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D. H. Lawrence

(1885—1930) writer


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(1885–1930)

British novelist and poet.

Lawrence was born in the coalmining village of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, the fourth child of a miner and a schoolteacher. The conflict between his coarse violent father and refined socially ambitious mother shaped all Lawrence's subsequent attitudes to relations between men and women. He was a sickly boy and his mother made considerable sacrifices to enable him to gain an education at Nottingham High School and University to equip him for life outside the colliery. He became a schoolteacher and, encouraged by Ford Madox Ford and Edward Garnett (1869–1937), began to write. After his first novel, The White Peacock (1911), he abandoned teaching for writing.

In 1912 his second novel, The Trespasser, was published and in 1913 Love Poems and Others was followed by one of Lawrence's most successful novels, Sons and Lovers, which reflects his own tortured relationship with his mother. During this period he travelled in Germany and Italy, having eloped with Frieda Weekley, cousin of the German air ace von Richthofen and wife of his former teacher at Nottingham University; they married in 1914 after Frieda's divorce. Lawrence's loathing for war caused his profound distress during World War I; this distress was compounded by a prosecution for indecency brought against The Rainbow (1915) and by official harassment that forced him and Frieda to leave (1917) their cottage in Cornwall and lead a nomadic existence. Nonetheless he published two more volumes of poetry – Amores (1916) and Look, We Have Come Through (1917) – and worked on Women in Love (privately printed in New York, 1920), which is perhaps Lawrence's most complete fictional exploration of his views on sex.

In 1919 the Lawrences left England for good, moving first to Italy, where Lawrence wrote the travelogue Sea and Sardinia (1921) and at least part of the novels The Lost Girl (1920) and Aaron's Rod (1922). Other works of this period include Fantasia of the Unconscious (1922), Studies in Classical American Literature (1923), and the poems Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923). In 1922 the Lawrences travelled to the USA via Australia, the setting for his novel Kangaroo (1923). They lived first at Taos, New Mexico, then at Oaxaca, Mexico. The Plumed Serpent (1926) celebrates the victory of what Lawrence perceived as the dark primeval forces of ancient Mexican religion over the pallid bourgeois values of Christianity. He also wrote the essays published as Mornings in Mexico (1927). A nearly fatal bout of malaria (1925) forced Lawrence back to Italy. While living near Florence he wrote Lady Chatterley's Lover, which he published there privately in 1928. The notoriety of this novel brought him financial gain but also attracted considerable scandal and other vexations, including the confiscation of the manuscript of his poems Pansies (1929). It was not until 1960 that Sir Allen Lane's Penguin Books received a judgment in the High Court that allowed Lady Chatterley's Lover to be published in an unexpurgated edition in Britain.

Lawrence's health, which was never good, declined sharply in 1930, and in March of that year he died of tuberculosis in a clinic at Vence, France. His Letters, edited by Aldous Huxley, and Last Poems were published in 1932.

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Subjects: literature.


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