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Thursday, 10 April 2014

In praise of Lawrence

Thursday, April 10th., Cadogan Square, London.

I recently received a posthumous collection of D. H. Lawrence's journalistic works, and decided before I opened it that I would not like it. Which just shows how wrong one can be. For I like it very much. 

Lawrence was a novelist, a dramatist, a poet, a critic, a descriptive writer, and often first-rate in every branch. And he was a first class journalist too. He chose his subjects well. He handled them well - clearly, succinctly, picturesquely, beautifully. He didn't flourish his pen before beginning, and when he had finished he knew he had finished, and stopped. Not a word wasted. The subjects chosen were important, elemental, fundamental, and he struck at once deep down into the core of them. 

His remarks on sex are in the nature of an apologia. He is supposed to have been obsessed by sex. The fact is that at his best he was no more obsessed by sex than any normal human being. But he wrote more frankly and more cleanly about it than most. He tried to fish up sex from the mud into which it has been sunk for several hypocritical and timid English generations past. He had a philosophy of sex which is more or less illustrated in all his novels. But he also had a philosophy of friendship, quite as profound and revealing as his philosophy of sex. 

I am a tremendous admirer of Lawrence. In my opinion Lawrence lacked one quality - the power to discipline and control his faculties. Especially in his earlier books he let those superlative faculties - for instance his descriptive faculty - get the bit between their teeth and gallop around with a thunder of hoofs and a lightning of glances very exciting to hear and see; but extravagant. Lawrence seemed to me sometimes to suffer from a delusion similar to the delusion of a sick man who thinks that if a given quantity of medicine will do him good, twice the quantity will do him twice as good. 

Still I would say that no finer work has been done in our time than Lawrence's finest. He is not yet understood, even by the majority of his admirers. But he will be; and meanwhile his works must accept injustice. In the future no first editions of present day writers will be more passionately and expensively sought for than Lawrence's, except perhaps Joyce's. I regard this as certain.

A few years ago I was forwarded a letter from Lawrence by Pinker who was his agent as well as mine. It read as follows:

My dear Pinker,
I am sorry to tell you that I am coming to the last end of all my resources, as far as money goes. Do you think that Arnold Bennett or somebody like that, who is quite rich out of literature, would give me something to get along with? It is no use my trying to delude myself that I can make money in this world that is. But there is coming a big smash-up, after which my day will begin. And as the smash-up is not far off, so I am not very far from a walk-in ...
Do try and tempt a little money out of some rich, good-natured author for me will you - or I don't know what I shall do. And really, you know, one can't begin taking one's hat off to money, at this late hour of the day. I'd rather play a tin whistle in the street. What a lively world! ...
D. H. Lawrence

I offered to let him have £3 a week if Wells and Galsworthy did the same. Pinker informed Lawrence, and returned with the report that he regarded the offer as an insult. So, I confined my assistance to the preaching of Lawrence's dazzling merits.

Additionally for April 10th., see 'Living with a martyr'

What would she say if I put on a martyr act as she does? A change is absolutely essential because my life is being poisoned and all her charm and all her talent will not be enough to prevent a catastrophe. She scolds, she criticises, she whines, and I don't know if she realises what she is doing, but she will have to confront her behaviour this time!
If, as always, she finds that she is completely in the right and I am completely in the wrong, she will force me to leave her.
I am not just a machine for making money, and she would be well advised to treat me with a little consideration as I am becoming dangerous.

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