|D. H. Lawrence|
David Herbert Lawrence|
11 September 1885
Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England
2 March 1930 (aged 44)|
|Resting place||D. H. Lawrence Ranch, Taos, New Mexico|
|Alma mater||University College Nottingham|
David Herbert Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) was an English writer and poet. His collected works represent, among other things, an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. Some of the issues Lawrence explores are sexuality, emotional health, vitality, spontaneity, and instinct.
Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile he called his "savage pilgrimage". At the time of his death, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held view, describing him as "the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation." The philosopher Bertrand Russell characterised Lawrence as a "proto-German Fascist". Later, the literary critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness.
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The fourth child of Arthur John Lawrence, a barely literate miner at Brinsley Colliery, and Lydia Beardsall, a former pupil teacher who had been forced to perform manual work in a lace factory due to her family's financial difficulties, Lawrence spent his formative years in the coal mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. The house in which he was born, 8a Victoria Street, is now the D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum. His working-class background and the tensions between his parents provided the raw material for a number of his early works. Lawrence roamed out from an early age in the patches of open, hilly country and remaining fragments of Sherwood Forest in Felley woods to the north of Eastwood, beginning a lifelong appreciation of the natural world, and he often wrote about "the country of my heart" as a setting for much of his fiction.
The young Lawrence attended Beauvale Board School (now renamed Greasley Beauvale D. H. Lawrence Primary School in his honour) from 1891 until 1898, becoming the first local pupil to win a county council scholarship to Nottingham High School in nearby Nottingham. He left in 1901, working for three months as a junior clerk at Haywood's surgical appliances factory, but a severe bout of pneumonia ended this career. During his convalescence he often visited Hagg's Farm, the home of the Chambers family, and began a friendship with Jessie Chambers. An important aspect of this relationship with Chambers and other adolescent acquaintances was a shared love of books, an interest that lasted throughout Lawrence's life. In the years 1902 to 1906 Lawrence served as a pupil teacher at the British School, Eastwood. He went on to become a full-time student and received a teaching certificate from University College, Nottingham, in 1908. During these early years he was working on his first poems, some short stories, and a draft of a novel, Laetitia, which was eventually to become The White Peacock. At the end of 1907 he won a short story competition in the Nottinghamshire Guardian, the first time that he had gained any wider recognition for his literary talents.
In the autumn of 1908 the newly qualified Lawrence left his childhood home for London. While teaching in Davidson Road School, Croydon, he continued writing. Jessie Chambers submitted some of Lawrence's early poetry to Ford Madox Ford (then known as Ford Hermann Hueffer), or of the influential The English Review. Hueffer then commissioned the story Odour of Chrysanthemums which, when published in that magazine, encouraged Heinemann, a London publisher, to ask Lawrence for more work. His career as a professional author now began in earnest, although he taught for another year. Shortly after the final proofs of his first published novel, The White Peacock, appeared in 1910, Lawrence's mother died of cancer. The young man was devastated, and he was to describe the next few months as his "sick year". It is clear that Lawrence had an extremely close relationship with his mother, and his grief became a major turning point in his life, just as the death of Mrs. Morel is a major turning point in his autobiographical novel Sons and Lovers, a work that draws upon much of the writer's provincial upbringing. Essentially concerned with the emotional battle for Lawrence's love between his mother and "Miriam" (in reality Jessie Chambers), the novel also documents Paul's (Lawrence's) brief intimate relationship with Miriam (Jessie) that Lawrence had finally initiated in the Christmas of 1909, ending it in August 1910. The hurt caused to Jessie by this and finally by her portrayal in the novel caused the end of their friendship and after it was published they never spoke to each other again.
In 1911 Lawrence was introduced to Edward Garnett, a publisher's reader, who acted as a mentor, provided further encouragement, and became a valued friend, as did his son David. Throughout these months the young author revised Paul Morel, the first draft of what became Sons and Lovers. In addition, a teaching colleague, Helen Corke, gave him access to her intimate diaries about an unhappy love affair, which formed the basis of The Trespasser, his second novel. In November 1911, he came down with a pneumonia again; once he recovered, Lawrence decided to abandon teaching in order to become a full-time writer. In February 1912 he broke off an engagement to Louie Burrows, an old friend from his days in Nottingham and Eastwood.
In March 1912 Lawrence met Frieda Weekley (née von Richthofen), with whom he was to share the rest of his life. Six years older than her new lover, she was married to Ernest Weekley, his former modern languages professor at University College, Nottingham, and had three young children. She eloped with Lawrence to her parents' home in Metz, a garrison town then in Germany near the disputed border with France. Their stay there included Lawrence's first encounter with tensions between Germany and France, when he was arrested and accused of being a British spy, before being released following an intervention from Frieda's father. After this incident, Lawrence left for a small hamlet to the south of Munich, where he was joined by Frieda for their "honeymoon", later memorialised in the series of love poems titled Look! We Have Come Through (1917). During 1912 Lawrence wrote the first of his so-called "mining plays", The Daughter-in-Law, written in Nottingham dialect. The play was never to be performed, or even published, in Lawrence's lifetime.
From Germany they walked southwards across the Alps to Italy, a journey that was recorded in the first of his travel books, a collection of linked essays titled Twilight in Italy and the unfinished novel, Mr Noon. During his stay in Italy, Lawrence completed the final version of Sons and Lovers that, when published in 1913, was acknowledged to be a vivid portrait of the realities of working class provincial life. Lawrence, though, had become so tired of the work that he allowed Edward Garnett to cut about a hundred pages from the text.
Lawrence and Frieda returned to Britain in 1913 for a short visit, during which they encountered and befriended critic John Middleton Murry and New Zealand-born short story writer Katherine Mansfield. Lawrence was able to meet Welsh tramp poet W. H. Davies, whose work, much of which was inspired by nature, he greatly admired. Davies collected autographs, and was particularly keen to obtain Lawrence's. Georgian poetry publisher Edward Marsh was able to secure an autograph (probably as part of a signed poem), and invited Lawrence and Frieda to meet Davies in London on 28 July, under his supervision. Lawrence was immediately captivated by the poet and later invited Davies to join Frieda and him in Germany. Despite his early enthusiasm for Davies' work, however, Lawrence's opinion changed after reading Foliage and he commented after reading Nature Poems in Italy that they seemed "so thin, one can hardly feel them".
Lawrence and Frieda soon went back to Italy, staying in a cottage in Fiascherino on the Gulf of Spezia. Here he started writing the first draft of a work of fiction that was to be transformed into two of his best-known novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love, in which unconventional female characters take centre stage. Both novels were highly controversial, and both were banned on publication in the UK for obscenity (Women in Love only temporarily). Both novels cover grand themes and ideas.
The Rainbow follows three generations of a Nottinghamshire farming family from the pre-industrial to the industrial age, focusing particularly on a daughter, Ursula, and her aspiration for a more fulfilling life than that of becoming a housebound wife. Women in Love delves into the complex relationships between four major characters, including the sisters Ursula and Gudrun. Both novels challenged conventional ideas about the arts, politics, economic growth, gender, sexual experience, friendship and marriage and can be seen as far ahead of their time. The frank and relatively straightforward manner in which Lawrence dealt with sexual attraction was ostensibly what got the books banned, perhaps in particular the mention of same-sex attraction – Ursula has an affair with a woman in The Rainbow and in Women in Love there is an undercurrent of attraction between the two principal male characters.
While writing Women in Love in Cornwall during 1916–17, Lawrence developed a strong and possibly romantic relationship with a Cornish farmer named William Henry Hocking. Although it is not clear if their relationship was sexual, Frieda said she believed it was. Lawrence's fascination with the theme of homosexuality, which is overtly manifested in Women in Love, could be related to his own sexual orientation. In a letter written during 1913, he writes, "I should like to know why nearly every man that approaches greatness tends to homosexuality, whether he admits it or not ..." He is also quoted as saying, "I believe the nearest I've come to perfect love was with a young coal-miner when I was about 16." However, given his enduring and robust relationship with Frieda it is likely that he was primarily "bi-curious" in the terminology of today, and whether he actually ever had homosexual relations remains an open question.
Eventually, Frieda obtained her divorce. The couple returned to Britain shortly before the outbreak of World War I and were married on 13 July 1914. At this time, Lawrence worked with London intellectuals and writers such as Dora Marsden and the people involved with The Egoist (T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and others). The Egoist, an important Modernist literary magazine, published some of his work. He was also reading and adapting Marinetti's Manifesto of Futurism. He also met at this time the young Jewish artist Mark Gertler, and they became (for a time) good friends; Lawrence would describe Gertler's 1916 anti-war painting, Merry-Go-Round as "the best modern picture I have seen: I think it is great and true." Gertler would inspire the character Loerke (a sculptor) in Women in Love. Frieda's German parentage and Lawrence's open contempt for militarism caused them to be viewed with suspicion in wartime Britain and to live in near destitution. The Rainbow (1915) was suppressed after an investigation into its alleged obscenity in 1915. Later, they were accused of spying and signaling to German submarines off the coast of Cornwall where they lived at Zennor. During this period he finished writing Women in Love. Not published until 1920, it is now widely recognised as an English novel of great dramatic force and intellectual subtlety.
In late 1917, after constant harassment by the armed forces authorities, Lawrence was forced to leave Cornwall at three days' notice under the terms of the Defence of the Realm Act. This persecution was later described in an autobiographical chapter of his Australian novel Kangaroo, published in 1923. He spent some months in early 1918 in the small, rural village of Hermitage near Newbury, Berkshire. He then lived for just under a year (mid-1918 to early 1919) at Mountain Cottage, Middleton-by-Wirksworth, Derbyshire, where he wrote one of his most poetic short stories, Wintry Peacock. Until 1919 he was compelled by poverty to shift from address to address and barely survived a severe attack of influenza.
After his experience of the war years, Lawrence began what he termed his "savage pilgrimage", a time of voluntary exile. He escaped from Britain at the earliest practical opportunity, to return only twice for brief visits, and with his wife spent the remainder of his life travelling. This wanderlust took him to Australia, Italy, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), the United States, Mexico and the South of France.
Lawrence abandoned Britain in November 1919 and headed south, first to the Abruzzo region in central Italy and then onwards to Capri and the Fontana Vecchia in Taormina, Sicily. From Sicily he made brief excursions to Sardinia, Monte Cassino, Malta, Northern Italy, Austria and Southern Germany. Many of these places appeared in his writings. New novels included The Lost Girl (for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction), Aaron's Rod and the fragment titled Mr Noon (the first part of which was published in the Phoenix anthology of his works, and the entirety in 1984). He experimented with shorter novels or novellas, such as The Captain's Doll, The Fox and The Ladybird. In addition, some of his short stories were issued in the collection England, My England and Other Stories. During these years he produced a number of poems about the natural world in Birds, Beasts and Flowers. Lawrence is widely recognised as one of the finest travel writers in the English language. Sea and Sardinia, a book that describes a brief journey undertaken in January 1921, is a recreation of the life of the inhabitants of Sardinia. Less well known is the memoir of Maurice Magnus, Memoirs of the Foreign Legion, in which Lawrence recalls his visit to the monastery of Monte Cassino. Other non-fiction books include two responses to Freudian psychoanalysis, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, and Movements in European History, a school textbook that was published under a pseudonym, a reflection of his blighted reputation in Britain.
In late February 1922 the Lawrences left Europe behind with the intention of migrating to the United States. They sailed in an easterly direction, first to Ceylon and then on to Australia. A short residence in Darlington, Western Australia, which included an encounter with local writer Mollie Skinner, was followed by a brief stop in the small coastal town of Thirroul, New South Wales, during which Lawrence completed Kangaroo, a novel about local fringe politics that also revealed a lot about his wartime experiences in Cornwall.
The Lawrences finally arrived in the United States in September 1922. Lawrence had several times discussed the idea of setting up a utopian community with several of his friends, having written to his old socialist friend in Eastwood, Willie Hopkin, in 1915,
"I want to gather together about twenty souls and sail away from this world of war and squalor and found a little colony where there shall be no money but a sort of communism as far as necessaries of life go, and some real decency… a place where one can live simply, apart from this civilisation… [with] a few other people who are also at peace and happy and live, and understand and be free…"
It was with this in mind that they made for the "bohemian" town of Taos, New Mexico, where Mabel Dodge Luhan, a prominent socialite, lived. Here they eventually acquired the 160-acre (0.65 km2) Kiowa Ranch, now called the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, in 1924 from Dodge Luhan in exchange for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers. He stayed in New Mexico for two years, with extended visits to Lake Chapala and Oaxaca in Mexico. While Lawrence was in New Mexico, he was visited by Aldous Huxley.
Editor and book designer Merle Armitage wrote a book about D. H. Lawrence in New Mexico. Taos Quartet in Three Movements was originally to appear in Flair Magazine, but the magazine folded before its publication. This short work describes the tumultuous relationship of D. H. Lawrence, his wife Frieda, artist Dorothy Brett and Mabel Dodge Sterne. Armitage took it upon himself to print 16 hardcover copies of this work for his friends. Richard Pousette-Dart executed the drawings for Taos Quartet, published in 1950.
While in the US, Lawrence rewrote and published Studies in Classic American Literature, a set of critical essays begun in 1917, and later described by Edmund Wilson as "one of the few first-rate books that have ever been written on the subject". These interpretations, with their insights into symbolism, New England Transcendentalism and the puritan sensibility, were a significant factor in the revival of the reputation of Herman Melville during the early 1920s. In addition, Lawrence completed a number of new fictional works, including The Boy in the Bush, The Plumed Serpent, St Mawr, The Woman who Rode Away, The Princess and assorted short stories. He also found time to produce some more travel writing, such as the collection of linked excursions that became Mornings in Mexico.
A brief voyage to England at the end of 1923 was a failure and he soon returned to Taos, convinced that his life as an author now lay in the United States. However, in March 1925 he suffered a near fatal attack of malaria and tuberculosis while on a third visit to Mexico. Although he eventually recovered, the diagnosis of his condition obliged him to return once again to Europe. He was dangerously ill and the poor health limited his ability to travel for the remainder of his life. The Lawrences made their home in a villa in Northern Italy, living near Florence while he wrote The Virgin and the Gipsy and the various versions of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). The latter book, his last major novel, was initially published in private ions in Florence and Paris and reinforced his notoriety. A story set once more in Nottinghamshire about a cross-class relationship between a Lady and her gamekeeper, it broke new ground in describing their sexual relationship in explicit yet literary language. His intention in writing the novel was to challenge the British establishment's taboos around sex, to enable men and women "…to think sex, fully, completely, honestly, and cleanly." Lawrence responded robustly to those who claimed to be offended, penning a large number of satirical poems, published under the title of "Pansies" and "Nettles", as well as a tract on Pornography and Obscenity.
The return to Italy allowed Lawrence to renew old friendships; during these years he was particularly close to Aldous Huxley, who was to the first collection of Lawrence's letters after his death, along with a memoir. With artist Earl Brewster, Lawrence visited a number of local archaeological sites in April 1927. The resulting essays describing these visits to old tombs were written up and collected together as Sketches of Etruscan Places, a book that contrasts the lively past with Benito Mussolini's fascism. Lawrence continued to produce fiction, including short stories and The Escaped Cock (also published as The Man Who Died), an unorthodox reworking of the story of Jesus Christ's Resurrection. During these final years Lawrence renewed a serious interest in oil painting. Official harassment persisted and an exhibition of some of these pictures at the Warren Gallery in London was raided by the police in mid 1929 and a number of works were confiscated.
Lawrence continued to write despite his failing health. In his last months he wrote numerous poems, reviews and essays, as well as a robust defence of his last novel against those who sought to suppress it. His last significant work was a reflection on the Book of Revelation, Apocalypse. After being discharged from a sanatorium, he died on 2 March 1930 at the Villa Robermond in Vence, France, from complications of tuberculosis. Frieda Weekley commissioned an elaborate headstone for his grave bearing a mosaic of his adopted emblem of the phoenix. After Lawrence's death, Frieda lived with Angelo Ravagli on the ranch in Taos and eventually married him in 1950. In 1935 Ravagli arranged, on Frieda's behalf, to have Lawrence's body exhumed and cremated and his ashes brought back to the ranch to be interred there in a small chapel amid the mountains of New Mexico.
Critic Terry Eagleton situates Lawrence on the radical right wing of politics, as hostile to democracy, liberalism, socialism, and egalitarianism, though never formally embracing fascism, as he died before it reached its zenith. Lawrence's opinion of the masses is discussed in detail by Professor John Carey in The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992), and he quotes a 1908 letter from Lawrence to Blanche Jennings:
If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I'd go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the "Hallelujah Chorus".
More of Lawrence's political ideas can be seen in his letters to Bertrand Russell around the year 1915, where he voices his opposition to enfranchising the working class and his hostility to the burgeoning labour movements, and disparages the French Revolution, referring to "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" as the "three-fanged serpent". Rather than a republic, Lawrence called for an absolute dictator and equivalent dictatrix to lord over the lower peoples. Bertrand Russell rejected Lawrence's mystical notions of blood consciousness vehemently, and thought that they had led straight to Auschwitz. In 1953 Russell, recalling his relationship with Lawrence in the First World War, characterised Lawrence as a "proto-German Fascist", saying "I was a firm believer in democracy, whereas he had developed the whole philosophy of Fascism before the politicians had thought of it." Later, Harrison drew attention to the veins of sadism and racism that run through Lawrence's writing.
Lawrence held seemingly contradictory views on feminism. The evidence of his written works, particularly his earlier novels, indicates a commitment to representing women as strong, independent and complex; as noted above he produced major works in which young, self-directing female characters were central. In his youth he supported extending the vote to women, and once wrote, “All women in their natures are like giantesses. They will break through everything and go on with their own lives.” However, a number of feminist critics, notably Kate Millett, have criticised, indeed ridiculed Lawrence's sexual politics, Millett claiming that he uses his female characters as mouthpieces to promote his creed of male supremacy, and that his story The Woman Who Rode Away showed Lawrence as a pornographic sadist with its portrayal of “human sacrifice performed upon the woman to the greater glory and potency of the male.” Brenda Maddox further highlights this story and two others written around the same time, St. Mawr and The Princess, as “masterworks of misogyny”.
Despite the inconsistency and at times inscrutability of his philosophical writings Lawrence continues to find an audience, and the ongoing publication of a new scholarly ion of his letters and writings has demonstrated the range of his achievement. Philosophers like Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari found in Lawrence's critique of Freud an important precursor of anti-Oedipal accounts of the unconscious that has been much influential.
Lawrence is best known for his novels Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley's Lover. In these books, Lawrence explores the possibilities for life within an industrial setting. In particular Lawrence is concerned with the nature of relationships that can be had within such a setting. Though often classed as a realist, Lawrence in fact uses his characters to give form to his personal philosophy. His depiction of sexuality, though seen as shocking when his work was first published in the early 20th century, has its roots in this highly personal way of thinking and being.
It is worth noting that Lawrence was very interested in the sense of touch and that his focus on physical intimacy has its roots in a desire to restore an emphasis on the body, and re-balance it with what he perceived to be Western civilisation's over-emphasis on the mind; writing in a 1929 essay "Men Must Work and Women As Well", he stated,
"Now we see the trend of our civilization, in terms of human feeling and human relation. It is, and there is no denying it, towards a greater and greater abstraction from the physical, towards a further and further physical separateness between men and women, and between individual and individual… It only remains for some men and women, individuals, to try to get back their bodies and preserve the flow of warmth, affection and physical unison." Phoenix II: Uncollected Writings, Ed. Warren Roberts and Harry T. Moore (New York) 1970
Lawrence's best-known short stories include "The Captain's Doll", "The Fox", "The Ladybird", "Odour of Chrysanthemums", "The Princess", "The Rocking-Horse Winner", "St Mawr", "The Virgin and the Gypsy" and "The Woman who Rode Away". (The Virgin and the Gypsy was published as a novella after he died.) Among his most praised collections is The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, published in 1914. His collection The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories, published in 1928, develops the theme of leadership that Lawrence also explored in novels such as Kangaroo, The Plumed Serpent and Fanny and Annie.
Although best known for his novels, Lawrence wrote almost 800 poems, most of them relatively short. His first poems were written in 1904 and two of his poems, "Dreams Old" and "Dreams Nascent", were among his earliest published works in The English Review. It has been claimed that his early works clearly place him in the school of Georgian poets, and indeed some of his poems appear in the Georgian Poetry anthologies. However, James Reeves in his book on Georgian Poetry, notes that Lawrence was never really a Georgian poet. Indeed, later critics contrast Lawrence's energy and dynamism with the complacency of Georgian poetry.
Just as the First World War dramatically changed the work of many of the poets who saw service in the trenches, Lawrence's own work saw a dramatic change, during his years in Cornwall. During this time, he wrote free verse influenced by Walt Whitman. He set forth his manifesto for much of his later verse in the introduction to New Poems. "We can get rid of the stereotyped movements and the old hackneyed associations of sound or sense. We can break down those artificial conduits and canals through which we do so love to force our utterance. We can break the stiff neck of habit […] But we cannot positively prescribe any motion, any rhythm."
Lawrence rewrote many of his novels several times to perfect them and similarly he returned to some of his early poems when they were collected in 1928. This was in part to fictionalise them, but also to remove some of the artifice of his first works. As he put it himself: "A young man is afraid of his demon and puts his hand over the demon's mouth sometimes and speaks for him." His best-known poems are probably those dealing with nature such as those in the collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers, including the Tortoise poems, and "Snake", one of his most frequently anthologised, displays some of his most frequent concerns: those of man's modern distance from nature and subtle hints at religious themes.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.
Look! We have come through! is his other work from the period of the end of the war and it reveals another important element common to much of his writings; his inclination to lay himself bare in his writings. Ezra Pound in his Literary Essays complained of Lawrence's interest in his own "disagreeable sensations" but praised him for his "low-life narrative." This is a reference to Lawrence's dialect poems akin to the Scots poems of Robert Burns, in which he reproduced the language and concerns of the people of Nottinghamshire from his youth.
Tha thought tha wanted ter be rid o' me.
'Appen tha did, an' a'.
Tha thought tha wanted ter marry an' se
If ter couldna be master an' th' woman's boss,
Tha'd need a woman different from me,
An' tha knowed it; ay, yet tha comes across
Ter say goodbye! an' a'.
(From "The Drained Cup")
Although Lawrence's works after his Georgian period are clearly in the modernist tradition, they were often very different from those of many other modernist writers, such as Pound. Pound's poems were often austere, with every word carefully worked on. Lawrence felt all poems had to be personal sentiments, and that a sense of spontaneity was vital. He called one collection of poems Pansies, partly for the simple ephemeral nature of the verse, but also as a pun on the French word panser, to dress or bandage a wound. "Pansies", as he made explicit in the introduction to New Poems, is also a pun on Blaise Pascal's Pensées. "The Noble Englishman" and "Don't Look at Me" were removed from the official ion of Pansies on the grounds of obscenity, which wounded him. Even though he lived most of the last ten years of his life abroad, his thoughts were often still on England. Published in 1930, just eleven days after his death, his last work Nettles was a series of bitter, nettling but often wry attacks on the moral climate of England.
O the stale old dogs who pretend to guard
the morals of the masses,
how smelly they make the great back-yard
wetting after everyone that passes.
(From "The Young and Their Moral Guardians")
Two notebooks of Lawrence's unprinted verse were posthumously published as Last Poems and More Pansies. These contain two of Lawrence's most famous poems about death, "Bavarian Gentians" and "The Ship of Death".
Lawrence's criticism of other authors often provides insight into his own thinking and writing. Of particular note is his Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays. In Studies in Classic American Literature Lawrence's responses to writers like Walt Whitman, Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe also shed light on his craft.
D. H. Lawrence had a lifelong interest in painting, which became one of his main forms of expression in his last years. His paintings were exhibited at the Warren Gallery in London's Mayfair in 1929. The exhibition was extremely controversial, with many of the 13,000 people visiting mainly to gawk. The Daily Express claimed, "Fight with an Amazon represents a hideous, bearded man holding a fair-haired woman in his lascivious grip while wolves with dripping jaws look on expectantly, [this] is frankly indecent". However, several artists and art experts praised the paintings. Gwen John, reviewing the exhibition in Everyman, spoke of Lawrence's "stupendous gift of self-expression" and singled out The Finding of Moses, Red Willow Trees and Boccaccio Story as "pictures of real beauty and great vitality". Others singled out Contadini for special praise. After a complaint, the police seized thirteen of the twenty-five paintings (including Boccaccio Story and Contadini). Despite declarations of support from many writers, artists and Members of Parliament, Lawrence was able to recover his paintings only by agreeing never to exhibit them in England again. The largest collection of the paintings is now at La Fonda de Taos hotel in Taos, New Mexico. Several others, including Boccaccio Story and Resurrection, are at the Humanities Research Centre of the University of Texas at Austin.
A heavily censored abridgement of Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf in 1928. This ion was posthumously re-issued in paperback there both by Signet Books and by Penguin Books in 1946. When the full unexpurgated ion of Lady Chatterley's Lover was published by Penguin Books in Britain in 1960, the trial of Penguin under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 became a major public event and a test of the new obscenity law. The 1959 act (introduced by Roy Jenkins) had made it possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit. One of the objections was to the frequent use of the word "fuck" and its derivatives and the word "cunt".
Various academic critics and experts of diverse kinds, including E. M. Forster, Helen Gardner, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams and Norman St John-Stevas, were called as witnesses, and the verdict, delivered on 2 November 1960, was "not guilty". This resulted in a far greater degree of freedom for publishing explicit material in the UK. The prosecution was ridiculed for being out of touch with changing social norms when the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked if it were the kind of book "you would wish your wife or servants to read".
The Penguin second ion, published in 1961, contains a publisher's dedication, which reads: "For having published this book, Penguin Books were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960. This ion is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of 'Not Guilty' and thus made D. H. Lawrence's last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom."
The obituaries shortly after Lawrence's death were, with the exception of the one by E. M. Forster, unsympathetic or hostile. However, there were those who articulated a more favourable recognition of the significance of this author's life and works. For example, his long-time friend Catherine Carswell summed up his life in a letter to the periodical Time and Tide published on 16 March 1930. In response to his critics, she wrote:
In the face of formidable initial disadvantages and lifelong delicacy, poverty that lasted for three quarters of his life and hostility that survives his death, he did nothing that he did not really want to do, and all that he most wanted to do he did. He went all over the world, he owned a ranch, he lived in the most beautiful corners of Europe, and met whom he wanted to meet and told them that they were wrong and he was right. He painted and made things, and sang, and rode. He wrote something like three dozen books, of which even the worst page dances with life that could be mistaken for no other man's, while the best are admitted, even by those who hate him, to be unsurpassed. Without vices, with most human virtues, the husband of one wife, scrupulously honest, this estimable citizen yet managed to keep free from the shackles of civilization and the cant of literary cliques. He would have laughed lightly and cursed venomously in passing at the solemn owls—each one secretly chained by the leg—who now conduct his inquest. To do his work and lead his life in spite of them took some doing, but he did it, and long after they are forgotten, sensitive and innocent people—if any are left—will turn Lawrence's pages and will know from them what sort of a rare man Lawrence was.
Aldous Huxley also defended Lawrence in his introduction to a collection of letters published in 1932. However, the most influential advocate of Lawrence's literary reputation was Cambridge literary critic F. R. Leavis, who asserted that the author had made an important contribution to the tradition of English fiction. Leavis stressed that The Rainbow, Women in Love, and the short stories and tales were major works of art. Later, the obscenity trials over the unexpurgated ion of Lady Chatterley's Lover in America in 1959, and in Britain in 1960, and subsequent publication of the full text, ensured Lawrence's popularity (and notoriety) with a wider public.
Since 2008, an annual D. H. Lawrence Festival has been organised in Eastwood to celebrate Lawrence's life and works; in September 2016, events were held in Cornwall to celebrate the centenary of Lawrence's connection with Zennor.