I first read Lawrence’s debut novel The White Peacock (1911) about five years ago. I remember being struck by the vivid descriptions of landscape and what felt like a reference to a flower, plant or tree on every page. Flowers will feature in some capacity as an artefact in the Memory Theatre and so I recently reread the book, but this time with a highlighter. As Cyril Beardsall drags you across the fields of Nethermere, you’re presented with a sensory overload that at times felt like it may induce hay fever. Here’s one such example:
“The evening scents began to awake, and wander unseen through the still air. An occasional yellow sunbeam would slant through the thick roof of leaves and cling passionately to the orange clusters of mountain-ash berries. The trees were silent, drawing together to sleep. Only a few pink orchids stood palely by the path, looking wistfully out at the ranks of red-purple bugle, whose last flowers, glowing from the top of the bronze column, yearned darkly for the sun.”
My intention is to create a YouTube video to capture the breadth of such references but given that there are so many, they need to be categorised and ordered first. This is going to take a while and so it’s another project on the backburner. In the meantime, I came across this description of September in the novel which was begging to be made into a short video:
“I was born in September, and love it best of all the months. There is no heat, no hurry, no thirst and weariness in corn harvest as there is in the hay. If the season is late, as is usual with us, then mid-September sees the corn still standing in stook. The mornings come slowly. The earth is like a woman married and fading; she does not leap up with a laugh for the first fresh kiss of dawn, but slowly, quietly, unexpectantly lies watching the waking of each new day. The blue mist, like memory in the eyes of a neglected wife, never goes from the wooded hill, and only at noon creeps from the near hedges.”
John McCarthy, who previously created our Suez Canal video, was up for making another and so eagerly got to work on it, spending a day in a forest to capture the necessary shots. My brief was to create slow lingering shots so that Lawrence’s evocative descriptions took precedence; to not be on the nail when matching images to text but rather to capture the mood and feeling of the season. I find myself swaying as I type this. Once more he’s done a smashing job.
Lawrence was born on 11 September 1885 and each September sees a variety of events hosted as part of the D.H. Lawrence Festival – of which I am a council member. This year this includes a Lawrence/Leavis Day of talks followed by a birthday lecture by Keith Cushman entitled: ‘Affirmation and Anxiety in Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. As with any work you produce, being time specific is one way of generating interest.
The quote also means a lot to me because of the references to ‘the corn still standing in stook’. I grew up in a mining village south east of Nottingham and our street backed right out onto corn fields. My childhood was spent getting scratches from corn and dodging Combine Harvesters whereas my fiancé would help her father erect stooks when he worked seasonally as a farm labourer.
One of our favourite activities in summer is to laze about in fields listening to birdsong and watching the farmers cut the hay when they know there’s a few days of sunshine and it can be safely left out to dry. On such occasions we’ve witnessed an owl meandering low through the fields on the hunt for field mice and counted the vast array of plants and flowers growing in the hedgerow. All of which helps transport us momentarily from the 24/7 thrust of technocratic culture into a simpler and calmer world where it’s ok to pause and observe. And because of Lawrence, I now want to know the name of every plant and flower I’m looking at. This is what good literature does. It broadens your horizons, it makes you restless and inquisitive, it helps you see the world in a different light.
If you want to know why you shouldn’t mess about with Combine Harvesters read Joe Speedboat by Tommy Wieringa
The disruption caused by coronavirus has forced the D.H. Lawrence Society to embrace the digital age and invest in a funky new website, Twitter account and YouTube channel. This means that I am able to share their first online talk here, given by Fiona Fleming. In the four clips below she discusses the respective lives, loves and literary influences of Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. Out of Sheer Joy, I have provided my own summary…
Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was a Victorian realist influenced by Romanticism. Born 45 years before Lawrence, his last novel, Jude the Obscure, was published in 1895, when Lawrence was ten. Hardy died the year Lady C was originally published. Both writers confronted controversial topics during their careers, risking censorship due to their interpretations of modernity and the prevailing morality of the time.
In terms of family, Fleming states that the Hardy’s were a tight clan, mainly because they remained together in Dorset throughout their lives. Dorset would be portrayed as the semi-fictionalised region of Wessex in his novels. Lawrence remained in contact with his family, but as he lived abroad from 1919 onwards, visits to the East Midlands were more sporadic. Eastwood and the surrounding mining communities would inform much of Lawrence’s early novels and plays, though he would write, ‘I can be anywhere at home, except home’.
Both writers were subject to the oppressive love of a matriarch whose aspirations for her children exceeded her own achievements. Church was a regular feature of their childhood. In Apocalypse, Lawrence would write, ‘I was brought up on the Bible and seemed to have it in my bones’ – which was read at him rather than to him at Sunday School. The overbearing dogmatism of a non-conformist church would, Fleming argues, lead to Lawrence’s loss of faith. However, he never lost his passion for hymns, adapting their symbolism to suit him where needed.
Hardy was also ushered into church life but was intrigued by ritual rather than any form of spiritual meaning. He would later become agnostic due to his own philosophical and scientific readings. He also loved church music, seeing hymns as a form of poetry. Although they both had very different ideas on what constituted a good hymn, especially ‘Lead Kindly Light’ which Lawrence felt was too sentimental.
In terms of education, FE wasn’t really an option due to financial restrictions. Therefore, they both self-educated as much as possible, drawing influence and education from friends and family around them. I often wonder what kind of person Lawrence would have become if he hadn’t encountered the likes of the Chambers and Hopkins families.
J.M. Barrie was a big influence on Hardy’s posthumous literary success, finding him a burial spot at Poet’s Corner and helping Hardy’s second wife, Florence, publish the definitive collection, The Life and Works of Thomas Hardy. Barrie also has a Nottingham connection. He worked as a journalist at the Nottingham Daily Journal between 1883 – 4. It’s believed that while he was here, he conceived of the character of Peter Pan and based the setting of Neverland on the Arboretum – the park he would walk through each morning on his way to work. Lawrence never met J.M. Barrie, partly because he was abroad but mainly because he detested literary gatherings which tended to attract ‘smoking, steaming shits’. One friend they had in common was literary critic, John Middleton Murry – although friend might be pushing it as far as Lawrence is concerned. Their relationship was doomed after the failed attempt at Rananim in Cornwall in 1916 and Murry’s moral betrayal via his editorship of the Adelphi. But then again, Lawrence fell out with everyone in the end (except perhaps Catherine Carswell).
Another mutual friend was the writer and socialite Lady Cynthia Asquith (1887 –1960) the daughter-in-law of H. H. Asquith, the prime minister whose threat to ennoble Hardy and Barrie (alongside 498 others) so frightened the House of Lords in 1911. Lawrence wrote to her regularly, describing her as a “Pre-Raphaelite ‘dreaming woman'”. Lawrence was intrigued by the aristocracy in terms of their grand families. His wife Frieda, of course, was born to aristocracy, but like Lawrence, had little interest in social status. Lacking Lawrence’s self-confidence, Hardy was desperate to climb the social ladder that his family had so successfully slipped down the previous century. His need to be respected can be found in an amusing anecdote about his morbid self-obsession with his own death. This tale was shared with Asquith by J.M. Barrie:
“[H]e often smiled over Hardy’s preoccupation with his plans for his own burial–plans which were perpetually being changed. “One day,” said Barrie,” Hardy took me to see the place where he wants most to be buried, and the next day he took me to see the place where he would like next best to be buried. Usually he says he is to be buried exactly in between his two wives, but sometimes he is to be so many inches.”
Fleming argues that Hardy’s vulnerability and lamenting for social status can be seen in novels such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles where Tess descends into poverty and obscurity. In the novel, traditional ways of life are slowly eroded by modernity, represented by effete city folk who are only able to ingest milk that has been watered down. Lawrence too wrote about how industry and modernity places a barrier between man and nature. But instead of mopping about, he went in search of primitive cultures and the ‘religion of the blood’. However, when he describes the coastline of Cornwall as belonging “still to the days before Christianity, the days of Druids, or of desolate Celtic magic and conjuring” he could be accused of creating worlds as equal fictional as Hardy’s Wessex.
Indeed, Lawrence’s great skill as a writer was the way he would impose his own values and sense of self into any topic he chose to write about. As he wrote on 5 September 1914: “Out of sheer rage I’ve begun my book on Thomas Hardy. It will be about anything but Thomas Hardy I am afraid – queer stuff – but not bad.”
Source: Fiona Fleming (You can join the D.H. Lawrence Society here) Special thanks also to ivebeenreadinglately.blogspot.com
In the D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre we are exploring Lawrence life through artefacts. We officially set sail in November 2019 to mark the centenary of his self-imposed exile, but then a virus came along and everything has been put on hold. You can submit artefacts here, or join in the conversation on Instagram or leave a comment below.
This is our second blog exploring the influence of Look! We Have Come Through! This time David Brock explores how Lawrencian ideals, particularly those of renewed inner life, have come to influence future generations of poets and artists. He pays particular attention to Steve Taylor’s collection The Calm Centre, which picked lines from Lawrence’s ‘Song of a Man Who Has Come Through’ to preface his own book of verse on the theme of individual enlightenment.
In an enlivening introduction to a 1990s Wordsworth edition of D.H. Lawrence’s Poetry, Albert Glover writes of the amazing breakthrough Lawrence made as man and poet on finding fulfilment in love and marriage. ‘Everything Lawrence wrote after Look! We Have Come Through! [the cycle of love poems he produced during this important phase] comes from a soul forged in the ecstasy of spiritual awakening’, Glover asserts, before quoting the memorable, mysterious opening of Lawrence’s ‘Song of a Man Who Has Come Through’. . .’Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!/ A fine wind is blowing the new direction of time. . .’ This being ‘the prophetic stance of the risen man’, Glover suggests.
A present day writer, thinker and poet, Steve Taylor (who gave spell-binding, unscripted talks to the Lawrence Society in its glory days, about Lawrence as Pagan, and as Mystic, and now appears annually in Mind, Body and Spirit magazine’s list of ‘the world’s 100 most spiritually influential living people’), has picked lines from this key poem to preface his own book of verse on the theme of individual enlightenment. Entitled The Calm Center, it features an introduction by spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle.
Of the Lawrence poem in question, composed around the time of Lawrence’s marriage to Frieda, on 13th July 1914, the late great Keith Sagar writes that it is ‘about life and art, about Lawrence the married man and Lawrence the poet’, and that it ‘consists almost entirely of images – wind, chisel, fountain, angels.’
What is the ‘wind’ which Lawrence speaks of? Keith suggests it signifies the release of a new imaginative, poetic energy suddenly at large, and which may provide him with inspiration so powerful it may break through the rock encasing our soul, to open up a new ‘Pagan paradise’ – the Hesperides – where the golden apples offer a life free from the old (Eden apple) fear of sin.
The poem ends with ‘the three strange angels’ knocking on the door, at night. Lawrence is ready and willing to face this disturbing challenge – ‘Admit them, admit them’. Together with his wife, he feels able to save the seeds of creativity – these wind-blown, winged gifts – from a world descending into war and destruction. And, as Keith also puts it, the ‘exorcism’ of Sons and Lovers has brought the re-birth of Lawrence’s ‘demon’ – a force now ‘free to become no longer the writhing repressed half of a split psyche.’
Steve Taylor’s therapeutic poems (which are reflective discourses, rather in the manner of Lawrence’s Pansies) reveal how we too might heal our mental ailments, achieve this ‘new’ Lawrentian ‘wholeness and courage’, and find a ‘self’ free of negativity ‘which can recognise and respond to the sacred’, within what Frieda called ‘the great vast show of life’.
One must be prepared to change. As with Lawrence there are difficult questions and challenges. ‘The Off-Loading’ is reminiscent of one of Lawrence’s most famous final poems, ‘Phoenix’, in asking ‘Are you willing to give yourself up?’ It is only when you can let go that ‘you’ll be empty, peaceful and light/ and ready to float free’ – rather like Lawrence’s ‘immortal bird’ rising from the flames.
There are poems about engagement with trees, something Lawrence understood uncannily well. It is of unfathomable value – balm to the suffering soul – to wake up to nature and reconnect in this profound way.
‘The Project’ is concerned with permitting your inner self to unfold and have expression.
‘The End of Desire’, about the erroneous pursuit of false goals in life, feels pure Lawrence, while Steve’s concluding poem ‘The Essence’ has that grand Lawrentian theme that we can each be a living manifestation of cosmic energy.
Lawrence’s remarkable verse contains next to nothing that is ‘chaff’. In common with his other work, it offers a great and nourishing influence on succeeding generations of writers, whose own uplifting poetry can achieve similar spiritual breakthroughs, leading to the awakening of new ‘integrity’, ‘vital sanity’ and holistic being. Steve Taylor’s latest volume offers this Lawrentian vision of renewed inner life and fulfilling emotional health.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address various aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts to try to understand this complex writer. How do we capture and track his influences? What are you personally ‘willing to give up’ and how does this compare with Lawrence’s own principles? How do we represent renewed inner 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 email@example.com Malcolm Gray firstname.lastname@example.org
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 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 Paul Fillingham and me put together a large scale digital literary heritage project we spend a good couple of years building up a portfolio of interested stakeholders. There are two main reasons we do this. Firstly, if we want to secure funding from the Arts Council then it’s vital that we secure at least 10% of our budgetary costs from private investors. This can either take the form of direct investment or support-in-kind. This reassures the Arts Council that we’re serious and that other organisations believe in what we’re doing. The second motivation concerns broadening audiences and marketing. By building partnerships with a wide variety of organisations we have lots of people promoting our project through their networks. This means a more diverse range of people visit our website and these statistics can then be used to validate funding.
Stakeholder engagement is one of nine processes that underpin UX methodology. UX methodology acts as a framework that enables us to think through each stage in the production and curation of a digital project. The ultimate purpose of UX methodology is to reduce risk, work more efficiently, achieve more value and deliver a better audience experience. If we’re getting funded by an external organisation we have a responsibility to ensure our project is value for money and that it does what it sets out to do.
Stakeholder engagement is stage two in our UX methodology. It appears pretty early on in our plans as there’s no point producing something if there’s no appetite for it. One of the key theorists for explaining this process is R. Edward Freeman of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. In the video at the top of the page he makes some very interesting points that are worth bearing in mind when putting together a project.
Firstly, he argues: “You can’t look at any one stakeholder in isolation. Their interest has to go together and the job of a manager is to figure out how the interests of customers, suppliers, communities, employees and financiers go in the same direction.” Freeman goes on to argue that business and ethics need to work in harmony. Whereas old school industrial capitalism had a faceless approach to business due to the emphasis on the pursuit of profit, Freeman believes stakeholder theory gives a ‘face’ and ‘name’ to individuals. It humanises working relationships. He even goes as far as to suggest: “what makes capitalism work is our desire to create value for each other. Not our desire to compete. Capitalism is the greatest system of social collaboration ever invented. It’s about how we cooperate together to create value for each other.”
With this in mind I invited Sandy Mahal, the director of UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature, to a module I am teaching at NTU that equips students with the skills to create their own digital literary projects. City of Literature are a vital stakeholder in our project not only because of the prestige and validation their association brings, but also because of the contacts they can offer, the relationships they are able to build, and the knowledge and experience they can share. We also share a common ‘value’ – we believe in Nottingham’s literary heritage. In the short spell that Sandy has been in post she has overseen some very exciting projects, including Story Smash, a collaboration with libraries and the National Video Game Arcade, and, more recently, with Visit Britain. It was this latter project that I was particularly interested in.
The Discover England Fund, administered by Visit England, has made £40 million available to projects that can enhance England’s tourism to overseas visitors through the project ‘Creating England’s Literary Greats‘. Focusing on the US travel trade, the project aims to explore the demand for increased literary themed visits to England, introducing new ideas for itineraries and presenting them to US tour operators to sell in their programmes.
Brendan Moffett, chief executive of Visit Nottinghamshire said:
“This is fantastic news for Nottinghamshire and we’re thrilled to have been awarded this opportunity to test the market to see if there’s an appetite for US tourists to explore our literary legends and their attractions, including DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum and Newstead Abbey.
The concept behind the project is based on research from VisitBritain, which has found that more than a third of overseas visitors want to see places from film and literature, and that almost half visited museums, art galleries, castles or historic houses – demonstrating the significance of the UK’s heritage and culture.
As part of this project, additional research will be commissioned to test if there is a real market for more literary themed visits, and we plan on making the most of this opportunity for Nottinghamshire to learn from experts in this field such as the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Museum and Jane Austen’s House Museum.”
Given that we intend to launch our travelling Memory Theatre in 2019 to mark the hundred year anniversary since Lawrence left England and embarked on his savage pilgrimage, this is a funding opportunity that directly relates to our project on numerous levels. Therefore, inviting Sandy in gave us an opportunity to understand her aims and how our project might support or enhance them.
Historically, Nottingham has been pretty rubbish at promoting and celebrating its literary heritage. We’ve been a lot happier shouting at others rather than shouting up for ourselves. But this is changing thanks to a lot of inspirational people in Nottingham – Henry Normal, Jared Wilson, Norma Gregory, Panya Banjoko, Rob Howie Smith, Leanne Moden, Pippa Hennessy, ‘Lord’ Beestonia and Ross Bradshaw are just a few names that spring to mind. Paul and me have done our bit as well through the Sillitoe Trail, which celebrated the enduring legacy of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, as well as Dawn of the Unread, a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history, which City of Literature have supported by commissioning and publishing it as a learning resource to help improve literacy levels.
So far we’ve not been very good at celebrating DH Lawrence’s heritage. The recent closure of Durban House – and the flippant distribution of subsequent artefacts, as well as the building of a school that obscures a view of ‘the country of my heart’ suggest we’re stripping away our heritage rather than valuing it. This recent allocation of funding might help to address the balance.
Bearing in mind the principles of stakeholder theory and Freeman’s argument that ‘capitalism is the greatest system of social collaboration ever invented’ I think we can embrace these principles and attract tourism by constructing a very simple narrative that draws in a variety of relevant organisations. For example, after visiting the usual haunts in Eastwood, tourists could then be brought over to the Manuscripts and Special Collections department at the University of Nottingham and feast their eyes on the various Lawrence artefacts they’ve acquired over the years as well as Diana Thomson’s life-size bronze statue of Lawrence in the heart of the campus. They might take in a play at Lakeside while they are there as well. Or they could pop on the tram and head back into the city centre to visit the National Justice Museum for (pre-planned) talks on the Lady Chatterley Trial and its subsequent impact on freedom of expression. From here there’s the potential of a literary walk using local storytellers. We already have Chris Richardson (Chartism) and Ade Andrews (Robin Hood) offering bespoke walking tours, but Paul and me would be interested in putting together a Lawrence inspired walk in collaboration with the DH Lawrence Society. If there is a desire for this we could include details of walks in our memory theatre, or create an App…
There’s plenty of Lawrence sites in Nottingham. A good starting point is the Arkwright Building at NTU, formerly University College Nottingham. It was here – shortly after his 21st birthday in 1906 – that Lawrence trained to be a teacher, enrolling on a full-time degree course. Lawrence became disillusioned with the standard of teaching and left in 1908, deciding not to bother with a degree. His disillusionment is captured in the poem ‘Nottingham’s New University’ in Pansies (1929). He would be even more disillusioned at the level of education today on discovering the plaque commemorating his time at the college is wrong!
From here the tour could continue up the hill to Nottingham High School, situated upon a steep sandstone ridge. Founded in 1513, it’s the former school of Lawrence, Geoffrey Trease – author of 113 books, and more recently the playwright Michael Eaton. Around the High School are various locations that would inspire Lawrence’s debut novel The White Peacock. For those feeling energetic, a 30 minute walk down Mansfield Rd into Carrington will eventually lead to Private Road, where Lawrence met Frieda Weekley and convinced her to leave her husband and children and elope with him. The walk could finish at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio – a potential home for our memory theatre – where local writers could discuss issues from Lawrence’s life, such as the censorship they may feel as a result of their gender, ethnicity or world outlook.
All of these things are possible with proper planning and consultation. Together, Nottingham can bring real ‘value’ if people and organisations are brought into the conversation. But you can only be part of a conversation if you don’t know it’s happening, which is why I invited Sandy to come and talk to students today and why I will be inviting many other people as well. And if I haven’t invited you, dear reader, please get in touch.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. We want to bring ‘value’ to his heritage and to do this we need as many collaborators as possible. If you have an idea you can submit ideas here.
Don’t be a mard arse and miss out on the fun. Get down to one of these events over the next couple of weeks. Full listings available at Experience Nottinghamshire
READING GROUP: “Fanny and Annie’ Monday 4th September, 7.00pm (Free) Horse and Groom Pub, Moorgreen, NG16 2FE You would presume that this short story revolves around the lives of the two characters in the title. But with Lawrence things are never that simple. Written in 1921, the year that women got the vote, we observe Harry’s relationship with Fannie and the ways in which men are able to get away with just about anything. The reading discussion is hosted by Dr. Andrew Harrison, author of the latest Lawrence biog.
TOUR OF BRITAIN Wednesday 6 September (see website for updated times) Eastwood Square and throughout the Town 120 of the world’s top cyclists will be racing through Eastwood and Brinsley as part of OVO Energy Tour of Britain – the UK’s premier road cycling race. To celebrate the Tour of Britain various activities will be taking place in Eastwood Square and throughout the town centre. To welcome the cyclists’ costumed guides from the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum will be out touring Eastwood and meeting residents and giving out free masks of the bearded one.
CONTROVERSIES IN COAL Thursday 7 September, 7.30pm (small charge on the door) Kimberley School (Community Room) Newdigate Street, Kimberley, Nottingham NG16 2NJ Illustrated talk by David Amos to the Chinemarelian (Kimberley) Historical Society. Internment, Impoundment and Intrigue at Harworth Colliery (1913-1924). The talk is about the near German colliery which was being developed at Harworth just prior to World War One and its subsequent demise on the outbreak of war. There is a strong local presence in the talk through the Barber Walker Company who took over the development of the colliery from 1917.
READINGS AND DRAMATISATIONS BY WAYNE FOSKETT Friday 8 September, 6.00pm (£5 including a drink) The Breach House Garden. The Breach House, 28 Garden Road, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire NG16 3FW “Bottoms Up!” Readings and dramatisations of some comic and dialect elements from D.H. Lawrence’s works, with actor Wayne Foskett, as well as an opportunity to join in (after an interval and a drink or two) an ‘unrehearsed reading’ from “Sons and Lovers’. Entrance by pre booked ticket – numbers limited. Info: email@example.com
THE D.H. LAWRENCE BIRTHPLACE MUSEUM OPEN DAY Saturday 9 September, 11.00am – 4.00pm (Free) 8a Victoria Street, Eastwood, Nottingham NG16 3AW We are opening our doors for FREE to celebrate D.H. Lawrence’s 132nd Birthday! Enjoy a taster tour of the ground floor of the museum, for absolutely no admission fee! Interactive demonstrations will be held in our Victorian Wash-house and we will be having an ‘open garden’ with Victorian games and crafts for all to enjoy. There is no need to book for this event, just come along and join the fun!
BREACH HOUSE OPEN DAY 9 Saturday and 10 Sunday September, 11.00am – 3.00pm (Free) The Breach House, 28 Garden Road, Eastwood, Nottingham NG16 3FW Members of the D.H. Lawrence Society will be on hand to guide visitors around this historic property. D.H. Lawrence and his family moved to ‘The Breach House’ from Victoria Street in 1887 and lived here until 1891. It became the inspiration for ‘The Bottoms’ in Lawrence’s novel, ‘Sons and Lovers’.
ORGAN RECITAL BY ALAN WILSON Sunday 10 September, 3.00pm (£5 includes a drink) Greasley Church, 10 Church Road, Greasley, Nottingham NG16 2AB A programme chosen by a ‘one time local lad’ to reflect his memories and links to Lawrence and the local landscape. Alan hopes to present a programme which reflects Lawrence’s own enjoyment of music. He recalls that Lawrence knew the composer Peter Warlock (Heseltine) whom he met in November 1915. Warlock called Lawrence ‘the greatest literary genius of his generation’. Alan may also include music associated with Byron and Newstead. Acknowledgement is also to be made of the composer Eric Coates. “Music compositions and improvisations will entwine with local inspired poetry and prose, celebrating a heritage of rich culture within this neighbourhood presented on a fine historic organ in an atmospheric country church”
GUIDED WALK: STEPPING OUT WITH YOUNG BERT LAWRENCE Monday 11 September, 11.00am Starting point: The White Lion (now called The Lion at Brinsley), Hall Lane, Brinsley, Notts, NG16 5AH [SK459488]. Use the pub carpark or on-street parking. “Wednesday we shall walk to Codnor Castle – we shall be out all day…” (D.H. Lawrence to Blanche Jennings, 30th July 1908) According to Jessie Chambers – whose influence on Lawrence’s writing career cannot be overestimated – the young Bert Lawrence loved to organise walking parties: ‘explorations of the countryside’ of which ‘Lawrence was always the originator and the leader’, as she put it in her memoir ‘D.H. Lawrence: A Personal Record ’. Join us, on Lawrence’s birthday, for a walk to one of Lawrence’s favourite destinations: the ruined, 13th-century Codnor Castle, once the administrative heart of much of the local area and home, for nearly 300 years, of generations of the de Grey family, who were local dignitaries and trusted lieutenants of successive kings of England. This is a moderate, 6-mile circular walk, with a number of stiles. Bring a packed lunch, though tea, coffee and cakes will be served at Codnor Castle Farm on arrival.
The D.H.LAWRENCE BIRTHDAY LECTURE Monday 11 September, 7.30pm (Free) The Hall Park Academy, Mansfield Road, Nottingham NG16 3EA “The Art of Living; D.H. Lawrence and Health” Speaker: Dr. Jeff Wallace of Cardiff Metropolitan University
I’ve recently taken up the post of archivist at the DH Lawrence Society with the aim of putting the D.H. Lawrence Society newsletter in chronological order and digitizing it so that it’s available to the wider public. Therefore I was very interested, and saddened, to read this glowing tribute from Christopher Pollnitz for Rosemary Howard, the former Lawrence Society secretary and newsletter editor who recently passed away. Unfortunately, I will never get to meet this inspirational woman but this testament vividly brings her to life as well as cementing her contribution towards D.H. Lawrence Studies.
Rosemary was always so much fun to be with. After a meeting with her, I would come away charged with new plans and hopes. In the decades when she was secretary of the Lawrence Society and editor of the Newsletter, she created an identity for me in the Society. As someone who lived thirty hours by plane from where the action was, she transformed me into the Newsletter’s “Australian correspondent.” The role played a key part in the development of my personal academic project. At the same time Rosemary, with her energy and flair, did not lose sight of her wider goals, of building the Society and Lawrence’s reputation in the UK. In this tribute I wish to recall how Rosemary’s work on the Newsletter, and on organising the yearly programme of talks and lectures, built bridges between academics and the wider community of Lawrence readers. She shaped a Society which leading Lawrence scholars felt they could and should address. A past President like John Worthen gave many of the lectures collected in his volume Experiments at the monthly meetings and annual festivals. Rosemary had been just as instrumental in forming the Society to which the preceding President, Jim Boulton, gave his farewell address, “A Life in Letters.”
In 1989, during a circuit of the globe on which I visited Lawrence sites in the USA, England, Italy and France, I missed meeting Rosemary. In the UK I was accessing letters not yet published in the Cambridge edition, and so spent most time in Cambridge with Lin Vasey, though I also visited Jim Boulton in Birmingham. As I was returning to Australia, Jim Boulton put Rosemary into contact with me. We exchanged letters about how a copy of the Hiroshige print, Mannen Bridge, came to appear on the cover of Tortoises; for the answer, I referred Rosemary to Lawrence’s explanation and Lin Vasey’s note in the Letters (v. 175). Rosemary was curious about every facet of Lawrence research, no matter how abstruse. Nearby in my files I find a letter asking for a number of Ginette Katz-Roy’s Études Lawrenciennes in which Rosemary had written on Lawrence and Wittgenstein. Towards the other end of my letter files, in 2006, I am informing Rosemary about discovering some (translated) dialogues of Plutarch that Lawrence had read, and she is setting out for a course at Madingley Park, Cambridge. There she will be construing speeches from The Peloponnesian War, in Thucydides’ original Greek.
Before my next visit to England, in 1994, Rosemary made a pact. She would come to hear my Work in Progress paper, on “Death-Paean of a Mother,” at the University of Nottingham, if I joined the Society excursion to Sneinton. It was a glorious excursion, not least because I got to meet Lawrence’s nieces (and Rosemary’s dear friends), Peggy Needham and Joan King. The three highlights in Sneinton were William Booth’s birthplace, Lydia Beardsall and Arthur Lawrence’s signatures in the St Stephen’s marriage register, and Green’s Mill. Recently restored as a working mill, the site was both a science centre and a memorial to George Green (1793-1841). The nineteenth-century mathematician had come out of nowhere (educationally speaking) to write an Essay in which he proposed the first unified theory of electricity and magnetism. I wrote my first report for the Newsletter on the excursion. It shed no light on Green as a mathematician, but it did liken his self-taught genius to that of another son of Nottinghamshire.
In 1996 I sent the Newsletter a report on the Australian Lawrence Society’s excursion to the Loddon Falls, a stream above Thirroul that runs inland from the Bulli Pass. In the “Adieu Australia” chapter of Kangaroo Richard Lovat Somers hires a “sulky” so that he and Harriett can explore the wildflower-rich bush above the Escarpment. In biographical fact Lawrence invited the Forresters and Marchbanks, two Nottinghamshire couples whom he and Frieda had met on the ship from Perth to Sydney, to Thirroul for the weekend. He also hired a motor car and chauffeur for the Sunday, and the three couples were driven to the Falls. Denis Forrester took photographs of the visit and the outing, two of which appeared in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 edition of the Letters. The rest were published in Joseph Davis’s D. H. Lawrence at Thirroul (1989). Using the backdrop of the Falls, Jo Davis and Paul Eggert identified the rocks on which the 1922 party sat, and new photographs were taken with modern counterparts posing on the rocks.
The Australian correspondent never again reached the heights of his first report from down under, but later accounts of a ferry trip to Manly and Narrabeen (corresponding to Chapter 2 of Kangaroo), and of another day – when we sailed on a decommissioned Sydney Harbour ferry, south past the National Park and Thirroul, before putting in at Wollongong Harbour – provided grist for the Newsletter mill. Rosemary had Australian connections and had visited several times. Older members of her family had settled in Adelaide, perhaps the most Scottish of Australian cities, and she travelled to the Australian east coast with her beloved Toby. Toby was one of those heedlessly brave Australian pilots who flew with the RAF on World War II bombing raids over Germany, and one of the lucky few to survive the War. Whether Toby was a pilot or airman, and whether he flew with the Dambusters, I cannot recall; but Rosemary told me that she still attended RAF reunions to honour his memory.
The Loddon Falls had been a renowned spot for picking wildflowers. One of the 1922 party, Constance Marchbanks (she has become “Connie” in my mind) was rumoured to have collected and pressed wildflowers. George Marchbanks was a Society member and there was hope that, if the collection was still in the family, it might be recoverable. Other Society members, Jean and Tony Temple, had inherited from George Neville the copy of W. T. Gordon’s Our Country’s Flowers and How to Know Them that Lawrence was given as a prize at Nottingham High School. Wildflowers became a new focus for Lawrence studies, Rosemary giving illustrated lectures on them.
In Cambridge in 2003 I wrote a piece for the Newsletter about the marsh marigolds one sees walking along the Cam to Grantchester. These favourite flowers Lawrence preferred to call “kingcups” or “mollyblobs.” When he first arrived in the Isar Valley, he wrote back to Sally Hopkin in Eastwood about the “great hosts of globe flowers, that we call bachelor’s buttons” (L, i. 413), by the river. I wasn’t sure that “bachelor’s buttons” was another name for kingcups when I sent in a draft of my floral report. When Rosemary sent back a French postcard of a handsome stand of globe-flowers (Europaeus trollius), I could see at once why Lawrence would compare European globe-flowers, the largest of the ranunculi, with English kingcups. I have the card still, pinned on my noticeboard.
We shared a love of English and Australian flora. Rosemary was proud of her cottage garden in Keyworth, and we swapped news of our English country and Australian suburban gardens. It is a sad irony that her Australian correspondent was not always a punctual letter-writer, a failing she would twit me for; but I could make amends, when she moved to her Cambridge apartment in 2004, by sending her a calendar of Australian wildflowers.
While she was still at Keyworth, she often offered me hospitality in her cottage. During one visit we drove past the College where she had lectured to the banks of the Trent. We looked across the river to the further bank, where Paul Morel dug the perilous ledge on which he and Clara Dawes made love. In a much later airletter she confided her first experiences of D. H. Lawrence. Because her Edinburgh mentors had discouraged her opening anything by Lawrence, she had been a “late starter,” not beginning to read him until the 1950s. She had, it struck me, made up for lost time, taking vivacious pleasure in the novels’ erotic passages.
I should mention the January night Rosemary invited me to celebrate Hogmanay at her cottage. A Scottish tenor was singing Rabbie Burns airs on the record player; there was single malt Scotch whisky; there was haggis on the table and perhaps even some Barossa Valley grenache; there was conversation befitting friends with like minds and a singing of Auld Lang Syne. Late that night I drove through the lanes of Nottinghamshire to the university hall of residence with great care. I had had too much haggis, I fear.
Queensland-born P. R. (“Inky”) Stephensen is known principally for publishing The Paintings of D. H. Lawrence (1929); his papers are held in the Mitchell Library wing of the Library of New South Wales. In his papers is an account of Lawrence’s funeral, sent by a London friend, Frank Budgen, who had chanced to be in Vence at the time of Lawrence’s death. A self-taught painter, Budgen is known principally for his friendship with James Joyce. When I contacted his daughter, Joan Budgen, she was pleased to allow publication of the letter and even hunted through her father’s papers for further information. There she found a photograph of the wreath of carnations that Frank Budgen, his friend Louis Sargent and their wives had taken to the grave and propped, headstone-like, against the cemetery wall.
Rosemary advised that an article on Budgen’s description of the funeral was better suited for the Journal of the D. H. Lawrence Society than the Newsletter, and she then helped finalise arrangements for its publication with the Journal’s editor, Catherine Greensmith. The account came out in 1997, allowing David Ellis to use it in the third volume of the Cambridge biography.
Well ahead of time, Rosemary booked me in to give a paper on “Editing Last Poems” to the February 1999 meeting of the Society. John Worthen borrowed an overhead projector so that we could all compare images of the “Nettles” and Last Poems notebooks and see how errors and omissions in the Florence edition of Last Poems had been transmitted to recent texts of the late poetry. Bethan Jones and John asked most of the questions, but everyone seemed to follow and enjoy the presentation. When the paper was published in 2000, I had made a first and decisive step towards the Cambridge edition of The Poems.
On 11 June 2003 – it was Rosemary’s birthday, she told me – she booked me in for another talk to the Society, this time on Kangaroo. She was concerned how some Society members might react to my chosen themes, homosexuality and violence in the novel, but on the night I went blithely on, confident that nothing I said would shock Rosemary. Once I’d finished, John leaned across to Bethan and said, “Ask him.” So my paper came to be published in the 2006-2007 Society Journal, which under Bethan’s editorship had grown into a substantial publication. Looking at the article again, I notice how much in the opening pages comes from the Australian correspondent’s reports to the Newsletter.
Earlier in 2003 I had driven from Cambridge to hear Andrew Harrison deliver a good paper on the versions of “England, My England.” Both Andrew and Bethan were in the audience when I presented a very detailed history of the transmission of Birds, Beasts and Flowers to the March 2006 conference at Université Paris X. This time I didn’t carry many of my listeners with me on the difficult narrative of composition, revision and variants; but when I spoke with Andrew after the presentation, and asked if he would accept a written-up version of the paper for the first number of the Journal of D. H. Lawrence Studies, he said, “Yes, please.”
I consulted with Rosemary, by then in Cambridge, about writing up the Paris lecture, particularly about variants in “Bibbles.” In the poem manuscript, after she has disgraced herself by devouring excrement, the master of the little dog decides to “wallop” her “with a juniper twig”; in the corrected typescript, the punishment is to “dust you a bit”; in the corrected proofs, he chooses to “skelp” her with the twig. The transmission of Birds, Beasts and Flowers told me “skelp” was Lawrence’s preferred verb, but it was good to have this endorsed by Rosemary, who explained what a “skelping” meant in Scotland (and northern England, according to the OED). Scuffling boys would skelp each other; naughty boys were skelped for indiscipline.
It was still fun to visit and write to Rosemary in Cambridge, and her niece Christina Marshall was sometimes able to help her travel back for Eastwood meetings. She remained an alert and omnivorous reader. I received an airletter about her reading up on Peter Warlock (aka Philip Heseltine) and listening to CDs of Elizabethan music. Some unlucky falls restricted her mobility, but when she couldn’t get to a course on The Rainbow, her fellow students came to her, in Alder Court. When Andrew Harrison sent me a copy of Molly Mahood’s Poet as Botanist for review – Mahood pronounces Lawrence the “laureate” of the wildflowers – she took a keen interest in a work that brought together two of her great loves. She remained a feisty critic of Lawrence, denouncing his disparagement of Hamlet in Twilight in Italy. In vain did I point out that there were at least a dozen references to this Shakespearean tragedy in The Poems, that his disrespect was a pose. Eventually I made use of Rosemary’s strictures in a paper I gave in Lismore, New South Wales, comparing Lawrence and Joyce’s Hamlets.
My aim in this tribute to Rosemary has not only been to recall thankfully over three decades of advice, support and friendship. It is to record how she refashioned and steered the Society to ensure that it preserved a continuity between, on the one hand, readers who admire Lawrence’s works and wish to find out more about him, and on the other, the international band of critics and editors who publish scholarly studies and have produced the Cambridge Edition of Lawrence’s Letters and Works.
The situation in the humanities is not unlike that in the physical sciences. Astronomers and marine biologists gain much assistance from amateurs with backyard telescopes and scuba divers who daily observe the sex lives of weedy sea dragons. Literary historians, and historians generally, benefit from having groups of willing readers, enthusiasts and data-entry volunteers. It is healthy, too, for academics to remember that the studies they write should not only be addressed to other specialists. As Lawrence Society secretary and Newsletter editor, Rosemary was forever taking one by the hand and saying: come this way, and you’ll find there is no moat, no ivory tower, just a group of readers eager to learn more. We shall miss her sadly, but she has shown us the way the Society should go forward.
The above testament was sent out to members of the DH Lawrence Society. To join please see the website.
Rosemary Howard died of old age on Tuesday 25 July at Langdon House. Her funeral is at 12:15pm on Thursday August 31 in the East Chapel at Cambridge City Crematorium, Huntingdon Rd, Cambridge CB3 0JJ
Instead of flowers the family suggest making donations to Medecins Sans Frontieres c/o Richard Stebbings Funeral Service Ltd, Kendal House, Cambridge Road, Impington, Cambridge CB24 9YS.
The following article by Rosemary Howard was originally published in the Spring of 1979 in Issue No. 15 of the D.H. Lawrence Newsletter – or ‘Lawrence Country News’ as it was then called. The meeting took place in July 1975. Dorothy Brett died in August 1977. Rosemary died on 25 July 2017.
I was encouraged to call on The Brett by the two ladies who run Taos Book Shop, a delightful sunny shop stuffed full of valuable Lawrence editions as well as an unexpected range of other publications. The fact that I lived in Nottingham and was a member of the D. H. Lawrence Society in Eastwood was apparently sufficient passport. So while I waited for the telephone arrangements to be completed I turned over the pages of a signed copy of ‘Lawrence and Brett’, Dorothy’s autobiographical account of their friendship, now out of print in England. Here I chanced upon the story of Frieda’s lost Navajo (i.e. turquoise) ring, which Brett had offered to look for. ‘You’re no use’, Lawrence had said: ‘You never find anything’.
Dorothy Eugenie Brett, daughter of Viscount Esher, who had ‘come out’ during the coronation celebrations of Edward VII, had her first date, it is said, with Winston Churchill. But she soon turned her back on fashionable Mayfair life and became an art student at the Slade. She first met Lawrence and Frieda on the second of their trips to Taos, New Mexico – the only one of Lawrence’s London circle to remain faithful to his project of founding a community of like souls, ‘where the only riches would be integrity of character’. Here Dorothy spent most of the rest of her life, painting in her charming adobe studio, a few miles to the south of the ranch that Frieda’s third husband built for her after the death of Lawrence. (This was next door to the Lawrence’s Del Monte ranch, originally presented to Frieda by Mabel Dodge Luhan, the rich American artist-writer, married finally to an American Indian, who had summoned Lawrence to New Mexico in the first place).
The village of El Prado is out in the sage-scrub desert, several miles from Taos, and commanding a superb view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains that dominate the closing scenes of Lawrence’s St. Mawr (typed page by page as it was written, by the Brett, in 1924). As I approached the house, I caught sight of the incongruous family coat-of- arms roughly blazoned in paint on the wooden gates, and once inside the shady little court-yard I could see tubs of that most English of flowers – violas – in full bloom. Brett greeted me gaily, sitting on a canopied garden-seat and dressed in something pinkish like a bed-jacket, clutching her hearing-aid, which she immediately switched on, declaring that she didn’t waste her batteries on the birds. Soon she was launched upon a round of cheerful reminiscences of her famous contemporaries, delivered in the patrician tones of an Edwardian lady, after the manner of Edith Evans. I first of all mentioned Helen Cork, Lawrence’s Croydon friend (who died in 1978). Brett said how much she had enjoyed a visit from her some years previously. Then she said how charming Maria Huxley had been; Aldous’ wife. ‘It all started at Garsington, you know’. When I asked her about Bertrand Russell she said, ‘Oh – you mean Bertie Russell?…were YOU ever at Garsington?’ I asked about Katherine Mansfield – wasn’t she rather naughty? The Brett said, ‘No. She was adventurous, she had adventures. And of course they made the stories’. When I referred to the tale of Frieda’s Navajo ring she asked me winsomely, ‘And did I find it?’ (As a matter of fact she did – spotted it lying in the middle of the horse-track when they were out riding). Of Lawrence she said, ‘It was all such fun. He was such fun! He had such a way of communicating excitement – feeling’. Lawrence always wanted to exchange horses with her as he couldn’t bear to ride at the back. ‘I had a large horse called Prince – a dear horse. He died.’ I mentioned the wild flowers that Lawrence loved. ‘Yes, I was always gazing up at the sky while he was looking down at the flowers… Lawrence would have lived if he had stayed there. But he would go, he would go. Why do people have to suffer in their life-times and die in penury?’ The talk moved to her home in Christmas Common in the Chilterns, her sister-in-law Zena Dare the actress and her sister Sylvia who married the Rajah of Sarawak.
Brett, aged ninety-one, had rosy cheeks and shining white hair – (‘Yes, I go to the hair-dresser in Taos. He gives me a perm’) – and the same lovely expression that appears in the Taos Gallery portrait dating from the thirties, in which she sits wearing a Mexican hat and holding on her knees a large hearing-aid in a leather case bedizened with chunks of turquoise. She was still painting though she lacked central vision – there was a canvas on her easel, rather green, and smudged. Holly, the lady-companion in a floppy straw hat and speaking in an unexpected American accent, steered me through the untidy sunny rooms. ‘No’, said Brett, ‘I don’t get tired. I look after myself’.
I called at the low adobe studio next door which houses her paintings in exquisite shady rooms separated by green court-yards and porticos. Here were roomfuls of colourful oils under the curatorship of John Manchester, a friend who was working on her biography. I could have bought a sheet of pen-and-ink sketches of cats in various postures for forty five dollars – but I didn’t. As I left, John Manchester said, ‘To tell you the truth, in Taos we are bored to death with D. H. Lawrence’.
Up at Del Monte Ranch I contemplated the ‘little low cabins’ so vividly described in St. Mawr with the desert ‘Sweeping its great fawn-coloured circle around, away beyond and below like a beach, with a long mountain-side of pure blue shadow closing in the near corner’. In the fields I saw clumps of the large yellow daisies that stand in the foreground of the composite painting done by Lawrence and Brett (with Mabel and Frieda lending a hand, and joining in the squabbling). The little low cabins are now rather over-grown with pine-trees but I remembered the self-effacing words in which the Brett had recorded her choice – ‘I think I will have the little one’. And I remembered that a few pages further on she had written, ‘This evening I curse my deafness as I lie rather cold in bed.’
Rosemary Howard’s funeral is at 12:15pm on Thursday August 31 in the East Chapel at Cambridge City Crematorium. Instead of flowers the family has suggested making donations to Medecins Sans Frontieres, c/o Richard Stebbings Funeral Service Ltd, Kendal House, Cambridge Road, Impington, Cambridge CB24 9YS.