D.H. Lawrence

Freida Lawrence wrote the foreword to the first published version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The second part of the foreword deals with her husband.
“It is hard for me to write about Lawrence,” she starts out. She picks up the thread again with, “I will try. I believe the spring of his being was love for his fellow men, love for everything alive, and almost all creatures were more alive to him than they actually were. He seemed to infuse his life into them. You cannot translate Lawrence into intellectual terms because he was so much more than a man with ideas, an intellectual. But he had a superb human intelligence in big and little things. It exasperated him to see how boring most people’s loves were and how little they made of them, and he tried with all his might, from all angles to make them see and change. He never gave up, he did not get discouraged like most reformers. Always he took a new sprint. He was not tragic, he would never have it that humanity, even, was tragic, only very wrong, but nothing that true wisdom could not solve. It was not pity he felt; he never insulted anybody by being sorry for them. We have to learn to take it. It is strange to think that he never got into more trouble than he did, with his absolute independence. He was attacked and abused. It made him angry, but he never felt sorry for himself. It was a spur to go on. Years after his death, I saw in Buenos Aires many of his books in a shop window as I wandered through the streets. It was a shock. ‘Here,’ I thought, ‘where he has never been, people buy his books.’ One thin, narrow man has such importance all over the world. He was intensely aware of the importance of time, of the responsibility of every hour and minute. The span from the cradle to the grave is all we have to make our show, to prove ourselves. The older you get, the shorter is the time given us. The fact, ‘I am alive’, seems more valuable every day. Lawrence knew this quite young.
He made me share what went on in him. His inner life was so powerful you had to be a part of it, willy-nilly. It was hard for me to realise that nothing goes on in many people’s insides – nothing at all.
For Lawrence, all creatures had their own mysterious being. Only humans seemed to have often lost theirs.
[…]
Lawrence had this desire to know all the universe in its different manifestations.
[…]
There was an urge in him to find new places on the earth as well as in the human soul. All races, all thoughts, all there was interested him. He had a full life, but the fullness was mostly in him. There is so much to experience and most of us experience so little. A little job, a little house, a little wife has little George and George gets older and one day he is dead and that’s all. He has missed the great, vast show.
For me, Lawrence’s greatest gift was this sense of a limitless universe around us, no barriers, no little social world to fidget over, no ambition to be a success. We felt we were a success in spite of the tiny bit of money we had, but we felt so rich. If a man owns a Botticelli painting and I enjoy more seeing it than the man who owns it, then that picture is more mine than his. We don’t have to put things in our pockets to make them our own. Enjoying is more of possession than ownership.
[…]
We always lived very simply, he was just a man going his own way and I tacked along.
Even such a little thing, that might have looked pretentious, as a topaz ring I offered him with the Richthofen arms on it, he would not take. He looked at it – it was nice for a little while. ‘No,’ he said, ‘that isn’t me for me.’
The Lincoln story, when a senator finds Lincoln cleaning his boots and says, ‘But Mr President, gentlemen don’t clean their own boots,’ and Lincoln replies, ‘Whose boots do they clean?’ might have been true of Lawrence.
They called Lincoln names too. ‘Ape’ and ‘baboon’ and pretty names they called Lawrence. The scarecrow they make of him! But birds never have been scared of him. Some make him a sad, mournful, sacrificial object. He wasn’t often sad, but very often mad. Mostly, he was very gay and full of pep. The mournfulness lies mostly with the critics.
[…]
He died unbroken; he never lost his own wonder of life. He never did a thing he did not want to do and nothing and nobody could make him. He never wrote a word he did not mean at the time he wrote it. He never compromised with the little powers that be; if ever there lived a free, proud man, Lawrence was that man.

FREIDA LAWRENCE

1944

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