D H Lawrence is amongst the greatest figures of 20th c. English literature. Taken as a whole his work represents an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation.
In his poetry, prose and paintings, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality as well as human sexuality and instinct. At the time of his death in 1928 it was said that his public reputation was that of a pornographer and a wasted talent. Yet, as stated on the Portry Foundation’s website, E.M. Forster–think: Room with a View–begged to differ. In an obituary notice he went so far as to declare that Lawrence was, “the greatest imaginative novelist of [that] generation.”
One must learn to love, and go through a good deal of suffering to get to it, and the journey is always towards the other soul.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
“Lady Constance Chatterley is trapped in a loveless marriage to a man who is impotent. Oppressed by her dreary life, she is drawn to Mellors the gamekeeper. Breaking out against the constraints of society she yields to her instinctive desire for him and discovers the transforming power of physical love which leads them both towards fulfilment.”
‘Connie was aware, however, of a growing restlessness…It thrilled inside her body, in her womb, somewhere, till she felt she must jump into water and swim to get away from it; a mad restlessness. It made her heart beat violently for no reason…’
Lady Chatterley’s Lover (📙 read the book, pdf format) was first published privately in 1928 in Italy, and in 1929 in France–it was banned (forbidden/prohibited) in the U.K. Indeed, it wasn’t properly published in uncensored format in the U.K. until 1960. As Wikipedia say, the book’s publication only happened after an obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books was won by Penguin. After winning, in short order, Penguin sold 3 million copies. The book was/is notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working class man and an upper class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable (four-letter) words.
We fucked a flame into being.
― D H Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Women in Love
Women in Love begins one blossoming spring day in England and ends with a terrible catastrophe in the snow of the Alps. Ursula and Gudrun are very different sisters who become entangled with two friends, Rupert and Gerald, who live in their hometown. The bonds between the couples quickly become intense and passionate but whether this passion is creative or destructive is unclear.
In this groundbreaking work–widely considered to be one of Lawrence’s best–he explores what it means to be human in an age of conflict and confusion.
Like above, The Rainbow was considered controversial in its time due to its portrayal of how sexual desire, especially in women, can affect relationships. Not only was is banned in the U.K. for 11 years but 1,000 copies were ceremoniously burned.
The novel is set between the 1840s and the early years of the twentieth century and tells the story of three generations of the Brangwen family; by way of, “courting, pregnancy, marriage and defiance Lawrence explores love and the conflicts it brings.”
Sons and Lovers
Sons and Lovers was published in 1913 and–surprise, surprise–was initially considered to be obscenity. Today though it is regarded as a masterpiece by many critics and amongst Lawrence’s finest achievements.
In the novel, protagonist Paul Morel is the focus of his disappointed and fiercely protective mother’s life. Their tender, devoted and intense bond comes under strain when Paul falls in love with Miriam Leivers, a local girl his mother disapproves of. The arrival of the provocatively modern Clara Dawes causes further tension and Paul is torn between his individual desires and family allegiances.
Love is never a fulfillment. Life is never a thing of continuous bliss. There is no paradise. Fight and laugh and feel bitter and feel bliss: and fight again. Fight, fight. That is life.