November 10, 2010
I finished D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. I think it’s a good novel, but not a great novel. It’s a thinly-veiled autobiography, probably not as good as Thomas Wolfe’s autobiographical Look Homeward, Angel, or Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man. Lawrence’s prose is abrupt, staccato — it isn’t as rhythmic as Wolfe’s, or as musical as Joyce’s. But neither Wolfe nor Joyce can match Lawrence’s depth of thought — his grasp of religion, his grasp of the occult, etc. And neither Wolfe nor Joyce could match Lawrence’s range — Lawrence excelled as a poet, critic, travel-writer, and letter-writer.
Much of Sons and Lovers deals with Paul’s relationship with Miriam, a relationship that doesn’t seem especially interesting, doesn’t seem to merit the amount of space given to it.1 Though Paul’s relationship with Miriam is troubled, he never loses his fondness for Miriam’s family, and their farm — nor did they ever lose their fondness for him. He was friends with Miriam’s brothers, and enjoyed working on the farm; for six years, he was like part of the family. He frequently made the long walk (three miles?) from his house in town to Willey Farm. Bicycles were then popular, so Paul often cycles to Willey Farm, and Miriam’s brothers enjoy long bike-rides in the country. Cars weren’t in use yet.
In real life, Miriam Leivers was Jessie Chambers, later Jesse Chambers Wood. She wrote a memoir of Lawrence under the pen name E. T.; it’s called D. H. Lawrence: A Personal Record. It’s one of the most charming memoirs I’ve ever read; I recommend it highly. In fact, I prefer Jessie’s memoir to Sons and Lovers — it’s more readable, more touching, more true. Perhaps the best reason to read Sons and Lovers is as preparation for reading Jessie’s memoir. Jessie wrote it shortly after her break with Lawrence; it was published in 1915. She then destroyed her fictionalized account of their relationship, and the letters that they had exchanged. The introduction to Jessie’s memoir is by a well-known critic, John Middleton Murry, who knew Lawrence, and wrote two books about him — Son of Woman: The Story of D. H. Lawrence (1931), and Reminiscences of D. H. Lawrence (1933).3
Jessie recalls fondly the early years of her friendship with Lawrence:
D. H. Lawrence’s middle name was Herbert; he was called “Bert” by his friends, “Bertie” by his mother. Jessie remarks on Lawrence’s vitality:
In his later years, Lawrence was a great travel writer. In his early years, Jessie tells us, Lawrence was an enthusiastic traveler:
On Friday nights, Jessie came to Lawrence’s house to be tutored by him in French. His family was usually out, and they had the house to themselves. When the lesson was over, they would talk, and walk to Jessie’s house.
One of the most touching passages in Jessie’s memoir is when Lawrence takes a final leave of the farm, before starting a new job in London:
When Lawrence becomes a teacher in London (more precisely, Croydon), Jessie visits him, and spends a night or two. As is his wont, Lawrence presses his manuscripts on Jessie, and asks her to read them and give him feedback. Then, at 1 a.m., Lawrence says he wants to talk, and pleads with her, “Can you stay up a little longer? Can you give me one hour?” Jessie has been awake since 6 a.m., but gives him an hour.
Lawrence was very close to Jessie, and had a deep need for her as a friend, as a soul-mate.9 He complains about living alone in London (Lawrence seemed to be comfortable in society, uncomfortable alone). At 2 a.m., he still wasn’t done: “Must you go to bed?” “Yes, I must go now,” replies the exhausted Jessie.
Such energy and enthusiasm was characteristic of Lawrence. Another characteristic of Lawrence, according to Jessie, was integrity: “I had a profound faith in Lawrence’s fundamental integrity.”10
Lawrence often entertained Jessie’s family with humor:
Jessie noted that Lawrence was often serious and facetious at the same time, as when they saw Hamlet together, and then Lawrence performed Hamlet’s soliloquy in their kitchen.12
Lawrence often describes himself in Sons and Lovers. In one of these descriptions, he speaks of a tension, a suspense, that reminds one of Jessie’s “serious and facetious at the same time”:
Paul (who represents Lawrence himself) has energy and vitality, and he can bring other people to life, he makes other people more fully alive: “[Clara] watched [Paul’s] quick hands, so full of life, and it seemed to her she had never seen anything before. Till now, everything had been indistinct.”
When Lawrence was about 23, he sent a letter to a local writer, asking him to look at his poetry and fiction. Lawrence received a response from the writer’s wife: “He’s too busy to look at your work.” The proud, headstrong Lawrence decided he would never make another attempt to publish. Meanwhile, Jessie’s family, which was a literate farm family, had begun reading a periodical, The English Review, which was edited by Ford Madox Ford. Jessie urged Lawrence to submit some of his poems. Lawrence was too proud to do so, but suggested that Jessie do so. Jessie looked through the poems that Lawrence had sent her, and submitted several. Ford Madox Ford recognized Lawrence’s ability, and suggested that Lawrence visit him in London. Soon Lawrence was a published author, and a friend of other authors. Thus, Jessie was instrumental in launching Lawrence’s career.
Jessie and Lawrence were both assiduous readers, and they often recommended books to each other, read them together, and discussed them as they read. Lawrence’s mother said that their relationship was like a fire fed on books: if there were no more books, it would die out. “This period,” Jessie writes, “when Lawrence would be 16-17, was a kind of orgy of reading. I think we were hardly aware of the outside world.” One of their early favorites was Walter Scott. They identified with his characters, lived in his plots; “the scenes and events of his stories were more real to us than our actual surroundings.”13
When Lawrence was about 20, he became more serious about reading, and he read not only imaginative works, but also philosophers like Nietzsche, Carlyle, and Emerson. “His early flamboyant delight in reading was changing into a seriousness that was at times almost frightening in its intensity.” Lawrence was beginning to think about writing himself, beginning to feel that he had a mission: “He said to me weightily, ‘I feel I have something to say,’ and again, ‘I think it will be didactic.’”14
Lawrence was especially fond of Thoreau and Whitman. Jessie says he was “wildly enthusiastic” about Walden.15 Whitman seems to have influenced Lawrence’s own poetry. “Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was one of his great books. He would sometimes write, ‘I’m sending you a Whitmanesque poem,’ when he was enclosing one of his own.”16
In an earlier issue, we discussed Mark Edmundson, who emphasized that “reading can change your life for the better.” Edmundson would have approved of Lawrence’s reading, since Lawrence applied what he read to his own life.
Just as he was eager to get Jessie’s feedback on his writing, so too he was eager to have Jessie read the books that he liked, and discuss them with him.
In an autobiographical sketch, Lawrence said that his early poetry and fiction was written for Jessie, who “thought it all wonderful.”19 Jessie read the various drafts of Lawrence’s first novel, The White Peacock. Lawrence finished this novel when his relationship with Jessie was harmonious; he told Jessie that he could only write when he was happy.20
Lawrence wrote many letters to Jessie and her family. Jessie tells us that
Jessie says that Lawrence had little interest in politics.22
Jessie concludes her chapter on books thus:
Lawrence took a dim view of college (he attended the University of Nottingham), and advised Jessie not to go. He told her that he regretted going to college: “Lawrence told me that if he had known what college was like he would never have made the sacrifice of those two years and all the expense,” but would have earned his teaching certificate by “taking the external Certificate examination.”24
Lawrence’s favorite class at college was music; he was especially fond of folk songs, and taught them to Jessie’s family. “We often sang without the piano,” Jessie wrote, “just sitting round the parlor fire... sometimes taking two and even three parts, and in all this Lawrence was the moving spirit.”25
Lawrence also had a strong interest in visual art, and often sketched, painted, etc. In Sons and Lovers, Paul is an artist, not a writer. In 1929, Lawrence’s paintings were exhibited in London, but the authorities deemed them obscene, and the exhibition was raided by the police. Lawrence’s paintings can be seen today at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.
One day, after Lawrence’s mother had died, Lawrence was in a low mood, and Jessie tried to raise his spirits:
Here we have a conversation without words, a conversation via telepathy. Another time Lawrence asked Jessie about possible telepathic communication between them:
In Sons and Lovers, Paul tries to use hunches as a guide. When he’s waiting for his girlfriend, Clara, at the train station, he looks inside himself to see if he has a premonition that she’ll come.28 People who are receptive to the occult, like Lawrence, trust their hunches and premonitions.
In an earlier issue, we discussed the “evil eye” in connection with Lawrence’s story, “The Fox.” The power of vision is also discussed in Sons and Lovers. A man named Baxter Dawes can feel Paul’s eyes on him, and conceives a hatred for Paul:
Later, when Paul is leaving the theater, “It seemed he met a pair of brown eyes which hated him. But he did not know.” Later he realizes that these are the eyes of Baxter Dawes.
There’s a kind of telepathic connection between Paul and Baxter:
Though Lawrence was often cheerful and sociable, he also had a dark side — what was called in the 19th century “the demonic.” The demonic element in Lawrence was most apparent to Jessie when she accompanied the Lawrence family on seaside holidays.
Lawrence himself said, “At times I am afflicted by a perversity amounting to minor insanity.”30
Lawrence never tired of analyzing Jessie, analyzing their relationship. His analyses were often cruel. For example, he told Jessie, “You have no sexual attraction at all, none whatever.”31 And “He told me I had no sense of humor.... absolutely none.”32 And he told her that she was unpopular — for a reason: “There must be some fault in you if nobody likes you. The others can’t all be wrong.”33 Instead of becoming angry with Lawrence, and breaking away from him, Jessie became depressed:
In Sons and Lovers, Lawrence is preoccupied with relationships, with emotions of love and hate. He rarely makes philosophical comments, but when he does, his comments are impressive, they suggest that he was moving toward a worldview that was original and profound.
In his early years, Lawrence often went to church, but as he grew older, he became increasingly skeptical. In Sons and Lovers, Lawrence depicts Paul Morel developing his own morality, and his own idea of God:
Lawrence rebelled against “Thou shalt not...”, rebelled against religious injunctions that he felt were restricting. When Jessie says he shouldn’t have proposed marriage to X., Lawrence says, “With should and ought I have nothing to do.”35 Lawrence rebelled against traditional morality. Jessie suggests that he admired Nietzsche.36
Lawrence seems to be moving toward a pantheism reminiscent of Thoreau and Zen.
Notice the Zennish emphasis on spontaneity: the crow is religious not because is knows or thinks or wills but because it acts spontaneously (“feels itself carried”).
In Jessie’s memoir, Lawrence’s worldview is depicted as a nihilistic dead-end. If Lawrence achieved a Zennish pantheism, it was only after passing through a sterile materialism. Jessie speaks of, “Lawrence’s despair over the materialist view of life he felt compelled to accept for lack of an alternative38.... He seemed to feel himself compelled to take up a rationalistic standpoint with regard to religion, although it made him miserable.”39
Thoreau and Whitman never fell into this sterile materialism. Why did Lawrence (even if only temporarily)? Since Lawrence was born about 65 years after Thoreau and Whitman, he felt the force of modern science (Darwin, etc.), whereas Thoreau and Whitman came to maturity before Darwin, before the heyday of materialism. Thoreau and Whitman were able to move from traditional religion to mystical affirmation without falling into nihilistic materialism.
Lawrence anticipated that he would die young. Such an anticipation raises the question, Did he will his death? Did he have self-destructive, suicidal tendencies?
In Sons and Lovers, Paul’s mother notices that Paul is careless about his own life:
Did Lawrence die of natural causes? Or was his death a “slow suicide”?
When Lawrence was 18 or 20, he said to Jessie, “‘Of course, it will be you who will write my epitaph’.... And from time to time in moments of intense feeling he would repeat his strange forecast.”40 Perhaps Jessie’s wonderful memoir is the epitaph that Lawrence forecast. How did Lawrence know that he would die before Jessie? Even when Lawrence was young, he seemed to anticipate an early death.
Jessie was puzzled by Lawrence’s forecast; he seemed so full of life that it was hard to imagine he would ever die.
But Lawrence wasn’t always happy. When he was about 22, he sometimes had “Hamlet moments,” dark moods. For example, when Jessie encountered Lawrence at a train station, “The misery I saw depicted in his face was beyond anything I had ever imagined. Utterly lonely, he looked as if his life had turned to complete negation.”42 Perhaps he was depressed because his relationships with women weren’t successful, and he hadn’t yet recovered from his mother’s death.
After he met Frieda, though, Lawrence didn’t remain depressed. John Middleton Murry remembers Lawrence as
When his mother was dying, Lawrence noticed that she never made peace with death, never accepted death.44 In Sons and Lovers, Paul says, “Mother, if I had to die, I’d die. I’d will to die.” Frieda tells us that Lawrence was full of life, but met death with courage:
In Sons and Lovers, Paul has suicidal feelings after his mother’s death:
Lawrence’s close bond with his mother reminds one of Proust.
While still in his 20s, Lawrence was interested in the after-life. This shows that he was preoccupied with death, and also interested in the occult. He conceived of the after-life as a kind of Zennish spontaneity, a Zennish merging with the world: “To be rid of our individuality, which is our will, which is our effort — to live effortless, a kind of conscious sleep — that is very beautiful, I think; that is our after-life — our immortality.” “Yes?” “Yes — and very beautiful to have.”46
Thoughts of death and the after-life are especially attractive to Paul after he has sex for the first time, with Miriam:
At the end of Sons and Lovers, after his mother has died, Paul is tempted to give up:
In the last paragraph of Sons and Lovers, Paul’s determination to carry on overcomes his temptation to give up:
The words “humming” and “glowing” suggest life, vitality, as does “quickly.” Paul feels contrary urges: the urge to follow his mother, and the urge to walk quickly to the humming town. He decides to walk quickly, but perhaps the other urge is still there, still in the background.
In an earlier issue, we discussed the possibility that Mrs. Morel’s death is a “willed death,” insofar as Paul can’t achieve maturity and independence as long as his mother is alive, and therefore Paul wills his mother’s death. As I read Sons and Lovers, however, I saw little indication that Mrs. Morel’s death is a willed death; on the contrary, her physical ailments are described in detail. If her death has any non-physical cause, it’s the stress of battling her husband.
In a few passages, however, it’s suggested that Paul’s attitude toward his mother may have hastened her death, that her death may be a willed death:
Mrs. Morel’s presence seems to stifle Paul’s sexuality. Paul is described as still a virgin at 23. Like many of his friends, Paul worships his mother, and this worship extends to women in general, and stifles his sexuality:
Paul struggles to escape from celibacy. He not only wants to lose his virginity (he did that with Miriam), he also wants a passionate relationship, such as he can’t have with Miriam. “[Miriam] saw what he was seeking — a sort of baptism of fire in passion, it seemed to her. She realized that he would never be satisfied till he had it.”
Lawrence is always looking for the full life, the whole life, the whole personality; Lawrence is always trying to avoid sterility, avoid death-in-life. He says that to be fully alive, it isn’t necessary to be in a passionate relationship, it’s only necessary to have experienced passion at one time. Paul says to Miriam,
Unable to find passion with Miriam, Paul tries to find passion with Clara, but Clara seems to satisfy only his physical side. His mother tells him, “You’ll tire of her, my son; you know you will.” Clara complains that Paul doesn’t respect her.48 Paul’s mother “wished so much he would fall in love with a girl equal to be his mate — educated and strong.” Was Frieda “equal to be his mate”? Was Frieda “educated and strong”? Did Lawrence ever find the right relationship?
Lawrence wasn’t made for happiness — he was too ambitious for happiness. His mother wanted to see him happy, but he was always struggling and striving — he despised happiness. In Sons and Lovers, we find the following:
As I read this passage, I thought of my recent Europe trip, and it occurred to me that traveling conduces to a full life, though it may not conduce to happiness.
Paul/Lawrence is ambitious and also confident. He aims to make his mark on the world, and justify his mother’s faith in him: “Paul was going to prove that she had been right; he was going to make a man whom nothing should shift off his feet; he was going to alter the face of the earth in some way which mattered.... ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘I s’ll make a painter that they’ll attend to.’” (As is often the case in Sons and Lovers, Paul’s painting represents Lawrence’s writing.)
Perhaps Paul’s ambition prevents him from loving, as well as from being happy; he can’t “settle down” because he’s always striving to move forward. Paul says,
Marital strife is a prominent theme in Sons and Lovers. Paul’s parents are often at odds (as I discussed in an earlier issue). When Paul’s brother, Arthur, gets married, Lawrence describes the marriage thus:
Clara’s marriage to Baxter is a failure, and they separate (at least temporarily). Clara married too quickly, the narrator says; “she never knew the fearful importance of marriage.”
It’s easy to see how Lawrence, with his vitality and charm, would make an enormous impression on Jessie, and occupy a large place in her life. Hence Jessie’s break with Lawrence was very painful for her. Their relationship ended somewhat bitterly. Not surprisingly, Jessie was devastated by her portrayal in Sons and Lovers.
Despite her intense pain, Jessie never lashed out at Lawrence. She decided that she had made the mistake of loving too much, and she found a poem that described this mistake:
His folly hath not fellow
Jessie felt that, in writing Sons and Lovers, Lawrence missed an opportunity to liberate himself from his mother, who died shortly before. Instead, he confirmed his bondage to his mother. In the old contest between Jessie and his mother for the soul of Lawrence, Lawrence made his mother the victor, Jessie the vanquished.51 Jessie felt that Lawrence was so wrapped up in his mother that he couldn’t love another woman, couldn’t love Jessie herself.52
When Lawrence met his future wife, Frieda, he sent Jessie “a hysterical announcement of the new attachment.”53 Jessie felt relieved, felt free. But she was also profoundly sad:
Then Jessie, ever the reader, came across The Brothers Karamazov, and immersed herself in it. “It had placed a distance between me and the catastrophe of life. I left it refreshed in spirit.”55
After living with Frieda for a time, Lawrence wrote to Jessie, and Jessie was offended by the letter, and sent it back to him. (Perhaps she was offended by the sentence, “Frieda and I discuss you endlessly.”) This was the end of Jessie’s relationship with Lawrence.
Jessie eventually recovered her spirits, as Lawrence had predicted. On her 21st birthday, Lawrence had written her,
Jessie married at 28, and died at 57. In the end, Jessie seemed glad that she had known Lawrence, and her memoir concludes on a positive note:
Their last encounter was pleasant. Lawrence was staying in town, and Jessie invited him to drive to the farm with her and her father. He agreed to go part of the way.
The American critic Alfred Kazin was a fan of Lawrence, and compared him to Tolstoy.60 According to Kazin, Lawrence wasn’t as self-conscious as more modern writers: “Lawrence is still face to face with life, and he can describe the smallest things with the most attentive love and respect.”61
Kazin praises Lawrence’s essay “Why The Novel Matters.” In that essay, Lawrence speaks of “the only thing that is anything, the wholeness of a man, the wholeness of a woman, man alive, and live woman.”62
According to Kazin, Lawrence’s pride and confidence stemmed from his mother’s love for him.63 “Freud once wrote,” Kazin says, “that he who is a favorite of the mother becomes a ‘conqueror.’”64 Since Lawrence’s strength comes from his mother, he must stay close to her:
Jessie criticizes Sons and Lovers because it signifies Lawrence’s failure to liberate himself from his mother. Kazin says that Sons and Lovers is a “great novel”66 because it describes Paul’s struggles and doesn’t try to resolve them, it presents human relationships in all their complexity. Kazin praises Lawrence for not resolving the relationships that he describes, for leaving them difficult and complicated and tangled. “[Lawrence’s] chief interest,” Kazin writes, “is always the irreducible ambiguity of human relationships.”67 Paul’s relationships with his mother and Miriam and Clara are “difficult and painful,” and Lawrence leaves them “arrested in their pain and conflict.”68
Kazin praises Lawrence for staying close to life:
Perhaps this is why academics are cool toward Lawrence: academics tend to separate art from life, knowledge from life, while Lawrence keeps them closely connected. Kazin deserves credit for a penetrating analysis of Lawrence, and of Sons and Lovers in particular.
Jessie’s memoir mentions countless writers, including George Borrow, whom Lawrence “greatly admired”: “[Lawrence] spent a whole sunny Saturday evening up on the Annesley Hills telling me about Borrow’s life and about Lavengro, making the story so vivid that Borrow seemed to be an actual acquaintance.”70 Lavengro is Borrow’s autobiographical novel; it became popular after Borrow’s death (Borrow lived from 1803 to 1881). Lavengro describes Borrow’s travels and his interactions with Gypsies (Romani). Lavengro was followed by a sequel, The Romany Rye.
Borrow was employed by a Bible society to spread the faith, hence he travelled widely. His most popular book was The Bible in Spain, which outsold even Dickens. According to Wikipedia, The Bible in Spain was “the first widely-read book with accurate first-hand information on Gypsies.” The Bible in Spain inspired Mérimée’s novel, Carmen, on which the Bizet opera is based.
Borrow was adept at languages; he made a Romani dictionary, and he often learned the languages of the countries he traveled in. For example, he learned Russian, and said of the Russian people, “if you go amongst them and speak their language, however badly, they would go through fire and water to do you a kindness.”71 Borrow also learned Welsh, and took a walking tour of Wales, a tour that inspired one of his later works, Wild Wales. In Wild Wales, Borrow describes “how surprised the native Welsh people he meets and talks to are by both his linguistic abilities and his travels... and also by his idiosyncratic pronunciation of their language.”72
Bennett was an Englishman from a later generation than Borrow; Bennett lived from 1867 until 1931 (perhaps he doesn’t qualify as “Victorian”). One of his best known novels is The Old Wives’ Tale (1908), which he wrote while living in Paris; according to Wikipedia, The Old Wives’ Tale was “an immediate success throughout the English-speaking world.” When Bennett visited the U.S. in 1911, he was “publicized and acclaimed as no other visiting writer since Dickens.” His novel Riceyman Steps (1923) won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In her memoir, Jessie speaks of reading Bennett’s A Great Man “with huge enjoyment.”73 Bennett’s reputation faded as he grew older, perhaps because he often wrote for money rather than from inner need, perhaps because his output was large rather than carefully-written, perhaps because “His style was traditional rather than modern, which made him an obvious target for those challenging literary conventions.”74
Ford Madox Ford was born in 1873 (six years after Arnold Bennett), and died in 1939. Ford is best known for his novel The Good Soldier. He was the editor of two journals, The English Review and The Transatlantic Review. He knew Joseph Conrad, co-wrote several novels with him, and also wrote Joseph Conrad, A Personal Remembrance. Ford discovered Lawrence (as mentioned above), and published his work for the first time. While living in Paris in the 1920s, Ford met Joyce, Hemingway, and other writers; the character Braddocks in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is based on Ford. Ford’s maternal grandfather was the painter Ford Madox Brown, of whom Ford wrote a biography. Ford was born Ford Madox Hueffer, but changed his name to Ford Madox Ford, perhaps to conceal his German ancestry (his father was a German-born music critic), perhaps to honor his grandfather, perhaps to confuse posterity.
After Lawrence’s first meeting with Ford, he reported to Jessie, “He is fairish, fat, about forty, and the kindest man on earth.”75 When Jessie herself met Ford, she had an impression of “genuine kindliness”: “I suppose never before or since has anyone talked to me with quite such charm, making me feel in the most delicate way that what I said was of interest.”76 As Lawrence and Jessie walked away from their meeting with Ford, Lawrence said to Jessie, “Isn’t he fat, and doesn’t he walk slow! He says he walks about London two hours every day to keep his fat down. But he won’t keep much down if he always walks at that pace.”77 The fat, slow-moving, kindly Ford contrasts sharply with the thin, lively, cruel Lawrence.
|1.|| Miriam is a difficult character to grasp. As Lawrence once said to Jessie Chambers (the original of Miriam), “you’re so hard to understand.”(D. H. Lawrence: A Personal Record, by E. T. [Jessie Chambers Wood], Ch. 5, p. 132) One might say that Jessie wasn’t feminine, narcissistic, sexy. Perhaps she had a weak ego; this may explain why she was such a good reader, such a good learner; she could absorb outside influences, sponge-like, because her ego wasn’t marked off, walled off, from the outside world. She had both older siblings and younger siblings, so she may have felt somewhat overlooked at home, and this may have caused her to undervalue herself.
Lawrence tried to stay close to the body. Jessie, on the other hand, seemed to stand aloof from her own body; for her, the physical part of love wasn’t the most important part. She says that Maupassant’s stories “made me wretched. Maupassant’s presentation of life seemed to me brutal and one-sided.”(Ch. 4, p. 107)
If you want to learn more about Jessie, Helen Corke (a friend of both Jessie and Lawrence) wrote a book about Jessie called D. H. Lawrence’s Princess.
Sons and Lovers has a rapid pace, like a river in springtime. According to Jessie, “The book was written in about six weeks, under the influence of something amounting almost to frenzy.”(ch. 7, p. 204) back
|2.|| Since there’s an online version of Sons and Lovers, I don’t think it’s necessary to have footnotes, and chapter references, when I quote from it. Here are two more passages about the farm from Sons and Lovers:
|3.|| He may have written a third book about Lawrence, D. H. Lawrence (1930). Many of Lawrence’s acquaintances wrote books about him; click here for a list. Aldous Huxley was a friend of Lawrence in Lawrence’s later years. Huxley published a collection of Lawrence’s letters, and a memoir of Lawrence. In Huxley’s novel Point Counter Point, the character Mark Rampion is based on Lawrence. back|
|4.|| Ch. 1, p. 42 back|
|5.|| Ch. 1, p. 31 back|
|6.|| Ch. 1, pp. 38, 39 back|
|7.|| Ch. 2, pp. 58, 59 back|
|8.|| Ch. 5, pp. 149, 150 back|
|9.|| In a letter to Jessie, Lawrence referred to her as “the anvil on which I have hammered myself out.”(Ch. 5, p. 152) Here are two passages about their friendship from Sons and Lovers:
Miriam had one beautiful evening with him in the hay. He had been on the horse-rake, and having finished, came to help her to put the hay in cocks. Then he talked to her of his hopes and despairs, and his whole soul seemed to lie bare before her. She felt as if she watched the very quivering stuff of life in him. The moon came out: they walked home together: he seemed to have come to her because he needed her so badly, and she listened to him, gave him all her love and her faith. It seemed to her he brought her the best of himself to keep, and that she would guard it all her life. Nay, the sky did not cherish the stars more surely and eternally than she would guard the good in the soul of Paul Morel. She went on home alone, feeling exalted, glad in her faith.
Miriam was the threshing-floor on which he threshed out all his beliefs. While he trampled his ideas upon her soul, the truth came out for him. She alone was his threshing-floor. She alone helped him towards realization. Almost impassive, she submitted to his argument and expounding. And somehow, because of her, he gradually realized where he was wrong. And what he realized, she realized. She felt he could not do without her.
The young James Joyce also had his threshing-floor, his anvil, a friend in whom he could confide. In A Portrait of the Artist, Joyce writes, “Stephen... had told Cranly of all the tumults and unrest and longings in his soul, day after day and night by night.” back
|10.|| Ch. 7, p. 193 back|
|11.|| Ch. 1, p. 32 back|
|12.|| Ch. 4, p. 108 back|
|13.|| Ch. 4, p. 94 back|
|14.|| Ch. 4, p. 102 back|
|15.|| Ch. 4, p. 101 back|
|16.|| Ch. 4, p. 122 back|
|17.|| Ch. 4, pp. 112, 113 back|
|18.|| Ch. 4, p. 119 back|
|19.|| D. H. Lawrence: A Collection of Criticism, edited by Leo Hamalian back|
|20.|| Ch. 4, p. 119 back|
|21.|| Ch. 4, p. 91 back|
|22.|| “He was never really interested in politics, and was quickly irritated and bored by the subject.”(Ch. 4, p. 120) There’s a brief mention of politics in Sons and Lovers; Paul is in a bar, and says, “The aristocracy is really a military institution. Take Germany, now. She’s got thousands of aristocrats whose only means of existence is the army. They’re deadly poor, and life’s deadly slow. So they hope for a war. They look for war as a chance of getting on. Till there’s a war they are idle good-for-nothings. When there’s a war, they are leaders and commanders. There you are, then — they want war!” back|
|23.|| Ch. 4, p. 123. Lawrence was fond of several female writers. The first book that he brought Jessie was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which they thought “delightful.”(Ch. 4, p. 92) Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre “exercised a real fascination over him.”(Ch. 4, p. 98) Lawrence “absolutely forbade” Jessie to read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.(Ch. 4, p. 102) Lawrence “adored” George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss.(Ch. 4, p. 97) As for Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, “I remember the glow of his tender delight in that simple tale.”(Ch. 4, p. 102) But Jessie makes no mention of Jane Austen, whose work is more popular today than it was a century ago (Wikipedia says Jane Austen didn’t become part of The Canon until the 1940s). And I don’t recall Jessie mentioning Mrs Humphry Ward (Mary Augusta Ward), perhaps best known for the novel Robert Elsmere (1888); Ward was a niece of the writer Matthew Arnold. Nor do I recall any mention of Margaret Oliphant, a Scottish author who’s best known for her fiction; among Oliphant’s novels and stories are several that deal with the supernatural.
Bert and Jessie were also enthusiastic about some novels that are almost forgotten today, such as Lorna Doone, by Richard Blackmore, and The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade. I’m not sure what Bert and Jessie thought about Anthony Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda (1894), which was popular in its day, and was praised by Robert Louis Stevenson, Andrew Lang, etc. Anthony Hope was a prolific writer and a lawyer. back
|24.|| Ch. 3, p. 81 back|
|25.|| Ch. 3, pp. 80, 81 back|
|26.|| Ch. 7, p. 196 back|
|27.|| Ch. 5, p. 137 back|
|28.|| “On the Sunday afternoon he went to Keston to meet Clara at the station. As he stood on the platform he was trying to examine in himself if he had a premonition. “Do I feel as if she’d come?” he said to himself, and he tried to find out. His heart felt queer and contracted. That seemed like foreboding. Then he had a foreboding she would not come! back|
|29.|| Ch. 5, pp. 127, 128 back|
|30.|| Ch. 7, p. 185 back|
|31.|| Ch. 5, p. 133 back|
|32.|| Ch. 5, p. 132 back|
|33.|| Ch. 5, p. 131 back|
|34.|| Ch. 5, p. 133 back|
|35.|| Ch. 7, p. 184 back|
|36.|| Ch. 4, p. 120 back|
|37.|| Sons and Lovers back|
|38.|| ch. 4, p. 117 back|
|39.|| ch. 3, p. 86. Did Jessie fail to grasp Lawrence’s pantheism because she herself remained loyal to traditional religion? back|
|40.|| Ch. 7, p. 222 back|
|41.|| Ch. 7, pp. 222, 223 back|
|42.|| Ch. 7, p. 213 back|
|43.|| Introduction to Jessie’s memoir back|
|44.|| In Sons and Lovers, Paul’s mother clings to life, though she appears to be suffering. Paul and his sister give her an overdose of morphine, in an attempt to end her life. “There are different ways of dying,” Paul says. “My father’s people are frightened, and have to be hauled out of life into death like cattle into a slaughter-house, pulled by the neck; but my mother’s people are pushed from behind, inch by inch. They are stubborn people, and won’t die.” back|
|45.|| See D. H. Lawrence: A Collection of Criticism, edited by Leo Hamalian, pp. 18, 19. In my opinion, Frieda doesn’t write as well as Jessie. back|
|46.|| Sons and Lovers back|
|47.|| Elsewhere Paul’s mother says, “‘You haven’t met the right woman.’ ‘And I never shall meet the right woman while you live,’ he said. She was very quiet. Now she began to feel again tired, as if she were
|48.|| “[Baxter] did respect me,” Clara says, “and that’s what you don’t do.” back|
|49.|| Ch. 7, pp. 202, 203, 216 back|
|50.|| by A. E. Housman back|
|51.|| As Jessie put it, “Instead of a release and a deliverance from bondage, the bondage was glorified and made absolute.”(Ch. 7, p. 202) “The incredible thing,” Jessie wrote, “was the exclusiveness, and the incapacitating nature of the mother-love.”(Ch. 7, p. 185) As a reader, though, I didn’t feel that Lawrence portrayed his mother as the victor, and Jessie as the vanquished. back|
|52.|| Lawrence once said to Jessie, “‘I’ve always loved mother’.... ‘I know you have,’ I replied. ‘I don’t mean that,’ he returned quickly. ‘I’ve loved her, like a lover. That’s why I could never love you.’”(Ch. 7, p. 184) There are many passages in Sons and Lovers in which Paul/Lawrence treats his mother like a lover — kissing her, stroking her, etc. Once Paul’s father comes in and says ‘you’re at it again, eh?’
Lawrence’s mother loved Lawrence as passionately as he loved her. Jessie says that Lawrence once came down with pneumonia, and Jessie’s mother said, “I don’t know whatever Mrs. Lawrence will do if that son’s taken from her. She told me when she was here with him that however much she loved Ernest [her eldest son] it was nothing to what she felt for the one she brought with her. He had always meant more to her than any of the others.”(Ch. 1, pp. 26, 27)
Lawrence’s combination of fixation on his mother and estrangement from his father seems like a recipe for homosexuality, and indeed Wikipedia mentions homosexual episodes in Lawrence’s life. If Lawrence was inclined toward homosexuality, that might explain why his relations with women were often strained.
Frieda said that Lawrence was afraid of women (Hamalian, p. 17). Was he afraid to become as enamored of a woman as he once was of his mother? When Lawrence saw La Dame aux Camelias, he “rushed from his place and found himself battering at the doors until an attendant came and let him out.... ‘I feel frightened [he said afterwards]. I realize that I, too, might become enslaved to a woman.’”(Ch. 4, p. 109)
Perhaps Lawrence had to struggle to achieve masculinity, perhaps he was naturally feminine, and inclined to connect with his mother and other women. A man who knew him as a youngster said he was a sissy who always played with girls: “I went to school wi’ ’im and ’e were a right cissy, allus playin’ wit’ gels.”(www.lawrenceseastwood.co.uk)
|53.|| Ch. 7, p. 216 back|
|54.|| Ch. 7, p. 217 back|
|55.|| Ch. 7, p. 218 back|
|56.|| Ch. 7, p. 222 back|
|57.|| Ch. 5, p. 139 back|
|58.|| Ch. 7, p. 223 back|
|59.|| Ch. 7, p. 215 back|
|60.|| Hamalian, p. 22. Kazin says “[Lawrence] succeeded as a novelist, he succeeded brilliantly.”(p. 29) back|
|61.|| Ibid, p. 28 back|
|62.|| Ibid, p. 29 back|
|63.|| Ibid, p. 24 back|
|64.|| Ibid, p. 24 back|
|65.|| Ibid, p. 25 back|
|66.|| Ibid, p. 26 back|
|67.|| Ibid, p. 31 back|
|68.|| Ibid, p. 30 back|
|69.|| Ibid, p. 32. Jessie tells us, “When [Lawrence] had finished The White Peacock for the second time he said: ‘Everything that I am now, all of me, so far, is in that. I think a man puts everything he is into a book — a real book.’” A living book, filled with the author’s life; tear the pages and they’ll bleed. back|
|70.|| Ch. 4, pp. 109, 110 back|
|71.|| Wikipedia back|
|72.|| Wikipedia back|
|73.|| Ch. 6, p. 161 back|
|74.|| Wikipedia. Neither Bennett nor Borrow nor Lawrence is included in Norton Critical Editions. And neither of the male writers that I mentioned in Footnote 23 (Richard Blackmore and Charles Reade) is included in Norton Critical Editions. But all the female writers that I mentioned in Footnote 23 (Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Jane Austen) are included in Norton Critical Editions. What a hard lot it is to be a white male in an age of affirmative action! back|
|75.|| Ch. 6, p. 163 back|
|76.|| Ch. 6, pp. 170, 171 back|
|77.||Ch. 6, p. 175 back|