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Lady Chatterley's Lover (Lawrence)

Lady Chatterley's Lover
D.H. Lawrence, 1928
~350 pp. (varies by publisher)


Summary
Lawrence's frank portrayal of an extramarital affair and the explicit sexual explorations of the central characters caused this controversial book to be banned as pornography until 1960. Eventually, the subject of a landmark obscenity trial, Lawrence's lyric and sensual last novel is now regarded as "our time's most significant romance." — New York Times.

This classic tale of love and discovery pits the paralyzed and callous Clifford Chatterley against his indecisive wife and her persuasive lover. (From the publishers and Barnes & Noble.)



Author Bio 
Birth—September 11, 1885
Where—Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England
Death—March 2, 1930
Where—Vence, France
Education—Nottingham University College


David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English writer of the 20th century, whose prolific and diverse output included novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, travel books, paintings, translations, and literary criticism. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, human sexuality and instinct.

Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresenta-tion of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile he called his "savage pilgrimage."

At the time of his death, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held view, describing him as, "The greatest imaginative novelist of our generation." Later, the influential Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness, placing much of Lawrence's fiction within the canonical "great tradition" of the English novel. Lawrence is now generally valued as a visionary thinker and significant representative of modernism in English literature, although some feminists object to the attitudes toward women and sexuality found in his works.

Born as the fourth child of Arthur John Lawrence, a barely literate miner, and Lydia (née Beardsall), a former schoolmistress, Lawrence spent his formative years in the coal mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. His birthplace, in Eastwood, 8a Victoria Street, is now a museum.

His working class background and the tensions between his parents provided the raw material for a number of his early works—including the novel Sons and Lovers. Lawrence would return to this locality, which he was to call "the country of my heart," as a setting for much of his fiction.

Education & Early Career
The young Lawrence attended Beauvale Board School (now renamed Greasley Beauvale D. H. Lawrence Infant School in his honor) from 1891 until 1898, becoming the first local pupil to win a County Council scholarship to Nottingham High School in nearby Nottingham. There is a house in the Junior School named after him.

He left in 1901, working for three months as a junior clerk at Haywood's surgical appliances factory before a severe bout of pneumonia ended this career. While convalescing he often visited Haggs Farm, the home of the Chambers family and began a friendship with Jessie Chambers. An important aspect of this relationship with Jessie and other adolescent acquaintances was a shared love of books, an interest that lasted throughout Lawrence's life.

In the years 1902 to 1906 Lawrence served as a pupil teacher at the British School, Eastwood. He went on to become a full-time student and received a teaching certificate from University College Nottingham in 1908. During these early years he was working on his first poems, some short stories, and a draft of a novel, Laetitia, that was eventually to become The White Peacock. At the end of 1907 he won a short story competition in the Nottingham Guardian, the first time that he had gained any wider recognition for his literary talents.

In the autumn of 1908 the newly qualified Lawrence left his childhood home for London. While teaching in Davidson Road School in Croydon, he continued writing. Some of the early poetry, submitted by Jessie Chambers, came to the attention of Ford Madox Ford, editor of the influential The English Review. Hueffer then commissioned the story "Odour of Chrysanthemums" which, when published in that magazine, encouraged Heinemann, a London publisher, to ask Lawrence for more work.


Writer
His career as a professional author now began in earnest, although he taught for a further year. Shortly after the final proofs of his first published novel The White Peacock appeared in 1910, Lawrence's mother died. She had been ill with cancer. The young man was devastated and he was to describe the next few months as his "sick year." It is clear that Lawrence had an extremely close relationship with his mother and his grief following her death became a major turning point in his life, just as the death of Mrs. Morel forms a major turning point in his autobiographical novel Sons and Lovers, a work that draws upon much of the writer's provincial upbringing.

In November 1911, pneumonia struck once again. After recovering his health Lawrence decided to abandon teaching in order to become a full time author. He also broke off an engagement to Louie Burrows, an old friend from his days in Nottingham and Eastwood.

In March 1912 the author met Frieda Weekley (nee von Richthofen), with whom he was to share the rest of his life. She was six years older than her new lover, married and with three young children. She was then married to Lawrence's former modern languages professor from Nottingham University, Ernest Weekley. She eloped with Lawrence to her parents' home in Metz, a garrison town in Germany near the disputed border with France. Their stay here included Lawrence's first brush with militarism, when he was arrested and accused of being a British spy, before being released following an intervention from Weekley's father. After this encounter Lawrence left for a small hamlet to the south of Munich, where he was joined by Weekley for their "honeymoon," later memorialized in the series of love poems entitled Look! We Have Come Through (1917).

From Germany they walked southwards across the Alps to Italy, where Lawrence completed the final version of Sons and Lovers that, when published in 1913, was acknowledged to represent a vivid portrait of the realities of working class provincial life. It was in a cottage in Fiascherino on the Gulf of Spezia where he started writing the first draft of a work of fiction that was to be transformed into two of his better-known novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love. Eventually, Weekley obtained her divorce. The couple returned to England at the outbreak of World War I and were married on July 13, 1914.

Weekley's German parentage and Lawrence's open contempt for militarism meant that they were viewed with suspicion in wartime England and lived in near destitution. The Rainbow (1915) was suppressed after an investigation into its alleged obscenity in 1915. Later, they were even accused of spying and signaling to German submarines off of the coast of Cornwall where they lived at Zennor. During this period he finished a sequel to The Rainbow, entitled Women in Love. In it Lawrence explores the destructive features of contemporary civilization through the evolving relationships of four major characters as they reflect upon the value of the arts, politics, economics, sexual experience, friendship and marriage. This book is a bleak, bitter vision of humanity and proved impossible to publish in wartime conditions. It is now widely recognised as an English novel of great dramatic force and intellectual subtlety.

In late 1917, after constant harassment by the military authorities, Lawrence was forced to leave Cornwall at three days' notice under the terms of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA). Until 1919 he was compelled by poverty to shift from address to address and barely survived a severe attack of influenza.

Travels, Exile & Later Years
After the traumatic experience of the war years, Lawrence began what he termed his 'savage pilgrimage', a time of voluntary exile. He abandoned England in November 1919, to return only twice for brief visits, and with his wife spent the remainder of his life travelling. This wanderlust took him to Australia, Italy, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), North America, Mexico and southern France.

During this voluntary exile, Lawrence continued his writing and became recognized as one of the finest travel writers in the English language. His novels included The Lost Girl (for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction), Aaron's Rod, and he experimented with shorter novels or novellas. During these years he produced a number of poems and short stories. His nonfiction books include two studies of Freudian psychoanalysis and Movements in European History, a school textbook that was published under a pseudonym, a reflection of his blighted reputation in England. In late February 1922 the Lawrences left Europe behind, travelling extensively in the Asian Pacific, eventually arriving in the U.S. in September 1922. They acquired property near Taos, New Mexico, now called the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, in 1924 in exchange for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers. He stayed in New Mexico for two years, where he published Studies in Classic American Literature, a set of critical essays begun in 1917, and later described by Edmund Wilson as "one of the few first-rate books that have ever been written on the subject."

A brief voyage to England at the end of 1923 was a failure and he soon returned to Taos, convinced that his life as an author now lay in America. However, in March 1925 he suffered a near fatal attack of malaria and tuberculosis while on a third visit to Mexico. Although he eventually recovered, the diagnosis of his condition obliged him to return once again to Europe. He was dangerously ill and poor health limited his ability to travel for the remainder of his life.

The Lawrences made their home in a villa in Northern Italy, living near to Florence while he wrote The Virgin and the Gipsy and the various versions of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). The latter book, his last major novel, was initially published in private editions in Florence and Paris and reinforced his notoriety. Lawrence responded robustly to those who claimed to be offended, penning a large number of satirical poems, published under the title of "Pansies" and "Nettles", as well as a tract on Pornography and Obscenity.

During these final years Lawrence renewed a serious interest in oil painting. Official harassment persisted and an exhibition of some of these pictures at the Warren Gallery in London was raided by the British police in mid 1929 and a number of works were confiscated. Nine of the Lawrence oils have been on permanent display in the La Fonda Hotel in Taos since shortly after his death. They hang in a small office behind the hotel's front desk and are available for viewing.

Lawrence continued to write despite his failing health. In his last months he wrote numerous poems, reviews and essays, as well as a robust defence of his last novel against those who sought to suppress it. His last significant work was a reflection on the Book of Revelation, Apocalypse. After being discharged from a sanatorium, he died at the Villa Robermond in Vence, France due to complications from tuberculosis. Frieda Weekley returned to live on the ranch in Taos and later her third husband brought Lawrence's ashes to rest there in a small chapel set amid the mountains of New Mexico. (Author bio from Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews 
No one ever wrote better about the power struggles of sex and love.
Doris Lessing


Lawrence was concerned with one end: to reveal how love, how a relationship between a man and a woman can be most touching and beautiful, but only if it is unihibited and total.
Alfred Breit


On its purely physical side [Lawrence's philosophy] seems mere sensualism, and many, not looking any further, have called it such, or even worse. But this is to misunderstand Lawrence.... Lawrence places sex at the heart of life; without sex there would be no life. Hence it is spiritual as well as physical. And it pulsates throughout the universe.
Percy Hutchinson - New York Times Book Review (11/30/1930)



Discussion Questions 
1.  The critic Julian Moynahan argues that Lady Chatterley’s Lover dramatizes two opposed orientations toward life, two distinct modes of human awareness, the one abstract, cerebral, and unvital; the other concrete, physical, and organic.” Discuss.

2.  What is the role of the manor house, the industrial village, and the wood in the novel?

3.  Many critics have argued that while Lady Chatterley’s Lover presents a daring treatment of sexuality, it is an inferior work of art, though other critics have called it a novel of the first rank. (“Lady Chatterley’s Lover, ” F. R. Leavis writes, “is a bad novel, ” while Anaïs Nin, on the other hand, describes it as “artistically...[Lawrence’s] best novel.”) What do you think?

4.  In “Apropos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (a defense of the book that he published in 1930), Lawrence wrote that “the greatest need of man is the renewal forever of the complete rhythm of life and death, the rhythm of the sun’s year, the body’s year of a lifetime, and the greater year of the stars, the soul’s year of immortality.” How is the theme of resurrection played out in the novel?

5.  From the time it was banned from unexpurgated publication in the United States and Britain until the trials in the late 1950s and early 1960s that resulted in the lifting of the ban, and even more recently, critics have argued over whether Lady Chatterley’s Loveris obscene and vulgar. Lawrence argues in “Apropos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover” that “we shall never free the phallic reality [i. e., sex]...till we give it its own phallic language and use the obscene words”; his goal was to purify these words. Critics have disagreed as to whether he succeeded in this goal; Richard Aldington notes, for example, that the words are “incrusted with nastiness” and “cannot regain their purity” and Graham Hough argues that “the fact remains that the connotations of the obscene physical words are either facetious or vulgar.” Do you think the novel is obscene or vulgar, or do you think Lawrence succeeds in his mission?

6.  “The essential function of art is moral, ” Lawrence once wrote. “Not aesthetic, not decorative, not pastime and recreation. But moral.” Do you think this proposition informs the shape, structure, and meaning of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and if so, how?

7.  Critics have often complained that one of Lawrence’s weaknesses as a novelist is his characterization. So John Middleton Murry writes of Sons and Lovers that “we can discern no individuality whatever in the denizens of Mr. Lawrence’s world. We should have thought that we should have been able to distinguish between male and female at least. But no! Remove the names, remove the sedulous catalogues of unnecessary clothing...and man and woman are as indistinguishable as octopods in an aquarium tank.” And Edwin Muir comments generally that “we remember the scenes in his novels; we forget the names of his men and women. We should not know any of them if we met them in the street.” Do you think this applies in the case of Lady Chatterley’s Lover? If so, do you think it is a fault or a virtue?

8.  How does nature imagery function in the novel?
(Questions issued by Random House—cover image, top-right.)

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