Nottingham Post

Lawrence’s Last Laugh creates Pan-demonium

- David Brock

THE Last Laugh is one of three “personal satires” completed by DH Lawrence a century ago which “share the originalit­y of combining virulent satire with the occult and the uncanny”, writes Richard Aldington. This tale’s “perhaps more macabre and prepostero­us” even than The Border Line, “for Lawrence brings himself into the opening pages”, as Lorenzo, and it’s obvious “he imagined himself somehow exercising the occult powers he describes so vividly”. “That he would have used such powers to strike his natural enemy, a policeman, with club-foot, and slay a friend he disliked, does not make the story any the less gruesome.”

However, the heroine of the story, artist “Miss James”, a “brighteyed”, “nymphlike” girl, whose “inquisitiv­eness” is more like that of a bird, squirrel or rabbit, than a woman, and requires her “Marconi listening machine” to hear Pan’s “extraordin­ary” outbursts of “chuckling, naked”, “neighing, animal laughter” and “wild, whistling jubilant” voice in holly-trees, fares better.

When Pan shatters the windows of a Hampstead church in a snowstorm, producing from organ-pipes the “wild, gay, trilling music” of pan-pipes, her deafness is miraculous­ly cured.

As lightning blinks, with his “triumphant”, “dark, laughing face” close to hers, she experience­s “a flame of delight”. She smells almond blossom, springtime, on a “puff of warm wind”, feeling her paintings are comical and “absurd”, like the silly, “spurious” love she’d felt for Marchbanks, who’s suddenly vanished with another woman.

James and Marchbanks are Dorothy Brett and John Middleton Murry, undisguise­d.

When he betrayed Arabella Yorke in 1928, Richard Aldington was savagely satirised himself, in Lawrence’s angry poem The Noble Englishman, becoming “Ronald”, a “Don Juan”, by instinct “sodomitica­l”, who cruelly “takes it out on women”. Aldington’s Lawrence biography, Portrait of a Genius, But... exacts a more subtle


■■100 YEARS AGO,

on March 24, 1924, Lawrence writes from Taos, New Mexico, to his English agent, Curtis Brown, kindly suggesting that if “the advance” on The Boy In The Bush “is small”, and if his co-author, “Miss” Mollie Skinner, “would like it, let her have it all. Otherwise we halve it”., Lawrence is “just finishing a short story”, which is for Basil Blackwell. [The Last Laugh appeared in Blackwell’s The New Decameron, March 1925] Will Brown ask Blackwell “his intentions” regarding Lawrence’s translatio­n of Verga’s Novelle Rusticane? [Blackwell published them as Little Novels Of Sicily in April 1925] “Sun shines here, in a blaze, thank the Lord, and I’m already riding my own little mare [Poppy, on loan from Tony Luhan], and beginning to feel a bit like myself again.

“Oh those cities!”

He imagined himself somehow exercising the occult powers he describes so vividly

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