The Digressive, Prescient Brilliance of DH Lawrence’s Essays

Geoff Dyer at the New Statesman:

The best parts of “Art and Morality” (1925) are not about art or morality but – via an extraordinary speculative detour into the lives of ancient Egyptians – about how the “Kodak” habit of photographing oneself all the time has fundamentally changed our sense of ourselves: a prophetic diagnosis of a defining malaise of the iPhone era. In an editorial note to “Introduction to Pictures” the scholar James T Boulton rightly points out that the essay “does not once refer to pictures”. This tendency to stray from stated intentions was best expressed by Lawrence himself on 5 September 1914. “Out of sheer rage I’ve begun my book about Thomas Hardy. It will be about anything but Thomas Hardy I am afraid – queer stuff – but not bad.”

Intended as part of a series called “Writers of the Day”, the manuscript, which had veered far from any template, was not accepted for publication. Lawrence wanted it to leave the original brief still further behind and began recasting something that had been “mostly philosophicalish, slightly about Hardy” into a more explicit statement of his “‘philosophy’ (forgive the word)”.

more here.