D.H. Lawrence (England, 1885-1930)

Figure 1.--Here we see D.H Lawrence with his famiy. He's the youngest child in the picture standing btween his mother abnd father. The portrait looks to have been taken about 1893.

D.H. Lawrence was one of the most important figures in early-20th century English literature. He wrote, novels, stories, and poems. He was also a noted critic. Lawrence even dabbled at painting. He is perhaps best known for his poetry. Some authorities point to "Snake" and "How Beastly the Bourgeoisie is" as his most notable poems. He is probably best known for his novel, Lady Chatterly's Lover. His father was a hard drinking coal miner. At a time when British boys without means did not attend secondary school, he earned a scholarship to Nottingham High School.


David's father was a hard-drinking coal miner with little education. He was a kind of labor contractor, a step above an ordinary miners. He told David's mother tht he was a mining enginner. His mother came from a middle-class family. She taught school before she married. She was disturbed when she learned that her new husband was actually a miner. The differences between them led to considerable friction in the marriage.


David Herbert Lawrence was born September 11, 1885, in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. He was his parent's fourth child. His father's drinking shrank the family purse and David grew up in genteel poverty. It also led to increasing animosity between his parents. His mother was forced to see lace to make ends meet. The children generally sided with their mother which further increased tension in the home. David was not the favorite child. His mother favired his older brother. She was pleased, however, with David's academic successes. David is often described as a sensitive boy. He showed little interest in outdoor games. He enjoyed indoor games like charades. He did enjoy going on walks in the countryside.

Childhood Clothing

The only information we have on David's clothes as a child comes from the image here (figure 1). He wears what looks like a five-button suit jacket without lapels that buttons at the collar. With the suit he has an Eton collar which he wears with a small bow. The suit looks similar in many ways to what becamne known as Eton suits for younger boys in America.


David was a sensitive boy. He did not get on easily at school. Nor did he enjoy games (sports). At a time when British boys without means did not attend secondary school, incouraged by his mother he earned a scholarship to Nottingham High School. He did well at school, although the cnsiderable daily trip back and forth was tireing.


Lawrence after school with the help of his brother worked as a clerk in a surgical appliance factory. His brother's untimely death subsequently devestated his mother. He then worked 4 years as a pupil-teacher.


With small savings he began studying at Nottingham University from where he matriculated at age 22. He then began to teach. His mother died (1910). She was in pain and she helped her die with an overdose of sleeping pills.

Early Literary Works

Ford Max Ford published some of Lawrence's poems in the English Review (1909). He published his first novel, The White Peacock (1911). This attracted sime attention enabling Larence to seriously begin to think about a literary career. He publised Sons and Loversloosely based on his childhood (1913). He published The Rainbow (1915). It depicted sisters growing up in northern England. While in Italy, Lawrence began The Lost Girl, but abandoned the project.


Larence had several affairs with young women as a young man. In fact his affairs got rather complicated. Even more so because of his mother's almost suffocating affection. He finally met Frieda von Richthofen (1912). She was the sister of the future Red Baron and wife of professor Ernest Weekly. The two fell in love and Freida left her husband and three children. This caused quite a scandal so they left Britain and eloped to Bavaria. Larence's books were beginning to earn sizeable sums. They married and traveled in Europe (1914).

World War I

The Larences when World War I found themselves in Europe. They had difficulties with their passports. The scandal about their marriage continued and rumors even spread about them being German spies. Lawrence was abivilent about the War and Freida openly pro-German. As her brother was the Red Baron, the couple attracted considerable attention. They were expelled from Cornwall because German U-boats were operating off the coast (1917). They finally emigrated (1919).

Work in Europe

After leaving England, the Lawrence's spent considerable time in Italy. He wrote quite a number of novels on varied themes. He returned to The Lost Girl which he had begun during the War. He rewrote it in a Sicilian farmhouse near Taormina (1920). He also published Women In Love (1920) which was a sequel to The Rainbow. He read Nietzsche and Aaron's Rod (1922) touches on some of Nietzsche's themes. He persued this in Kangaroo (1923) in particular dealing with the idea of a 'superman'. Turning to Mexico, he wrote The Plumed Serpent (1926) a beautifully written novel depicting the Aztecs. Larence tgen published a kliterary sensation, Lady Chatterly's Lover, the work for whichg he is probably best known. He published it privately in Florence (1928). The plot deals with the love affair between a wealthy woman who is married--Lady Chatterly. She falls in love with a man beneath her socially that works on her husband's estate. THe book was labeled pornographic and banned in Ameruca and Britain. He addressed the subject of Christianity in The Man Who Died (1929) focusing on Christ's Resurrection. While Lawrence is known for his fiction, he also wrote several non-fiction works: Movements In European History (1921), Psychoanalysis And The Unconscious (1922) and Studies In Classic American Literature (1923).


As a diversion in the 1920s, Laweence dabbled with painting. His style was expressionistic. Aftervhis death, his work became quite popular.

Final Years

Lawrence died in Vence, France (1930).


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Created: 6:35 AM 12/6/2004
Last updated: 5:38 PM 12/6/2004