D. H. Lawrence's Nightmare (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
Recently, a veritable industry has arisen chronicling the life of literary England at the beginning of the twentieth century. The number of books about the Bloomsbury circle—its members and their interlocking relationships—has reached epidemic proportions. In the last year or so, the focus has shifted to the years of World War I, that nightmare which so clearly marks the emergence of a distinctively modern consciousness in the arts. The acknowledged masterpiece in this field is Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory, a splendid piece of literary and social history. Fussell’s concern in that book is with the impact of the war on the imaginations of English writers, especially those who participated in the war and who, if they survived, found their perceptions of history and mankind irrevocably altered. Paul Delany’s painstaking account of D. H. Lawrence’s experiences during the war years, as its title suggests, is intended to be another chapter in that story. His starting point is the fact that Lawrence, whose feelings toward his native country were mixed at best, came to England in 1914 only intending to stay for a brief time. Instead, while he was there, the war began, and Lawrence was effectively trapped, finding himself unable to leave the country until the cessation of hostilities. As a result, he was plunged into a profound personal crisis, one which he almost did not survive.
Delany’s chief undertaking in this book,...
(The entire section is 1130 words.)
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