D. H. LAWRENCE'S NIGHTMARE: The Writer and His Circle in the Years of the Great War by Paul Delany

D. H. LAWRENCE'S NIGHTMARE: The Writer and His Circle in the Years of the Great War

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He and Frieda moved a lot; Delany, taking D. H. Lawrence through the Great War, heads his sections with the names of the English towns: Chesham, Greatham, Hampstead, Porthcothan, Zennor, etc. Yanked back to England from Italy by the war, newlywed Lawrence--a man who really knew the fine art of having a hard time--had one. A German wife (they were evicted once on suspicion of being spies), a heel-digging reluctance to be drafted, the seizure on grounds of obscenity of The Rainbow and then the inability to find a publisher for Women in Love: Delany sees in Lawrence's turmoil a perfect reflection of the hell-like spasms that the world, too, was going through, 1914-1918. What friends Lawrence had during these years--John Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Bertrand Russell--he most efficiently lost, estrangements that seem inevitable after the rhapsodic hopes and demands put on these people. With admirably restrained precision, Delany isolates Lawrence's ""gratuitous sequence of obsessions--now with evil, now with homosexuality; in February with an ideal socialism, in July with the need for autocracy"" as a kind of emotional invalidism, always grabbing at a new cure. Anti-Semitic, theosophical, homoerotic, outright asinine, DHL's theories curl up into the air of his own misery--yet still he plugged away, the born writer, dependent on charity, living with one of the world's most difficult women, unpublished. . . . Delany's exemplary handling of this ""nightmare"" is caringly shaped with reliable scholarship; how far you can go with his idea of Lawrence as portent of the world's mixed-up-ness is another matter. But, by never being flustered by Lawrence's ravings and by being able to pity and sympathize, the book is readable, lucid, and consistently engaging.

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1978
Publisher: Basic Books