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On this day in history in 1930, died D H Lawrence.
Lawrence was an influential and controversial author whose works were considered somewhat risqué.
David Herbert Lawrence was born on September 11th 1885, at Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, the fourth child of a north Midlands coal miner, an illiterate dialect speaker. His mother was an educated and refined school teacher. [His birthplace is now a museum, 8a Victoria Street, Eastwood, Nottingham NG16 3AW] Lawrence won a scholarship to Nottingham High School, but was obliged to leave aged 16, to help support his family.
Lawrence took a job as a clerk but after three months he suffered a bout of pneumonia, which ended his office career. While convalescing, he began visiting the nearby Haggs Farm, where he met Jessie Chambers, an adolescent with an interest in literature, and with whom he developed an intense relationship. It was she who encouraged Lawrence to take up studies at University College, Nottingham, and to write poems and short stories. In 1908, he left University College with a teaching certificate and a desire to become an author.
In 1908, Lawrence left Eastwood to teach in Croydon. He wrote in his spare time, and allowed Jessie to submit his works to publishers. After a while, publishers agreed to handle his work, which was convenient as, in 1912, he suffered a further bout of pneumonia and was obliged to give up teaching and rely solely on writing.
Lawrence had a small problem with subject matter for his works. The traditional novel, involved the aristocracy or the gentry, while some delved into the lower reaches of the slums. Lawrence knew nothing of the either the gentile ways of the drawing room nor the repulsive slums of the city. He knew only the mining town of Eastwood and its contrast between the natural countryside and the polluted industrial streets. He was not acquainted with society gentry but he did know the miners and the countrymen and his own eccentric family. It was these ideas that he was he was obliged to write about, and which gave his works an originality which appealed to the literary public.
Lawrence produced two novels which were moderately successful and then published Sons and Lovers, which received widespread acclaim from critics and the public. The text depicts Eastwood and Haggs Farm, with the protagonist, Paul Morel, caught between a drunken miner father and a powerful mother, with the attentive devotion of his mentor and lover, Miriam. Paul becomes the mother's mission, finding him a clerkship and nursing him through pneumonia. Paul's love for Miriam is undermined by his mother's influence as he cannot bear to become involved with a personality similar to his mother. The book was viewed as a psychoanalytic study of Oedipal attraction and its catastrophic consequences.
In 1912, Lawrence eloped with Frieda Weekley, the German wife of his former professor at Nottingham, and cousin of German ace pilot, Von Richthofen. The couple lived for a while in Germany, before returning to marry in 1914, when Frieda's divorce was finalised. During the First World War, Lawrence and his wife lived in Cornwall, distrusted by their neighbours on account of Frieda's German ancestry, and Lawrence’s inability through illness to join the army. In 1917, they were arrested on the fatuous charge of passing secrets to the enemy, and obliged to spend the remainder of the war in London.
After the war, Lawrence published The Rainbow, a chronicle of farming people in Eastwood, with the central character Tom Brangwen and his love for a widowed Polish exile, Lydia. This book was widely condemned as obscene, as was Women in Love, which deals with sexually charged women, condemned to roles as teachers and denied intellectual ambitions as artists and free thinkers.
In 1919, Lawrence and his wife departed for Italy, where he wrote 3 further novels before leaving for the United States in 1921. He obtained a small ranch in Taos, New Mexico, in exchange for the original manuscript of Sons and Lovers. In 1925, Lawrence suffered an attack of malaria coupled with tuberculosis which almost proved fatal, and he and Frieda moved to Italy to recuperate. Here he wrote The Virgin and the Gipsy, a work considered at the time to be prurient, and Lady Chatterley's Lover, a story of love transcending the social boundaries of Eastwood, which later became the subject of an obscenity trial, due to its ubiquitous use of colloquial four-letter words.
In 1929, Lawrence moved to France and continued to write despite his continuing frailty. He died on 2nd March 1930 at the Villa Robermond, Vence, France. His body was cremated and the ashes placed in the local cemetery. Later Frieda’s third husband collected the remains and returned them to the ranch in Taos. The ashes were mixed with cement and used to form a memorial altar in a small chapel at the ranch.
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