From Chesham to Lady Chat­ter­ley

His­to­rian DON­ALD STAN­LEY looks at how DH Lawrence came to live in, and leave, the county

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NOSTALGIA -

CHESHAM was the home of three writ­ers: D.H. Lawrence, Kather­ine Mans­field and her hus­band John Mid­dle­ton Murry. Lawrence lived in Hawridge Lane; the Mur­rys at Choles­bury.

Lawrence’s fa­ther was a barely lit­er­ate miner but Lawrence won a schol­ar­ship to Not­ting­ham High School. Al­though he left with­out any qual­i­fi­ca­tions he be­came a pupil teacher and con­tin­ued his ed­u­ca­tion to be­come a fully qual­i­fied one.

Jessie Cham­bers and Lawrence were neigh­bours and more than teenage sweet­hearts. They read widely to­gether and un­der her in­flu­ence he com­menced to write po­etry and be­gin his first novel. Jessie sent some of his work to The English Re­view.

Ford Ma­dox Ford was its editor as well as a nov­el­ist and poet in his own right who pub­lished in the Re­view not only work by es­tab­lished writ­ers but was the first to print the work of Lawrence whose novel he com­mended to the pub­lisher Wil­liam Heine­mann.

Lawrence con­tin­ued to show the drafts of his nov­els to Jessie but his un­kind de­pic­tion of mu­tual friends and ac­quain­tances led to their es­trange­ment.

Lawrence’s ob­ses­sion with sex led to lit­er­ary crit­ics us­ing such de­scrip­tions of his work as ‘pu­trid heaps of dirt’.

Heine­mann re­fused to pub­lish the au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ‘Sons and Lovers’. It did, how­ever, bring him to the at­ten­tion of Edward Marsh a poly­math and friend of po­ets who in­tro­duced Lawrence to Murry and Mans­field.

A sub­se­quent novel, ‘The Rain­bow’, was banned by Bow Street Mag­is­trates’ Court.

Al­though his last novel, ‘Lady Chat­ter­ley’s Lover’, was con­sid­ered too ob­scene to be pub­lished in Bri­tain, it was printed in Italy in 1928 from where it was dis­trib­uted.

It not merely re­flected his work­ing class Not­ting­hamshire ori­gins but, it is sug­gested, ex­plained his dis­gust with so­ci­ety and pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with sex through at­tack­ing so­ci­ety in gen­eral es­pe­cially the class strat­i­fi­ca­tion of English so­ci­ety, the evils of in­dus­tri­alised civil­i­sa­tion, and un­whole­some re­la­tions be­tween the sexes them­selves.

To marry Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen had de­serted her hus­band who taught him dur­ing his teacher train­ing, and chil­dren.

Her Ger­man ori­gins, com­bined with spy hys­te­ria upon the out­break of the First World War, forced the Lawrences to leave the Chesham area.

His poor health pre­cluded him from mil­i­tary ser­vice but af­ter the war they trav­elled widely. Al­though ‘Lady Chat­ter­ley’ was not pub­lished openly in Bri­tain un­til 1960 it had earned Lawrence suf­fi­cient to live com­fort­ably abroad un­til he died in the South of France.


AU­THOR: DH Lawrence at his desk

Writer: John Mid­dle­ton Murry


Mrs Lawrence: Frieda pic­tured in 1971

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