D. H. LAWRENCE: Portrait of a Genius by Richard Aldington
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D. H. LAWRENCE: Portrait of a Genius

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With the objectivity of a scholar and the conscience of an artist Richard Aldington has created a portrait of the spontaneous, lively genius of D.H. Lawrence that will stir the memory long after the book is read. Always contradictory, often violent in hatreds, vindictive and possessed of a ""dark self"" that wriggled in the consciousness, Lawrence yet was the apostle of Life itself, the ""whole"" life of the impulses, which he felt originated in the core -- the heart -- of the life force. Naturally in this receptive-active life of the impulses the range of attitudes and convictions as well as emotions was very wide. Torn by the rasping dissonance of a wasteland world germinating two world wars and fascism, and exposed to this rudely through his high-pitched receptivity, Lawrence vasolillated between heavens of physical-spiritual beauty and hells of sickness and the smell of death. This is less a portrait of the ""artist with a mission"" than a study of -- if such a thing may be imagined -- the struggle of life and death within the fragile combines of one personality. Beginning with Lawrence's childhood in Eastwood, the author follows the feverish career through the traumatic death of Lawrence's mother, his marriage to the P-unhilda-like Frieda, struggles with publishers and censors, voyages and acquaintances in Europe, Australia and in the famous retreat in Taos, New Mexico with Mabel Luhan, and the bitter breaks with numerous friend-enemies. The account ends with the death of Lawrence in 1930 of tuberculosis which he had ignored as much as possible for a good part of his life. As the books of Lawrence are intensely and indisputably auto-biographical. Aldington has complemented incidents in Lawrence's life with contemporary passages from his prose and poetry which follow closely in actual detail and moods. It is as if the reader were hearing snatches of music, haunting, unforgettable, as the strange, touching story of Lawrence's life is quietly told. Although a friend of Lawrence, Aldington makes no attempt to defend or condemn the novelist or his friends or enemies. Throughout he maintains a carefully neutral position, treating both sides of the relationships with intelligence and good natured humor, recognizing (and knowing:) the wild uncertainty involved in a friendship with Lawrence. This is not a critical essay on Lawrence although much material is quoted. Rather this is an intelligent, readable and complete biography of one of England's greatest and most misunderstood artists. A must for students of literature.

Publisher: Duell, Sloan & Pearoe