James is a Nottingham based writer. His previous digital works include Dawn of the Unread, the Sillitoe Trail, Being Arthur. He is a former chair of the Nottingham Writers' Studio and a former director of Nottingham: UNESCO City of Literature. His work has been published by BBC Radio 3 & 4, Independent, Guardian. He was the literature editor of Leftlion magazine for 13 years. www.jameskwalker.co.uk
This rare portrait of Lawrence by Australian artist Hewitt Henry Rayner, etched in 1929, is thought to be the last portrait made of Lawrence before he died on 2 March 1930. If you’ve got £3,000 to £5,000 going spare, it’s up for auction at Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers, Cambridge on Thursday 11 October.
In 1923, 21 year-old Hewitt Henry Raynor left Melbourne, Australia and headed to England to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. One year earlier, Lawrence had set off in the other direction, taking a detour to Australia on his way to New Mexico. Raynor settled in London, attending the London Royal Academy of Art where he was taught by Walter Sickert. He would remain in the capital for the rest of his life, returning to Melbourne for a brief visit in 1931. Lawrence never settled anywhere for too long, and very rarely returned back to his country of birth. The two would meet in 1929 when Raynor produced what is thought to be the last portrait taken of Lawrence.
Rayner was an etcher who perfected the drypoint technique, creating over 500 drypoint plates during his life. This is believed to be the largest body of drypoint work of any mid-20th century artist, most of which were produced after 1926. Unable to afford copper plates, Raynor used any type of metal he could get his hands on, such as oil containers and sweet tins. He didn’t have proper engraving tools either, instead opting for second-hand dentists’ drill bits, which he found more suited to the task. Sustainable approaches are all the vogue now, but Rayner’s techniques were born out of economic necessity – he only achieved notoriety after his death. This was due to numerous factors which we’ll look at in a moment, but it’s worth briefly giving a potted history of etching.
Printmaking of all varieties had a low standing in the 19th century due to it being perceived as a reproductive craft and therefore not worthy of exhibition at the Royal Academy. But a change in style in the mid-1800s saw it gain in popularity, eventually resulting in the formation of the Society of Painter-Etchers in 1880. As Art Schools began to develop up and down the country, the techniques were taught, and the discipline was taken more seriously.
Etching reached its peak in the 1920s when prices became so inflated they were unaffordable to traditional collectors. Instead they had to settle for anthology books celebrating reproductions, such as the annual Fine Prints of the Year. These prices were partly inflated by the publishers, who limited print runs to create a scarcity value. To put this into context, in 1929, the year that Raynor made his sketch of Lawrence, one print by DY Cameron went for a staggering £640 at Southeby’s. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, that’s the equivalent of around £38,500 today. Although back then it would have got you quite a few houses.
It was during the 1920s that ‘come up and see my etchings’ became code for wealth, although in contemporary culture it became a romantic euphemism whereby women were lured up to bedrooms under false pretences. In Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man (1934) the narrator reassures his suspicious wife that the lady she had seen wander off ‘just wanted to show me some French etchings’.
Lawrence took up painting towards the latter end of the 1920s, though this wasn’t for money or popularity. Painting simply offered an alternative mode of expression that was more pleasurable in process than writing.
“I disappeared into that canvas. It is for me the most exciting moment – when you have the blank canvas and a big brush full of wet colour, and you plunge. It is just like diving in a pond – there you start frantically to swim. So far as I am concerned, it is like swimming in a baffling current and being rather frightened and very thrilled, gasping and striking out for all you’re worth. The knowing eye watches sharp as a needle; but the picture somes clean out of instinct, intuition and sheer physical action. Once the instinct and the intuition gets into the brush-tip, the picture happens…”
Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been banned in 1928 and so painting offered an escape from the frustrations of the literary world. Or so he thought. His first exhibition at the Warren Gallery in June 1929 was swiftly closed on grounds of indecency with thirteen of his paintings placed in a prison cell (all of the seized paintings depicted public hair). Outraged by the latest bout of censorship he began work on the aptly named poetry series ‘Nettles’ which included the line: ‘Virginal, pure policeman came/ and hid their faces for very shame’.
Lawrence had been too ill to leave Italy to attend the exhibition in June 1929. Instead he sent Frieda on his behalf. This means that the portrait by Raynor must have been sketched during his last visit to the UK although I am not sure when. When the two did meet, I wonder how Lawrence would have viewed Rayner’s success, given the financial difficulties he had experienced throughout his own career while Rayner was at his peak. But the subsequent Wall Street Crash put an end to the etchings market and Rayner spent the ‘hungry years’ of the 1930s trying to sell his prints door to door. After being injured during the London Blitz, Raynor became more reclusive. He passed away in 1957, a few years before the Chatterley ban was lifted.
Both had a few things in common, though some of these connections are only apparent in retrospect. There was Australia, self-imposed exile, and art. Both were turned down for military service for WWI and WWII respectively. Both produced a phenomenal output of work yet struggled with poverty, with neither getting the recognition they deserved during their short lives. We know from the memoirs of Dorothy Brett and Knud Merrild that Lawrence was highly critical of their work and always had an opinion on how their art could be improved. So what would he have made of Raynor’s etching? Needless to say he would have found fault.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts to try to understand this phenomenal writer. How do we capture the censorship of his art? Do we need a slideshow of the various portraits that were made of him during his life? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
On September 11th the world changed forever. DH Lawrence was born. This year’s festival includes a broad mix of events from literary walks to short story discussion groups. For the first time ever the birthday lecture is not taking place on Lawrence’s birthday. Instead it will take place on Saturday 8th September. This is simply because it is easier for people to attend at the weekend. It’s given by film director Christopher Miles and is our festival highlight.
Eastwood Walk “The Lost Girl Trail” Tuesday 4th September from 2.00pm
A guided walk led by Sheila Bamford from the D.H Lawrence Society. VENUE: Meet at The Sun Inn, Eastwood, Notts. ADMISSION: Free
Poetry Reading and Group Discussion Wednesday 5th September, 7.00pm
In his first published volume of verse (“Love Poems and Others” Pub 1913) Lawrence
included four poems written in Eastwood dialect “Violets” ; “Whether or Not”; “A Colliers
Wife” and “The Drained Cup” . The reading group—led by Dr. Andrew Harrison of the D.H. Lawrence Research Centre at the University of Nottingham, will include readings of these poems and give participants the opportunity to explore such issues as Lawrence’s
transcription of local speech. Copies of the poems will be made available on the night.
This event is put on by the D.H. Lawrence Society but is an open event. VENUE: Horse and Groom Pub, Moorgreen, NG16 2FE. ADMISSION: £2
Talks and Workshop, ‘Singing Eastwood’ Thursday 6th September, 2.00pm – 6.00pm
Celebrating a rich musical history through Eastwood’s former chapels and the
entrepreneuring work of Arthur Linwood, who for many years composed and published
volumes of anthems, running a successful business for half a century in Eastwood’s High
Street. Memory of these establishments, now defunct, will be brought back to life in this
surviving flourishing chapel, together with a recent discovery of Linwood scores. VENUE: Eastwood Baptist Church, Percy Street, Eastwood, NG16 3EP. ADMISSION: Free.
Concert, ‘Beauvale Priory and the Carthusians’ Friday 7th September, 7.30pm
Beauvale Priory, a scheduled monument just outside Eastwood, was home to a
contemplative Carthusian Order, historically important as the home of the two Priors
Robert Lawrence and John Houghton, who were among the first English martyrs to be
executed at the Reformation. The beautiful Catholic Church at Hill Top, with its important chapel dedicated to these two Saints, is a perfect place to house this concert, possessing a fine organ and good acoustics. The programme, performed by the organist and composer Alan Wilson, together with friends, traces through music and words the formation, prosperity, destruction and resurrection of this important shrine. Reference is also made to D.H.Lawrence’s short story ‘A fragment of stained glass’. VENUE: Our Lady of Good Counsel, Roman Catholic Church, Hill Top, Eastwood. NG16 2AQ ADMISSION: Free
F.R. Leavis Society and D.H. Lawrence Society Conference Saturday 8th September, 10.00am – 5.00pm
A one day conference with invited speakers from the F.R. Leavis Society and the D. H.
Lawrence Society givings papers, and the opportunity for Q and A and open discussion.
This conference is primarily for members of the Leavis Society or the Lawrence Society but non-members are welcome. VENUE: Eastwood Hall Conference Centre, NG16 3SS. ADMISSION: £33 including coffee/tea and lunch. Please contact Bob Hayward or Malcolm Gray to book a place. Bob Hayward firstname.lastname@example.org
Malcolm Gray email@example.com
The D.H. Lawrence Society Birthday Lecture Saturday 8th September at 7.00p.m.
The annual D.H. Lawrence Society Birthday Lecture is to be given this year by Christopher Miles. The Birthday lecture is open meeting. Christopher Miles directed the 1982 film “Priest of Love” with Ava Gardner, Janet Suzman and Ian McKellan as D.H. Lawrence. He also directed the film adaptation of Lawrence’s short story “The Virgin and the Gypsy” starring Joanna Shimkus, Franco Nero and Honor Blackman. In his Birthday lecture Christopher Miles will be talking on “Those Paintings”—the paintings of D.H. Lawrence.
The birthday lecture is my personal highlight of the festival. When I asked Christopher to elaborate on what we could expect from his talk he said: “I explain why Lawrence took up painting so late in life in 1926, and why 13 of his paintings exhibited at the Warren Gallery in London were taken by the police and put into a prison cell. Would they shock today, and are they still banned – some may shock today and the ban has never been lifted. Even liberal Waterstones in Nottingham wouldn’t show a couple of them in 2003. I’ll show that he began his first affair by copying a certain romantic picture when he was 24, and sending it to a girlfriend. So he had been painting for sometime before 1926. Lawrence had more painter friends than writers, so I examine how they influenced him, and what influence each of them had on his writing, and his own artistic efforts. As well as a new discovery of how the Theosophy movement influenced his writing as well as his painting. His final, large paintings were done while he was writing Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and a link is made to show his psychological thinking at the time, as he tries to say in paint what he said in print. I also show at the end how one country, and ancient race of people, influenced his painting the most, just three years before he died in Vence.” VENUE: Eastwood Conference Hall, Mansfield Road, Eastwood, NG16 3SS. Admission: £2
Visit and Literary Walk (Fanny and Annie) Sunday 9th September at 2.00pm
In 1919 D.H. Lawrence began work on a short story “Fanny and Annie”. He used the
old Morley Chapel as part of his location. The opportunity now exists to visit the old
chapel and walk around the area—with some possible readings from the story. There will be some light refreshments. This visit has kindly been offered by the owner of the house to Lawrence Society members.
VENUE: The Old Chapel, Morley Almhouse Lane, Morley, Derbyshire, DE7 6DL.
The Early Life of D.H. Lawrence Wednesday 12th September, 2.00pm – 3.00pm
The D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum and writers group Chapter & Verse are
hosting an event to celebrate the Eastwood writer’s early life. A representative
of the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum will give a talk on Lawrence’s early life and home. Afterwards there will be the chance to handle some artefacts from the museum and to see some of the writing produced by members of Chapter & Verse. Refreshments will be available to purchase from the Durban House Café. VENUE: The café at Durban House Day Spa, Mansfield Road, Eastwood, NG16 3DZ ADMISSION: Free
D.H. Lawrence and the Communities of the Erewash Valley Saturday 15th September, 2.00pm to 5.00pm
An informal event of talks, readings-prose and poetry, work and leisure. VENUE: The Breach House Garden Road Eastwood Notts ADMISSION: Free
The Pit, the Pub, and the Plough Saturday 15th September, 2.00pm – 5.00pm
David Amos, Harry Riley and many others explore Lawrence through three key features of Eastwood life. VENUE: Breach House, Eastwood. ADMISSION: Free
There are other events scheduled during the festival which are not listed above. You can read about these by downloading the festival brochure here. It is also worth noting that where an event is listed as ‘free’ it is polite to leave a donation. Money is donated to heritage organisations related to specific events and includes: Breach House, Eastwood Memory Cafe, upkeep of local chapels.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts to try to understand this phenomenal writer of novels, poetry, plays, essays, letters, and philosophy. Perhaps the festival will give you some ideas? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
DH Lawrence was a man famed for his rage. When I was the literature editor for LeftLion magazine I created a feature called The Endless Rage of DH Lawrence, whereby we had him mouthing off about modern problems. It was great fun to write, and a weird experience as I spent a lot of my time wondering what Lawrence would say if he was asked if he wanted a carrier bag after purchasing a pack of chewing gum in Tescos. How he would loathe the incompetence of modern life.
Lawrence’s rages could consist of an irrational outburst or simply scalding someone because he disagreed with their view point. But often his rage was born out of frustration. Take June of 1912 as an example. Lawrence had fallen in love with Frieda Weekley, a married woman and mother of three children. He persuaded Frieda to run away with him but her husband, Ernest, wasn’t making things easy for them, demanding that his wife return home or else she would never see her children again. Their affair was an absolute scandal, especially given the taboos around divorce and the prevailing morality of the time. Lawrence also had the first draft of his third novel, Sons and Lovers, rejected by William Heinemann. He needed the money in order to provide for Frieda, and so these two issues culminated in an explosive volley of vitriol to Edward Garnett, his friend and literary editor, on 3 July, 1912.
“Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today. They’ve got white of egg in their veins, and their spunk is that watery it’s a marvel they can breed. They can but frog-spawn — the gibberers! God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wish-wash. Exterminate them, slime.
I could curse for hours and hours — God help me.”
We’ve taken a few extracts from the letter and included it in the video above, which you can also find on our Instagram account. We absolutely love Lawrence when he’s in a rage. Nobody else can do spiteful and witty like him. This scathing attack on his perceived enemies suggests if Lawrence were alive today, he’d hold his own in a rap battle!
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to think differently about literary criticism. Instead of following a traditional linear narrative, such as a biography, we want to tell Lawrence’s life through artefacts. We believe that this is the best way to represent a complex and contradictory life. But how do we capture this rage? Perhaps we will have a drawer in our memory theatre that doesn’t quite open so that audiences get frustrated trying to interact with it. Or maybe we need a rage-ometer that calculates the velocity of Lawrence’s moods at different periods in his life. And how about your own rage? Do we need some kind of recording device so that the public can vent off about Brexit, zero hour contracts, and being forced to hear about Kim Kardashian every time we switch on the TV?
The above short is our first real promotional video for the project and one that we hope will encourage you to submit an idea that captures this most entertaining element of Lawrence’s life. The video editing was by a very talented 2nd year English student called Izaak Bosman. It was originally created for our instagram account but we’ve also reformatted it to include it on our YouTube channel.
Now get angry…
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. Was Lawrence’s rage some kind of coping mechanism, or was he genuinely angered by those around him? Can we trace particular moments when he was at his angriest? Perhaps we could all do with being a bit angrier today instead of hiding behind our glossy online avatars and disingenuous status updates. In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
Shaun Belcher started a multimedia project in 2010 exploring local history in two locations, one of which was Nottingham. He began uncovering some incredible stories, such as Albert Einstein giving a guest lecture at Nottingham University College (as it was known then) on 6 June 1930. A section of blackboard he used to show his calculations is preserved in the university’s archives. The university also holds many artefacts relating to DH Lawrence, but we’ll come back to his connection with the College later on.
The project has the working title of Track Nottingham which Shaun explains “takes individual ‘derives’ as the starting point for poems that literally ‘track’ individuals’ movement through urban and rural space and their interactions with the current technology to analyse how art and technology interact.”
So far he has written three poems about Picasso, Chaplin and DH. Lawrence which neatly bookend three concurrent aspects of modernity in Painting – Film – Literature. Shaun said “I am interested in the relation between technology and how these individuals were enabled to move and in turn have their works ‘distributed’ by the new channels of literary and film distribution and their link to networks of travel especially the railway.” Through poetry, Shaun hopes to map these hinterlands of change. He is keen to stress that “no person is an island and no artist is independent of the tentacles of mass distribution and technological change”. The poems are also stories about relationships played out against 19th, 20th and 21st century backdrops. One of these relationships is that of DH Lawrence and Frieda Weekley.
After coming first in the King’s Scholarship Examination in 1904, Lawrence received a grant to attend Nottingham University College (now part of the Arkwright building owned by NTU) but had to work for a year as an uncertified teacher at the British School in Eastwood in order to save £20 for the advance fees. He enrolled in September 1906 at the age of 21 and graduated in 1908. Although he found the experience disappointing he was interested in the botany and French course taught by Prof Ernest Weekley, the then husband of Lawrence’s future wife Frieda. Frieda and Ernest Weekley lived on Private Road, Sherwood and an enthusiastic Lawrence came to have a chat with his Professor one afternoon and immediately fell in love with Frieda. There are varying accounts on how quickly the two became lovers but which ever version of history you believe, the relationship was built on pain and against the backdrop of World War I. This had particular resonance as Frieda was not only a married woman, but a distant relation of Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”. All of which inspired Shaun to write the following poem.
PAPER BOATS ON PRIVATE ROAD
A lone slim figure in Sunday best gets off the tram on Woodborough Road,
Hesitates then proceeds down Private Road until it dog-legs east at his destination
As he turns along the high brick wall he hears children’s laughter, a maid calling
He stands at the gate hidden by trees and calls, the maid comes to the gate
Later she recalls his patent leather shoes and his smart appearance that day
Frieda stands at the French Windows, behind the red curtains, eyes sparkling like a hawk
He is ushered into the sitting room, red velvet curtains caught in the breeze billowing
Initial stiffness is washed away in a heated conversation about Oedipus and women
D.H. Lawrence is being bewitched by this most ‘un-English’ and strong-willed of women,
Her exotic and erotic vibrancy entrances him, already struggling to escape this England
Her husband delayed by work she leads him past then in to her bedroom,
An English sparrow in the talons of a German hawk he is taken in hand, finds himself
Then they are both entwined in secrecy, taking tram and train to secret assignations
One day with her daughters they play on a local stream with paper boats
He flicks matches at them saying look it is the Spanish Armada come to sink England
Two paper boats catching fire in a Nottinghamshire backwater, then phoenix-like rising
From the crazed machinery of Edwardian England, the conservatism of suburbia
Sometimes of an evening Frieda would dash up Mapperley Plains just seeking freedom
In a cottage near Moor Green they continued their first loving act on Private Road
Under Pear-blossom, ‘a fountain of foam’, Frieda crawls naked over him, he writes a poem
To her and to freedom, to his sexual and intellectual fulfilment with a gushing woman
By May 3rd they were sat together on a night-boat to Ostend, that old England fading
A peaceful Anglo-German union as the two empires ramped up production of munitions and cruisers
The Suffragette movement beginning… the war to end all wars looming.
Paper boats burning…
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. How do we get across Lawrence’s relationship with Frieda? If Ernest Weekley hadn’t excelled in his teaching, Lawrence would never have visited his house. Can we convey this chance encounter somehow? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
Jack Gamble directs DH Lawrence’s The Daughter in Law at the Arcola Theatre. Set during the 1912 miner’s strike, the play explores conflict in the workplace and home. Ellie Nunn is electrifying as Minnie Gascoigne.
I’ve never seen The Daughter in Law performed before so it was with great eagerness that I headed to the Arcola theatre, Dalston after reading a glowing review in The Guardian that described it as ‘arguably the best account of working-class life in British drama’. Lawrence wrote eight plays during his brief lifetime, but only The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd made it to the stage where it was performed in 1916. It would shock middle class Edwardian critics with its ‘sordid picture of lower class life’.
Lawrence came from a family of coal miners. His father, Arthur, worked as a butty at Brinsley Colliery, which would take the life of his Uncle James in 1880. Industrialisation was also responsible for the destruction of the natural landscape, a theme that recurs throughout his work. Lawrence knew intimately about the world in which he was describing, enabling him to vividly and accurately capture life in mining communities from the inside.
The Daughter in Law is set during the 1912 strike when miners, along with Dockers, railway workers, and other labourers, fought for better pay. Miners pay was dictated by the market, meaning a lower wage packet when sales were low. Pit-clothes were no longer provided by the company, adding another additional cost. This had particular resonance for Lawrence as his paternal grandfather, John Lawrence, moved to Eastwood in the 1850s to be company tailor at Brinsley colliery, stocking huge rolls of flannel to clothe the workforce.
One million miners came out on strike in February 1912. They were partly vindicated with the passing of the Coal Mines Minimum Wage Act on 29 March 1912. Although it wasn’t as much as they had sought, it at least guaranteed a minimum of 6s 6d a day nationwide, although in Nottinghamshire it was slightly higher at 7s 6d.
All of these themes are drawn out in the play, which focusses on the two Gascoigne brothers, Luther (Harry Hepple) and Joe (Matthew Biddulph), Luther’s new wife, Minnie, and the domineering mother who rules over the family home. But where there should be unity, we instead see a series of conflicts. Blackleggers (workmen who refused to join the strike) infuriate the Gascoigne brothers because their selfish actions belittle the cause of other miners, echoing sentiments that would be drawn out a century later in the 1984 miner’s strike when Nottingham gained the unfortunate title of ‘Scab City’.
Lawrence frames this dispute in a way that thoughtfully balances out the perspectives of the affected characters. Minnie is frustrated because her husband is emotionally withdrawn, unable to turn to her for love and support, whereas Luther feels emasculated by his wife as she has substantial savings that could bail them out of the situation. In a fit of petulance, he threatens to draft in another housewife to do the chores so that Minnie can experience the humiliation of blacklegging in the domestic sphere. Minnie responds by blowing her entire savings on a shopping spree. It’s an act of independent defiance, but an indulgence that infuriates Luther so much that he burns some of her newly acquired possessions. As despicable as both of their actions are, it finally brings them together as they are now equal in their poverty.
Minnie is the absolute star of the show, thanks to an electrifying performance by Ellie Nunn. She dominates the stage; screaming, shouting and shrieking her frustrations to spellbinding effect. Members of the audience around me jerked up in shock when she started laying into her husband, which was partly due to the intimate set design that positioned the audience closely around their candlelit front room.
One noticeable absence from the play was the father, killed previously by an accident down the pit. Therefore this is as much a play about the hardships of women, struggling on, as it is about the men. This enables Lawrence to explore the role of the matriarch. Mrs Gascoigne (Veronica Roberts) over coddles her sons, which is understandable given the loss of her husband. But in smothering her sons she inadvertently suffocates all around her. This acts as the climax to the play when Minnie confronts her mother in law with the plea “how is a woman to have a husband if all the men belong to their mothers?”
The Daughter in Law is written phonetically, capturing the harsh north Notts dialect that’s inflected by the Erewash Valley and Derbyshire. Lawrence uses dialect to convey a character’s social class, education, and intelligence. It’s notoriously difficult to pull off, something I explored recently in the BBC Radio 4 series Tongue and Talk. The cast generally did alright, especially with the hard northern Notts words (tode yer/told you) but at moments Mrs Purdy (Tessa Bell-Briggs) was slipping into Brum and Scottish. To the London audience this must have sounded very authentic, but I was wincing in places. But the rapid-fire dialogue and the intensity of the acting quickly dragged me back into the narrative.
1909 A Collier’s Friday Night First performed in 1939
1910-11 The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd First performed in 1916
1912 The Merry-go-Round First performed in 1973
1912 The Married Man First performed in 1997
1913 The Fight for Barbara First performed in 1967
1913 The Daughter in Law First performed in 1967
1918 Touch and Go First performed in 1973
1925 David First performed in 1927
Lawrence also wrote two incomplete plays Altitude (1924) and Noah’s Flood (1925)
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. Is there a place for his plays and if so, how do we represent them? How do we explore the conflicts raised in The Daughter in Law or the inner conflicts that drove Lawrence into exile? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
Kim Nguyen is studying English and Film Studies at Nottingham Trent University. She created her first ‘visual essay’ as part of a third year module called English and Creative Industries Project. The visual essay explores how Lawrence’s work continues to cause controversy long after his death through Ken Russell’s film adaptation of Women in Love.
D.H Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, literary critic and painter. He was regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He was often described as a controversial writer whose work was constantly censored due to the explicit nature of his work. Controversy has been commonly associated with his novels however it did cross over to his other art forms including his paintings and poems which were also censored due to the topics that he touched upon.
As his career grew, D.H Lawrence began to receive negative reviews from the public, building an undesirable reputation from the scandal and outrage. His most infamous work was his last novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, however The Rainbow, published in 1915, was seized and suppressed under the 1857 Obscene Publications Act two months after publication. In Prosecutor Herbert Muskett’s words the novel was “in fact a mass of obscenity of thought, idea and action”. During these times lesbianism was unthinkable, and even talking about such desires was unheard of. There hadn’t even been a law to punish it yet! By the final chapters Ursula Brangwen’s sexual activities were frequent and directly addressed. Lady Chatterley’s Lover on the other hand was banned in the US until 1959 and England until 1960. Similarly to The Rainbow it was banned due to the graphic details of the sexual relationships it explored. His poetry was equally controversial, being censored due to his attack against politicians and the issues he raised about repression and imperialism. His work in all art forms emphasised the idea of freedom, demonstrated through nudity and nature in his paintings, as well as his novels and poetry. The controversy even continued after his death, when his novels were turned into films.
Take Women in Love for example, the sequel to The Rainbow. Women in Love was Lawrence’s fifth novel. He began writing it in 1913, later completing it in Cornwall during World War I, before being expelled after unfairly being accused of being a spy. The novel was eventually published in 1920. Influenced by Freudian psychoanalysis, Lawrence explored our connection to nature and the repressive, controlling aspects of our psychology and the way it bounds our society with rules and structure.
In 1969, screenwriter Larry Kramer and director Ken Russell came together to produce the first film adaptation of Women in Love. This came 39 years after Lawrence’s death yet was still causing controversy and raising questions about decency. The film became most notable for its ‘Japanese wrestling scene’, making the film the first to show full frontal male nudity. The film connected with the sexual revolution and bohemian politics of the late 1960’s and helped challenge Hollywood conventions. Russell uses film as an explicit medium to fully demonstrate Lawrence’s descriptions of the sexual acts and the relationships that individuals had with one another. The film starred Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. The casting of Oliver Reed was particularly appropriate as Reed courted controversy due to his hedonistic lifestyle and rebellious attitude towards prevailing morality. Alan Bates sported a beard which created a slight resemblance to Lawrence which fit well with his character Rupert Birkin as Birkin was a self-portrait of Lawrence.
Linda Ruth Williams, a professor of Film Studies at the University of Southampton, highlighted the fact that the film adaptation came about only two years after sodomy for men over 21 was made legal in Britain, so the timing of the film was not carefully planned as it was still a time when most people were only just beginning to accept these types of relationships. Needless to say, the reception of the film was not positive from all audiences. After Penguin and the British Publishers won the famous trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960 it became harder to prosecute on grounds of obscenity allowing film producers to turn their attention to more violent and sexual scenes. It paved the way for more creative freedom and expression. The persecution of D.H Lawrence, and the issues his work raises, has enabled future generations of writers and artists to explore these themes in more explicit ways.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. How do we represent the controversy that followed him throughout his life and continues to linger long after his death? Perhaps we can include some models of naked Japanese wrestlers that we can view through a peephole? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved. Submit ideas here.
DH Lawrence was a master of dialect. His plays, novels and poetry captured the rawness of mining communities with such precision, it frightened the life out of middle class Edwardian critics. As part of a BBC Radio 4 series Tongue and Talk: Dialect Poets, I’ll be visiting Lawrence’s childhood home Breach House, and exploring ‘pit talk’ and the Nottingham accent with various poets and musicians.
Like DH Lawrence, I grew up in a mining village. Whereas he was born north east of Nottingham in Eastwood, I was raised in Cotgrave, five miles south east of the city centre. Cotgrave derives from an Old English personal name, Cotta, + grāf, (grove or copse). So over time we went from ‘Cotta’s grove’ to the more sinister Cotgrave. Our respective divides across the city also influence the way we speak and use dialect, even though we might be referring to the same word. This is best illustrated by the commonly used word ‘mardy’. I pronounce this ‘mardeh’ using what Al Needham calls the south Notts ‘eh’ or ‘ah’. Living on the Derbyshire border, Lawrence would have experienced the trimming off of syllables, shortening it to mard as in ‘Eh, tha’rt a mard-arsed kid’ a famous line from his poem The Collier’s Wife.
Mardy is a brilliant word. It means sulky, as in a badly behaved child, and is used throughout the East Midlands as well as parts of Sheffield and Yorkshire. However, it can also mean non cooperative, bad tempered or terse in communication, attributes we can definitely associate with DH Lawrence. In 2017 Toby Campion selected it as his word for Leicester as part of the Free the Word campaign.
Lawrence came from a family of coal miners. His father, Arthur, worked as a butty. The butty was popular during the early part of the nineteenth century when the coal miners were not directly employed by the owners. The butty acted as a contractor, putting together a team to mine coal at an agreed price per ton. I had a slightly different experience growing up. My mother was a typist and my stepfather was a manager of a company in Mansfield. But in the eyes of the locals, anyone who didn’t work down the pit was a ‘posho’. Therefore we were fair game for the occasional kicking. These were rough times, particularly during the Strike of 84. Like Lawrence, I couldn’t wait to escape.
Lawrence would vividly capture life growing up in a mining community in novels such as Sons and Lovers, his Eastwood trilogy of plays, and dialect poetry such as The Collier’s Wife. I’ve done this through a BBC Radio 4 series called Tongue and Talk: The Dialect Poets. In episode 2, broadcast on Sunday 20 May at 4.30pm, I’ll be exploring the Notts dialect and the ‘pit talk’ of mining communities.
One of the guests on the programme is David Amos, an eight generation miner and fellow member of the DH Lawrence Society. David has been working as a research assistant with Natalie Braber at Nottingham Trent University on mining heritage projects. He invited me to attend a rehearsal for Songs and Rhymes from the Mines as part of the Nottingham Poetry Festival. Bill Kerry III told me he had discovered that his grandfather had worked down Ormonde Colliery at the same time as Owen Watson, author of Strong I’th’ Arm – The Rhymes of a Marlpool Miner (1975) and so he’s turning his poems into folk songs to make them accessible to new generations. Meanwhile Al Rate (who also uses the pseudonym Misk Hills) has penned some new songs inspired by pit talk, introducing new generations to words such as ‘powder monkey’. This was the poor bogger who had to set off the explosives down the mine. Such songs are a reminder of how dangerous life was down the pit, something beautifully captured in Lawrence’s poem The Collier’s Wife. In this, a miner has had yet another accident down the pit:
It’s a shame as ‘e should be knocked about
Like this, I’m sure it is!
‘E’s ‘ad twenty accidents, if ‘e’s ‘ad one;
Owt bad, an’ it’s his!
The wife in the poem has seen and heard it all before and is more bothered about the compensation as food still needs to be put on the plate. You can hear David Amos read the entire poem is one go during our show. I only managed the first verse.
When Lawrence used dialect in his early plays about life in a mining community they were dismissed as a ‘sordid picture of lower class life’ with middle class Edwardian critics unimpressed with ‘its lack of verbal beauty’. Lawrence was a master of dialect, using multiple variations of speech patterns that drew influences from the Erewash Valley, Derbyshire and Notts. By using dialect, Lawrence enabled the reader to understand a collier’s particular social class, their education, and their intelligence. The way his characters spoke represented the history of the community, even down to what street they lived on.
Lawrence’s family moved many times across Eastwood, upscaling each time. So during the programme we visit ‘Breach House’ where the family of seven lived between 1887 until 1891. To enter Breach House is to step back in time to Edwardian Britain. Moleskin trousers hang up above the fireplace, the snap tin is on the table, and the Bible and piano take pride of place in the ‘best’ room. Of course it would have been nice to record the show in Durban House, where a young Lawrence and other miner’s sons would go and collect their father’s wages, but this was sold off by Broxtowe Council and has now been converted into a spa – which I guess is more preferable than a Spar.
Breach House was the inspiration for The Bottoms in Sons and Lovers, my favourite Lawrence novel. It opens with this wonderful description:
‘To accommodate the regiments of miners, Carston, Waite and Co. built the Squares, great quadrangles of dwellings on the hillside of Bestwood, and then, in the brook valley, on the site of Hell Row, they erected the Bottoms. The Bottoms consisted of six blocks of miners’ dwellings, two rows of three, like the dots on a blank-six domino, and twelve houses in a block.”
The novel also helped solve another mysterious word from my childhood: blue. But if you want to know what this means then either read Sons and Lovers or tune into Talk and Tongue on the iPlayer. Let us know what you think on Twitter using the hashtag #TalkandTongue. The programme was a Made in Manchester production.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. How do we represent his childhood growing up in Eastwood? What role does coal have to play in his writing? How can we incorporate dialect into our memory theatre? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved. Submit ideas here.
When DH Lawrence attended Nottingham High School he would most likely have taken a detour from Waverley Street and headed through the arboretum. The arboretum was the first designated public park in Nottingham selected under the authority of the Enclosure Act 1845. It was opened on 11 May 1852 at a cost of £6,554 7s. 10d. At the bottom of the arboretum is a bust of the philanthropist Samuel Morley (15 October 1809 – 5 September 1886) by Joseph Else. In this guest blog, Ali Emm gives us a potted history of this much loved philanthropist and political radical.
The youngest son of Sneinton-born John Morley, Samuel was born and raised in London where his father had moved to expand his hosiery business, I & R Morley, co-founded with his brothers at the end of the eighteenth century. If you wanted a proper pair of stockings, theirs were what you splashed out on.
John Morley was no stranger to good deeds, himself having been Mayor of Nottingham and a Luddite sympathiser – even though his factories came under attack – as well as being involved in setting up the Mechanics Institute, a place where artisans and mechanics could go to learn, improve their skills and socialise. So it’s no surprise that he raised Samuel and his five siblings to think for themselves from the get-go, telling them, “I will tell you why I am a Nonconformist and why I am a Liberal, and, if you think I am right, you can be as I am and do as I do, but you are perfectly free to form your own conclusions.”
Samuel was educated until he was sixteen and was considered a methodical student; something that stood him in good stead for when he began working in his father’s business in 1825. His first job at Morley’s was in the counting house, and he stayed there for seven years to learn the business. With factories established across the Midlands and in London, it wasn’t until Samuel left the counting house that Morley’s branched out into flannel under his management. As brave a move as this was – and however much we all love a bit of flannel these days – it wasn’t too successful and he quickly realised that his strength was in numbers, so he returned to the counting house.
Samuel and his brother John took over from their father in 1840, working together until John’s retirement in 1855. It was in 1860, when Samuel’s uncle passed away, that he became the head of the Nottingham business as well. He visited to determine how the business should be handled and employed Thomas Hill as manager. Morley didn’t interfere with the management of the Nottingham businesses, even making Hill a partner in 1870, but made sure he was kept up to date with the welfare of employees, their state of health and all that stuff business owners don’t usually seem to give much of a damn about.
In fact, Morley’s factories in the area were considered the best in the North Midlands: clean, light, well ventilated. He also paid top price for labour and introduced pensions. This might not seem much of a big deal, but his pension scheme was introduced forty years before the Old Age Pension Act was brought in. A nice little anecdote about Morley was when he gave a gift of £5 to a workman. The worker was asked how he reacted, to which he said, “What did I say? I could do nowt but roar.”
Under the Morley/Hill partnership, the Nottingham business was expanded to include a factory on Manvers Street; on the corner of Newark Street. Their choice of location was influenced by Sneinton’s long-established hosiery-making trade, meaning there was a skilled workforce available. They had a bit of bad luck though, with two serious fires in the factory’s early years, the second of which was the costliest blaze in Nottingham’s history at the time. The factory was eventually rebuilt, and went on to employ 500 workers. There was another Morley factory in Daybrook – now, unsurprisingly, a block of flats – and in 1879 the Alfred Street factory, which once created work to a further 350 people, is home to Backlit, an independent gallery and studio space for artists.
Although kind and concerned with the wellbeing of his workers, Morley was a stickler who couldn’t tolerate bad work or laziness, and he loathed waste. He also considered drinking to be an unmitigated evil and regularly spoke up about temperance and total abstinence, especially to working men. Challenged once by a labouring man who interrupted Morley’s speech on abstaining, he was asked, “Do you go without yourself? I dare say, if the truth’s known, you take your glass of wine or two after dinner and think no harm of it. Now, sir, do you go without yourself?”
Of course, Morley did like to have a couple of glasses with his dinner. “This rather shut me up for an instant,” Morley said when recounting the story, “but when I looked round at those poor fellows whom I had been asking to give up what they regarded – no matter how erroneously – as their only luxury, I had my answer ready pretty quickly. ‘No’, I said, ‘but I will go without from this hour.’” True to his word, he didn’t touch another drop, with the exception of a couple of ‘medicinal’ drinks during a period of illness on the insistence of his physician.
A dedicated father, Samuel wrote to his eight children regularly when he or they were away from the family home. He kept all correspondence from them, and these letters show an openness in their relationships in that they freely discussed their successes and failures with him. He encouraged his children in all their hobbies – even though he was not partial to any sports or pastimes himself, preferring to work, lobby and help the church – but he drew the line at dancing, which he objected to greatly.
To say that he wouldn’t compromise on his morals would be an understatement. Morley was no wallflower, especially where reform was concerned. In late 1854, the Crimean War was in full swing and, partly as a response to this, the Administrative Reform Association was formed with Samuel Morley as president. A pressure group – of which Charles Dickens was another notable member – aimed to expose abuses of the departments of state, and Morley believed that the necessity for this reform existed long before the war and would exist long after its conclusion.
An abolitionist, Morley helped to free an escaped American slave, Josiah Henson. Henson went on to document his life in Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life: an Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson. This later inspired the classic anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When asked to join the anti-slavery movement that was part of the American Civil War, he declined stating, “… while the South disgusts me with its shameless advocacy of its ‘peculiar institution’ as the ‘corner-stone’ of its government, I cannot sympathise with the North, for it is, I fear, abolitionist in proxy – only through force of circumstance – and not from the conviction of the inherent immorality in slavery, or humane consideration for the welfare of the slaves.” So no half measures from him then. On the more positive side of things, it wasn’t long after this request that he consented to stand for the town of his ancestors, Nottingham, in 1865.
He was one of two Liberal candidates in the running against the Conservative Sir Robert Clifton. Never one to be associated with anything boring, the election fight was said to be “the most sharp and bitter of any throughout the country.” As is often our way, the borough was once notorious for its lawlessness, and it was during the elections that this old spirit came to the fore in support of Clifton; riots broke out and the mob ruled.
On one occasion, the magistrate sat in the Exchange Buildings with the entire body of the borough police gathered round for protection, and a reserve set up in another building, while the crowd wielded stones, bludgeons and faggots; bundles of steel to you and me. This crowd then moved on to the hotel where Morley was staying and pelted him with stones, forcing him to remain hidden until they’d passed. These rather unsavoury sorts were the notorious Nottingham Lambs, a right bunch of ruffians who’d do pretty much anything for the price of a couple of pints. Rabble rousing and rioting aside, Morley just swung it with 2,393 votes over Clifton’s 2,352.
Sworn in, his early impressions of parliament weren’t that great, but he hung on to the hope that he could do some good. Morley was unseated by petition after his peers voted him out of parliament in April 1866. A bit of a blow, he questioned if he’d been sufficiently suspicious of friends, but took solace in the fact that he’d maintained integrity. He stated, in regard to the election, that “he never said a word he wished unsaid, or did a deed he wished undone.”
The Bristol branch of the Liberal party still believed in him and made it clear that they still wanted Morley in their corner, so when a seat became available, they approached him. In a case of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’, when the Nottingham branch heard, they grovelled a bit to try and get him back.
He was defeated in Bristol and the hopes of electors at Nottingham were revived, asking Morley again to represent Nottingham. However, it seemed that the opponent in Bristol had been up to no good, Morley accusing him of “gross and illegal acts”, and in June 1868 his opponent was unseated. Morley – probably really politely and not with a two finger salute – declined to return to Nottingham and stood as Bristol’s representative for seventeen years.
A long-time fan of Gladstone, you’d think he would have been pretty chuffed to be offered a peerage by him. But when Gladstone wrote to him with the offer in 1885, Morley turned it down because he didn’t want to appear to have gained personal advantage from his selfless acts. If only all politicians thought that way, eh? With regards to wealth, Morley also saw this as a means to an end, giving it value based only on its use for noble purposes. He felt that it laid upon him the most binding obligations, and that he was accountable not only for the right use of it, but the best use possible. What a guy.
He received hundreds of letters annually asking him for his help. Allegedly he read each one, and at the top left-hand corner of each is a note in his hand, brief but functional: yes, no, litho (letter of refusal to be sent), inquire further, impossible, sorry, unable, acknowledge, don’t know, apologies for delay, or amounts to be sent in appeals for money. Solely chucking money at things wasn’t what he was about, though. If he gave to societies, he personally acquainted himself with their work, would visit the churches he gave assistance to, and took pains to make sure that the beneficiaries of his help were the right ones, offering his knowledge in tandem with any donations.
One of the reforms that Morley believed in most was the introduction of a National Education scheme. England was behind most ‘great’ countries when it came to educating the lower classes. More than two thirds of children were left without ‘instruction’ and Morley spent 25 years trying to convince the government to change this so that every child received a good education. More locally, in 1881, the University College, Central Library and Natural History Museum on Sherwood Street and Shakespeare Street were opened.
The library, however, was a no-child zone and was only open to those aged fifteen and over, but Morley believed that young ‘uns should have access to libraries. He proposed to the mayor, “Everywhere in our towns the working classes are deluged and poisoned with cheap, noxious fiction of the most objectionable kind, I should be thankful to do something to counteract this mischievous influence, and if young people are to have fictitious literature, and I see no reason why they should not, to do something to ensure that all events, it shall be as pure and wholesome as we can provide for them. I gladly offer £500 as a commencement of a library for children…”
Nottingham Corporation didn’t hang around, and in 1883 a separate library for children was opened about 100 yards from the main library. It was the first of its kind, and although it’s not been used for this purpose for over eighty years now, the building’s still there today.
Later in life, he relaxed a little bit and conceded that entertainment and amusements were, in moderation, no bad thing. He became involved with the ‘Old Vic’ – the Victoria Temperance Music Hall – a theatre that had been reopened by another philanthropist, Emma Cons. Once known for being a place to get sloshed and see a bit of action, Emma Cons reopened it to provide moral and affordable entertainment, a place for temperance meetings and ‘penny lectures’ by eminent scientists.
These lectures helped pioneer adult education, and not just for the wealthy. Morley, satisfied that they were above board and not a den of iniquity, offered them his financial and personal skills. The popularity of the penny lectures led to the opening in 1889 of the Morley Memorial College for Working Men and Women. The college is still going today and maintains a lot of the original ethos it was built on.
Morley passed away in 1886, leaving an estate of £474,000. As you’d imagine, he made sure that this was all distributed and dealt with properly. He left instructions to the executors that they were under moral obligation to fulfil all the promises he had made in life. The money went to all the causes he had supported, plus he also left some legacies to long-serving workers in his firm.
After the publication of this blog we received an email from Carol Mills who believes there may be a more tangible link between Lawrence and Morley. Carol wrote: “The connection is mentioned in May Holbrook’s (nee Chambers) letter to her brother David, dated 28 November 1949, which is held in the Manuscripts & Special Collections at Nottingham University ref. LaCh56. In it she states that from the age of three, their maternal grandmother, Jane Newbold, was brought up by John Morley, of I & R Morley, as his daughter. Apparently, so the story goes, she fell in love with one of the Morley sons but something happened and she left. She had to earn her living by working in the Lace Market and moved in with her married sister. This is confirmed in the 1851 census. However, in the letter, May appears to confuse John Morley with Samuel his son and since that side of the family were based in London in the 1820’s, I wonder if the benefactor was Richard Morley, who remained in Nottingham.
The catalyst, whichever Morley was responsible for Jane’s upbringing, appears to be the suicide of her father, Thomas Newbold, which as far as I have been able to ascertain seems to have occurred in 1826 which fits in with Jane’s age. This tragedy forms the basis of Jessie Chamber’s short story ‘ The Bankrupt’ also held by the Manuscripts Department ref.LaCh/4/6. (Jessie Chambers being Lawrence’s childhood sweetheart and the person credited as kickstarting his writing career). Both Clive Leivers of the HFPS & myself have been researching this death, unable to trace any record but have recently discovered a newspaper report that may be relevant.”
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. The arboretum, which hosts Morley’s bust, would have been of great interest to Lawrence given his love of nature. In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
As summer 1925 came to a close, Dorothy Brett considered spending the winter on her own in the ranch in New Mexico. But Lawrence was worried for her safety and insisted she visit Capri, a small island off the Bay of Naples. She is issued with a letter to the Brewsters, and so begins her last adventure with Lawrence in our final blog from Brett’s memoir.
Capri is a tiny island (10.4 km2) in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples. It became a popular refuge for artists, writers and celebrities after the publication of Discovery of the Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri by the German artist August Kopisch (1838). By the 19th century it had become a haven for gay men and lesbians to live a more open life. One of its most famous residents was Compton Mackenzie, who lived here between 1913 – 1920, and who would later satirise the lesbian colony in his 1928 novel Extraordinary Women.
Dorothy Brett spent five months with the Brewsters in their villa Quattro Venti, high up on the island. Brett’s initial description of Achsah Brewster conjures an image of an ageing Princess Leia ‘all in white, with a long floating veil draped over her hat and a long white cape that hangs loosely from her shoulders, has a pale face and white grey hair parted in the middle, which sweeps down on each side of her oval face…She is entirely unexpected – of no race and of no time’. Earl Brewster is ‘small, has gray hair, almost white, a sharp, pointed nose, and dark, dark eyes, with a strange, hidden look’.
When Lawrence eventually turns up he’s looking very dapper to the point that Brett doesn’t recognise him at first in ‘a new brown overcoat, a new gray suit, a brown Homburg hat, brown shoes – heavens!’ During his absence, Brett’s mastered all of the local walks on the tiny island and acts as his guide. But despite admiring the ‘deep ultramarine blue’ of the sea and the olive trees that offer ‘a waving mist of silvery green’ Lawrence is shattered and the long walks are too much for him. He informs the reason for his visit is he has been very ill again and, uncharacteristically defeatist, confides he is becoming so tired of it all. ‘There is such a depth of weariness in your voice, so hurt a look in your eyes, that nothing I can say seems adequate. I look at the bright sea, the faintly smoking mountain; I can hardly bear to look at the weary man beside me – pale, fragile, hopeless.’
On such occasions, Lawrence would usually pick a country and head off to start a new life. But now his restlessness required a more radical solution. ‘I would like to buy a sailing ship and sail among the Greek Islands and be free…free! Just to be free for a little while of it all.’ As always he’s happy to get his hands dirty and just needs a captain and a couple of sailors to guide him. Frieda has also felt the brunt of his frustration and he confides ‘you have no idea, Brett, how humiliating it is to beat a woman; afterwards one feels so humiliated.’ Then he targets his frustration at those who can walk but don’t.
‘People never will discipline themselves enough; and they have absolutely no pride. Their legs mean nothing to them. Think what a beautiful, alive thing a leg is – so narrow and strong, with the sensitive sole of the foot at the end of it. This is why I like to wear thin shoes; I like to feel the earth; I like my feet to be as close to the earth as possible. I used to love to feel the water in the irrigation ditch at the ranch, running over my sandals, round my feet. Sometimes I wish I had never left the ranch, the horses, the ditch. I envy you going back there’
As a result of his illness and the usual struggles for money, Lawrence begins recounting the difficult struggles his parents underwent to survive. He is acutely aware that his sickness as a child would have had a profound effect on their finances as ‘to be sick meant the doctor; that meant any extra shillings went for the doctor’s fee and medicine’. He surmises that his brother Ernest’s death was the result of ‘those early days of semi-starvation, of never having enough clothes, enough warmth, enough to eat’. No wonder he resented money so much when it had the power to determine life itself.
It’s in the final chapter of Brett’s memoir that she is explicit about her love for Lawrence and gets a bit gushy. ‘I sit and watch you. The sun pours down relentlessly on your head; a heavy lock of hair falls over your face; your beard glitters red in the sun’. Then things get a bit more surreal as she imagines Lawrence morphing into Pan, ‘As I watch you, the meaningless modern suit seems to drop away. A leopard skin, a mass of flowers and leaves wrap themselves round you. Out of your thick hair, two small horns poke their sharp points; the slender, cloven hoofs lie entangled in weeds. The flute slips from your hand. I stare at you in a kind of trance’.
Their time together is coming to a close. The Brewsters are packing for India and Brett is set to sail to America. She offers to delay her trip but Lawrence insists she goes. They have one last adventure together and head off to Amalfi. Lawrence has been subjected to a vegetarian diet with the Brewsters which has given him a huge appetite. He eagerly wolfs down a large steak with onions and potatoes. They visit Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, sketching a blue Venus in the garden, then sit in the scenic belvedere Terrazzo dell’Infinito and watch the ships pass below.
Then it is finally time to say goodbye. Lawrence waits on the little stone pier as Brett heads for the awaiting steamer via a row boat. ‘You wave to me. I stand there in my white coat, waving back to you. Something – God knows what – tells me I will never see you again. I am filled with this dread apprehension, as I stand and wave and wave. You lean out of the carriage, a small figure, waving the blue and green scarf I have given you. And, still waving, you are borne round the bend of the road, and are gone…gone forever…’ Brett was wearing a white coat and has never worn white again since.
It’s a terribly sad end to their friendship, particularly as we learn in the epilogue that Brett had left out one important fact that was only allowed to be revealed after her death – she and Lawrence had attempted to match their spiritual relationship with a physical relationship in Ravello but it all went horribly wrong. In fact, it ended rather cruelly, with Lawrence storming out of the room complaining ‘your boobs are all wrong’ which left Brett feeling ‘ashamed, bewildered, miserable’. Lawrence would later fictionalise this incident in the short story Glad Ghosts, but this time the two would successfully get it on.
Brett’s memoir is a loving testament to their troubled but intensely close relationship. Its power lies in being written directly to Lawrence, rendering the reader a voyeur. She ends the memoir with ‘I could go on writing of you forever’ which I believe she could quite happily have done so. But Brett is a remarkable character is her own right. She turned her back on her aristocratic heritage, spent the rest of her life in New Mexico, and during Lawrence’s life acted, as John Manchester rightly points out, as a ‘soul image to Lawrence, a counterpart to his own inner feminine side.’ Together, they are one of the greatest literary love affairs never to have happened.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. Lawrence is a complex individual and we need to capture all aspects of his personality if we are to represent him correctly. How do we capture his relationship with Dorothy Brett? His violenec towards Frieda? His desire to set sail and escape the rest of the world? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
As hard as Lawrence tried to create Rananim, it only lasted for short bursts of time. Either he became restless and needed to find new pastures, or some kind of argument would ensue that made living peacefully impossible. For Frieda, two was company and three was most definitely a crowd, and so Dorothy Brett found herself ejected from the latest excursion to Oaxaca and back in New Mexico.
Brett headed back to the DH Lawrence Ranch, as it is now known, a 160-acre (0.65 km2) property located at 8,600 feet (2,600 m) above sea level near Lobo Mountain near San Cristobal in Taos County. Originally named the Lobo Ranch, then the Kiowa Ranch, it was given to Frieda Lawrence as a gift by Mabel Dodge Luhan. Although the Lawrence’s would leave New Mexico in1925, Frieda would return after Lawrence’s death, remarry, and settle in Taos for the rest of her life. Frieda died in Taos on her 77th birthday. Brett, too, would live out her days in Taos, becoming an American citizen in 1938. She died in 1977 at the age of 94.
Lawrence was worried for Brett travelling alone. Although the Mexican Revolution had technically ended after 10 years of civil war (1910-1920), tensions were still high and threatened to break out at any moment. But the severing of ties was necessary if the tension between him and Frieda – brought about by his close friendship with Brett – were to abate. But the parting wasn’t enough for Frieda. Neither did she want Brett on the ranch when she returned. And so Lawrence arranged for her to borrow a cabin from Bill and Rachel Hawk, in the orchard of Del Monte.
Lawrence was very ill in Mexico, and was very close to death. This coincided with an earthquake, the significance of which wasn’t lost on Brett. This led to her having a very strange dream in which Lawrence meets a young man while out walking with Frieda. ‘The young man was yourself as a young man – young, without a beard,’ explains Brett. ‘You had met your youth and fallen in love with it and gone off with it. I do not like this dream. Years later I find out why: I am told it foretells death’.
When Lawrence was feeling slightly better he returned to New Mexico. When Brett got news of this she jumps on her horse, Prince, and gallops over snow and ice to see him. She is greeted by Frieda who informs he’s upstairs, resting. He is frail and ill. Lawrence confides that he was so ill when he reached Mexico City from Oaxaca that Frieda applied rouge to his cheeks to bring some colour to his face.
Brett soon receives a visit from Ida Rauh (March 7, 1877 – February 28, 1970). Rauh was a lawyer, suffragist, actress, sculptor, and poet who moved to Santa Fe in 1922. She would make a bust of Lawrence which now resides in the Lawrence Memorial Library in New Mexico. Lawrence wrote the play David for her, which Brett was currently typing up. He would give Brett six copies of his manuscripts as a thank you for her typing services. Once she had finished typing up David, the two friends ride together to see Lawrence and he performs the entire play for them, with only a pause for tea.
During the one man performance, Frieda is fagging it as usual. Brett reminds the QB of her practical worth and hunts down a rabbit which goes in the pot for tea. A compromise is reached and Brett is allowed to see Lawrence again, but no more than three times a week. ‘I won’t have you up here every day. I won’t have you on the place. You are a mischief maker. I hate you, hate you!’ screams Frieda, but Brett finally stands up to her, telling the QB to go to hell and that she won’t be bossed by her. Shocked at this rare outburst, Frieda slams the door in Brett’s face. When Brett later relays this to Lawrence he is highly amused.
These squabbles soon result in the obligatory writing of fierce letters, though ‘you are always gentle and friendly after your angry letters. How tiresome it all is! You are weary of it; so am I. The only difference between us is that I am hopeful and you are pessimistic.’ A lot of this tension was symptomatic of other issues, namely Frieda’s desire to have her children up on the ranch. Perhaps this was one reason why Frieda resented Lawrence’s bonding with Brett: If she couldn’t be close to her children, why should he be allowed to be close to anyone else but her?
Despite these inevitable strains on their friendship, there were many good times together, such as trips up Raspberry Canyon to watch men take honey from the wild bees in the trees. But most of the time, it was just Brett and Lawrence. When they weren’t doing a bit of DIY together, such as building a shed for the pet cow Susan, one favourite pastime was painting together, or, perhaps more accurately, Brett painting and Lawrence correcting her. On one occasion Brett was working on a painting of the desert and their ranch life, which opened up a debate about the process of painting. ‘You insist that landscape without figures is dull’ writes Brett. ‘We are agreed, though, that most pictures should be painted from memory: the imagination works better that way.’ Lawrence is sceptical of artists who feel the need to sit in front of what they paint, arguing ‘they feel nothing inside them, so they must have it before their eyes. It’s all wrong and stupid: it should all be brought from inside oneself’ and then he spits on the floor, as if to reinforce the point.
Frieda had a go at painting once. Lawrence demanded to see what she’d done but she refused. He snatched the painting from her, flung it on the ground and stamped on it. Brett tries to rationalise this irrational behaviour, suggesting it could be the ‘fatigue of his writing’ and that she’d seen the artist Mark Gertler in similar tempestuous moods. Lawrence’s behaviour was violent and vindictive. But the tortured artist, it would appear, could torture other people and get away with it in the 1920s
Lawrence loved to be the teacher, or ‘preacher’ as Knud Merrild observed in his own memoir of their life together. So when Brett takes Lawrence shooting, it is a rare reversal of roles. He is very much the pupil, protesting ‘I have never fired a gun in my life and I hate killing things’. They use the doorknob on the toilet door for fire practice and after a few goes, the lock is blown to smithereens. The toilet door can never be locked properly again. It’s soon after this that Lawrence shoots a porcupine, justifying it on the grounds that they damage the trees. ‘You are immensely proud of yourself in one way, and full of regrets in another’ observes Brett.
We learn from Brett that Lawrence was an avid reader of the pulp magazine Adventure. First published in November 1910, it ran to 881 issues, ending in 1971. Noted explorer and journalist Trumbull White was the first editor (until 1912) and established two editorial principles: An “adventure” story did not have to be set in an exotic location; the story should be as historically, geographically, and socially accurate as possible. Brett said that Lawrence liked reading it more than anything. ‘It has just plain tales of adventure. Simple, unaffected storytelling, sometimes really very good, too’ he said.
One reason that Frieda disliked Brett and Lawrence’s friendship is because they acted like a spinster and a curate. It infuriated her that they didn’t have the guts to get it on. Despite the common perception of Lawrence as a smutty author, he was actually quite prudish in real life. ‘How untouchable you are, I think to myself’ writes Brett. ‘How true, how important to you is your constant cry of ‘Noli me tangere!’ You do not care to be touched, to be pawed. Necking makes you furious. Your sex is not to be played with, not to be belittled by playfulness. It is serious, a danger to be respected as the tiger is respected, hidden in the jungle.’ Brett feels very much the same and this is something else that brings them closer together.
The biggest sin they commit is coming home late from one of their excursions together, which would send Frieda into a rage. ‘One day she stands, arms akimbo, eyes wild, mouth a long tight slit; her close fitting bodice, pleated, full skirts all arrogant and belligerent. The next, she is a big, warm, bounding creature, eyes blue and free, mouth a broad grin, bodice and skirt colourful and glowing: rough, hearty, and undoubtedly handsome.’
When the summer of 1925 is over and plans for winter start to emerge, Brett does not want to return to London. She considers staying out here on the ranch on her own but Lawrence is worried for her safety. Instead he convinces her to visit Capri, a small island off the coast of Napoli. She is issued with a letter to the Brewsters, guaranteeing her somewhere to stay. Their life together in New Mexico is over. Capri will be their last adventure.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. Lawrence is a complex individual and we need to capture all aspects of his personality if we are to represent him correctly. How do we address his violent bullying of Frieda? Or his guilt at shooting a porcupine? His friendship with the inspirational Ida Rauh? The compassion and gentleness of Dorothy Brett? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
In our fourth blog exploring Dorothy Brett’s memoir we focus in on Lawrence’s relationship with a young boy called Rosalino, who was his moxo in Oaxaca. A mozo is an assistant, servant or male porter who ‘really goes with the house’. But what was it about the boy that so intrigued Lawrence?
In Oaxaca, Lawrence developed quite a fatherly relationship with Rosalino, their mozo. In Mornings in Mexico, he describes seeing him ‘lurking in the patio, and glancing furtively under his brows’. This furtive glance is different to the ‘black, incomprehensible, but somewhat defiant stare’ of other Indian boys, leading Lawrence to wonder whether he might be a bit different. ‘The difference lies in a certain sensitiveness and aloneness, as if he were a mother’s boy’ which is in stark contrast to ‘the bold male glare of most of the Indians, who seem as if they had never, never had mothers at all’. This is classic Lawrencian analysis, focussing in on one minor detail to make broader observations of an entire culture.
Rosalino works for four pesos a month, and his food. He owns ‘two cotton shirts, two pairs of calico pantaloons, two blouses, one of pink cotton, one of darkish flannelette, and a pair of sandals.’ His morning duties mainly consist of sweeping the house with ‘a sort of duster made of fluffy reeds’. In the afternoon he lounges about waiting for the wind to blow so that he can go through the process again. In the evenings he sleeps in the doorway to the home, the zaguán, on ‘a low wooden bench about four feet long and eighteen inches wide’.
The only thing keeping Rosalino warm at night is a threadbare serape. When Lawrence expresses his concern for the young boy, a local priest advises that mozos are used to living like this. But just because they are used to living like this doesn’t make it right, and so they head off to the market to rectify the problem. The market is on the Mitla Road which Brett describes as being ‘ageless’ and ‘timeless’ due to the ‘ceaseless flow of silent, trotting people: the slow oxen carts, the little tripping burros, with the large baskets hanging on each side, or with women crouched on their backs with a baby in front and one behind’.
Lawrence instructs Rosalino to choose a new and warmer serape from a pile. ‘For a moment he stares at you incredulously’ observes Brett, ‘then, with a broad smile and a gleam of white teeth, he begins to bargain. He sees the one he wants, and in true Indian fashion he goes about getting it as cheaply as he can. We move off, knowing that the job will be a long one.’ Rosalino succeeds in getting one incredibly cheap. ‘You give him the money and he hurries back, returning with the treasure folded over his shoulder. From that moment, he is your slave.’
Lawrence was incredibly fastidious when it came to money, largely because he lived so much of his life in poverty. Sea in Sardinia, for example, is full of details about the cost of travel and food, so he no doubt admired Rosalino’s bartering skills. From that point onwards, Lawrence gave him money to bargain for essentials. ‘This he simply loved to do’ he observes. ‘It put him into a temper to see us buying without bargaining, and paying ghastly prices.’
Rosalino comes with a complicated history. After refusing to be conscripted for the army, Brett notes he is ‘so severely beaten that his back is permanently injured.’ This means he’s unable to carry heavy weights. This wasn’t an ideal situation for Lawrence given his own poor health, but he admires Rosalino for standing by his principles: ‘He is one of those, like myself, who have a horror of serving in a mass of men, or even of being mixed up with a mass of men. He obstinately refused, whereupon the recruiting soldiers beat him with the butts of their rifles till he lay unconscious, apparently dead.’
After ensuring he was suitably dressed, Lawrence then drew on his experience of teaching to help Rosalino with his self-education. Rosalino had been attending a night school for two years for reading and writing and was set the task of learning and copying a series of long poems. But the problem was ‘he had written the thing straight ahead, without verse-lines or capitals or punctuation at all, just a vast string of words, a whole foolscap sheet full.’ Realising that he was having difficulty, Lawrence stepped in and offered to teach him every morning for one hour. Mozos were not used to this level of kindness and so this latest gesture had a profound effect on Rosalino, leading to mimicry. Lawrence enjoyed a bath every Saturday evening and a clean shirt on a Sunday. So Rosalino goes to the public bath every Saturday and on a Sunday ‘he appears in a gorgeous flowered shirt, spotlessly clean’. But he only has two shirts and so Lawrence buys him some more.
He was fed well too. Instead of the daily diet of tortillas, ‘we started feeding him from our own meals, and for the first time in his life he had real soups, meat-stews, or a fried egg, he loved to do things in the kitchen. He would come with sparkling black eyes: ‘Hé comido el caldo. Grazias!’ (I have eaten the soup. Thank you.’)–And he would give a strange, excited little yelp of a laugh’.
When Rosalino suddenly went missing one day, Lawrence was understandably annoyed. He’d shown the boy fatherly affection and so was offended when he thought this wasn’t being reciprocated. Brett records a typically irrational outburst: ‘Give friendship and they deceive you and go. They don’t really care – they really hate us. It makes me hate them.’ Rosalino had left because he was homesick for his people. This had been brought on by accompanying Lawrence and Frieda on long walks to small and remote villages. But he returned a few days later.
Observing that one minute Rosalino is ‘thrilled and happy’ the next he is imbued with a ‘black, reptilian gloom, and a sense of hatred’ – he could almost be talking about his own erratic mood swings. ‘He didn’t forgive himself for having felt free and happy with us. He had eaten what we had eaten…He had been happy, therefore we were scheming to take another advantage of him. We had some devilish white monkey-trick up our sleeve; we wanted to get at his soul.’
Lawrence had an indifferent relationship to his childhood home of Eastwood. His novels evoke glorious landscapes destroyed by industrialisation. As much as he may have felt the occasional pang to return home, whenever he did he couldn’t get out of there quick enough. It would lead him to observe ‘I can be anywhere at home, except home.’ So too Rosalino found himself conflicted; when they trekked to Huayap, an Indian hill village reminiscent of his former home, ‘the black Indian gloom of nostalgia must have made a crack in his spirits.’
In Mornings and Mexico, Lawrence goes into hilarious detail about Rosalino’s indecisiveness which is worth quoting at length.
‘At lunch-time on Monday he said he wanted to leave. Why? He said he wanted to go back to his village. Very well. He was to wait just a few days, till another mozo was found. At this a glance of pure, reptilian hate from his black eyes. He sat motionless on his bench all the afternoon, in the Indian stupor of gloom and profound hate. In the evening, he cheered up a little and said he would stay on, at least till Easter. Tuesday morning. More stupor and gloom and hate. He wanted to go back to his village at once. All right! No one wanted to keep him against his will. Another mozo would be found at once. He went off in the numb stupor of gloom and hate, a very potent hate that could affect one in the pit of one’s stomach with nausea. Tuesday afternoon, and he thought he would stay. Wednesday morning, and he wanted to go…’
This indecision echoes Lawrence’s own travel plans when he was first invited to New Mexico by Mabel Dodge Luhan, as reported in an earlier blog. He constantly delayed his plans, took detours east to Ceylon and Australia so that ‘strengthened with Buddha, noisy, rampageous America might be easier to tackle,’ and pretty much back tracked on everything he planned and promised to do. No wonder he writes so affectionately about Rosalino’s failure to return to his roots. It was a route he had taken himself many times.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. How can we capture his friendship with Rosalino? How do we represent his time in Oaxaca? Do we need a serape for visitors to keep warm or should we build in a zaguán so you can snuggle up at night and guard our project? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.
In our previous blog, Dorothy Brett identified a wild change in Lawrence’s mood during their stay in New Mexico. He was becoming paranoid, angry, and convinced those closest to him were traitors. This irrational appraisal of his circumstances was a recurring theme that propelled Lawrence to up sticks and move on. His latest quest to find somewhere authentic to live led Lawrence, Brett and the QB to Old Mexico.
The Mexican Consulate in El Paso is ‘not the most cheerful of places’. While waiting to get passports stamped, comedy ensues when a passport official first believes Brett is Lawrence’s wife and then, adding insult to injury, inquires whether the QB is his mother. Lawrence is not impressed and ‘something in your eye silences him’.
After clearing things up the trio board a train rammed with passengers, many of whom travel on the roof of the carriage. There’s also a heavy military presence. Frieda is dismissive of their new circumstances but Lawrence remains optimistic. Her mood will change when she meets the real locals he reassures her. They arrive in Mexico City four hours later than planned and book into the Hotel Regis, the ‘smartest hotel in the city’. But Lawrence doesn’t like it, so the next night they head to a more familiar haunt, the old Monte Carlo hotel.
Then, before you know it, they’re off again, this time to Oaxaca. As always throughout her memoir, Brett paints an evocative picture of their journey: ‘At seven in the morning, we get into the Oaxaca train. Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, the twin volcanoes, are snow white against the sky. A faint trail of smoke floats out of Popocatepetl. In the vast fields, little men like gnats are working, shining white, crowned by their gigantic hats. The train is crowded, but we don’t care. The excitement of movement, of adventure, of new rhythms, is on you. Your eyes gleam, and you bite your beard; you are alert and happy.’
The Mexican Revolution of 1910-20 was triggered by the failure to find a presidential succession to Porfirio Diaz when his 30 year old dictatorship came to an end. The ensuing political conflict would see vote rigging, assassinations, and the civil war of 1914-15, as various shifting alliances were formed before the establishment of a constitutional republic. What started out as a relatively simple political movement broadened into a major social and economic transformations that ran on until 1940.
When Lawrence and co turned up, they were the first white people to go to Oaxaca since the revolution finished in 1920. In the stifling heat they buy sugar cane and suck it while observing stations pockmarked with bullets. There is an eerie silence at every station: ‘rows of silent men in clean white clothes sit along bits of broken walls, their faces in pools of dark shadow from their big hats. But the glinting eyes watch us unceasingly.’
From Oaxaca station they rattle off on a mule tram. To her horror, Brett discovers she’s lost her beloved Toby – her ear trumpet. They are warned by the owner of the Hotel Francia that theft is rife and so they mustn’t leave anything within reach of the windows as the favourite game of local thieves is a variation on ‘Hook a Duck,’ courtesy of long poles with a nail on the end. A few weeks later Brett catches a thief in action and manages to steal his pole, much to the hotel owner’s delight.
These are uncertain times and Lawrence is worried about the constant rumours of another revolution. The locals here have been isolated in Oaxaca for four years, with the railway the only way in or out. Then there’s the incurable diseases. War, disease, and claustrophobia are things Lawrence had been avoiding all his life, but it was the threat to his precious freedom that worried him the most. Therefore he ignores advice not to walk at night, preferring to risk getting robbed.
The locals are intrigued by the sheer otherness of the new white visitors. Lawrence, with his red beard, pale skin, and piercing blue eyes, quickly earns the nickname of ‘Cristo’. He may look completely alien, but he’s well-travelled and therefore privy to the tricks of local traders. While buying sandals, Lawrence warns Brett that they tan the leather with human excrement and to offer half of whatever price she’s offered. In the market, Brett finds an intelligent tinsmith who is able to craft her a replacement ear trumpet until her replacement arrives from London.
Their new accommodation was spacious, consisting of large rooms and a patio ‘with its big, shady trees and flowers and quietness. The scarlet poinsettias are out; the parrots incessantly chatter in their tree; and the little dog snoozes comfortably at your feet. The ducks are fattened and heartlessly eaten one by one”. But the patio also acts as a kind of prison, with Lawrence observing: ‘In spite of the beautiful climate I don’t believe I will ever be able to stand the lack of freedom. I wish we could buy huge revolvers and knives and kill somebody. It’s all so silly and tiresome.’ It didn’t help that Lawrence’s letters were being opened, as they had been in Cornwall, but this is resolved after a complaint to the local Governor.
‘A strange feeling is coming over us; a dual feeling’ writes Brett. ‘One of imprisonment, and then another of a fierce desire to sally forth armed to the teeth and to shoot – to assert ourselves noisily in this noiseless unease. We can find no freedom, for ourselves or in anyone else. Everybody is virtually a prisoner. The Indians are afraid of the Mexicans, the Mexicans are afraid of the Indians, and the Americans are afraid of both’.
The endless Fiestas should have offered escapism from the tensions, but even these were tinged with fear. During the Fiesta of San Felipe, just before Christmas, Lawrence observes ‘the people are not allowed to shout or sing in case of too much excitement rousing more trouble. The rulers want to keep the people quiet’.
The Fiesta of the Rabanos, however, brought about some much needed hilarity. Here large white and pink radishes are hung over booths. ‘No proportion of their anatomy is missing,’ reports Brett ‘and certain unmentionable portions are so exaggerated that I am overwhelmed with embarrassment.’ This, of course, brought great pleasure to the store owners, who relished in the discomfort of outsiders perusing their phallic produce.
In the end Brett buys a ‘fairly modest, unexaggerated radish’ and smuggles it into her coat pocket, but of course everyone is privy to her coyness and lets her know through knowing smiles. During this time, Lawrence has been ill in bed. But Brett’s account of her shopping trip is the perfect remedy for ill health: ‘your eyes twinkle: a gleam of wicked amusement shines in them. I am becoming more and more embarrassed as I tell my tale, and the laughter is dancing in your eyes: they are two gleaming specks of light. You are biting your beard and you are vexed at having missed it all.’ Lawrence insists the radish be hung up on the Christmas tree. When the Indians notice it they explain the story of The Fiesta of the Rabanos. The radish is the delicate way that a young man can declare his love for a woman and his desire for her. In later years Brett would paint the radish festival and send a copy to Lawrence as a gift. As the painting was not signed, it was presumed to be one of Lawrence’s own paintings and incorrectly appears in The Paintings of DH Lawrence.
When Brett and Lawrence weren’t giggling over phallic radishes, they enjoyed long walks together. Given her deafness, these solitary walks were an opportunity for Brett to open up and discuss how she felt about life. ‘All my ideas come pouring out, easily and simply; and you, eager, gay, sympathetic, with your quick understanding, agree with much of what I say. Somehow we are in harmony’. Lawrence was a good listener, and his personality intrigued Brett. She tries to pinpoint the energy he gives off, his charisma, but it is hard to capture. ‘It is that something from your heart, that has nothing to do with upbringing or training…I can find no word. How describe the real aristocracy of the heart and mind? I watch you now and know that it surrounds you, gives you that strange ‘quality’ that others see and feel as well as I, and which clothes you even from that distance as I watch you drifting lightly across the street and round the corner.’
When they return home Frieda is sat smoking on the patio. A cold and silent tea follows. The next day she is in a rage, attacking Lawrence for his friendship with Brett. Lawrence pens a letter to Brett that ‘is fierce, cruel, telling me that the three of us are no longer a happy combination and that we must stand apart.’ Angry letters had dictated Lawrence’s relationship with Mabel Dodge Luhan, with the two of them venting spleen back and forth. But Brett is a different, more delicate, creature. She is too shocked by this outburst to immediately respond and instead lets it dwell. When Lawrence pops down to see her a few days later he explains the letter is all Frieda’s doing.
Brett can see the damage this is doing to Lawrence and, selfless as ever, offers to go back to Del Monte Ranch for a while to let things blow over between him and Frieda. Lawrence is appreciative of her gesture, but when he reveals Frieda hates her Brett is astonished. She had no idea it was this personal. When Lawrence asks ‘What do you suppose all our quarrels are about?’ Brett calmly replies ‘but you are famous all over the world for your quarrels! How could I know it was me?’ touché!
Before she leaves, Brett, obliging as ever, does a bit more typing for Lawrence. He doesn’t like her heading back on her own, but she is courageous and independent. Before leaving, Frieda writes Brett a letter and we discover the real reason for her hatred. ‘In it she accuses us, Lawrence and myself, of being like a curate and a spinster; she resents the fact that we do not make love to each other. She says the friendship between man and woman makes only half of the curve. Well, maybe.’ And just in case she was tempted to take advantage, Frieda warns it wouldn’t work as she has the body of an ‘asparagus stick’ and Lawrence likes a more womanly figure!
Frieda was an incredibly liberal minded woman who lived through sexual impulse. Repressing desire was unimaginable to her frame of reference. But Brett was a very different beast and so was bewildered to be criticised for being the dutiful guest. More perplexing was ‘the correct behaviour in a triangle’. Lawrence and Brett did eventually try to get it on but it all went horribly wrong; the details of which were revealed after her death and added to the forward of her memoir. But for now it was time for her to take a momentary break from their company, leaving Lawrence to work on The Plumed Serpent.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. How can we capture his time spent travelling through Mexico? Do we have room for phallic radishes or a gun to quell Lawrence’s rage? And what’s the best way to represent ‘the correct behaviour in a triangle’? In 2019 we will be building our Memory Theatre and retracing Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage both physically and digitally. If you have an idea for an artefact, get involved and submit ideas here.