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David Herbert Lawrence biography

David Herbert Lawrence's biography, The Gratest English Author & Poet, England's Playwright & Essayist, British Literary Critic

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:: David Herbert Lawrence's Biography ::
      David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English author, poet, playwright, essayist and literary critic. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, human sexuality and instinct.

      Born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, on Sept. 11, 1885, D. H. Lawrence was the son of a little-educated coal miner and a mother of middle-class origins who fought with the father and his limited way of life so that the children might escape it or, as Lawrence once put it, "rise in the world." Their quarrel and estrangement, and the consequent damage to the children, became the subject of perhaps his most famous novel, Sons and Lovers (1913). Critics immediately regarded it as a brilliant illustration of Sigmund Freud's theory of the Oedipus complex. Lawrence was trained to be a teacher at Nottingham University College and taught at Davidson Road School in Croydon until 1912, when his health failed. The great friend of his youth, Jessie Chambers, who was the real-life counterpart of Miriam in Sons and Lovers, had sent some of his work to the English Review. The editor, Ford Madox Ford, hailed him at once as a find, and Lawrence began his writing career.

      Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation 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.

      One of the most widely discussed and renowned twentieth-century authors, D. H. Lawrence remains intriguing and problematic in terms of his biography, his writings, and his prophetic role. In his relatively short life, he was a prolific author of fictions, poetry, travel essays, speculative polemics, and other works. His writing, it is widely agreed, ranges from extremely good to extremely bad. He was, and continues to be, a provocative figure.

      Lawrence's origins were unusual for a British writer of his time. Born into the working class in the industrial Midlands--his father was a lifelong coal miner--he was as a boy frail, hypersensitive, and bright. Physically and psychologically marred by his restricted background and by parental conflict, he gradually rebelled. In a strongly class-conscious society, the working-class youth became a school-teacher and an aspiring writer. By his middle twenties he had been published and critically recognized as a lyric poet and prose fictionist.

      After a brief career as a teacher, Lawrence devoted himself to writing and in 1911 published his first novel, The White Peacock. In 1912 he ran off with Frieda von Richtenhof Weekley, the wife of a Nottingham University professor; after her divorce in 1914, she and Lawrence married and began travelling while he worked on his writing. They travelled through Europe and North America until his death, from tuberculosis, in 1930. Lawrence's novels are known for Oedipal anxieties and sometimes explicit descriptions of sexual relationships, a rarity in literature at the time and shocking to his contemporaries. Lady Chatterly's Lover, probably his best-known work, was considered "obscene" and was banned in the United States and England for three decades. After the 1960's, however, his books became required reading for most university students, and he is still considered an influential figure of 20th century literature. His other works include the novels Women in Love (1921), The Plumed Serpent (1926) and The Rainbow (1915), the play David (1926), poems collected in Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1925) and a book of criticism, Studies in Classic American Literature (1923).

      Lawrence's constant struggle for a right relationship with women came to a climax in his encounter, liaison, and marriage with Frieda von Richthofen Weekley. They had met in 1912 and were married in 1914; their evolving relationship is reflected in all his work after Sons and Lovers. The fulfillment it meant to him can be seen most directly and poignantly in the volume of poems Look! We Have Come Through! (1917). Like Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow (1915) and Women In Love (1920) are set in England and reflect Lawrence's deep concern with the male-female relationship.

      Lawrence's work from the war onward traces his search. His work's rhythm he described as the exploring of situations in his fiction (and, one might add, his poetry) and then the abstracting and consolidating of his thought in essays, some of book-length, like Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious (1921), Fantasia of the Unconscious (1922), and, at the very end, Apocalypse (1931). For the Australian phase there is the novel Kangaroo (1923); for New Mexico, various short stories, poems in Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923), the novelette St. Mawr (1925), and essays, particularly those on the Indian dances; for Mexico, the novel The Plumed Serpent (1926) and the sketches titled Mornings in Mexico (1927); for the Mediterranean area with its pagan traditions, the novels The Lost Girl (1920) and Aaron's Rod (1922) and the novelettes Sun (1928) and The Man Who Died (1931). Toward the last his imagination returned to his English origins for the scene and characters of his most notorious and controversial novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). The novelette The Virgin and the Gipsy (1930) reflects the same concern.

      All through his career Lawrence's boldness in treating the sexual side of his characters' relationships had aroused the censorious. For example, The Rainbow was originally withdrawn and destroyed by the publisher after a complaint. But in Lady Chatterley's Lover, his last full-length novel, Lawrence went much further. The book was banned in England, and this was followed by the seizure of the manuscript of his poems Pansies and the closing of an exhibition of his paintings.

      The Lawrences lived in many parts of the world - particularly, as place affected his work, in Italy, Australia, New Mexico, and Mexico. Embittered by the censorship of his work and the suspicion regarding his German-born wife during the war, Lawrence sought a propitious place where his friends and he might form a colony based on individuality and talent rather than possessions. This he never realized for more than brief periods. There were quarrels and desertions, and his precarious health was a factor in the constant moves. At the end of his life he wistfully regarded himself as lacking in the societal self. He died in Vence, France, on March 2, 1930.
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