Welcome to the April bulletin
In April 1929, Vanity Fair published Lawrence's essay 'Do Women Change?' Which starts with the opening line: "THEY tell of all the things that are going to happen in the future—babies bred in bottles, all the love-nonsense cut out, women indistinguishable from men. But it seems to me bosh." Hmm. Let's unpick this a bit. Growing a baby outside the womb is known as ectogenesis and technically we already do this when premature infants are placed in humidicribs to continue their development in a neonatal unit. The 'love nonsense' has already been cut out of relationships thanks to dating apps like Tinder, which is basically shopping for sex via GPS, and involves swiping a finger on a phone to the right for like and to the left for don't like, cutting out banal details like conversation. And as for women being indistinguishable from men, well, non binary identities are already blurring gender lines. Bosh, it would seem, has become the new norm.
Of course, Lawrence was making a more salient point: 'Modernity or modernism isn't something we've just invented. It's something that comes at the end of civilizations.' And as we have now firmly waved goodbye to the analogue era and replaced it with the digital era, it is worth considering the way that his work may be read and understood by future audiences. Indeed, this bulletin features news from Isobel Dixon who is working on a collaborative project inspired by Lawrence's 1923 collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers and PhD student Heather Green is also exploring innovative ways to explore literary heritage. And of course this is a bias of your editor, whose D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre project aims to challenge the linearity of the traditional biography by curating Lawrence through artefacts.
But enough of this clat-farting. There's a load of Lawrence-related news to get through below.
If you want anything included in the bulletin, lob it over to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Brenda (email@example.com) .
Wednesday 14 April (7.15pm) Malcolm Gray
‘Education. Education. Education: Lawrence and how we Learn’
Meeting ID: 849 4042 1574 Zoom link
Thursday 29 April (6.30pm) Trevor Norris
‘Play reading of 'Touch and Go'
The English dramatist Trevor Griffiths turned 86 on 4 April. In 1981 his adaptation of Sons and Lovers was broadcast on the BBC over seven episodes during the early years of Thatcherism. Writing in The Spokesman, Griffith reflected on why he chose to film this novel in particular: “I chose to do this work because, under all the incipient mysticism of the perception, under the incipient derogation of women, under the increasingly ugly politics, there is, in this Lawrence, and vibrantly so, a powerful and radical celebration of dignity in resistance within working-class culture in industrial class-societies; as well as a dark, tortured cry against the waste of human resources such societies require as part of their logic. It is no bad thing to be saying when unemployment has reached over three million.”
Lawrence and Academia
Recent talks and literary heritage
As anyone who has had chance to visit knows, The DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum is a very special place, recreating the atmosphere of a late Victorian mining family’s home as well as giving an insight into DH Lawrence’s life. The society’s most recent talk: ‘The Magic of Objects; behind the scenes of the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum’ by Carolyn Melbourne, Museum and Collections Officer, allows us a glimpse into the museum and the work Carolyn and her team do. We get to see Lydia’s bonnet, Lawrence’s headstone, Lawrence’s travelling trunk, and a special edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The talk is available to view on The DH Lawrence Society YouTube channel here.
Carolyn also talks about a new project the museum is involved in, The Earth Museum, which is a free online portal with themed tours all around the world, including a DH Lawrence tour. You can visit the website here
Heather Green, a Midlands 4 Cities PhD student, has recently published two articles on The Conversation about literary heritage.
The first looks at five literary locations to lure tourists out of lockdown and features the Birthplace Museum. You can read it here
The second focuses on three ways museums are making classic literature more attractive to young readers (see Twitter screenshot above). You can read it here
Heather is the co-production of Walking with Lawrence, a digital walking tour written from Lawrence’s perspective which allows the listener to connect the author with the city they see today.
On the Box
The recent screening of the Lawrence documentary on Sky Arts (4 March) was harshly dismissed as a ‘passionate plod’ in the Telegraph but our members have provided more favourable reviews. This review was sent in from Jim Phelps in South Africa. We also received one from Keith Alldritt which we will publish in the May bulletin.
Review of the D H Lawrence documentary. Jim Phelps
“Really,” you say, sceptically, “you want to introduce D H Lawrence’s life and works in 45 minutes on TV?” “Yes,” I say, “empathically, it has been done in this documentary—and comprehensively, movingly, seriously, briskly, but not hurried, confidently, the speakers bravely taking the risks worthy of their subject, not just to the edge but over the thresholds he took his readers a century ago, and takes them so today, taking the viewer into the bodily life of Lawrence’s revolutionary morality, not shying away from the sexuality he expressed in the language of realism, swimmingly with the metaphorical fluidity of the erotic and sensual into spaces the artistic imagination has never ventured before, sensationally, yet never once speaking the taboo words.”
Contemporary readers of the works of D H Lawrence who take his achievement seriously will rightly be enthusiastic about this film. It marks out clearly how his impact a century later is as revolutionary as it was in his own time, and so opens up his vision to a new generation in apparently very different times. It steps directly into the charged relationship between his life experience and the creative adventure of his fiction and poetry, and well chosen, powerfully evocative quotations from his works carry the viewer into his core themes and concerns.
In watching the film I kept constantly in mind what I imagined a general viewer would see and hear rather than a Lawrence specialist. Lawrence wrote for a live audience, so to speak, not academia, and that is where in the largest sense he should be read today. This I feel is what motivates the documentary, and all the commentators who share their insights do so, it seems to me, admirably with this objective in view. Seeing Lawrence out there making a strong showing, pulling in an attention span of 45 minutes in a tech-addicted world of sound bites and twitter fragments, is inspiring. However, this documentary should also be seen by academics, those both for and against Lawrence. Those who are for him can do with a jolt to remind themselves how radical are his transgressions of stifling rectitude. Those who, trudging the dull paths of ideological critique and desiccated theory yet still have vestiges of feeling for the truths and beauty of literature, can still hear echoes of the primordial call of the narrative arts to the human imagination, in viewing this may pause and review their practice and professions.
Justifiably, the producer opens the stage with the Lady Chatterley trial, marking out the watershed in publishing that it was in literary history, and its significance in Lawrence’s writing career. General viewers will no doubt feel called not to flip the channel because it would awaken perhaps their only knowledge of Lawrence, give them a thought to hold onto. However, once the radical sexual and physical nature of Lawrence’s creative concerns, and the conflicts these caused in his relations with moralistic authority, and so with publishers, are established by this opening, we are swung back to his early life, his family relationships, and then his adolescent friendships and entry into sexuality.
This brings Sons and Lovers into focus, and highlights, with pertinent visuals from place and time, the primary childhood experience as Lawrence lived it, the division between mother and father, which in dramatic terms laid the foundation for the tension between thought and feeling, mind or spirit and body, that played itself through Lawrence’s always searching exploratory art. The important way Lawrence’s first major novel is seen as an open and evolving self-examination of what at first were unreconciled sexual and spiritual conflicts within himself is well presented. What emerges is that this novel helps put these problems behind him, thanks largely to the powerful influence of Frieda, emotionally, sexually, who helped him see, it is argued, via her Freudian perspectives, that his internal conflicts were not those of himself alone, but of young men and women of his time, and through the implicit direction this film takes, of the continuing consequences today of ever-unfolding modernity. Regarding the Freudian reference though, I think some words for a more nuanced point—that Lawrence’s benefit from it, via Frieda, was paradoxically manifest in his developing opposition to psychoanalytic theory—should have been found.
From this the transition to the biblical themes of The Rainbow follows, and we enter the elevated terrain of Lawrence’s greatest period of fictional art, and see how, with filmic economy, the successive generations of the Brangwen men and women trace the increasing assault on human wholeness that the industrialising, urban society unleashes. The documentary shows how the Edenic centre of gravity of the early, rural Brangwens cannot hold back the centrifugal momentum of psychic division the subsequent characters confront. On the one hand in the culminating character of Ursula we see how this context liberates her and opens the way for her female sexual independence. While on the other, it leaves her, though as if defeated by the overwhelming forces of disintegrating modernity, resurrected and facing life with a hopeful vison—but that’s another story. This conclusion thus leads us on to that other story, Women in Love, through which Ursula searches for a lived wholeness in relationship, set within a concentrated examination of the disjointed times, manifest in the psychic lives of the characters she meets and lives with. This major phase is delivered well, not only with quotes from the novel, but with film clips from the film made of it and the actors who played it.
The severe blow that the banning of The Rainbow had on Lawrence, combined with his abhorrence of the pathology of the First World War, is fittingly emphasised, which leads on to the significance of the “exile” in the documentary’s title. Prominence is given to Lawrence’s peripatetic restlessness in the years once he could escape from England when the war was over, and the experimental nature of his fictional works that emerged. It makes clear how really Lawrence’s life broke into two main parts—from birth to 1919, and from there to his death in 1930.
A significant element of the success of the documentary is the prominence given, within the confines of 45 minutes, to the poetry. Through germane quotations we are able to compare the poetic voice with the novelistic, prose voice, and to see and hear how they inform each other. Where sexuality is concerned, Lawrence continually searched for the right language to express it, to evoke the ranges of erotic, sensuous, sensual, and even bestial feelings, in the bodily consciousness of his men, and more radically and unprecedentedly, in his women characters. The quoted poetry is shown to be complimentary to this. This all helps clarify why sexual intercourse in its various ways of expression and practice is important to Lawrence—it is because in sex we feel some of the most positive and intense experience of bodily consciousness, of being alive, and yet in which we are also so vulnerable to the strictures of our societal nurture. For all this and despite the attention given to sexual expression in his works the documentary steers clear of implying he is exclusively a sexual crusader. Instead we realise Lawrence is driven by the force of his own bodily awareness, and saw set against this the societal and economic factors that inhibited it, suppressed and distorted it, and did so en masse. He saw the pressing need to rebalance our psychic beings, to realise the physical origins of our life in consciousness, with our sexuality but a central manifestation of this.
Translating Lawrence’s writing into the audio-visual medium of a TV documentary makes one engage with the multiple skills and arts required by it. The visual images woven into the dialogue were to me well chosen, from a wide range of sources, light and dark as the script required. The many photos of Lawrence at different times captured well the phases he went through from childhood to his final days. The film clips from the Women in Love and Priest of Love movies harmonised effectively in the flow of the documentary. The commentaries from historical figures—notably Richard Hoggart and Aldous Huxley—balanced well the articulate interventions of our contemporary scholars. The musical soundtrack carried the rise and fall of themes in a way to richly enhance the viewing experience. While the place given to Lawrence’s painting towards the end of his life underscored the importance of this medium in his creative journey, his love of music is implicitly honoured by the moving musical accompaniment. One of the few critical comments I would make relates to the reading of the poetry. While praise is due for the crucial role the poetry is rightly given, some might complain that at times it could have been more sensitively read, expressed with a more attentive ear to its fluid immediacy.
We are given so much within the time limit, such depth and diversity in D H Lawrence: Sex, Exile and Greatness, it would be carping to ask for more. Far from it—indeed I believe that what is given could well stimulate new, young readers who’ve never read Lawrence before to turn to his poetry and read the big four—Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
All I can suggest in concluding this review is that there should be follow-ups of the same high quality, addressing perhaps Lawrence’s ever growing importance in the urgent human need to find a new ecological morality—what about D H Lawrence’s Eco-morality for the Anthropocene, or maybe one devoted entirely to his poetry, particularly in the light of Christopher Pollnitz’s magnificent The Poems? The point is Lawrence is a vital voice for our own time, and the TV documentary well done, such as we’ve seen here, is surely an important means to promote this.
Last month on Stephen Alexander's Torpedo the Ark there were several new posts on Lawrence and his work:
1. Atomic: The D. H. Lawrence Memorial Post (2021)
How many of Lawrence's atoms do you contain? This post provides the maths to help you find out ...
2. D. H. Lawrence and the Myth of Maternal Impression
A reading of Lawrence's Leda series of poems and a discussion of the idea of maternal impression ...
3. Concrete Afterlife: Or How to Become Your Own Gravestone
Lawrence famously ranked concrete low down within his hierarchy of materials, so why did Frieda decide to exhume and cremate his body in order to mix his ashes into a concrete block?
4. Only an Astronaut Can Save Us: Notes on the Overview Effect
A reading of Lawrence's poem 'Future States' in order to counter the cosmic euphoria and will to Oneness of Frank White and members of the Overview Institute.
5. I Would Like to Know the Stars Again: Reflections on Astronomy and Astrology in the Work of D. H. Lawrence
Why does Lawrence privilege astrology over astronomy? The former may give an imaginative release, but only the latter tells us anything about the stars as actual objects in a mind-independent universe.
Lawrence Poetry Day: Love and Nature in Lawrence’s Poems
Saturday May 8.
10 am till noon - lunch - 2 pm till 4.
We're delighted to announce the line up and reading for the next Lawrence Poetry Day where you get two Malcolm's for the price of one!! Attendees are requested to read the poems listed below in advance to get the most out of the discussions.
'Look! We Have Come Through!'
Theme: Love and Loss.
Poems to be considered:
Monologue of a Mother
Gloire De Dijon
A Young Wife
A poem to be considered briefly:
She Looks Back
Love and fear in: 'Birds, Beasts and Flowers'.
Autumn in Taos
but more poems will be referred to in the presentation.
The poet articulating his experience more fully, and his 'demon' more faithfully, by altering some earlier poems, as explained by Lawrence himself in his 'Forward' and 'Note' to his Collected Poem, 1928.
Poems to be considered:
The Wild Common (two versions)
Virgin Youth (two versions)
Piano (three versions)
Theme: Living with his Love of Nature to the end.
To be considered, five poems originally one long poem:
The Work of Creation
Red Geranium and Godly Mignonette
The Body Of God
Shadows (Especially 11 lines beginning: 'And if as Autumn deepens ......')
Poem to be generally discussed:
The Man of Tyre
We may not be able to travel abroad now, but poetry has the potential to transport us to sunnier climes and is more pleasurable to the senses than being sat next to a stag night on a Ryan Air flight. With this in mind, allow Isobel Dixon to whisk you off to Florence…
Isobel Dixon and Douglas Robertson are working together on a project inspired by D.H. Lawrence’s nature poetry and his 1923 collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers, which will result in an exhibition, performance and a collection of poems with illustrations titled A Whistling of Birds.
The two were recently published in the March issue of The Florentine which was a Dante special – 2021 is the 700th anniversary of his death. This included Isobel’s poem ‘My Sweet Fiorenza’ and Douglas’s illustration of the Il Porcellino statue. You can read the article on Douglas’s website here or visit The Florentine here.
'My Sweet Fiorenza'
Forget about David, Neptune is King –
but the Boar is the Lord of them all,
haunching down in the market,
a grin on his glistening, smooth-polished snout,
with all of his slippery, scuttling,
claw-waving, side-winding citizen critters below.
True Etruschi, they know him, this earthy god
with all of his humble ones – frog,
lizard, crab, snake, mice. We humans too,
setting coins in his toothy mouth,
laughing, as they tinkle through the grate,
in affectionate hope, of fortune, love, fertility, return.
The sparrows on the Arno walls wish only
for more crumbs: they are sure
in their numbers, an ancient feathered line.
Flit-flit – extravagant city, prize morsels dropped,
flit-flit – fool tourists, where we swoop and perch
and peck at will among the dolci e panini of Finisterrae.
The woman on the step holds out her paper cup,
rattling her coins – aiuta, aiuta! –
rattling her damnable coins through my veins
and the church, swollen with its own mythology,
is too tight for my thoughts. For once
I let the candles be, head for the blessed air.
The signs collide. Trippa e Lampredotto: the man
at the little lit-up window slicing loaves.
Chiesa di Dante, Cocktails & Crostini
and Beatrice is bored beyond belief,
another biddable flock come in to gawp.
Stay with us Lord because it is coming the night.
All the sad petitioners and the paintings
are so bad. The letters sometimes sweet,
stacking like scribbled leaves, where
do they go? Plead with the Agony Aunt
of Silences, a silence sifting down the centuries –
protect our love, let me not always walk alone.
Another museum’s advice-by-souvenirs,
faux-marble, cheap, and portable:
Audaces Fortuna Iuvat – magnetic mantras –
Panta Rei. The Arno rises, now, alarmingly;
I think of courage, flood and flow.
This too shall pass, these stormy currencies.
I searched a hundred crowded vitrines till I found
a little terracotta tartaruga that I knew
was waiting for discovery, again.
Tortoise renaissance, now behind the glass:
formed of clay, long-buried, twice-encased in soil.
I wish I’d been the one to lift it, gently brush it off.
Did I forget the snails? No, they make their way,
soft souls in brittle shells, except
these, bronzed, are vouchsafed for the ages,
and the hardy tortoise too, nudging an earthworm
as he no-mo trundles past the shapes
that could be acorn leaves, or traceries of purloined frogs.
Our treasured absences, rubbed-down in blesséd
memory, the fading postcards, wide piazzas
of the tower-block windowsill. But these
are not the crowning myrtle-ivy garlands
that we had in mind, these grappling thorns
and coins – Forgive me, Lord, I came so close,
perfidious grasp. The sanguine Porcellino keeps on
keeping on, redoubled on his plinth –
iron survivor of the time and tides –
as through some far Italian street, Liguria or Bergamo,
a bristly mama delicately leads her chain
of ah-meme tip-toe sweetness, little humbug babes.
& the plucky crab who, coruscating, waved
a pock-marked pincer from the river argenteria
made his escape, my index finger
clasped with shining claws. Anchored,
we will return. Passing through this nebula,
trying to love and breathe, our several eyes
fixed on the distant platter
of the more-than-ever-silvered evening moon.
Cambridge, England, April 2020
Lawrence penned some of his first poems for Birds, Beasts and Flowers in a Tuscan villa near Florence in 1920 before heading to Venice in October of that year. Isobel alludes to this in her poem ‘Whereas at Venice’ which was published in The Island Review and can be read here.
Elizabeth Doxey and Mountain Cottage
Derek Aram sent in the following article about lost letters, the Lady Chatterley Trail, and information on neighbours of D.H.L during his stay at Mountain Cottage…
Serendipity – hyper-focused coincidence or something deeper, ordained, pre-destined? Whichever; it seems to have happened to me with unusual frequency, since my passion for all things Lawrentian was restored nearly thirty years ago by a long period of enforced commuter reading. One instance. A recent lockdown loft rummaging revealed a sixty-year old letter, which caught my eye, being addressed to my mother but in her own hand. Light dawned on reading the contents; dated 29 October 1960. It was my first letter home from Queen Mary College; mother had made sure she would receive at least one letter by sending me off with a stamped self-addressed envelope! And the serendipity? After the usual assurance that I was not really homesick and was settling in to work hard, page two continues:
“By the way are you following the trial of ‘Penguin Books Ltd’ for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover? I am. And from the turn of things I think Penguin may win the case. I sincerely hope so. It’s a great pity I think to keep back such work of great merit, from such a genius like D.H. Lawrence. If Penguin win it, it will be a turning point in English Lit. I think a lot of primness and false moral attitudes will be swept away.”
Excuse a slight dose of youthful and perhaps naive enthusiasm.
And what of serendipitous Mountain Cottage matters? More recently I wrote to a former acquaintance, Nick Cowlishaw, a master bookbinder and lecturer in that craft, asking for advice about how best to preserve and present an original single sheet letter written by D.H.L to his sister-in-law Else, which I had bought at auction. Nick quickly responded with his professional advice on preservation but then added:
“Not sure if I told you about my grandfather who had a small farm in Via Gelia near Middleton by Wirksworth called Woodlands. The entrance to the farm was opposite Mountain Cottage where Lawrence stayed for a few years. My mother told me that Lawrence often went up the drive to Woodlands to enjoy the view and have tea. She also said that Lawrence gave my grandparents a signed copy of Sons and Lovers but it has never been found. Mother thinks that her elder brother sold it when my grandparents passed away.”
Further correspondence revealed:
“The family surname was Doxey. Going back to 1918 when D.H. Lawrence was at the cottage I think that it is more likely to have been my great grandparents who were living at Woodlands. They had the first names of Alfred and Elizabeth and would have been in their early sixties.”
H T Moore’s The Intelligent Heart describes D.H.L’s arrival by coach from Cromford station at Mountain Cottage, ‘where the neighbour, Mrs Doxey, had a fire in the grate, and tea ready.’ And in a letter of late November 1918 to Katherine Mansfield D.H.L writes: ‘One feels here like a man looking out from a fortress. Bless my soul, the sun is shining – and Mrs. Doxey has just brought me a patriarchal cake of bread cooked in a frying –pan.’
A further letter dated Sunday 9 February 1919 describes a walk in the snow: ‘Two men, tiny as dots, move from a farm on a snow slope, carrying hay to the beasts.’ Fanciful surmise might allow this to be the Doxey farm and who knows, the presentation copy of Sons and Lovers may turn up one day! Thanks to Nick for adding another touch of colour to D.H.L’s Mountain Cottage stay.
Ed’s note: Nick Cowlishaw brother-in-law played the part of Miriam’s little brother in the film of Sons and Lovers. His name was Justin Walters.
Peter Hitchen’s, the Daily Hate columnist who is always one huff away from apoplexy, believes that the Lady C trial of 1960 is the reason for the moral decay we find ourselves in today. If you enjoy manufactured outrage and supporting clickbait journalism, then you can access the article here.
Your editor has no interest in the opinions of Hitchen’s the Lesser and was made aware of this link by Stephen Alexander. Stephen also suggested that perhaps the Society needs a Press Officer of some form to address such articles. Perhaps this is something to consider at a future AGM? For now, if you would like to respond to this article, send your response over to me or Brenda.
D.H. Lawrence and Dialect
Source: D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre
‘Mine-Craft the Prequel: The Photographic Story of East Midlands Coal’
David Amos (middle image above) is currently working on a coal mining heritage pilot project with Nottingham Trent University called ‘Mine-Craft the Prequal’ which involves collating relevant images to produce case studies of mining heritage within the East Midlands.
David said: “One of the cases studies is the Rev Cobb collection of photos taken around the Eastwood area between 1907 and 1917. Rev Cobb was the Rector at Eastwood St Marys and was a photographer who went down Brinsley Colliery to take photos and also photographed the social history of coal mining around Eastwood. The original glass slides which the photos are taken from are at the National Archives at Kew. An interesting blog was done on Rev Cobb collection in January 2020 which you can read here.
David would like members of the Society to take part in a pilot project which would involve him sending over a selection of the Rev Cobb photos via e-mail and links and seeing what information members can add to them, such as relating some of Lawrence’s literary work to the images.
David will provide more information and updates in the newsletter and if lockdown restrictions relax, is happy to give a talk to the Society outlining the project.
From the Archives
Newsletter 4 discusses the opening of the Birthplace Museum on 28 July 1976 and was recorded for ITV and BBC. Kate Foster has provided some famous events from that summer to trigger some memories…
3 July – The heat wave peaks with temperatures reaching 35.9 °C (96.6 °F) in Cheltenham.
7 July – David Steel is elected as the new leader of the Liberal Party.
14 July – Ford launches a new small three-door hatchback, the Fiesta. It will be built in several factories across Europe, including the Dagenham plant in Essex (where 3,000 jobs will be created).
17 July–1 August – Great Britain and Northern Ireland compete at the Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and win 3 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze medals.
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