D.H. LAWRENCE: The Story of a Marriage by Brenda Maddox

D.H. LAWRENCE: The Story of a Marriage

Email this review


Maddox (Nora, 1988) focuses on Lawrence's tumultuous union with a German aristocrat as the major factor goading him to his artistic quantum leaps. The working-class literary novice from the Midlands could not have found a more exotic wife than Frieda von Richthofen Weekley. A sexually adventurous woman with links to the radical culture in Germany (Nietzsche, expressionism, anarchism, and psychoanalysis), Frieda gave up her English husband and three children to join Lawrence in his intercontinental travels. Many of Lawrence's friends found Frieda crude and sententious in contrast to her charming, charismatic husband (who later turned out near-libelous caricatures of them in his books), but throughout the Lawrences' turbulent married life their guests and hosts would be treated, alternately, to scenes of the couple's contented domesticity and Lawrence's appalling abuse, both verbal and physical. The marriage was a childless one, and Frieda sacrificed a role in the lives of her children from her first marriage to Lawrence's emotional needs. Frieda's devoted adoration of Lawrence as a literary genius was balanced by her own conceited ambition to serve as his companion and inspiration, a job for which few others had the stamina. Despite her infidelities, sexual demands, and jealousy, Lawrence found in her enough feminine stimulation to fuel his creativity over a lifetime. While Maddox underplays his Midlands background, she perceptively handles Lawrence's pathological denial of his tuberculosis and his homosexual ambivalence, as well as his flawed literary output and incoherent philosophy. Her new material includes such surprises as an affair the previously presumed monogamous Lawrence had in Italy and his ambiguous relationship with the homosexual Maurice Magnus, for whose posthumous memoir he provided a notorious introduction. The story Maddox tells is one of continuous emotional skirmishes between two highly contradictory personalities, each lacking self-knowledge, each obsessed with the other. She tells it judiciously and well.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster