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 dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. 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.” Later, the literary critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness.
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 civilization’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
In his later years Lawrence developed the potentialities of the short novel form in St Mawr, The Virgin and the Gypsy and The Escaped Cock.