utterance. We can break the stiff neck of habit...But we cannot positively prescribe any motion, any rhythm."

Lawrence rewrote many of his novels several times to perfect them and similarly he returned to some of his early poems when they were collected in 1928. This was in part to fictionalise them, but also to remove some of the artifice of his first works. As he put in himself: "A young man is afraid of his demon and puts his hand over the demon's mouth sometimes and speaks for him." His best known poems are probably those dealing with nature such as those in Birds Beasts and Flowers and Tortoises. Snake, one of his most frequently anthologised, displays some of his most frequent concerns; those of man's modern distance from nature and subtle hints at religious themes.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree

I came down the steps with my pitcher

And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

(Excerpt, "Snake")

Look! We have come through! is his other work from the period of the end of the war and it reveals another important element common to much of his writings; his inclination to lay himself bare in his writings. Although Lawrence could be regarded as a writer of love poems, his usually deal in the less romantic aspects of love such as sexual frustration or the sex act itself. Ezra Pound in his Literary Essays complained of Lawrence's interest in his own "disagreeable sensations" but praised him for his "low-life narrative." This is a reference to Lawrence's dialect poems akin to the Scots poems of Robert Burns, in which he reproduced the language and concerns of the people of Nottinghamshire from his youth.

Tha thought tha wanted ter be rid o' me.

'Appen tha did, an' a'.

Tha thought tha wanted ter marry an' se

If ter couldna be master an' th' woman's boss,

Tha'd need a woman different from me,

An' tha knowed it; ay, yet tha comes across

Ter say goodbye! an' a'.

(Excerpt, "The Drained Cup")

Although Lawrence's works after his Georgian period are clearly in the modernist tradition, they were often very different to many other modernist writers, such as Pound. Modernist works were often austere in which every word was carefully worked on and hard-fought for. Lawrence felt all poems had to be personal sentiments and that spontaneity was vital for any work. He called one collection of poems Pansies, partly for the simple ephemeral nature of the verse but also as a pun on the French word panser, to dress or bandage a wound. "The Noble Englishman" and "Don't Look at Me" were removed from the official edition of Pansies on the grounds of obscenity, which he felt wounded by. Even though he lived most of the last ten years of his life abroad, his thoughts were often still on England. Published in 1930, just eleven days after his death, his last work Nettles was a series of bitter, nettling but often wry attacks on the moral climate of England.

O the stale old dogs who pretend to guard

the morals of the masses,

how smelly they make the great back-yard

wetting after everyone that passes.

(Excerpt, "The Young and Their Moral Guardians")

Two notebooks of Lawrence's unprinted verse were posthumously published as Last Poems and More Pansies. These contain two of Lawrence's most famous poems about death, Bavarian Gentians and The Ship of Death.

David Herbert Lawrence's Works:

Novels

The White Peacock (1911), edited by Andrew Robertson, Cambridge University Press, 1983
The Trespasser (1912), edited by Elizabeth Mansfield, Cambridge University Press,1981
Sons and Lovers (1913), edited by Helen Baron and Carl Baron, Cambridge University Press, 1992
The Rainbow (1915), edited by Mark Kinkead-Weekes, Cambridge University Press, 1989
Women in Love (1920), edited by David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1987
The Lost Girl (1920), edited by John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1981
Aaron's Rod (1922) edited by Mara Kalnins, Cambridge University Press, 1988
Kangaroo (1923) edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 1994
The Boy in the Bush (1924), edited by Paul Eggert, Cambridge University Press, 1990
The Plumed Serpent (1926), edited by L. D. Clark, Cambridge University Press, 1987
Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), edited by Michael Squires, Cambridge University Press, 1993
The Escaped Cock (1929), later re-published as The Man Who Died
The Virgin and the Gypsy (1930)

Short stories collections

The Prussian Officer and Other Stories (1914), edited by John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1983
England, My England and Other Stories (1922), edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 1990
The Horse Dealer's Daughter (1922)
The Fox, The Captain's Doll, The Ladybird (1923), edited by Dieter Mehl, Cambridge University Press, 1992
St Mawr and other stories (1925), edited by Brian Finney, Cambridge University Press, 1983
The Woman who Rode Away and other stories (1928) edited by Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, Cambridge University Press, 1995
The Rocking-Horse Winner (1926)
The Virgin and the Gipsy and Other Stories (1930), edited by Michael Herbert, Bethan Jones, Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 2006 (forthcoming)
Love Among the Haystacks and other stories (1930), edited by John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1987
Collected Stories (1994) – Everyman's Library

Collected letters

The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume I, September 1901 – May 1913, ed. James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1979
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume II, June 1913 – October 1916, ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1981
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume III, October 1916 – June 1921, ed. James T. Boulton and Andrew Robertson, Cambridge University Press, 1984
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume IV, June 1921 – March 1924 , ed. Warren Roberts, James T. Boulton and Elizabeth Mansfield, Cambridge University Press, 1987
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume V, March 1924 – March 1927, ed. James T. Boulton and Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 1989
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume VI, March 1927 – November 1928 , ed. James T. Boulton and Margaret Boulton with Gerald M. Lacy, Cambridge University Press, 1991
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume VII, November 1928 – February 1930, ed. Keith Sagar and James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1993
The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, with index, Volume VIII, ed. James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 2001
The Selected Letters of D H Lawrence, Compiled and edited by James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 1997

Poetry collections

Love Poems and others (1913)
Amores (1916)
Look! We have come through! (1917)
New Poems (1918)
Bay: a book of poems (1919)
Tortoises (1921)
Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923)
The Collected Poems of D H Lawrence (1928)
Pansies (1929)
Nettles (1930)
Last Poems (1932)
Fire and other poems (1940)
The Complete Poems of D H Lawrence (1964), ed. Vivian de Sola Pinto and F. Warren Roberts
The White Horse (1964)
D. H. Lawrence: Selected Poems (1972), ed. Keith Sagar.

Plays

The Daughter-in-Law (1912)
The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (1914)
Touch and Go (1920)
David (1926)
The Fight for Barbara (1933)
A Collier's Friday Night (1934)
The Married Man (1940)
The Merry-Go-Round (1941)
The Complete Plays of D H Lawrence (1965)
The Plays, edited by Hans-Wilhelm Schwarze and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1999

Non-fiction books and pamphlets

Study of Thomas Hardy and other essays (1914), edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 1985, Literary criticism and metaphysics
Movements in European History (1921), edited by Philip Crumpton, Cambridge University Press, 1989, Originally published under the name of Lawrence H. Davison
Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious (1921/1922), edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 2004
Studies in Classic American Literature (1923), edited by Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 2003
Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and other essays (1925), edited by Michael Herbert, Cambridge University Press, 1988
A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1929) – Lawrence wrote this pamphlet to explain his novel
Apocalypse and the writings on Revelation (1931) edited by Mara Kalnins, Cambridge University Press, 1980
Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence (1936)
Phoenix II: Uncollected, Unpublished and Other Prose Works by D. H. Lawrence (1968)
Introductions and Reviews, edited by N. H. Reeve and John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 2004
Late Essays and Articles, edited by James T. Boulton, Cambridge University Press, 2004
Selected Letters, Oneworld Classics, 2008. Edited by James T. Boulton

Travel books

Twilight in Italy and Other Essays (1916), edited by Paul Eggert, Cambridge University Press, 1994
Sea and Sardinia (1921), edited by Mara Kalnins, Cambridge University Press, 1997
Mornings in Mexico (1927), edited by Virginia Crosswhite Hyde, Cambridge University Press, 2009
Sketches of Etruscan Places and other Italian essays (1932), edited by Simonetta de Filippis, Cambridge University Press, 1992

Works translated by Lawrence

Lev Isaakovich Shestov All Things are Possible (1920)
Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin The Gentleman from San Francisco (1922), tr. with S. S. Koteliansky
Giovanni Verga Mastro-Don Gesualdo (1923)
Giovanni Verga Little Novels of Sicily (1925)
Giovanni Verga Cavalleria Rusticana and other stories (1928)
Antonio Francesco Grazzini The Story of Doctor Manente (1929)
Manuscripts and early drafts of published novels and other works

Paul Morel (1911–12), edited by Helen Baron, Cambridge University Press, 2003, an early manuscript version of Sons and Lovers
The First Women in Love (1916–17) edited by John Worthen and Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 1998
Mr Noon, (unfinished novel) Parts I and II, edited by Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 1984
The Symbolic Meaning: The Uncollected Versions of Studies in Classic American Literature, edited by Armin Arnold, Centaur Press, 1962
Quetzalcoatl (1925), edited by Louis L Martz, W W Norton Edition, 1998, ISBN 0-8112-1385-4, Early draft of The Plumed Serpent
The First and Second Lady Chatterley novels, edited by Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, Cambridge University Press, 1999

Paintings

The Paintings of D. H. Lawrence,London: Mandrake Press, 1929
D. H. Lawrence's Paintings, ed. Keith Sagar, London: Chaucer Press, 2003
The Collected Art Works of D. H. Lawrence, ed. Tetsuji Kohno, Tokyo: Sogensha, 2004

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Epilogue

Patience, little Heart.
One day a heavy, June-hot woman
Will enter and shut the door to stay.

And when your stifling heart would summon
Cool, lonely night, her roused breasts will keep the night at bay,
Sitting in your room like two tiger-lilies
Flaming on after sunset,
Destroying the cool, lonely night with the glow of their hot twilight;

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