Thoughts on D.H. Lawrence

> [Lawrence] himself often becomes a reason for diminishing the value of his works

This has been said of Nietzsche, too. One person wrote that he sometimes goes from preaching to *exhorting*. Nietzsche included some saving self-criticism, as in his “Attempt” in the beginning of the second edition of “The Birth of Tragedy.” Lawrence certainly, at first blush, obtrudes himself – and at times his voice (*at first* “thin, tinny, and strange” in Camille Paglia’s words) shrills over everything. One thinks of the Cornwall men who heard him trying to boss people and asked if he was a squeak-toy Freida had found in a grab bag! But, for me at least, in time I came to realize that Lawrence was a lot more self-knowing than he was/is given credit for. He really, truly pursued his project of being completely authentic – which has to include some inauthenticity, since we primates are actors – that’s part of our authentic nature, too.

I just reread Lady C. to see if I felt it *works* – my initial impression, after a first love and awe of it, was that it weakened structurally toward the end and that DH was too sick to really finish it off. Now, I’m not so sure. I think it’s one of his purest works, really, much more touched by his end-of-life purity of the “Pansies” poetic period. It seems more and more to me like an open space through which the wind and water can pour – not “I,” but the wind and water – and sometimes the fire, too, and light, and the rest of the elements!

Anyway, I was struck by DH doing in this book exactly what he did in “Women in Love” – including criticism/self-awareness of his doppelganger. This time, as we know, Mellors is but partly DH – it seemed so clear to me that DH bifurcated himself into Mellors and Clifford – has anyone ever critically approached Lady C. from the POV of *all* of the major characters being aspects of DH? Not just the two men, but Connie too – and maybe even her sister, and Mrs Bolton? I’m not quite sure about Big Boxcar Bertha “The Beak” Coutts, though. [Forgive me if these are elementary, but I avoid reading too much literature about the authors I love. Especially recent post-modernisms. I’m like DH with his liking old things that have some life sunk into them – criticism about 50 years after it’s written starts to live for me. Before that, it’s too green and raw.]

So … in Lady C we have Mellors say, flat out, things so obviously applicable to DH: that the men in the army had a holy fear of him when he got into one of his rages, for instance. And that he could see a vision of the future, but it was all bound up in some kind of rage. There’s a sophisticated self-knowing there that DH is not credited with.

Here we have a man who drew a humorous cartoon of himself on his last day of life – and one of his last utterances, on that very day, was “Look at him over there!” [or words to that effect]. Right he was to be reading a biography of Columbus as his final book – and to do his final review on a book whose theme, he held, was that play should be work and work should be play.

Oh, and then those final words! “Don’t cry.” And, I think the last ones, or near, “I feel better now.”

[ All from memory. Forgive me, wonderful scholars. ]

> his belief that Life feeds the Sun and not the converse

DH can absolutely be seen as trying, really desperately, to provide a vitalistic philosophy against the onmarch of mechanism to head off the apocalypse. I think he was a very serious philosopher and knew quite a lot. Look at how he teased out the implications of relativity and quantum theory.

> the overtly didactic and polemic attitude he often takes

Funny, isn’t it, his didacticism! He seems to have been being true to his religious upbringing there. Also, it increases word-count. Important for a writer. He also tries to catch the flying threads in a moment – something he got better and better at. Look at his growth from the sometimes nearly-impenetrable undersurface goings-on in “The Rainbow” to the simple loveliness maintained through much of Lady C.

> I find that unless one has felt a sense of ‘Life’ that Lawrence tried to portray, one would only find him boring

Or transformative also! He did that to me.

[ To D.H. Lawrence list – ]


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