D.H. LAWRENCE by John Worthen


Vol. I, The Early Years, 1885-1912
Age Range: 1912 - 1922
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 First installment of an ambitious three-volume biography of D.H. Lawrence; to be followed by volume two (1912-1922, by Mark Kinkead-Weekes) and volume three (1922-1930, by David Ellis), set for 1992 and 1994, respectively. The familiar story, highly detailed, takes a fresh edge from new oral material and 2,000 unpublished letters and postcards--as well as from the running comparisons by Lawrence scholar Worthen (Univ. of Swansea, Wales) that distinguish ``the facts'' from Lawrence's several autobiographical essays about his early childhood and young manhood and their glamorizations in his first three novels. Lawrence knocked his collier father and lauded his mother in Sons and Lovers; but in his later 40s, he reversed this view. When writing that novel, he was still under his mother's influence, trying to upgrade her and himself and leave out harsher truths. About himself, in the character of Paul Morel in that tale, he ignored the filthy talk of the girls at the surgical factory where he worked and their attack on him, painted them as well spoken, himself as well adjusted, not a skinny, neurotic, upset puritan. His early writing, disliked by his family, was, Worthen says, ``actually breaking down in himself the barriers to experience which his upbringing had created.'' He could not admit the existence of female pubic hair even at 22. Much text is devoted to the suppressed sexuality of Lawrence's love life, to his hot, overwritten poems, and to love passages in various drafts of his novels as they tie in with four young ladies he tried to rope into bed, and how these ladies mirrored his problems with his dying, then dead, mother. His entrance into London's literary life and publication of his first novel came about easily; then he met sexually liberated Frieda Weekley, six years his senior, who, following their flight from England, made him into the writer he was to be. And what an explosion she was: ``Lawrence had a violent and irritable temper, and Frieda relished a quarrel.'' Acute and absorbing scholarship. (Fifty b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-521-25419-1
Page count: 688pp
Publisher: Cambridge Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1991


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