on 30 August 2010
John Worthen warns, in another of his excellent works, of the danger of the biographer falling in love with his subject. Perhaps he was aware of a tendency in this biography. There is a great deal of penetrating analysis in his treatment of the early literary career of Lawrence, and the writing is brisk, but Worthen seems partisan: he looks ahead to Lawrence's breaking through to "fulfilment" with Frieda and the better books/stories and forgives too much in the younger man. In doing so, he is unfair to Jessie Chambers, Lawrence's early friend, whose intimately-informed view of Lawrence as a fatally divided personality obviously has lost favour with scholars. Yes, says Worthen, Lawrence tried on multiple selves for fit, but it was all to the good, because he found what he wanted to be. The story of the period covered by this biography, however, should be more faithful to the flawed Lawrence of those years (as Chambers insisted, when she criticised the revisionism of "Sons and Lovers").
The problem, it seems to me, is that Worthen too readily dismisses Jessie's criticisms of Lawrence's capacity to understand or fairly represent their 1902-1906 relationship, on the basis of her new feelings about their altered relationship in 1912. Chambers was among the first to understand how Lawrence liked to create straw men to knock down, starting with the "lying, drunk" father his mother taught him to hate. Others later would comment on this tendency. "Miriam" was the straw man Lawrence knocked down in "Sons and Lovers," and Jessie resented the falsity of it.
If in the process of writing fiction a character is invested with deeper insights and creative purpose by departing from its real-life model, then that is successful art. She claimed - and her argument, I feel, is not addressed square on by Worthen - that, in the case of "Miriam", Lawrence's art lacked integrity (i.e. the artistic pursuit of deeper insight). It does not serve well, in dealing with the issue, to follow Lawrence in creating a straw man, i.e. an unfair account of Jessie Chambers's thoughts and opinions.
on 27 January 2012
A very detailed study of the background and early life of D.H.Lawrence.Covers all aspects of his upbringing and influences in great depth.A good compilation of literary sources well indexed. Serves as general background to life in a mining town and also goes to great depths to describe family life, covers the intellectual and emotional influences the people from his family and the working class background had on him .
Describes his upbringing in a small colliery town.His years as a teacher in London before the blossoming of Sons and Lovers.Covers his Fathers mining life in Eastwood, and his mothers anxieties about class, her feelings of isolation and her special devotion to her sons. It describes the influence on him of his unhappy parents, his schooling and intellectual growth, his collage years and his development as a writer.Offers insights into his disasterous early sexual relationships and with his relationship with Frieda Weekly, six years his senior, married and with three children, but to Lawrence "the Woman of a lifetime".
Well illustrated . A most complete and authorative account.