DAVID HERBERT LAWRENCE(1885 – 1930)
As always happens in a situation like that, the two often quarrelled for everything. A cause of discussion was also David’s education: the mother wanted him to go to school, while her husband wanted him to go to work in the mine. Luckily the wife won and little David was sent to the local Board School.
The frequent tension in the family affected the young boy, who was shy and insecure, dependent on his own protective mother. He was also a delicate sickly boys and when he left school at 16, he fell ill with pneumonia which eventually degenerated into tuberculosis and caused his premature death.
WOMEN INFLUENCE: One of the elements that determined his personality was undoubtedly his mother strong influence: she was overprotective and domineering. When he got engaged with Jessie Chambers, she succeeded in making them part.
The turning point in his life was the acquaintance he made of Frieda Von Richthofen, the wife of his Professor of French. They fell in love and eloped to Germany. Frieda had a very strong character and was even five years older than he. When they went back to England, the First World War had broken out. They met a lot of difficulties because of Frieda’s nationality. They were also suspected to be spies and checked by the police. When the war ended they had their passports back and went to live in Italy where Lawrence showed some sympathy for the new Fascist ideas. After visiting many countries, they went to the South of France, where he died.
WORKS: Lawrence wrote short novels, poems, travel books, essays and novels. Among them we may mention Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
They mostly dealt with such themes as the study of the nature of sexuality, marriage problems and man/woman relationship. As a consequence he had some troubles when he published his books because the Press attacked them of immorality. Some of them, The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, were condemned and banned as immoral and indecent. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was considered a celebration of physical love: it told the love story between Lady Chatterley, the wife of an upper-class rich man totally impotent because of a war wound, and her low-class gamekeeper. The novel was considered obscene just because it dealt with the sexual love between a Lady and a social inferior men and that was not accepted and made a scandal.
During his life Lawrence was seen by the critics as a preacher of sex and instinct more than as a novelist. These critics failed to understand that he only wanted to revalue natural,instinctive life. After his death, however, there was a new critical approach to his works and he began to be studied as a writer. The new criticism pointed out some particular aspects of his novels: mystic love of nature, a deep consideration of social and human values, denunciation of a modern mechanized civilization which condemned people to ugliness, and the clash between class consciousness and the individual.He believed that the novel could grasp the totality of life’s essence.In his essay Why the Novel Matters, he wrote:“ Being a novelist I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist,the philosopher and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog. The novel is the one bright book of life: Books are not life. They are only tremulations on the ether. But the novel as a tremulation can make the whole man alive tremble.Whichis more than poetry, philosophy, science, or any other book-tremulation can do. The novel is the book of life”.
As Thomas Hardy,Lawrence,too, was considered a local writer for the setting. His favourite one was the one where he was born, that is the coal district of Nottinghamshire and the mining country.
THEMES AND FEATURES: The most recurrent themes in Lawrence’s books are: hatred towards industrialization, the belief in the supremacy of instinct over cerebral consciousness, the relationship between man and woman and between human beings and nature, study of sexuality, marriage and nature of love.
He was against industrialization because it had removed the population from the natural beauty of the country to the squalor of towns. He Knew everything about the effects of the industrial revolution both on towns and on man. He condemned its sterilizing consequences. In one of his poems he wrote that ‘ everything new and machine-made sucks life out of us, and makes us cold, makes us lifeless’. He did not believe in progress which corrupted man and considered the individual personality as primary importance. His ‘Utopia’ was an ideal land and an ideal community among those people who had not been turned into machine-like creature and who lived in close contact with nature. In one of his essays, Nottingham and the Mining Country, he wrote:’ the real tragedy of England …. Is the tragedy of ugliness. The country is so lovely… the man-made England is so vile … It was ugliness which betrayed the spirit of man in the 19th century. The great crime of the Victorians was the condemning of workers to ugliness … ugly surroundings, ugly ideals, ugly religion, ugly hope, Ugly love, ugly cloths, ugly furniture, ugly relationships. The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread’.
Lawrence hated intellectualism and the dominating force that the reason exercises over emotions and feelings. Like the Romantics, he turned to nature and glorified the natural, the instinctive and the primitive. He contrasted the ‘artificial culture’ with ‘the natural culture’. He had got an idealised idea of Italian and Mexican peasants and he contrasted them to the formality of English people, making a distinction between men who lived according to social conventions and men who lived according to natural instinct.
The supremacy of instinct over cerebral consciousness is another important feature.Lawrence believed that the puritan heritage of England was the cause of most of the evils of his contemporary society. The Puritan Culture had imposed the suppression of primordial instincts and had led to the overdevelopment of ‘cerebral consciousnesses’. As a consequence man had been forced to reject his natural instinct to follow a bigoted logic. If man wanted to be free again he had to follow his instinct and to refuse all logical interpretations. He wrote:’ all I want is to answer my blood, direct, without fibbing interventions of mind or moral or what not’. What he meant by these words was that while our mind could lead us to act wrongly our blood cannot; when we react instinctively, following our senses, without the restrictions of reasoning and education, we cannot make mistakes.
As far as Lawrence’s view of sex and love he believed that they are sources of vitality and that there is a sort of mutual dependence between them: love without sex was sterile, it could give satisfaction but not joy. Only love could turn sex into the highest moment of full self-realization. He also believed that sex was ‘ the only response’ to the pressure of modernization and industrialism and that the regeneration ofEngland, besides the close contact with nature and the primitive, could take place through sex.
In the man/woman relationship too, there was a clear mutual dependence; this relationship was also regulated by a natural antagonism and had to be based on sexual equality. His conception of the woman, however, went against the consideration women were gaining in society at the time. He believed that a woman who thinks, who is independent, who acts as an individual competes with the male partner and this may bring to male violence and loneliness.