English novelist, story writer, critic, poet and painter, Lawrence was one of the greatest figures in 20th-century English literature. Lawrence saw sex and intuition as ways to undistorted perception of reality and means to respond to the inhumanity of the industrial culture. From Lawrence’s doctrines of sexual freedom arose obscenity trials, which had a deep effect on the relationship between literature and society. In 1912 he wrote: “What the blood feels, and believes, and says, is always true.” Lawrence argued that instincts and intuitions are more important than the reason. “Instinct makes me run from little over-earnest ladies; instinct makes me sniff the lime blossom and reach for the darkest cherry. But it is intuition which makes me feel the uncanny glassiness of the lake this afternoon, the sulkiness of the mountains, the vividness of near green in thunder-sun, the young man in bright blue trousers lightly tossing the grass from the scythe, the elderly man in a boater stiffly shoving his scythe strokes, both of them sweating in the silence of the intense light.” (From ‘Insouciance’, 1928)
David Herbert Lawrence was born in the mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, in central England. He was the fourth child of Arthur John Lawrence, a struggling coal ‘miner who was a heavy drinker. His mother, Lydia, née Beardsall, was a former schoolteacher, whose family had fallen in hard times. However, she was greatly superior in education to her husband. Lawrence’s childhood was dominated by poverty and friction between his parents. In a letter from 1910 to the poet Rachel Annand Taylor he later wrote: “Their marriage life has been one carnal, – bloody fight. I was born hating my father: as early as ever I can remember, I shivered with horror when he touched me. He was very bad before I was born.”
Encouraged by his mother, with whom he had a deep emotional bond and who figures as Mrs. Morel in his first masterpiece, Lawrence became interested in arts. He was educated at Nottingham High School, to which he had won a scholarship. He worked as a clerk in a surgical appliance factory and then four years as a pupil- teacher. After studies at Nottingham University, Lawrence received his teaching certificate at 22 and briefly pursued a teaching career at Davidson Road School in Croydon in South London (1908-1911). Lawrence’s mother died in 1910, he helped her die by giving her an overdose of sleeping medicine. This scene was re-created in his novel Sons and Lovers (1912).
The appearance of his first novel, The White Peacock (1911), launched Lawrence as a writer at the age of 25. In 1912 he met Frieda von Richthofen, the Professor Ernest Weekly’s wife and fell in love with her. Frieda left her husband and three children, and they eloped to Bavaria and then continued to Austria, Germany and Italy. In 1913 Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers appeared. It was based on his childhood and contains a portrayal of Jessie Chambers, the Miriam in the novel and called ‘Muriel’ in early stories. When the book was rejected by Heinemann, Lawrence wrote to his friend: “Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swine’s, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding ratters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse-less lot that make up England today.”
In 1914 Lawrence married Frieda von Richthofen, and travelled with her in several countries in the final two decades of his life. Violent fights become a part of their marriage and sexual bond. Katherine Mansfield wrote: “I don’t know which disgusts one worse when they are loving and playing with each other, or when they are roaring at each other and he is pulling out Frieda’s hair and saying ‘I’ll cut your bloody throat, you bitch.
Lawrence’s fourth novel, The Rainbow (1915), was about two sisters growing up in the north of England. During the First World War Lawrence and his wife were unable to obtain passports and were target of constant harassment from the authorities. Frieda, a cousin of the legendary “Red Baron” von Richthofen, was viewed with great suspicion. They were accused of spying for the Germans and officially expelled from Cornwall in 1917. The Lawrence was not permitted to emigrate until 1919, when their years of wandering began. Lawrence’s best known work is Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first published privately in Florence in 1928. D.H. Lawrence died at Villa Robermond, in Vence, France on March 2, 1930.