D. H. Lawrence, 1885-1930
The English poet and novelist David Herbert Lawrence was born at Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, the son of a miner. With tuberculosis tendencies, of which he eventually died, he became, through his mother's devotion, a schoolmaster and began to write, encouraged by the notice taken of his work by Ford Madox Hueffer and Edward Garnett. In 1911, after the success of his first novel, The White Peacock, Lawrence decided to live by writing. He traveled to Germany, Austria and Italy during 1912 and 1913 and in 1914, after her divorce from Professor Ernest Weekley, married Frieda von Richthofen, a cousin of the German air ace, Baron von Richthofen. They returned to England at the outbreak of war and lived in an atmosphere of suspicion and persecution in a cottage in Cornwall.
In 1915 Lawrence published The Rainbow and was horrified to learn that he was about to be prosecuted for obscenity. He left England in 1919, and after three years' residence in Italy, left for America, settling in Mexico until the progress of his disease drove him in 1921 back to Italy where his last years were spent. His sensitive spirit was again shocked by further prosecutions for obscenity over the publication in Florence of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1928 and over an exhibition of his paintings in London the same year.
While literary scholars will always be divided over Lawrence's worth as a writer (personally, I have always regarded Sons and Lovers as one of the best books I have ever read), there can be little doubt as to the influence Lawrence had on the younger writers and intellectuals of the 1920s. He challenged them by his attempt to interpret human emotion on a deeper level of consciousness than did his contemporaries. Such an approach provoked either sharp criticism or a near idolatrous respect.
T. S. Eliot regarded Lawrence as "a writer who had to write often badly in order to write sometimes well." His descriptive passages are often superb, but he had little humor, and this occasionally produced unintentionally comic effects. His burning idealism -- not eroticism -- glows through all his work. His finest writing occurs in his poems, where all but essentials have been pared away; but the larger proportion of his novels have an enduring strength.
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