Angry, difficult D. H. Lawrence

2a728d22-abd4-11e6-9d1d-8992545bee51Seamus Perry at the Times Literary Supplement:

Modern writers are well known for being difficult but in D. H. Lawrence’s case the phenomenon is less a matter of obscure references or cryptic expressions, and more like what we mean when we say we have a difficult colleague. He could be good company and was capable of great generosity and kindness, but for much of the time he was clearly an impossible person – prickly, sometimes fantastically cantankerous, permanently subject to what he called “spiritual dyspepsia”. This was no doubt partly due to the state of his health, which was always precarious, though there was also an extraordinary tenacity to him: he often gives the impression of someone who used moral fury and bitter denunciation as a way of keeping the show on the road. No one likes to be rejected, but there is something wholly and characteristically individual in his outburst when Heinemann turned down Paul Morel, the first version ofSons and Lovers (1913): “Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today”. The affronts he received were typically cast, like that, as exemplifying a catastrophe affecting English, sometimes Western, culture at large; and his relationships were similarly obliged to symbolize the plight of the modern spirit – “to understand Middleton”, he once said of John Middleton Murry, with whom he had perhaps his most formative male friendship, “you must understand the whole suicidal tendency that has overspread Europe since 1880”. The knock-backs of his writing life were always felt on such a huge scale, as though vastly more was at stake than merely the fate of his books.

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