THE EARLY LIFE/THE EARLY DEATH
A reading in two acts adapted and scored for four voices by Douglas Lockhart from ‘Portrait of a Genius, but…’ by Richard Aldington; ‘The Art of D.H. Lawrence’ by Keith Sagar; ‘The Life of D.H. Lawrence’ (an illustrated biography) by Keith Sagar; a selection from ‘Phonix’, edited by A.A.H Inglis; ‘The Dark Sun’, a study of D.H. Lawrence by Graham Hough; ‘D.H. Lawrence Novelist’, by F.R. Levis; D. H. Lawrence Album by George Hardy and Nathaniel Harris; D. H. Lawrence: Body of Darkness by R. E. Pritchard; D. H. Lawrence, A Literary Life by John Worthen; D. H. Lawrence at Thirroul by Joseph Davies; Frieda Lawrence: The Memoirs & Corrspondence; Frieda Lawrence: Not I, But the Wind . . . ; Quadrant: The Strange Case of Dr Levis and Mr Lawrence; D. H. Lawrence: A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Other Essays; D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study by Anais Nin, and various quotes drawn from Lawrence’s own work: ‘A Modern Lover’, ‘Sons & Lovers’, ‘The Rainbow’, ‘Kangaroo’, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, ‘Women in Love’, plus excerpts from his poetry, letters and essays.
THE EARLY LIFE
VOICE FOUR: READ ALL ABOUT IT! FAMOUS NOVELIST’S SHAMEFUL BOOK A LANDMARK IN EVIL!
VOICE THREE: So started the furore over Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel written by D. H. Lawrence that in 1928 was considered so scandalous it was banned from publication in Britain.
VOICE TWO: And in America in 1930, Canada in 1945 and in Japan in 1952.
VOICE FOUR: Not that this was a new experience for Lawrence; his 1915 novel – The Rainbow – had also been banned in Britain.
VOICE THREE: A sanitised edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was however available in Paris as early as 1932, but you ran the risk of having your expurgated copy confiscated by British custom on your way back home.
VOICE TWO: Selling the book in Britain could land you in serious trouble as late as 1955, and was still considered a convictable offence in 1960 when Penguin Books published an unexpurgated edition and tested themselves against the 1959 Obscene Publication’s Act. Proposed by the British Trade Unionist Roy Jenkins (now resident in Tasmania), this act was designed to stop publishers being prosecuted for publishing books where a frequent use of “fuck” or “cunt” was used to describe the sexual act. If a work of fiction could be shown to have literary merit, then conviction for obsenity could be avoided.
VOICE FOUR: Two other novels were about to undergo the same grueling process: Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill, But the Act’s first real test would be Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel consciously designed by its author to challenge the rank hypocracy of Western society on sexual issues.
VOICE THREE: Only Ulysses would defy convention and earn its author flattery on all sides. Lady Chatterley’s Lover would earn Lawrence . . . total scorn. As for Lawrence’s view of Joyce, well, therein lies an interesting perspective.
VOICE TWO: “My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage-stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest, stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalist dirty-mindedness – what old and hardworked staleness masquerading as the all new!”
VOICE THREE: And he wasn’t finished. In a letter dated 6th Sept. 1928, he adds:
VOICE TWO: James Joyce bores me stiff – too terribly would-be and done-on-purpose, uttery without spontaneity or real life.”
VOICE FOUR: Mr Griffiths-Jones, the punctillous prosecutor, launched his case against Lady Chatterley’s Lover by counting the novel’s four letter words. He recorded 57 instances of cardinal profanities, working his way down to three instances of piss.
VOICE THREE: Asked by council whether the four-letter words were necessary, Lawrence expert Vivian de Sola Pinto, replied:
VOICE TWO: “I think they are. Lawrence wished to purify those words, cleanse them.”
VOICE FOUR: Stephen Hopkins, editor of The London Churchman, declared that he thought the book “a study in compassion and human tenderness.”
VOICE TWO: Sarah Beryl Jones, classics mistress and senior librarian at Keighley Girls’ Grammar School told Gerald Gardiner, lead barrister for the defence, that most girls had been acquainted with four-letter words since the age of ten.
VOICE: FOUR: The most brilliant witness was Richard Hoggart, senior lecturer in English at Leicester University. He insisted D. H. Lawrence was a puritan, in the original sense of one heavy with conscience. Trying to mock the claim, the prosecutor read several explicit sexual passages, including one revering a man’s testicles as a source of life. “The strange weight of a man’s balls?” intoned Griffith-Jones. “Puritanical?”
VOICE TWO: “It is puritanical in its reverence.”
VOICE FOUR: Reverence for the weight of man’s balls?”
VOICE TWO: “Indeed, yes.”
VOICE FOUR: (PAUSE/SMILE) So what was Lawrence up to? What was he trying to accomplish?
LAWRENCE: (PAUSE) “I want men and women to be able to think sex, fully, completely, honestly and cleanly. Far be it from me to suggest that all women should go running after gamekeepers for lovers. Far be it from me to suggest that they should be running after anybody. A great many men and women today are happiest when they abstain and stay sexually apart, quite clean: and at the same time when they understand and realise sex more fully.”
VOICE FOUR: Is this really the satyr described in John Bull?
LAWRENCE: “In contrast to the puritan hush! hush which produces the sexual moron, we have the modern young jazzy and high-brow person who has gone one better, and won’t be hushed in any respect . . . From fearing the body, and denying its existence, the advanced young go to the other extreme and treat it as a sort of toy to be played with, a slightly nasty toy, but still you can get some fun out of it, before it lets you down. These young people scoff at the importance of sex, take it like a cocktail, and flout their elders with it . . . They despise a book like Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It is much too simple and ordinary for them.”
VOICE FOUR: So how is he perceived by today’s jazzy, web addicted youngsters?
VOICE TWO Okay, DH, so I was sort of with you at the beginning. I was amused by or interested in watching you create a tale that seemed to be a love child of the Lost Gen and existentialist authors that instead turned out to be a rebelliously nostalgic Romantic, a perverted Wordsworth in a Bacchanalian temple. I rolled my eyes at, yet went along with, the endless repetition, of “everything is nothing,” by your twit of a main character, Connie, or at poor Sir Clifford who builds endless castles of theories . . .
VOICE THREE: I see a lot of my friends are currently reading this, so I’ll be interested to see what they think of it. I understand the importance of this one–free speech, yo—but honestly, I wasn’t blown away. I prefer Ginny Woolf, in fact. Part of it is that Lawrence is too damn Freudian for me. And all the stuff about women needing civilization fucked out of them by virile treetrimmers seems a little misogynistic.
VOICE FOUR: “Afternoon, m’lady – do ye fancy a quick one over yon five barred gate?”
VOICE THREE: (GIGGLY) “Oh you earthy gamekeepers, well I don’t know . . . oh alright . . . but only if you mention my private parts in a rough yet tender manner and clasp them enthusiastically betwixt your craggy extremities.”
VOICE TWO: Then a little imagined something from Lord Chatterley himself:
VOICE THREE: Grr, if I wasn’t just a symbol of the impotent yet deadening power of the English aristocracy I’d whip that bounder to within an inch of an orgasm.
VOICE FOUR: (BORED) I honestly think that if this book hadn’t been banned for obscene content, no one would have ever read it. Yes, there are lots of sex scenes, but all the stuff in between is, for the most part, ungodly boring.
VOICE TWO: Then by way of contrast, this little gem . . .
VOICE THREE: (ENGROSSED) If you can get past the first 100 or so pages, it really gets more exciting with the relationship between Mellors and Connie. I loved the conversations and the wit in conversations with the characters. DH Lawrence is such a good writer. There is so much substance, that when you go to some other modern day fictions, it is no comparison. He allows you to really feel the intensity of the moment. Yes, there are some drawn out conversations at times, but overall, he takes you back into the moment . . .
VOICE TWO: Lawrence’s response to the negative comments of his own day are strikingly modern and revealing.
LAWRENCE: “So, between the stale grey puritan who is likely to fall into sexual indecency in advanced age, and the smart jazzy person of the young world, who says: We can do anything. If we can think a thing we can do it, and then the low uncultured person with a dirty mind, who looks for dirt – this book has hardly a space to turn in. But to them all I say the same: Keep your perversions if you like them – your perversions of puritanism, your perversions of smart licentiousness, your perversions of a dirty mind. But I stick to my book and my position: Life is only bearable when the mind and the body are in harmony, and there is a natural balance between them, and each has a natural respect for the other.”
VOICE TWO: Belatedly, in mid-January, the police began to confiscate copies of Lady C as they entered England from Italy. This scarcely mattered – they were the last few copies. The book had not been printed and published in England, and as the author was domiciled abroad, the attack was not developed on the lines of that on The Rainbow. The object of the pure in heart, this time, was simply to cause financial trouble and insult – from this a guerilla warfare gradually developed from Customs and Postal officials, and from policemen. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE : Aldous Huxley writes to St John Hutchinson, a barrister and parliamentary candidate with contacts in the House of Commons. According to Hutchinson, several members are willing to raise the matter in the House – there was even the possibility of getting Ramsey MacDonald (shortly to be Prime Minister) to speak up on Lawrence’s behalf.
VOICE TWO: Lady C is turned down by Sylvia Beach, publisher of Joyce’s Ulysses. Lawrence contacts Helena Rubinstein’s husband and he agrees to supervise a cheap edition of 3,000 copies – the book is now being referred to as Our Lady.
VOICE FOUR: To make matters worse, an exhibition of Lawrence’s painting opens at the Warren Gallery in London. According to Frieda, the pictures looked wild and overwhelming in the elegant, delicate rooms of the gallery. Twenty-five paintings on show, fifteen oils and ten watercolours – Lawrence’s favourite picture is among them: Boccaccio’s Story – the picture depicts Boccaccio’s story of the nuns who find their gardener asleep in the garden on a hot afternoon, with his shirt blown back from what other people are pleased to call his pudenda, and which the nuns named his glorietta. Twelve thousand people see the paintings before someone complains and the police descend on the gallery. The Aga Khan, resplendent from a Buckingham Palace garden party, arrives and is given a private showing of one particular picture. One of the two policemen acting as easel is overheard to say:
VOICE THREE: (QUIZZICALLY) “Light all right, your Highness?”
VOICE TWO: Lawrence managed a squib in retaliation.
VOICE FOUR: Thirteen pictures seized. William Blake’s pencil drawings also deemed obscene and carted off along with Lawrence’s. An interesting combination.
VOICE THREE: The literary critic F. R. Levis insisted that Lawrence had many affinities with Blake. He is quoted as saying that Lawrence “had the same power of distinguishing his own feelings and emotions from conventional sentiment, the same ‘terrifying honesty’.” (Letters p. xi)
VOICE FOUR: On the same day the pictures were confiscated, Lawrence took violently ill with stomach pains.
VOICE TWO: (GRIMACING) But let’s double back for a moment, for according to local gossip, Lawrence had approached George Chatterley, then secretary of the Barber, Walker mining company, and asked him if he would mind his name being used for a character in a novel. (D.H.Lawrence Album p 145.)
VOICE FOUR: (CHATTY) Hi George, could you possibly do me a favour?
VOICE THREE: Chatterley is said to have agreed, his reaction to publication of the scandalous Lady Chatterley’s Lover, whose heroine happens to be Constance Chatterley – Chatterley’s daugher was called Connie – is not on record, but the book must surely have come as a bit of a surprise to the whole family given its instant and ongoing notoriety. As it is unlikely the Chatterley’s had any idea to what use their name was about to be put, one has to wonder at Lawrence’s motives. Or is it that he himself had no idea what kind of book he was about to write, and simply forgot the source of his character’s names? Or is it that he just didn’t care?
VOICE TWO: (TO VOICE THREE) Oh, come on, Lawrence was a man of integrity!
VOICE THREE: (IN REPLY) Truth is, Lawrence borrowed freely from his own life and from the lives of those around him, and he did it without a blush. Sons and Lovers is autobiographical, his other novels not only realistic but authentic even down to descriptions of people’s faces and lives. He didn’t just record locations; he considered everything, and everyone, fair game.
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence and the Aga Khan must have formed a friendship that day, for when Lawrence was dying, guess who turned up to pay homage at his bedside?
VOICE TWO: During all of this he manages to publish, in America, a short novel called The Escaped Cock, and enter into a six month wrangle in the correspondence columns of The Forum.
VOICE THREE: According to The Escaped Cock (later retitled The Man Who Died for obvious reasons), Jesus doesn’t die on the cross, and in his wanderings in Phoenicia after the crucifixion stumbles across a pagan temple and has an passionate affair with its resident high priestess.
VOICE FOUR: Just the kind of thing to further endear him to old ladies and the evangelical-oriented Christianity of his time.
LAWRENCE: “I very much want to put into the world again the big old pagan vision.”
VOICE THREE: During the period 1925 to his death in 1930 he became preoccupied with . . . cocks. During this five years period he wroteWomen are so Cocksure, and Cocksure Women and Hensure Men. The barnyard cock is for Lawrence nature’s phallus, a living embodiment of thrusting male energy ready to fight and copulate at a moment’s notice.
VOICE TWO: (WITH A SHAKE OF THE HEAD) And all of this out of Eastwood, a small village on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire where coal was king.
VOICE THREE: A drab main street and hundreds of niggardly houses. Grimy brick houses with slate roofs. Paltriness. Smallness. Meanness. Fathomless ugliness and chapel-going respectability.
VOICE THREE: One of the many haphazard communities brought into hideous reality by the Industrial Revolution, against which Ruskin so eloquently raged. Richard Aldington, a close friend of Lawrence’s, delves deeper still:
VOICE TWO: (EDUCATED ACCENT) “The houses themselves were substantial and very decent. One could walk all round, seeing little front gardens. But that was outside; that was the view on to the uninhabited parlours of all the colliers’ wives. The dwelling-room, the kitchen, was at the back of the house, facing inward between the blocks, looking at a scrubby back garden, and then at the ash-pits. So the actual conditions of living at the Bottoms, that was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that nasty alley of ash pits.”
VOICE FOUR: Weigh all of this against Lawrence’s vision of the novel, his extraordinary take on what it meant to live a life, his ability to see through people and situations with what can only be described as a searing eye.
LAWRENCE: “Every man has a mob-self and an individual self, in varying proportions. Some men are almost all mob-self, incapable of imaginative individual responses. The mass is forever vulgar, because it can’t distinguish between its own original feelings and feelings which are diddled into existence by the exploiter. The mob is always obscene, because it is always second-hand.” (Phoenix. p. 172,)
VOICE THREE: His views on the novel were just as strong.
LAWRENCE: “Now here we see the beauty and great value of the novel. Philosophy, religion, science, they are all of them busy nailing things down, to get a stable equilibrium . . . But the novel, no. The novel is the highest example of subtle interrelatedness that man has discovered . . . If you try to nail anything down, in the novel, either it kills the novel, or the novel gets up and walks away with the nail.”
VOICE TWO: Elsewhere, he adds:
LAWRENCE: For this reason I am a novelist. And being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philospher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never the whole bag.
VOICE THREE: No mechanical uniformity in Lawrence’s life.
LAWRENCE: (INTENSE) “I absolutely flatly deny that I am a soul, or a body, or a mind, or an intelligence, or a brain, or a nervous system, or a bunch of glands, or any of the rest of these bits of me . . . I am a man and alive. I am a man alive, and as long as I can, I intend to go on being man alive! Not man alone with his destiny, but a particular man in a particular situation, with his own body, mind, and heart jostled by the bodies, minds, and hearts of those around him. The business of art is to reveal the relation between man and his circumambient universe, at the living moment. You mustn’t look in my novel . . . ”
VOICE FOUR: The Rainbow . . .
LAWRENCE: “. . . for the old stable ego of the character. There is another ego according to whose action the individual is unrecognisable.”
VOICE THREE: (PAUSE) Lawrence’s speciality was the study of certain . . . obscure states of the human soul.
VOICE THREE: A sense of latent wildness and unbrokenness, a weird sense of thrill and adventure in the pitch-dark Midland nights and roaring football Saturday afternoons. (Aldington)
VOICE FOUR: Poaching in the surrounding half-wild country.
VOICE THREE: The little bit money the miners made spent on beer.
VOICE TWO: The women bitterly hated the pubs and raged at their men when they came home tipsily merry, or just plain drunk. Enraged men sometimes. Brutes and braggarts. The last generation of Englishmen to escape compulsory state education; men who could only just spell out a newspaper to an impatient wife in the evening, or pronounce the words slowly to himself in the morning crouching before a blazing kitchen fire while toasting his bacon on a fork. Bacon fat and hunks of bread to catch it with as it dripped. Their whole life physical. Entirely physical. The coal-face. Little jobs to tinker with at home. Drinking and talking and walking long walks in the wild country-side with their mates. . . (Richard Aldington)
VOICE FOUR: John Arthur Lawrence. Miner.
VOICE THREE: Married to Lydia Beardsall, assistant teacher, on the 27th of December, 1875, at Sneiton Church, Nottingham.
VOICE TWO: A good dancer and strikingly virile with enormously developed arm muscles, thick black hair and a bushy beard. A “butty,” or foreman – a liaison-man between the company and the other miners.
VOICE THREE: Lydia Beardsall. Small and slight of figure. Brown hair and clear, fearless blue eyes. A little twist to her nose.
VOICE FOUR: Educated at a small private school where later she became an assistant teacher. A reader and writer of poetry. In love with ideas and considered – an intellectual. Arthur Lawrence chosen in place of a young man who desired to be a clergyman. A party in Nottingham. Each instantly attracted to the other – the attraction of the unfamiliar.
VOICE TWO: Lawrence all but describes his mother and his father in Sons and Lovers:
LAWRENCE: She was to the miner that thing of mystery and fascination, a lady. When she spoke to him it was with a southern pronunciation and a purity of English which thrilled him to hear. She watched him. He danced well, as if it were natural and joyous in him to dance.
VOICE FOUR: Very soon married knowing nothing of the life conditions of a miner’s wife, and deceived into thinking he was better off than he really was. And again, Lawrence captures the scene in Sons and Lovers:
LAWRENCE: The next Christmas they were married, and for three months she was perfectly happy: for six months she was very happy. He had signed the pledge, and wore the blue ribbon of a teetotaller . . . But in the seventh month, when she was brushing his Sunday coat, she felt papers in the breast-pocket, and, seized with a sudden curiosity, took them out to read. They were the bills of the household furniture, still unpaid.
VOICE THREE: Oppressed by endless housework – but time made to read “piles of books” from the local library. An ill-matched pair who, in spite of constant bickering, and quarrels, managed to produce a brood of children: George Arthur, William Ernst, David Herbert, and Ada.
VOICE TWO: In Sons and Lovers, Lawrence again and again replays the past with deft accuracy.
LAWRENCE: There began a battle between the husband and wife – a fearful bloody battle . . . She fought to make him undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfil his obligations. But he was too different from her. His nature was purely sensuous, and she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face things. He could not endure it – it drove him out of his mind.
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence and his siblings trembling in their beds as their parents fought. Condemned bitterly for his drinking bouts. His father’s slightly fuddled and pleasantly apologetic moods turned into rage and violence by a torrent of biting truths. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: David Herbert Lawrence. D.H. The cap woven for the father almost exactly fitted the son. A difficult background. Exaggerated tales of a grinding poverty – good stories. Not quite as poor as he later made out, but poor enough. In the kitchen an armchair for the father, a rocking chair for the mother, a sofa with pretty red chintz and cushions to match. A dresser, some quite decorative oleographs, and a bookcase with “rows of books. (Aldington)
VOICE TWO: Something about the house which made it different from those of the neighbours. Not just the absence of anything cheap and tawdry as the existence of something quite impalpable, a psychological environment instantly apparent to a sensitive visitor. A tightness in the air, as if something unusual might happen any minute. (Aldington)
VOICE FOUR: A delicate pale brat with a snuffy nose who trotted after his mother like her shadow – Lawrence’s description of himself! Fits of crying which sent his father into a rage, according to his mother, who wanted him to feel that he had been forlorn and miserable and weak and she alone had understood and protected him. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: A difficulty in relating to other women that would start early and continue for the rest of his life.
VOICE TWO: Lawrence’s first childhood sweetheart was probably Mabel Thurlby, though he unchivalrously hid when she was bullied by other boys, and warned her early that she could entertain no hopes.
LAWRENCE: “When I grow up, I will write poetry like Miss Matthews reads to us. I will marry a pretty lady, not like you. She will have blue ribbon in her hair, not wool. I will earn a lot of money and buy my mother a pretty bonnet, and she will have a garden full of flowers.”
VOICE THREE: Absorbed into his own nature the bitter conflict between his spontaneous, pleasure-loving father and his prim, self-righteous puritan mother. The father denounced by his wife while prim children gazed at him with the appalling condemnation of their age. The man parading his pit-dirt and deliberately exaggerating his commonness and uncouthness of table manners
LAWRENCE: “As we grew older we shut him more and more out of our lives, and instinctively turned more to mother, and he, realising this, became more and more distasteful in his habits.”
VOICE FOUR: His father’s side taken later in life when his own sensuous nature had developed.
LAWRENCE: If, instead of wanting the impossible from him, we had tried to interest ourselves in the things for which he really cared . . . we should have been spared many unhappy and sordid scenes.
VOICE THREE: A house divided. The Victorian gospel of getting on and bettering yourself applauded by the mother and attacked by the father. A double contempt. The eldest son put into an office and the father shouting
VOICE FOUR: What does want ter ma’e a stoolharsed jack on ‘im for?
VOICE TWO: The eldest, William Ernest, a success in London: one hundred and twenty pounds per year and even better prospects just ahead. A scholarship to Nottingham High School for D.H. at the age of twelve – a bright boy.
VOICE THREE: The ministry considered by Lawrence at one point, but finally rejected.
LAWRENCE: “There is no God apart from poppies and the flying fish, men singing songs, and women brushing their hair in the sun. The lovely things are God that has come to pass.”
VOICE FOUR: A crisis of faith experienced by Lawrence in 1907. He reveals to the Reverend Reid his belief that man is born twice, the second time . . . on entering manhood.
LAWRENCE: “Then they are born to humanity, to a consciousness of all the laughing, and the never-ceasing murmur of pain and sorrow that comes from the terrible multitudes of brothers. Then, it appears to me, a man gradually formulates his religion, be it what it may. A man has no religion who has not slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it; and one’s religion is never complete and final, it seems, but must always be undergoing modification. So I contend that true Socialism is religion; that honest, fervent politics are religion; that whatever a man will labour for earnestly and in some measure unselfishly, is religion.”
VOICE THREE: A freak of fate to throw into such an environment, with its ferocities, prejudices, and conflicts, a child who in his very different way was as responsive and overstrung as the poet Shelly. Each thrown into hostile and incongruous surroundings, against which he struggled as well he could. In Shelley’s case the conflict led to much early writing of a worthless kind, whereas with Lawrence there were no crude novels or ridiculous poems, just a steady determination to preserve the artist within himself . . . at all cost.
VOICE TWO: A Jekyll and Hyde personality – lover and hater, charmer and scandal-monger, artist and preacher.
VOICE THREE: A unique vitality, but often shy and withdrawn.
VOICE FOUR: Alert powers of noticing everything and a capacity for the enjoyment of simple things. An almost ridiculous hypersensitivity which made his mother’s heart ache for him. But a disagreeable side to his nature as well.
VOICE THREE: Much more time spent with girls than with boys.
VOICE TWO: Jessie Chambers. Emily of The White Peacock and Miriam of Sons and Lovers.
VOICE FOUR: A solitary farm called The Haggs about a mile from the nearest hamlet. His mother’s blind jealousy and a ruthless duel from the start for the first place in Lawrence’s love.
VOICE THREE: Then, suddenly, his twelve-pounds-a-year-scholarship at an end and his mother insisting that he look in the papers for a job. Agonies of self-consciousness gone through as this over-sensitive, self-centred boy is made go to the newspaper room of the public library where his imagination begins to work overtime.
VOICE TWO: (GOSSIPY) That boy can’t get a job!
VOICE THREE: (GOSSIPY) I suppose he’s living on his mother
VOICE FOUR: The artist carried all unawares within himself as in terror he looked for his first job and the torture of a killing routine.
VOICE THREE: Messrs Hayward of Nottingham, makers of surgical and orthopaedic implements.
VOICE TWO: Three months of agony at thirteen shillings a week. And then the unexpected, the unthinkable: the death of his brother William, in London, from pneumonia. The mother’s hopes dashed in a little London lodging house. A coffin to fill the parlour, and a mother’s grief so great that it could not be penetrated. Cut off even from her favourite, David Herbert, who whined miserably. Then one winter night, just before Christmas, D.H. himself staggering in from Nottingham smitten with the fatal pneumonia. The mother rallying to her favourite son, her sanity saved as she nursed him back to health and they were again united . (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: Knitted together in perfect intimacy.
VOICE FOUR: A tubercular condition which at no time in his life did he ever admit to having. It was always bronchitis, or this beastly flu, or a . . . vicious cold. Six months’ freedom from work or school – genius given its chance due to a severe illness and a long convalescence – but weakened physically, in the lungs, for the rest of his life.
VOICE TWO: Genius?
LAWRENCE: “In the early days they were always telling me I had genius, as if to console me for not having their own incomparable advantages.”
VOICE THREE: A great deal of nonsense has been talked about Lawrence’s background and education, the contrast between the provincial childhood and the cosmopolitan later life vastly overplayed. Childhood is always provincial, and its horizon is always restricted – the particular circumstances that make it so are not important. A rather hoity-toity concept of culture has been used to show that Lawrence had a hole-and-corner upbringing, and remained there. The nineteenth-century public-school and university complex had so successfully bemused both its admirers and its detractors, that any intellectual success not achieved by way of Eton and King’s, or Winchester and New College, was felt to stand in need of explanation. (Aldington)
VOICE FOUR But not in Lawrence’s case. Lawrence was a true child of his times, his reaction against the empire of reason no different from that of Conrad, Beardsley or Yeats. He belonged to the time of Romantic Decadence, responded to the diabolism and sexual disturbance of Baudelaire, the voluptuous synaesthesis and erotic mysticism of Wagner, and strove, better than Pater, to catch the transient and to burn with a ‘hard gem-like flame’. Sketching out his own religion, he explored the primitive roots of man’s culture in Fraser, read Nietzsche and Shopenhauer, and prophesied cultural collapse, apocalypse and a new life. And there was of course the problem of emotion in art, a problem summed up by T.S. Eliot:
VOICE TWO: (AMERICAN ACCENT) The only way of representing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”
VOICE FOUR: Which is to say that dissociation of sensibility was the problem, a problem Eliot had detected as early as the seventeenth century.
VOICE THREE: By attending to actual states of body, mind and soul, rather than consistent motivation, Lawrence overcame this problem and greatly extended the range of the novel, and in doing so did justice to the irrationalities, the inexplicable fluxes and refluxes of feeling with which life is so obviously chequered.
LAWRENCE: “You mustn’t look in my novel for the old stable ego of the character. There is another ego according to whose action the individual is. . . . unrecognisable.”
VOICE TWO: A subterranean self that supplied Lawrence with . . . just about everything!
LAWRENCE: “Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul, I would be a good fountain, a good well-head, Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression. The soul is as old as the oldest day, and has its own hushed echoes, its own far-off tribal understandings sunk and incorporated. We do not need to live the past over again. Our darkest tissues are twisted in this old tribal experience, our warmest blood came out of the old tribal fire. And they vibrate still in answer, our blood, our tissue. But me, the conscious me, I have gone a long road since then.”
VOICE FOUR: No callow primitivism here.
VOICE THREE: Sane. Vibrantly sane. And fully aware of the dangers – the psychological dangers of drawing too close to the heart, and the blood.
VOICE TWO: Towards the end of his life Lawrence wrote that he had been . . . tussling away for four years on the task of getting out The White Peacock (his 1911 novel), from the underground of his unconscious. This lets us into the method of creation which bewildered and annoyed conventional critics who imagined that there were rules for determining the merit of a novel. For Lawrence, the writing of a novel was an adventure of the mind, an exploration of his unconscious self, with its strange chaos of emotions and almost uniquely retentive memory.
LAWRENCE: “I have always tried to get an emotion out in its own course, without altering it. The novels and stories come unwatched out of one’s pen.”
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence the man is not clearly aware of what has come from the pen of Lawrence the writer. Lawrence the writer fulfils the conditions demanded by Keats: he is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Burrowing into the underworld of his own consciousness, he discovers the black primary material and living body of darkness associated with his father. (Aldington/Prichard p. 21))
LAWRENCE: (POEM)) Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me! A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time. If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me! If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift! If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed, By the fine, fine wind . . .
VOICE THREE: The heart and the blood . . . and the body. The young Lawrence noticing Jessie Chambers’ flowering beauty, her warm colouring, her gravity, her eyes. Strange and frightening to realise that this boy possessed not only an intense appreciation of the living, passing moment, but also an uncanny awareness of things and people and a habit of making intuitive guesses about the secret lives and thoughts of others. This side of himself revealed in Sons and Lovers:
LAWRENCE: She suddenly became aware of his keen blue eyes upon her, taking her all in. Instantly her broken boots and her frayed old frock hurt her. She resented his seeing – everything.
VOICE TWO: The dark mystery of the mines in the background; and in the foreground the dark mystery of Lawrence himself. Visitations mysterious and disquieting generating a peculiar and frightening violence in him.
VOICE FOUR: They walked in silence. Suddenly he started. The whole of his blood seemed to burst into flame, and he could scarcely breathe. An enormous orange moon was staring at them from the rim of the sandhills. He stood staring, looking at it . . . His blood was concentrated like a flame in his chest . . . There were flashes in his blood . . . he did not know himself what was the matter.
VOICE THREE: The dark unconscious.
VOICE FOUR: Not an imagined experience, according to Jessie Chambers: It seemed as though some dark power gradually took possession of him until something seemed to explode.
VOICE THREE: Two other occasions described by Jessie, one at Robin Hood’s Bay where he: “stalked some distance from me like a strange, wild creature.” The other at Flamborough, where he was still more irrational and terrifying. There, under the white light of a full moon, “he skipped from one boulder to another until she almost doubted whether he was indeed human.”
VOICE TWO: Hence we have the phrase “living body of darkness” in Women in Love. , a body of darkness also evident in his novel Kangaroo.
LAWRENCE: And then one night at the time of the full moon he walked alone into the bush. A huge electric moon, huge, and the tree trunks like naked pale aborigines among the dark-soaked foliage, in the moonlight. And not a sign of life – not a vestige . . . Yet something. Something big and aware and hidden! He walked on, had walked a mile or so into the bush, and had just come to a clump of tall, nude, dead trees, shining almost phosphorescently with the moon, then the terror of the bush overcame him. He had looked so long at the vivid moon, without thinking. And now, there was something among the trees, and his hair began to stir with terror, on his head.
VOICE THREE: And the same darkness permeates Women in Love.
LAWRENCE: He stood staring at the water. Then he stooped and picked up a stone, which he threw sharply at the pond. Urusla was aware of the bright moon leaping and swaying, all distorted, in her eyes. . . . And his shadow on the border of the pond, was watching for a few moments, then he stooped and groped on the ground. Then again there was a burst of sound, and a burst of light, the moon had exploded on the water, and was flying asunder in flakes of white and dangerous fire.
VOICE TWO: In his introduction to Lawrence’s collected letters, Aldous Huxley writes that the moon affected Lawrence strongly, not as a stony cold world, but as a globe of dynamic substance, like radium or phosphorus, coagulated upon a vivid pole of energy.
VOICE FOUR: Richard Aldington comes to Lawrences defence in this respect: “ . . . a man ought to feel something, at night under such a moon.” (Aldington)
VOICE TWO: I902. Lawrence and his sister Ada accepted as pupil-teachers at the British School in Eastwood. Then on to Ilkeston Pupil-Teacher Centre to be joined by Jessie Chambers. (pause) Three years’ savage teaching of collier lads, then off to Nottingham University for his teacher’s certificate. Jessie Chambers appointed keeper of his artistic conscience.
VOICE THREE: His essays roughly handled at Nottingham University.
LAWRENCE: “I’ll give them the kids stuff they want!”
VOICE FOUR: Always shepherding his followers across country to look at churches and castles. More than merely seeing these landmarks, more an immediate possession, as though to have missed seeing them would have been to lose an essential moment of life. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: The only member of the university staff for whom he had any admiration was Ernest Weekley, head of the Department of Modern Languages. An irony, as we will see later.
VOICE TWO: His furiously jealous mother slowly replaced by the incredibly patient Jessie Chambers. (With a smile) Well, almost.
VOICE THREE: Painting and writing taken up. And singing. And the piano. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury carried in one of his pockets and read from aloud with great enjoyment. A feast of reading by the age of twenty.
VOICE FOUR: The first drafts of a novel – The White Peacock – underway, written furtively at home in college exercise books. And some short stories written. The novel rewritten no less than four times. Massive energy and tenacity of will; and not a little help from Jessie Chambers in getting the early parts of the novel absolutely right.
LAWRENCE: (INTENSE) “I Think a man puts everything he is into a book, a real book.”
VOICE TWO: Totally unknown. His vocation as a writer quite uncertain. His loves all astray. His heart a chaos bound in bondage to his mother.
VOICE THREE: 1914. Twenty-eight years of age. Slight of build. Weak, narrow chest and shoulders. Forehead broad but not high; nose too short and lumpy. Face, colourless. Chin altogether too large. Lower lip red and moist under a scrubby moustache . . . but the most beautiful lively blue eyes. Irresistible blue eyes. Beautiful and alive and dancing with gaiety, his eyes; his face all lit up by a smile. (Aldington)
VOICE FOUR: A short teaching career full of contradictions. Thrilled one minute; devastated the next. Urchins who presented insults of blotted pages.
VOICE THREE: Some articles rejected by The Daily News.
LAWRENCE: “I don’t care if I ever have a line published! I don’t care what becomes of my writing! I’m not anxious to get into print.”
VOICE TWO: Five poems published in The English Review, November 1909. A short story – Goose Fair – published in February, 1910, and six poems published in June of the same year.
VOICE THREE: With a little help from Hugh Madox Hueffer, William Heinemann accepts The White Peacock for publication.
VOICE FOUR: (IRRITATED) A clumsy story told by an insufferably priggish narrator about tiresome people in a socially artificial environment, according to Richard Aldington. Described by Lawrence himself as:
LAWRENCE: (RAPTUROUSLY) “All about love. and rhapsodies on spring scattered here and there. Heroines galore. No plot. Nine-tenths adjectives. Every colour in the spectrum descanted – a spicy mess.”
VOICE TWO: For the reviewers, the ‘rhapsodies’ redeemed it – the boy from Eastwood was on his way to be the literary enfant terrible of his generation.
VOICE THREE: His hunger for food satisfied, his hunger for knowledge satisfied, but not yet his hunger for sex.
VOICE TWO: An age of encrusted humbug and hypocritical reticence, and nowhere more of a humbug than in all matters of sex. In a letter to Jessie Chambers Lawrence says:
LAWRENCE: “Look, you are a nun, I give you what I would give a holy nun. So you must let me marry a woman I can kiss and embrace and make the mother of my children.”
VOICE FOUR: As far as literature was concerned, sex was held to be unmentionable, indecent, unclean. Thomas Hardy had been so much abused for Jude the Obscure that in protest he had ceased to write novels altogether. Havelock Ellis had been prosecuted for obscenity, his books prohibited. And Lawrence would himself be persecuted and prosecuted for his views on sexual freedom and on how relationships between men and women should function – and perhaps not without some justification – there are arcana in nature as well as religion, and nothing that affects the emotional life as intimately and individually as sex can or ought ever to be fully in the open. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: Lawrence was terrified that his mother might hear of his affairs with girls, for he was still attempting to break out of the sexual stalemate created by the society of his day. Not that he was very often successful. Most of the young women he knew approximated to the spiritualised, idealised, asexual type then fashionable in all circles.
VOICE FOUR: Can such a climate of opinion be imagined today? G.K. Chesterton asserted that any man who talked to a woman about sex, was a brute.
VOICE TWO: And so we have Lawrence saying to Jessie Chambers:
LAWRENCE: “Don’t you think we have been too fierce in our . . . what they call . . . purity? Don’t you think that to be so afraid and averse is a sort of dirtiness?”
VOICE THREE: To reach that state of sanity he had been forced to go through bitter struggles, wild uncertainties and miseries. It took him a long time to find out that it was really some sort of perversity in people and their attitude towards sex which made them . . . not want the very thing they wanted. Years later, in an essay on Pornography and Obscenity, Lawrence revealed the substance of his sexual vision.
LAWRENCE: “The sentimentalism and the niggling analysis, often self-analysis, of most of our modern literature, is a sign of self-abuse. It is the manifestation of masturbation, the sort of conscious activity stimulated by masturbation, whether male or female. The outstanding feature of such consciousness is that there is no real object, there is only subject. This is just the same whether it be a novel or a work of science. The author never escapes from himself, he pads along within the vicious circle of himself. There is hardly a writer living who gets out of the vicious circle of himself – or a painter either. Hence the lack of creation, and the stupendous amount of production. It is a masturbation result, within the vicious circle of the self. It is self-absorption made public.”
VOICE FOUR: Bewildered by his feelings, Lawrence breaks off with Jessie and proposes to a girl he meets on a train . . . because she lets him “kiss her;” then he writes to tell Jessie that it’s no good, this new relationship, that he wants to run away from it.
VOICE THREE: The last stage of Lawrence’s love for Jessie Chambers crossed and broken by relations with other women; and a rather messy attempt at making love in conditions Jessie describes as both difficult and irksome. But she secretly believes he will return to her when each infatuation has worn off. Lawrence, aware of everything, records Jessie’s ‘secret’ belief in Sons and Lovers.
LAWRENCE: Miriam knew how strong was the attraction of Clara for him; but still she was certain that the best in him would triumph. His feelings for Mrs Dawes – who, moreover, was a married woman – was shallow and temporal, compared with his love for herself. He would come back to her, she was sure.
VOICE TWO: Agnes Holt. Helen Corke. Louie Burrows . . . (With a smile ) Alice Dax . . . as portrayed in Sons and Lovers.
LAWRENCE: “I gave Bert sex. I had to. He was over at our house, struggling with a poem he couldn’t finish, so I took him upstairs and gave him sex. He came downstairs and finished the poem.”
VOICE THREE: In a poem to one of these women a strange note which heralded a terrible coming event.
Since you have drunken up the drear
VOICE FOUR: A young man’s playing with images of death in conjunction with love? Not quite. Not just a youthful poet’s playing with fanciful ideas – a terrible, terrible reality.
LAWRENCE (DISTANTLY) Death is washed from the blue of my eyes . . .
VOICE THREE: In the midst of his loves and his teaching and his being launched as a writer, his mother collapses because of a cancer . . .
VOICE TWO: As large as two fists.
VOICE THREE: Some weeks later, writing to his publisher, Lawrence asks for an advance copy of The White Peacock as soon as possible. A specially bound advance copy was sent to him, and he was able to put it into his mother’s hands while she was still conscious. But it meant little to her, for as he knew only too well, she cared nothing for his art, only for his success.
VOICE TWO: A haggard, dying old lady, wrapped in shawls and rugs, sitting out in the garden with his book in her lap – the book he ought to have given to Jessie Chamber.
VOICE THREE: What he suffered during the period of his mother’s illness is hard to imagine. It is said that his suffering was on the level of tragedy. For a quarter of a century his life had been one with hers. They had lived in one another, and no other woman had been able to take her place. Horror and misery because his beloved was dying of a disease so implacable, so cruel and so slow.
And oh, my love, as I rock for you tonight
VOICE FOUR: Her face almost ashen with morphia. One biographer has it that he and Ada put morphine in her milk.
VOICE THREE: Free at last of the terrible incubus of her love?
VOICE TWO: Probably not; although at the end of Sons And Lovers he would like to think so:
LAWRENCE: Who could say his mother had lived and did not live? She had been in one place, and was in another; that was all. And his soul could not leave her, wherever she was. Now she was gone abroad into the night, and he was with her still . . . He could not bear it. On every side the immense dark silence seemed pressing him, so tiny a spark, into extinction, and yet, almost nothing, he could not be extinct. Night, in which everything was lost, went reaching out, beyond stars and sun. Stars and sun, a few bright grains, went spinning round for terror, and holding each other in embrace, there in a darkness that surpassed them all, and left them tiny and daunted. So much, and himself infinitesimal, at the core a nothingness, and yet not nothing. . . Turning sharply, he walked towards the city’s gold phosphorescence. His fists were shut, his mouth set fast. He would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her.
THE EARLY DEATH
UNISON: Readers look at one another, look back at audience and say together: Frieda!
VOICE TWO: The young, inexperienced novelist taken under the wing of the London intelligentsia and made to feel . . . small and insignificant among the clever, vicious, gossipy intellectuals who delighted in tearing each other to pieces. Not exactly the London of Byron, animated by the Bohemian camaraderie that Lawrence had expected. Instead, a group of people much absorbed in their own importance, whose interest in meeting him was of the . . . patronising kind.
VOICE THREE: Malicious gossip and an introduction to Violet Hunt who had early on won her blue for proficiency in this essential accomplishment of the cultured metropolis.
LAWRENCE: “Do you know, I rather liked her – she’s such a real assassin. I evoked the memory of various friends twelve months ago. Behold, she nicely showed me the effigies of these folk in her heart, each of their blemishes marked with a red asterisk like a dagger hole. I salute her, she did the business so artistically: there was no loathsome gore split over the murdered friends.”
VOICE TWO: Lawrence’s embarrassment with the batterie of silver then formidably provided with a well-to-do meal dutifully recorded by Violet Hunt.
VOICE THREE: Then into the clutches of Katherine Mansfield who, in her lightly mocking but ruthless way, summed up various people over whom Lawrence was . . . temporarily enthusiastic.
VOICE FOUR: And Ottoline Morrell, to whom Lawrence dedicated his book of poems, Amores.
LAWRENCE: “To Ottoline Morrell in tribute to her noble and independent sympathy and her generous understanding these poems are gratefully dedicated.”
VOICE FOUR: The “generous understanding” had most probably included pecuniary recognition.
VOICE THREE: And then, almost magically on his own doorstep, Frieda!
VOICE TWO: Wife of Professor Ernest Weekley – Lawrence’s former instructor in French, and daughter of Baron Friedrich von Richtofen no less!
VOICE THREE: An assured continental manner and a throaty, strange-accented voice – a woman who could range in a moment from sophisticated poise to childish eagerness. Enter Lawrence into their Nottingham home – about a mile from The Haggs, for advice on teaching English in Germany.
VOICE TWO: A magnificient tall blonde animal with high cheekbones and greenish “Tartar” eyes flecked with brown. Six years older than Lawrence.
VOICE ONE: The French windows open, the curtains thrashing in the spring wind, the voices of children sounding from the lawn.
VOICE TWO: A blaze of life about Frieda that quite mesmerised Lawrence.
VOICE THREE: Never addicted to small talk, and momentarily fed-up with women, Lawrence denounces the whole female species and says that he is through with them all.
VOICE FOUR: Under the spell of her exuberance, the visitor stays until nightfall and walks the eight miles home across dark farmlands.
VOICE THREE: A letter written to tell Frieda that she is . . . the most wonderful woman in England.
VOICE TWO: Countered by her asking how many women in England he actually knows.
VOICE FOUR: Her marriage a bitter disappointment from the first night. The motions of respectability gone through in England; but more than one lover in Germany, including Otto Gross, a disciple of Freud and free love, who helped her to the realisation that she was living like a somnambulist in a conventional set life. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: Richard Aldington sets the scenes: “She had known Mitteleuropa, the expanded Germany of Bismarck, and the Kaiser’s court; now, at thirty-two, she was the veteran of a dozen years of marriage and residence in the English provinces. She had three children, two girls and a boy, an automobile at her disposal, and a fine house. But she was bored. Even her occasional love affairs failed to rouse her into wakefulness. But life had not always been like this: once there had been the vast meadowlands and forests of Germany, the glittering ballrooms of Berlin, the courtship of young officers, the champagne parties. Now the enchanted princess was a Hausfrau.”
VOICE TWO: If Emma Maria Frieda Johanna Weekley-Richtofen was not exactly a princess, she was, like all daughters of titled German aristocrats, at least a baroness.
VOICE THREE: The collier’s son is impressed – very impressed. He has found the woman of his life, but he has no money – eleven pounds is all he can raise at that precise moment.
VOICE FOUR: And Frieda too is impressed :
FRIEDA: “I see him before me as he entered the house. A long thin figure, quick straight legs, light, sure movements. He seemed so obviously simple. Yet he arrested my attention. There was something more than met the eye. What kind of bird was this?”
VOICE THREE: On one of his Sunday visits, with her husband away, Frieda asks Lawrence to spend the night with her. Lawrence is scandalised by this improper, continental suggestion, and tells Frieda firmly that he will not stay overnight in her husband’s house while he is absent . . . he insists instead that they go away together.
VOICE TWO: After a series of clandestine meetings, Frieda, tormented, and blind and blank with pain, finally gives in and breaks the news to her children that she is about to leave them. Lawrence addresses a letter to Weekley, for Frieda to give to him if she so wish; but she must tell her husband everything, he insists.
VOICE THREE: Misery, happiness, and a trip to Germany, to Metz, where Frieda’s father holds an important military post and is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his entrance into the army. England slowly submerging like a long, ash-grey coffin. The past, the old life, sinking into the sea.
VOICE FOUR: They stay together in the same hotel and Frieda yearns for her children, as any mother would, and her happiness again and again evaporates. Lawrence, afraid of losing her, demands that she steel herself and fully accept her decision to be with him.
VOICE TWO: By way of contributing to the enjoyment and peaceful old age of her aristocratic father, Frieda informs him that she is thinking of leaving her eminently respectable husband and three children for a penniless, almost unknown British author, an out of work ex-school-master and son of a coal-miner. She does not mention that Lawrence is in town. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: Baron Richtofen is not amused. He calls his daughter a Kellnerin, or “beerhall waitress”.
VOICE FOUR: And then something quite incredible happens. An officious policeman – on hearing Lawrence and Frieda speaking English near to some obsolete fortifications – arrests Lawrence under suspicion of being a British officer in disguise engaged in espionage! It is this which leads to the discovery of the whole situation, as Frieda has of course to ask her father to use his influence to have the arrest lifted. Baron von Richtoften agrees, but insists that Lawrence leave Metz at once.
VOICE TWO: Under pressure from her husband and her own family, Frieda begins to waver. She even goes to one of her lovers, and tells Lawrence, trying to make him jealous, but he refuses to be shaken from his conviction that they are meant for one another.
VOICE THREE: He then proceeds along the Rhine by easy stages to Waldbrol, where he has relatives through the marriage of an aunt, and writes to Frieda saying: don’t leave me stranded in some unearthly German town!
VOICE TWO: Almost driven mad by the waiting, the waiting for her decision.
VOICE FOUR: His financial prospects as revealed in a letter are not particularly handsome. A friend in England owes him twenty-five pounds and he has another twenty-four pounds due to him – that is all unless he sells some unpublished writings.
VOICE THREE: Finally, Frieda makes up her mind. On a Friday, in the month of May, Lawrence slowly travels south to meet her, and they spend a delightful week together at the Gasthaus zur Post in the village of Beuerberg, in the Bavarian Tyrol.
VOICE TWO: Constant money worries and the inevitable difficulties associated with such strong and different beings. Frieda, amoral, disorderly, wasteful, utterly helpless in the house lying in bed late, lounging about all day with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, expecting service and deference from everyone as her birthright. Lawrence, fiercely puritanical – even in his sensuality – tidy, frugal, omnicompetent at household tasks, energetic and industrious, at ease with common people. Lawrence the irresistible force; Frieda the immovable object.
VOICE THREE: Intoxicated by both the Barvarian countryside and by Frieda’s beauty, the hold of his dead mother relaxes.
VOICE TWO: Frieda!
VOICE THREE: An extraordinary mixture of openness and prejudice, naivety and low cunning, intelligence and stupidity, according to Aldous Huxley. Utterly amoral sexually. Her relationship with Angelo Ravagli in Lawrence’s last years more or less open. Immediately after Lawrence’s death John Middleton Murry accepts the relationship she had offered him several years earlier. (Aldington)
LAWRENCE: “Frieda and I have struggled through some bad times into a wonderful naked intimacy, all kindled with warmth, that I know at last is love. I think I ought not to blame women, as I have done, but myself, for taking my love to the wrong woman, before now.”
VOICE TWO: On to the village of Icking to begin housekeeping in four little rooms on about fifteen shillings a week. Lawrence rapturously happy.
VOICE TWO: Another poem written at this time confesses that there first night together was a failure – understandable considering the stress they were under.
LAWRENCE: “I want no more dishonour, no more lies. Let them do their silliest, but no more subterfuge, lying, dirt, fear. I love you. Let us face anything, do anything, put up with anything. But this crawling under the mud I cannot bear!”
VOICE THREE: The huge strides Lawrence now begins to take in his work were a matter of breaking down all the artificial conduits and canals through which we do so love to force our utterances, to allow the spontaneous, uniquely appropriate form to emerge. The success of his marriage was equally a matter of breaking through old ideas and life-modes.
VOICE FOUR: Sending off Sons and Lovers to his publisher was like writing finis to a phase of his life. But the novel carries too much slack and Lawrence asks Garnett, his editor, to make the necessary cuts himself. Garnett improves the novel dramatically by removing about a tenth, and Lawrence, on reading the proofs, says:
LAWRENCE: “You did the pruning jolly well, and I’m grateful. I hope you’ll live a long long life, to barber up my novels for me before they’re published.”
VOICE FOUR: A fictional life of Robert Burns does not come to anything, but is perhaps the first sketch for Tom Brangwen in The Rainbow, the first of a long line of Lawrence heroes whose essential qualities are qualities he now belatedly recognises as having belonged to his father: instinctive, non-intellectual warmth, spontaneity and passion.
LAWRENCE: “My love is like a red, red rose, only when she’s not like a pure, pure lily.”
VOICE THREE: Lawrence’s elopement was his declaration of war on society, and much of his subsequent work was a rationalisation of his personal revolt against his own past and whatever had survived it, against his mother and Eastwood and England and, ultimately, the basic values of Western civilisation. His works are metaphors for this revolt. But unlike Frieda, it was not in his nature to live without a metaphysic, so he tried to forge a new one out of the raw material of his own personal experiences, and partly by a simple reversal of the old metaphysic. (Aldington)
LAWRENCE: “Isn’t it hard, hard work to come to real grips with one’s imagination, – throw everything overboard. I always feel as if I stood naked for the fire of Almighty God to go through me – and it’s rather an awful feeling. One has to be so terribly religious, to be an artist.”
VOICE FOUR: The new novel was The Sisters, now developed into an ernest and painful work, which was to develop further over the next four years into two of the greatest English novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love.
VOICE TWO: A slow, painful searching into the creative unknown. In an early letter he writes:
LAWRENCE: “I am doing a novel, a novel which I have never grasped. Damn its eyes, there I am at page 145 and I have no notion what its about. I hate it!”
VOICE FOUR: To this strange force within him, to this power that created his works of art, there was nothing to do but submit. (Letters. p.x)
VOICE THREE: Garnet neither understands or likes The Sisters; he thinks the psychology of it all wrong. Lawrence does not agree.
LAWRENCE: “You know how willing I am to hear what you have to say, and to take your advice and to act on it when I have taken it. But it is no good unless you will have patience and understand what I want to do. I am not after all a child working erratically. All the time, underneath, there is something deep evolving itself out in me. And it is hard to express a new thing, in sincerity. And you should understand, and help me to the new thing.”
VOICE TWO: At the end of their stay in Germany, Frieda’s mother suddenly appears, and for an hour rails at Lawrence in German, asking him how he can possibly expect to have a baroness cleaning his boots and emptying his slops.
VOICE FOUR: They had been living on rye bread, fruit, eggs, cutlets and beer. And love, of course – the kind of love Lawrence describes in Women in Love.
LAWRENCE: An intense silence came over everything. Helena almost expected to hear the stars moving, everything below was so still. She had no idea what Siegmund was thinking. He lay with his arms strong around her. Then she heard the beating of his heart, like the muffled sound of salutes, she thought. It gave her the same thrill of dread and excitement, mingled with a sense of triumph. – Women in Love.
VOICE THREE: Not possible to get at the . . . new thing, if all the while you’re preoccupied with structure, and form, and what the critics might think. A passage in Women in Love reaches for that new thing, and fails – or does it?
LAWRENCE: And at last she began to draw near to him, she nestled to him. His limbs, his body, took fire and beat up in flames. She clung to him, she cleaved to his body. The flames swept him, he held her in sinews of fire. If she would kiss him! He bent his mouth down. And her mouth, soft and moist, received him. He felt his veins would burst with anguish of thankfulness, his heart was mad with gratefulness, he could pour himself out upon her for ever . . .
VOICE FOUR: Anyone who wants to make the worst of Lawrence has plenty of material in passages like these . . . But no one has equalled him, no one has ever got so near the bone in presenting the experience of two people of different sexes . . (Aldington)
LAWRENCE: “I can only write about what I feel strongly about: and that, at present, is the relations between men and women. After all, it is the problem of today, the establishment of a new relation, or the re-adjustment of the old one, between men and women.”
VOICE THREE: His peculiar view of the polarity between human beings enables him to give their bonds a toughness, an elasticity, and a survival value that they notoriously have in life, but rarely have to test in fiction. (Aldington)
VOICE TWO: From Icking to Mayrhofen and Lake Garda in Italy; then an almost disastrous journey to Merano by way of a mountain pass in darkness battered by an icy wind. Still shaky from their ordeal, they make their way to Trento, and due to inexperience and poverty, get into a cheap and dirty hotel with sanitary arrangements dating from the Dark Ages.
VOICE FOUR: Not exactly what Frieda is used to.
VOICE TWO: Lawrence finds her shedding tears of misery and self-pity at the foot of a statue of Dante. He agrees to head for the smart little Austrian town of Riva by train – a mistake, they soon realise. Officers and their well-dressed women to remind them that they are not only poverty stricken, but that their scramble among the mountains has turned them into pretty good imitations of tramps.
VOICE THREE: They now go to the opposite extreme and rent a room in a much too elegant hotel where they secretly eat frugal picnic meals, and scurry to hide them when their very superior maidservant comes in. Then comes another transformation: Frieda’s wealthy and fashionable sister sends her a trunk full of Parisian clothes, and one of the couple suddenly becomes . . . absurdly overdressed. (Aldington)
VOICE FOUR: With a total asset of fifty pounds’ advance from Duckworth and a volume of Love Poems in the press, the two Bohemians defy the sacred conventions of England, return to the little Italian town of Garda with its beautiful lake, and spend the winter there living on practically nothing at all.
VOICE TWO: Strange lovers’ battles fought out during six months of primitive, secluded living.
LAWRENCE: “If the one I love remains unchanged and unchanging, I shall cease to love her. If she stayed put, I might as well love the pepper-pot.”
VOICE THREE: Whatever the drawbacks, this Spartan life was much better, much less banal than living in some English boarding house with the additional horror of minor intelligentsia dropping in to teach Lawrence . . . how to write. (Aldington)
VOICE FOUR: The final version of Sons and Lovers completed, and early drafts started of The Rainbow and The Lost Girl. Also sketches of Twilight in Italy, two plays, and a number of poems got underway. Without doubt one of the most intensely creative periods of Lawrence’s life – and the little villa only two pounds sixteen a month!
VOICE THREE: Sons and Lovers described by Lawrence as a colliery novel.
VOICE TWO: Strong, straightforward, deeply felt, the best picture of industrial, working-class life in English – probably the only one written completely from the inside.
VOICE FOUR: (Tenderly) Frieda . . .
VOICE THREE: In the early days she couldn’t cook or even wash sheets!
VOICE TWO: In later years they became very experienced travellers, skilful at choosing lodgings. Frieda could transform the most ordinary room into a personal and attractive environment with the blankets and embroideries and bright coloured things they had picked up in various parts of the world. From the first of their wanderings she was of course bilingual, but in time Lawrence also learned German fairly well, and they could both speak French, Italian, and Spanish. (Aldington)
VOICE TWO: Intense literary production, quarrelling and making love. Housework. Learning Italian. . . . and making love.
VOICE FOUR: The body.
LAWRENCE: “We have a curious idea of ourselves. We think of ourselves as a body with a spirit in it, or a body with a soul in it, or a body with a mind in it. It is a funny sort of superstition. Why should I look at my hand, as it so cleverly writes these words, and decide that it is a mere nothing compared with my mind that directs it? Is there really any huge difference between my hand and my brain? Or my mind? My hand is alive, it flickers with a life of its own. That’s what you learn, when you’re a novelist. And that’s what you are very likely not to know if you are a parson, or a philosopher, or a scientist, or a stupid person. Every man, philosopher included, ends in his own finger-tips. As for the words and thoughts and sighs and aspirations that fly from him, they are so many tremulations in the ether, and not alive at all.”
VOICE FOUR: Introduced to Bertrand Russell by Lady Ottoline Morrell.
VOICE THREE: Russell finds Lawrence irresistible.
VOICE TWO: “He is amazing; he sees through and through one. He is infallible. He is like Ezekiel or some other Old Testament prophet, prophesying. Of course, the blood of his nonconformist preaching ancestors is strong upon him, but he sees everything and is always right.”
VOICE THREE: A view that did not last. Lawrence gives joint lectures at Cambridge with Russell, and ends by driving the philosophical and mathematical genius into such a deep depression that he seriously contemplates suicide.
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence‘s life-long friend Richard Aldington sums him up best: “Those who go to Lawrence for a coherent philosophical system, or require him to state reasons and draw maps for everything he said or wrote, waste their time. What matters is not his opinions and prejudices, but himself, the life and beauty he can transmit. As to contradictions, who does not contradict himself unless he happens to be unusually dull, or a repulsively canny and crafty careerist.” (Aldington)
VOICE TWO: Lawrence’s life and work are interiorly transformed by Frieda; but not Sons and Lovers. The work was already fixed, its essence determined; and Lawrence was never a man to play around with essences. Emotionally, he begins to stand in a different relation to his material. He gropes, not for a solution to a problem, but for the formulation of a problem – the growth of love, its obstacles and frustrations, its madnessess and moments of blind passion. (Aldington)
VOICE FOUR: The letters from Germany and Italy in the early days are full of the excitement of escape – and not only the escape from environment, but the escape from an old self.
VOICE THREE: The moral and intellectual struggles of his youth had led to an impasse. An act done on impulse, the elopement with Frieda, had brought him enormous happiness and an access to new life.
VOICE TWO: They are legally married at a London registry office on 13 July, 1914.
LAWRENCE: “Do you think love is an accomplished thing, the day it is recognised. To love, you have to learn to understand the other, more than she understands herself, and submit to her understanding of you. It is damnably difficult and painful, but it is the only thing that endures. You mustn’t think that your desire or your fundamental need is to make a good career, or to fill your life with activity, or even to provide for your family materially. It isn’t. Your most vital necessity in this life is that you shall love your wife completely and implicitly and in entire nakedness of body and spirit. Then you will have peace and inner security, no matter how many things go wrong. And this peace and security will leave you free to act and to produce your own work, a real independent workman.”
VOICE THREE: 1914.
VOICE TWO: No inkling of what was coming. Lawrence, with water-lilies twined round his hat, walking the Westmoreland moors with a Russian friend. In a little wayside inn a party of girls having tea and shrieking with laughter. Then a storm of rain and Lawrence doing music-hall turns in the shelter of a rough stone wall. Then the descent into the industrial town of Barrow-in-Furness to learn that war has been declared.
VOICE FOUR: Not so long afterwards, war is also declared on Lawrence.
VOICE THREE: (Vendors voice) READ ALL ABOUT IT . . . THE RAINBOW TO BE DESTROYED. WORSE THAN ZOLA!
LAWRENCE: As Ursula passed from girlhood towards womanhood, gradually the cloud of self-responsibility gathered upon her. She became aware of herself, that she was a separate entity in the midst of an unseparated obscurity, that she must go somewhere, she must become something. And she was afraid, troubled. Why, oh why must one grow up, why must one inherit this heavy, numbing responsibility of living an undiscovered life? This was torment indeed, to inherit the responsibility of one’s own life.
VOICE THREE: According to The Times, the solicitor acting for the prosecution, Herbert Muskett, had said in court that The Rainbow was a mass of obscenity of thought, idea and action throughout, wrapped up in a language which he supposed would be regarded in some quarters as an artistic and intellectual effort.
LAWRENCE: (PAUSE) They went towards the stackyard. There he saw, with something like terror, the great new stacks of corn glistening and gleaming transfigured, silvery and present under the night-blue sky, throwing dark, substantial shadows, but themselves majestic and dimly present.
She took him in the kiss, hard her kiss seized upon him, hard and fierce and burning corrosive as the moonlight. She seemed to be destroying him. He was reeling, summoning all his strength to keep his kiss upon her, to keep himself in the kiss.
VOICE TWO: Keep himself in the kiss?
LAWRENCE But hard and fierce she had fastened upon him, cold as the moon and burning as a fierce salt. Till gradually his warm, soft iron yielded, yielded, and she was there fierce, corrosive, seething with his destruction, seething like some cruel, corrosive salt around the last substance of his being, destroying him, destroying him in the kiss.
VOICE FOUR: The magistrate, Sir John Dickenson, orders that the book be destroyed. The publisher, Methuen, is fined the enormous sum of ten guineas.
VOICE THREE: Legend has it that the confiscated copies were burnt by the public hangman outside the Royal Exchange.
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence is left owing Metheun his advance; he loses all chance of earning anything for three years of work; he loses his copyright; and he is publicly stigmatised as obscene, his name made so notorious that publishers and periodicals for a long time avoid using his work.
LAWRENCE: “I am not very much moved; am beyond that now. I only . . . curse them all, body and soul, root, branch and leaf, to eternal damnation!”
VOICE THREE: (LAUGHING) Only?
VOICE FOUR: A faint sea-gull like clamour from the intellectuals. A question asked in Parliament. The Authors Society . . . silent. The then reigning dictator of English Literature, Henry James, appealed to . . . without result.
VOICE THREE: Lawrence’s immediate financial needs attended to by friends. Twenty pounds from Edward Marsh. Thirty pounds from Philip Morrell and his wife. Forty pounds from Pinker, Lawrence’s agent. Five pounds from George Bernard Shaw.
VOICE FOUR: And in the background, raging, the First World war.
VOICE THREE: Lawrence’s hopes for a new world order based on the generic freedoms of the spirit crushed under foot – booted feet.
VOICE TWO: The novelist, J.D. Beresford, offers the Lawrence’s a free cottage in Cornwall.
LAWRENCE: “ . . . a nice old house with large clear rooms, and such a wonderful silence – only a faint sound of the sea and wind. It is like being at the window and looking out of England . . . to the beyond.”
VOICE FOUR: Illness. Numbness all down his left side.
VOICE THREE: The usual advice given to a tubercular patient . . . ignored.
VOICE TWO: An attempt to privately publish The Rainbow , fails.
VOICE THREE: Melville’s out of fashion and almost forgotten book, Moby Dick, read and commented upon by Lawrence with a kind of reverence. The oddities and strengths of Lawrence’s own character revealed in Melville’s great creation.
LAWRENCE: “The man is rather a tiresome New Englander of the ethical mystical-transcendentalist sort. But he was a deep, great artist, even if he was rather a sententious man . . . When he forgets his audience, and gives us his sheer appreciation of the world, then he is wonderful.”
VOICE FOUR: Wonderful indeed, this coalminer’s son, when he is truly himself.
VOICE TWO: Not so wonderful when he isn’t, when the dark side of his nature gets out.
VOICE THREE: A terrible fight between Frieda and Lawrence witnessed by Katherine Mansfield. At some time or other, fights with just about everyone.
VOICE FOUR: He simply raves, roars, beats the table, abuses everybody!
VOICE THREE: Every-so-often swallowed up in acute insane irritation which leaves him haggard and broken.
VOICE TWO: Birken, the hero, the Lawrence figure in Women in Love, re-enacts Lawrence’s past by coming to the very brink of a series of almost deadly mistakes. He moves from death to death, from one hell to another, partaking of each, subscribing to and contributing to each for a while, because they seem to be all that life offers, and because he cannot yet bring into full consciousness, or articulate, his obscure sense of death . . . Workers, bosses, aristocrats, artists . . . all living the life of the damned. Birken is saved, narrowly, from all these deaths, partly by Ursula and partly by his own unquenchable commitment to the old effort at serious living. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: A crazy time to be alive – particularly if you have a German wife.
VOICE FOUR: Coming home from shopping, they are pounced upon by coastguards who accuse Frieda of having a camera in her rucksack – but there is nothing more than a loaf of bread.
LAWRENCE: “I cannot even conceive how I have incurred suspicion!”
VOICE TWO: Not really difficult to see how it had come about. There had been a dramatic increase in submarine activity along the coast of Cornwall since the arrival of the Lawrences, and he was after all married to a German woman whose cousin was the famous Red Baron air ace! The subversives’ cottage searched and papers taken; then a directive from the powers that be stating that they must leave Cornwall within three days. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: In desperation, they flee, and Lawrence turns yet again to the crazy notion of setting up a kind of literary commune called Rananim.
VOICE FOUR: 44 Mecklenburgh Square, London.
LAWRENCE: “We have a much more definite plan of going away. There will be Frieda and I, Elder and Mrs Elder, and William Henry and Gray, and probably Hilda Aldington, and maybe Kot and Dorothy Yorke. We shall go to the east slope of the Andes, back of Paraguay or Colombia. Elder knows the country well. Gray can find one thousand pounds. The war will end this winter. In that case we can set off in the Spring.”
VOICE TWO: David Elder was a leading Freudian psychoanalyst, Dorothy Yorke a striking twenty-five-year-old American. Mrs Aldington was the poet Hilda Doolittle, known as HD. Wanting to avoid further sex with her husband after a miscarriage, she had encouraged him to take Dorothy Yorke as his mistress, and had fully expected their own relationship to become finer in its spirituality. (Sagar)
VOICE FOUR: (EYEBALLING THE CEILING) Silly woman!
VOICE THREE: Aldington of course falls in love with Dorothy (Arabella), and subsequently marries her. HD turns to Lawrence for her sublimated soul-marriage, and is given some encouragement, partly for revenge on Frieda, who at that moment is having an affair with Cecil Gray, and partly in the spirit of Orphic underworld marriage about to be celebrated in one of the worst of Lawrence’s stories – The Ladybird . It is clear that the acolyte Lawrence most desires in this story, is not HD, but Lady Cynthia Asquith. (Sagar)
VOICE FOUR: Fortunately, Lawrence’s saner instincts make him reject HD’s advances, he quarrels with Gray, and the whole daft episode ends with Gray running away with Aldington’s wife. (Sagar)
VOICE TWO: The title of Grays autobiography, Musical Chairs, seems particularly appropriate to the goings on at 44 Mecklenburgh Square. (Sagar)
VOICE THREE: Nor is it difficult to see why the prospect of joining Lawrence’s colony in the Andes did not appeal to Gray.
VOICE FOUR: (DELAMATORY) The idea of spending the rest of my life in the Andes in the company of Lawrence and Frieda, filled me with horror – the combination of the mountain heights and the psychological depths was more than I could sanely contemplate. Apart from anything else, I was already weary and sceptical, sick and tired, of his dark gods, sensuous underworlds, and all the rest of his literary properties. I accused him of allowing himself to become the object of a kind of esoteric female cult, an Adonis, Attis, Dionysos religion of which he was the central figure, a Jesus Christ to a regiment of Mary Magdalenes!
VOICE THREE: Richard Aldington is, for once, a little kinder than Gray. “Whatever else may be denied Lawrence, there can be no doubt that he had a great attraction for many women, all the more so since his innate puritanism kept them at a safe distance. He himself noticed, deplored, and even resented the fact.”
VOICE FOUR: The Andes venture scrapped.
VOICE TWO: Berkshire. Cold and comfortless. So financially embarrassed he has to sell his next collection of poems outright for ten pounds. But still working hard. A series of American essays almost complete, and another novel – Aaron’s Rod – underway.
LAWRENCE: “It goes very slowly – very slowly and fitfully. But I don’t care.”
VOICE THREE: Lawrence’s sister, Ada, offers to pay rent on a cottage – as long as it’s near where she lives. And so, during May, 1918, they return to the Midlands, some twenty miles from Eastwood.
VOICE TWO: Full circle.
VOICE FOUR: The whole of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall read between April and July, 1918, and a set of strange, haunting prophesies let loose.
LAWRENCE: “The will of the people must concentrate in one figure, who is also supreme over the will of the people. He must be chosen, but at the same time be responsible to God alone. Here is a problem of which a stormy future will have to evolve the solution.”
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence did not live to see just how stormy, and completely changed his mind anyway on becoming aware of Italian Fascism.
LAWRENCE: “I’m afraid the whole business of leaders and followers is wrong, now. When leadership has died, then it will be born again, perhaps, new and changed, and based on reciprocity of tenderness. The reciprocity of power is obsolete . . . the sense of false power against life is depressing.”
VOICE THREE: Forced into his previously extreme view of leadership by the depth of his caring – an archetypal depth that often got him into trouble.
VOICE TWO: “I wish there were miracles,” was his final, dispairing comment on all things political. “I am tired of the old laborious way of working things to their conclusions.”
VOICE THREE: Then he hits stride again.
LAWRENCE: “We’ve got to rip the old veil of a vision across, and find what the heart really believes in, after all: and what the heart really wants, for the next future. And we’ve got to put it down in terms of belief and of knowledge. And then go forward again, to the fulfilment in life and art. We must discover, if we can, the true unconscious, where our life bubbles up in us, prior to any mentality. The first bubbling life in us, which is innocent of any mental alteration.”
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence tried to formulate a new science which would be simultaneously psychology and religion. He knew that his readers would find it bosh and abracadabra, and some of it is, but some of it is also, in Middleton Murry’s words, far in advance of anything the professional psycho-analysts had reached – for once he was right!
VOICE TWO: Utterly fed-up with England. His mind still on the Andes venture. Or Palestine. Or America, even. Anywhere but England!
VOICE THREE: And then, to Lawrence’s delight, a steady arrangement agreed upon with the publisher Martin Secker. On 14 November, 1919, he is on his way to Italy with nine pounds in his pocket. Frieda is already in Germany. She will later join him in Florence.
VOICE FOUR: The next few years are spent travelling, writing and arguing. From Picinisco with an ass living on the doorstep to Capri and the company of two other writers – Compton Mackenzie and Brett Young. Then on to Sicily and the splendid villa Fontana Vecchia, where he completes Lost Girl and writes 450 pages of a novel he immediately abandons. Then back to Aaron’s Rod, still no where near completion after two and half years. Then early in January 1921 an excursion to Sardinia, where in five days he collects enough material to write a 200-page book. At this point Frieda returns to Germany to nurse her sick mother, and Lawrence finishes Sea and Sardinia and sets off slowly north to join his wife . . . Ebersteinberg. The Black Forest. Austria. Italy again in August. The Lost Girl wins him his first literary prize, The James Tait Black Award. (Aldington)
VOICE THREE: Women in Love is attacked by John Bull.
VOICE TWO: A loathsome study of sex depravity misleading youth to unspeakable disaster! To which Lawrence replied:
LAWRENCE: A curse, a pox on this crawling, sniffing, spunkless brood of humanity!
VOICE TWO: Escape
LAWRENCE: “The Indian, the Aztec, old Mexico – all that fascinates me and has fascinated me for years. Not Buddha. Buddha is so finished and perfected and fulfilled and . . . without new possibilities – to me, I mean. The glamour for me is in the West, not in the fulfilled East.”
VOICE THREE: In Mexico, Lawrence contracted malaria. In his weakened state, tuberculosis again took hold. But he recovered after a few weeks.
VOICE FOUR: By boat to Ceylon, then Australia, then the South Seas. No time to read anything apart from the Sydney Bulletin while in Australia; yet in possession of detailed information about the right-wing secret army which had just come into existence in Sydney. This information, unknown to Australians themselves until years later, resulted in Lawrence’s novel Kangaroo, and is said to have been written in a mere six weeks during the winter of 1922.
VOICE TWO: Kangaroo is not only the name of the novel, it is also the name of a character in the novel, a character believed by some to have been Major-General Sir Charles Rosenthall who, along with Captain W.J. R. (Jack) Scott, were involved with the King and Empire Alliance, an ultra-conservative organisation thought to have had links with a right-wing secret army. So did Lawrence meet and discuss the political situation with Sir Charles Rosenthall, and if so, by what means did he manage to find out what was going on in the shadows of Australian politics within what must have been hours of his arrival?
VOICE THREE: Then off to Tahiti.
VOICE TWO: And America.
VOICE FOUR: Lawrence celebrates his thirty-seventh birthday in the US of A.
VOICE THREE A strange, twisted time in America. Nothing quite right. A white witch with an Indian husband and fierce quarrels with Frieda. Indians dancing and a man sleeping on the verandah with a pistol to frighten off bandits! The famous anthropologist Zelia Nuttall lunched with three times, and the ancient Gods of Mexico incorporated into his new novel, The Plumed Serpent, in a surprising form.
VOICE TWO: His hero in The Plumed Serpent, Don Ramon, sweeps away Christianity and gives the Indians a new faith.
VOICE THREE: More fights with Frieda.
VOICE FOUR: Then New York by way of New Orleans. After another row, Frieda returns to England. Lawrence spends some time in Los Angeles . . . wandering around; then returns to Mexico. Then England.
VOICE TWO: Something going on in England between Frieda and Middelton Murray, he discovers.
VOICE FOUR: A motoring excursion all over Derbyshire to take his mind off . . . what is going on.
LAWRENCE: (PAUSE) “The car ploughed uphill through the long squalid straggle of Tevershall, the blackened brick dwellings, the black slate roofs glistening their sharp edges, the mud black with coal-dust, the pavements wet and black. It was as if dismalness had soaked through and through everything. The utter negation of natural beauty, the utter negation of the gladness of life, the utter absence of the instinct for shapely beauty which every bird and beast has, the utter death of the human intuitive faculty was appalling.”
VOICE THREE: It was this vision of the death of the intuitive faculty which impelled him, in spite of illness, to write Lady Chatterley’s Lover. No less than three versions of the book scrupulously written in longhand while he coughed, and coughed, and blamed his coughing on the flu. The book privately printed in Italy because his American and British publishers knew they’d end up in court
LAWRENCE: “I’ve nearly done my novel. Shall let it lie and settle down a bit before I think of having it typed.”
VOICE TWO: A new grey suit and a pair of Toulan gloves for a visit to Paris to see if he can arrange a popular edition.
VOICE FOUR: Not at all in the best of health. What he needed, he told Aldous Huxley, was a reincarnation into a dashing body that doesn’t cough.
VOICE TWO: In New York, pirated editions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover begin to appear.
VOICE THREE: A finely presented pirated edition appears in France.
VOICE THREE: But frailer and weaker, his recoveries slighter and more delusive.
LAWRENCE: “I just dibble at pictures, and potter about among the trees.”
VOICE THREE: Taken to see a motion picture in Baden-Baden, and so nauseated by its falsity, he has to leave.
VOICE FOUR: So, so sensitive!
VOICE TWO: As his body failed, the life of the senses and the gifts of the natural world became more and more precious to him. His last poems celebrate the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh, with assurance, playfulness and joy. Even the poems about death, though poignant, never waver in their faith that death is only a part of life, the longest journey, perhaps the greatest adventure. (Aldington)
I am in the hands of the unknown God,
VOICE THREE: He had come to the conclusion that his sickness was . . . a sort of rage. But there was a larger context to this rage. Existence itself was for Lawrence “one continuous convalescence; it was as though he were newly reborn from a mortal illness every day of his life.” (Letters. p. xxx)
VOICE FOUR: But cheered by the sales of his pamphlet on Pornography and Obscenity. Twelve hundred copies a week being sold, and well reviewed in the New Statesman.
VOICE THREE: It is a real masterpiece of fundamental analysis written by a man of genius from the very bottom of his heart . . . It is one of the most powerful and sane and penetrating pieces of writing that we have read for many years. His pamphlet is a pamphlet which, if it wins understanding, may well mark an epoch in the history not only of censorship but of the reasonable appreciation of the realities of sexual morality and sexual honesty and decency.
VOICE TWO: Lawrence hears that Middleton Murry has decided there is . . . no God. Now I know there is, says Lawrence.
VOICE THREE: Not merely being flippant.
LAWRENCE: “I intend to find God: I wish to realise my relation with Him. I do not any longer object to the word God. My attitude regarding this has changed. I must establish a conscious relation to God.”
VOICE THREE: Christmas. Plum puddings and Christmas cakes from Lawrence’s sisters. Lawrence in bed with linseed poultices.
VOICE FOUR: Very ill indeed.
VOICE THREE: Moved from the Villa Beau Soleil to the Sanatorium Ad Astra, at Vence, above Cannes – from the sun, to the stars.
VOICE TWO: Friends dropping in from all over. His Italian publisher Pino Orioli. Norman Douglas. The Brett Youngs.
VOICE THREE: H.G. Wells and the Aga Khan. Aldous Huxley and his wife Maria stay to help.
VOICE FOUR: A blue room with yellow curtains and great open windows and a balcony looking over the sea.
VOICE THREE: Of these days, Frieda says, Never in all that illness and suffering did he let the days sink to a dreary or dull or sordid level.
LAWRENCE: “I am rather worse here . . . such bad nights, and cough, and heart, and pain decidedly worse here . . . and miserable. It’s not a good place . . . shan’t stay long . . . I’m better in a house.”
VOICE TWO: Only one thing written at the Sanatorium Ad Astra, a review of Eric Gill’s Art Nonsense, which Lawrence liked – written in a child’s exercise book, and unfinished.
VOICE THREE: Halfway through the same exercise book, a lone title: God and Art.
VOICE TWO: Frieda sleeping upright in a cane chair in Lawrence’s room.
VOICE FOUR: After a month, Lawrence begs to be taken away from the sanatorium, and they take a house in Vence, with an English nurse from Nice. Better to be part of life and die, than be a mere spectator.
LAWRENCE: “Life is beautiful, so long as it is consuming you. When it is rushing through you, destroying you, life is glorious. It is best to roar away, like a fire with a great draught, white-hot to the last bit. It’s when you burn a slow fire and save fuel that life’s not worth having.”
VOICE THREE: Huxley perfectly captures Lawrence’s inner power with these words: “Vitality has the attractiveness of beauty, and in Lawrence there was a continuously springing fountain of vitality. It went on welling up in him . . . long after the time when, by all the rules of medicine, he should have been dead. For the last two years he was like a flame burning on in miraculous disreagard of the fact that were was no more fuel to justify its existence. One grew so accustomed to seeing the flame blazing away, self-fed, in its broken and empty lamp that one almost came to believe that the mirascle would be prolonged, indefinately. (PAUSE) But it could not be.
VOICE THREE: The move to the Villa Robermond in a shaking taxi is too much for Lawrence. That night Frieda sits by his bed singing to him the songs they had sung together so many evenings in the past.
VOICE FOUR: The next day is Sunday.
LAWRENCE: “Don’t leave me, don’t go away.”
VOICE THREE: After lunch he began to suffer very much, and about tea-time he said:
LAWRENCE: “I must have a temperature, I am delirious. Give me a thermometer.”
VOICE FOUR: A little later he shouted:
LAWRENCE: “Aldous! Aldous! I ought to have some morphine now!”
VOICE FOUR: So Aldous went off to find a doctor.
LAWRENCE: “Hold me, hold me, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where my hands are . . . where am I?”
VOICE FOUR: Then the doctor came. After a little while Lawrence said:
LAWRENCE: “I am better now, if I could only sweat, I would be better.”
VOICE FOUR: Maria Huxley was in the room. Frieda held Lawrence’s left ankle from time to time – it felt so full of life . . .
FRIEDA: He was now breathing more peacefully, and then suddenly there were gaps in the breathing. The moment came when the thread of life tore in his chest, his face changed, his cheeks and jaw sank, and death had taken hold of him.
VOICE THREE: Ten of his friends managed to reach Venice in time to go with him to the graveyard. His coffin, covered in freesias, violets, mimosa and primroses, was buried without ritual and without commemorative speeches, but as it was lowered Frieda said quietly:
FRIEDA: Good bye, Lorenzo.
VOICE THREE: On the wall at the head of his grave she had them put his emblem of the phoenix – a mosaic made from coloured pebbles.
LAWRENCE: “Do I fear the strange approach of the creative unknown to my door? I fear it only with pain and with unspeakable joy. And do I fear the invisible dark hand of death plucking me into the darkness, gathering me blossom by blossom from the stem of my life into the unknown of my afterwards? I fear it only in reverence and with strange satisfaction. For this is my final satisfaction, to be gathered blossom by blossom, all my life long, into the finality of the unknown which is my end.”
PAUSE . . .
Readers bow in unison and piano comes in.