David Herbert Richard Lawrence was born in 1885, the fourth son of an illiterate Nottinghamshire miner. After study at University College, Nottingham he became a school teacher, but it is as a poet, essayist, and in many peoples view a controversial novelist, especially as two of his novels were banned , because they rejected Victorian prudishness in favour of the expression of sexual freedom. He left teaching after some recurring illness, a t that time thought to be bronchitis and the encouragement of the moderate success of his first novel, the White Peacock in 1911. H e was encouraged in his writing by Ford Maddox Ford, but in the first instance it was his great friend Jessie Chambers who encouraged him in 1905. She was also the one who tutored the relatively poor scholar that Lawrence was, so that he could gain a place in college. In 1912 he eloped with the lady he married in 1914, the aristocratic FriedaWeekley, the German born wife of a Nottingham professor and mother of three children.
His own mother seems to have dominated his early life, as can be seen in his evocative and revealing poem, the Piano He began to write poetry in his twenties, following at that time traditional rhyming patterns, though later he would prefer free verse. These poems are generally not considered to be of the same quality as later works. The very first ones published were sent to the English Review by Jessie Chambers, his girlfriend, rather than by Lawrence. His Love poems and others of 1913 contain dialect poems, with links to the dialect novels of Thomas Hardy, that reveal insights into working class life and was critically acclaimed as The most important book of poems of the season Although his mother was a middle class teacher, Lawrence was the first major novelist in England with a genuinely working class background. This gave him an edge when it came to describing working class situations as in his description of a miner making his own breakfast in the auto-biographical novel Sons and Lovers , published in 1913. However it meant he fitted rather awkwardly into the melee of literary life alongside figures such as Waugh, Maugham, Chesterton and Woolf. His marriage, which lasted for the rest of his life and seemed happy despite controversial beginnings, was to cause him many problems, mainly because his wife, born Frieda von Richthofen, was German at a time of high anti- German feeling.
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In 1915 he was prosecuted under the laws of obscenity for his novel the Rainbow, which explored the sexual relationships of three generations of a family. It was in Lawrences view, part one of a two novel work, the second part being Sons and Lovers published in 1920. Thus begun a terrible period of his life. He was totally against the war, which he saw as the failure of industrialized society and which he blamed for the low state of his father. Rejected from the army on health grounds, his talent as a writer was suspect and he was unable to get anything published. He turned to none fiction writing when publishers shied away from his novels.
He and Frieda lived in poverty and under a cloud of suspicion. The Oxford Companion to English literature describes how his neighbours mistrusted them and they were under both police and military surveillance. They were forced to move as they were suspected of being German agents. However this period was completed by the publication of Look! We have come through in 1917, a selection of poems mostly about married happiness, an unusual subject for verse. They spent the years after the war wandering the world. Later novels reflected this change of place as when he wrote Kangaroo in 1923, set of course in Australia. In Pansies of 1929, we see revealed Lawrences disgust with British society. Lawrence was influenced strongly by the works of Walt Whitman, and described some of his own work as Whitmanesque .
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Another influential figure for him was Thomas Hardy, a prolific user of regional accent and dialect in his works as was Lawrence. He had an amazing ability to describe nature, surprising perhaps in one born into such an industrial background, as in one of his best known poems The Snake. where the creature is described as yellow-brown slackness and looking round like a god, unseeing. As well as poetry, which critics see as very uneven in quality, and novels which explore psychological as well as sexual issues, he wrote in other genre short stories such as The Virgin and the Gypsy. Frieda excited his interest in Freuds psychology, and though he was later to reject many of Freuds ideas he wrote essays, imaginative rather than scientific, on the subject of psychology. He wrote descriptively about places he visited, as in Sea and Sardinia 1921. Ian Hamilton in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry describes his writings as an almost occult empathy with the landscape. Christopher Gillie, in Longmans Companion to English Literature considered that some of his best writing was in the posthumously published Phoenix I and II . Other types of writing were plays, though these never received more than minimal attention.
He was a prolific writer of letters and also worked as a translator of writers such as the Italian A.F. Grazzini. He wrote long meditations on such subjects as Classic American Literature Although not conventionally religious he wrote Apocalypse, published in 1931, an attempt at Biblical criticism. In later life he also became a serious artist. Lawrence was a man alive in every sense to all the experiences possible. In his poem Mystic he says I f I eat an apple, I like to eat it with all my senses awake. Towards the end of his life some of his work is less pessimistic than many earlier pieces e.g.
Bavarian Gentians which, although he deals with the subject of death, begins Not everyman has gentians in his house. He seems to see the flowers as positive, even though he describes them as torch flower of the blue-smoking darkness i.e. death. Lawrence is an important writer, not just because of his own works, but because of the influence his writings and style have had on others e.g. former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, another nature poet. He is important because he was able to portray a world that others were perhaps hardly aware of – this applies both to his working class novels and some of his other writings. Despite his lowly origins his writings display wide knowledge.
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E.g. in Bavarian Gentians he is obviously fully conversant with Roman and Greek mythology, mentioning in this short poem Persephone and Hades, though he uses his Latin names Dis and Pluto. In Gloire de Dijon he is in total control of the metaphor of a mature woman as a full blown rose – Her swung breasts sway like full- blown yellow Gloire de Dijon roses. A problem with Lawrences writing is that , under pressure, he would make many deletions, and when later editors wanted to produce his books as he would have had them published it was difficult for them to decide which text he would have wanted. This is particularly so in his early novels such as Sons and Lovers So even almost 80 years after his death he is still a figure of controversy. Whatever one thinks of the quality of his work, and its often grim and almost totally humourless view of life, the way in which he was able to explore emotional issues was a challenge to other writers of his time, who often tended rather to the superficial. He had a great need to break away from the conventions of the society around him and sought always to find words for experiences that more conventional literary language could not accommodate.
He, with his male point of view, is perhaps not as popular today, with more liberal views of the place of women, yet his descriptions of life as he saw it as still valid. He is not an easy person to categorise, with the wide diversity of his work as well as the writings and places that inspired them. He was successful in several fields in an age that likes to put people into neat boxes. Lawrence just never did fit. Perhaps all this dates back to the unconventionality of his childhood a piano in the parlour with a middle class women playing hymns and in the kitchen the illiterate miner in his dust. A marriage in its own way just as unconventional as that of Lawrence and Frieda.
It is hardly surprising that their son was not a conventional man, but I think that for much of the time, driven by the ideas that formed him, he didnt want to fit. Today Lawrence is acclaimed by some, but criticized by others including those who promote womens liberation. yet it is to the women he admired, especially Jessie, hi smother Lydia, and his wife that we should, at least in part be grateful to for his success. Bibliography Crystal, D. editor, The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopaedia,Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995 Gilles, C. The Longman Companion to English Literature.
... individual taste. Reference Starbucks, C.(2008).About us.New York:Oxford university Press <www.starbucks.com> 19th August 2008.
Longman, London Gross, J. editor, The New Oxford Book of English Prose New York, Oxford University Press, 1998 Hamilton, I. The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996 Miller, R, and Greenberg ,R Poetry, an Introduction Macmillan, Hampshire, 1981 Stringer, J, editor, The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Literature in English, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996.