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Lawrence, D. H.

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Summary Article: Lawrence, D(avid) H(erbert) from Chambers Biographical Dictionary

1885-1930

English novelist, poet and essayist

He was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, the son of a miner. With his mother's encouragement, he became a schoolmaster and began to write, encouraged by the notice taken of his work by Ford Madox Ford and Edward Garnett. In 1911, after the success of his first novel, The White Peacock, he decided to devote himself to writing. In 1912 he eloped with Frieda Weekley (née von Richthofen), a cousin of the German war ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen and wife of Ernest Weekley, a professor at Nottingham University. They travelled in Europe for a year, and married in 1914 after her divorce. By this time, Lawrence had made his reputation with the semi-autobiographical Sons and Lovers (1913). They returned to England at the outbreak of World War I, and lived in Cornwall. In 1915 he published The Rainbow, an exploration of marital and sexual relations which led to his being prosecuted for obscenity. He left England in 1919. After three years' residence in Italy, where he wrote Women in Love (1921), he went to the USA, settling in New Mexico until the tuberculosis from which he suffered drove him back to Italy, where he spent most of his remaining years. He was again prosecuted for obscenity over the private publication in Florence of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1928, and over an exhibition of his paintings in London in 1929. He continued to write until his death in Vence, France, at the age of 44. Lady Chatterley's Lover was not published in the UK in unexpurgated form until 1961, after a sensational obscenity trial. Opinion is still divided over Lawrence's literary worth, but his influence on his contemporaries is undeniable. His attempts to interpret human emotion on a deep level of consciousness tended to provoke either sharp criticism or an almost idolatrous respect. His finest writing occurs in his poems, where all but essentials have been pared away; many of his novels also have an enduring strength. They include Aaron's Rod (1922), Kangaroo (1923) and The Plumed Serpent (1926). His collected poems were published in 1928, and his Complete Poems in 1957. A Complete Plays appeared in 1965, and his other writings include vivid travel narratives, essays, works of literary criticism, including Studies in Classic American Literature (1923), and two studies of the unconscious. Over 5,000 of his letters have been published (7 vols, 1979).

  • Worthen, John, D H Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider (2005).

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