D. H. Lawrence (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Many will approach John Worthen’s massive study of D. H. Lawrence’s early life believing that they already know a great deal about its subject. After all, Sons and Lovers (1913) is the Lawrence novel one probably reads first, and everybody realizes that its fictive location, Bestwood, is Lawrence’s Eastwood and that the Morel family is Lawrence’s own. Like his contemporary Thomas Mann, Lawrence used his life to create his art; yet Sons and Lovers resembles Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901) only insofar as they are both autobiographical novels. Though both novels represent the same chronological period, Mann surveys his early life from the relatively comfortable vantage point of the German burgher middle class; Lawrence, on the other hand, has a solidly working-class perspective. Judged by its original point of view alone, as a novel about a coal miner’s family by the son of a collier, Sons and Lovers emerges as distinctively more original, though considerably more uneven and less learned, than its German counterpart.
This comparison made, it is important to note that Worthen does not indulge in similar speculations. He is concerned, however, with Lawrence’s formation as an artist, and he perceives that Lawrence’s background is essential to that formation. Learning to find the nonintellectual stance that characterizes all Lawrence’s best-known works was a major obstacle Lawrence had to overcome, and Worthen...
(The entire section is 1589 words.)
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D. H. Lawrence (Magill Book Reviews)
John Worthen’s D.H. LAWRENCE: THE EARLY YEARS, 1885-1912 observes that Lawrence was the only Edwardian author from the working class who wrote about the working class. Popular fiction of the early twentieth century had remained almost exclusively the province of solidly middle-class writers such as Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad. Lawrence was thus writing against prevailing taste. His subject matter itself, not to mention his frank treatment of it, was shocking in the extreme.
Paradoxically, Lawrence had escaped the working class by the time he had begun to write about it. He escaped the working class by the time he had begun to write about it. He escaped the possessive love of his mother, Lydia Beardsall Lawrence, only after her death in 1910, and perhaps not even then. It took at least five love affairs (with Jessie Chambers, Louise Burrows, Helen Corke, Alice Daz, and ultimately with Frieda Weekley), all independent, exceptional women, for Lawrence to adopt the notorious persona most associated with him. Worthen discusses each of these women and shows how they influenced Lawrence’s writing and personal outlook.
The years covered by this volume are those during which Lawrence wrote and three times thereafter rewrote SONS AND LOVERS, the autobiographical novel which describes his unhappy childhood home. His mother, too, had wished to escape, from the mining town of Eastwood and from a loveless marriage to Arthur John...
(The entire section is 372 words.)