D. H. Lawrence : Biography

D. H. Lawrence : Biography

Herbert Lawrence was born at Eastwood, Nottinghamshir, on September 11, 1885. He was the fourth child of John Arthur Lawrence, a coal miner and Lydia Beardsall.

Lawrence’s mother exerted a great influence on him. She encouraged his intellectual and artistic pursuits and helped him to go into the High School in Nottingham where he stayed until he was sixteen. On leaving school Lawrence obtained a job as a clerk. After only a few months, he succumbed to an attack of pneumonia. On recovering, he did not join his previous job but became a school teacher. A few years later he entered the University College of Nottingham to undertake full time study for the teaching profession. While studying at University College, Lawrence began his career as a writer. Sometime in 1907 he began to his first novel The White Peacock. It is set in his home background and draws especially on his knowledge of the countryside around the Haggs. He also began writing poetry, Lawrence’s first publication was in 1909 when the English Review printed some of his poems. Then in 1911 his first novel, The White Peacock appeared. Because of the obvious gifts of observation and sensitivity, The White Peacock has been described as” a young man’s book- almost indeed, a virginal book”. Meanwhile, he was appointed as a teacher at a boy’s school in Craydon, while serving there, he was involved in an affair with Helen Crooke, who had herself been caught up in an affair with a married man who committed suicide.

This Story provided Lawrence with the material for his second novel, The Trespasser (1912). The publication of Sons and Lovers (1913) placed among the leading novelists of the day. Largely because of the possibilities that he saw in this book, Henry James (another great writer) selected Lawrence’s as one of the four most promising novelists.

 The setting of the novel is in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area of England, The town of Eastwood, called Bestwood in the novel, is Lawrence’s birth place. It is a mining village about one mile from the small stream.

Sons and Lovers is one of the great novels in the range of the psychological masterpieces of English literature. The groundwork of psychological particularly that of sex gives a sturdy plinth. The subjects for the autopsy of the novelist are love, hate, festering rage, feminine charm, and the savage impulses of the primitive forces of life and pain. Lawrence has illustrated them in the novel through the psychological nuances of his characters. His triumph lies in the expounding of their emotions as well as unpredictable behavior and the dramatic metamorphosis’ of their movement.

About the greatness of this novel, Edward Garnett’s evaluation is noteworthy: It is “an epic of family life in a colliery district, a piece of social history on a large canvas, painted with a patient thoroughness and bold veracity which both Balzac and Flaubert might have envied & central theme, an unhappy working class marriage, a struggle to rear her children while sustained by her strong puritanical spirit, develops later into a study of her maternal aversion to surrendering her son to another woman’s arms. The theme is dissected in its innermost spiritual fibers with

An unflinching and loving exactitude, while the family drama is seen against an impressive background of the harsh, driving realities of life in a colliery district. This novel is really the only one of any breadth of vision in contemporary English fiction that lifts working class life out of middle class hands and restores it to its native atmosphere of hard veracity. The mining people, their mental outlook, ways of life and habits, are contrasted with some country farming types in a neighborhood village, where the smoky horizon of industrialism merges to the passionate eyes of a girl and boy in love, in the magic of quiet woods and pastures. The whole treatment is unerringly true and spiritually profound, marred a little by a feeling of photographic accuracy in the narrative and by a lack of restraint in some of the later love scenes.”

In the year 1913, Lawrence married Frieda, a mother of three children. About this time, he began to ‘The Rainbow’ and ‘Women in Love’. Unfortunately, ‘The Rainbow’ was declared obscene and suppressed soon after it had been published in 1915. After that he had faced difficulty in getting his other works published in Britain. ‘Women in Love’ completed in 1916, was not published until 1929 and then it appeared privately in New York. During that period, Lawrence devoted a tremendous spurt of creative energy to writing book of poems like Amores (1916) and Look! We Have Come Through (1918). In 1919, Lawrence fell seriously ill with influenza. On recovering, he and Frieda left their native country forever.

Till 1922 he spent most of his time in Italy and Sicily and wrote great poems like Snake, Fish, etc. He continued his novel writing with ‘Aaron’s Rod’ and ‘The Lost Girl’. In 1922, a volume of his short stories named England, My England was published in New York.

Then Lawrence left Sicily for America and reached San Francisco in September 1922. Published “within a year or two after he left Italy were: Memories of the Foreign Legion; Birds, Beasts and Flowers, a collection of poems; and Studies in Classic American Literature, a small collection of informal essays, remarkable for their insights.

For the time being, Lawrence became deeply interested in the American Indians. In 1923, he moved to Mexico where he wrote a series of poems and a novel, The Plumed Servant (1926) in which he imagined the creation of a modern political movement based on revival of the worship of the ancient Aztec gods.

Lawrence nearly died from malaria in 1925. On recovering, he left Mexico and went to Italy where he lived at the Villa Mirenda, near Florence. There he wrote Lady Chatterly’s. Lover (1928). This is the most frankly sexual of all his novels. While living near Florence, Lawrence visited Etruscan towns and began to write Sketches of Etruscan Places which was published after his death. He also took up again his earlier interest in painting. In July, 1929, the police closed down an exhibition of his paintings in London. This provoked one of Lawrence’s more amusingly satirical poems, Innocent Evening.

Even during the last months of his life Lawrence continued to write poems in which he expressed some of his most beautiful and moving thoughts on the subject of death. He died on March 2, 1930 in France. His body was cremated and in 1935 his ashes were transported to the ranch in New Mexico.

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