Monday, 20 February 2012

Jelly-boned swines

June of 1912 was a bad month for D. H. Lawrence. His lover, Frieda — a married woman with whom he had recently fled to Germany — was being begged to return to the family home in England by her husband (and Lawrence's former professor), Ernest Weekley. In addition, publisher William Heinemann had just decided to reject the first draft of what would eventually become Lawrence's third novel, Sons and Lovers.

Lawrence was furious at his predicament, and so wrote the following letter to his friend and mentor, Edward Garnett, to let off some steam. The paragraph in which he curses the people of England is particularly fantastic.

Sons and Lovers was published the next year, and has since garnered enormous praise. In 1914, Lawrence wed Frieda; they remained married until his death in 1930.

(Source: The Letters of D. H. Lawrence (Cambridge Edition) (Volume 1); Image: D. H. Lawrence in Mexico, 1923, via.)

3 July 1912

Dear Garnett,

Your news of the Trespasser is rather cheering. Everything else is pretty bad. Weekley it seems, is going half crazed. He is fearfully in love with Frieda. There are storms of letters from England, imploring her to renounce for ever all her ideas of love, to go back and give her life to her husband and her children. Weekley would have her back, on those conditions. The children are miserable, missing her so much. She lies on the floor in misery — and then is fearfully angry with me because I won't say "stay for my sake." I say "decide what you want most, to live with me and share my rotten chances, or go back to security, and your children — decide for yourself — Choose for yourself." And then she almost hates me, because I won't say "I love you — stay with me whatever happens." I do love her. If she left me, I do not think I should be alive six months hence. And she won't leave me, I think. God, how I love her — and the agony of it. She is a woman who also makes a man suffer, by being blind to him when her anger or resentment is roused. She is staying in Wolfratshausen with her sister's children for the four nights — her sister is away, and the nurse has just left. The letters today have nearly sent us both crazy. I didn't know life was so hard. But really, for me, it's been a devilish time ever since I was born. But for the fact that when one's got a job on, one ought to go through with it, I'd prefer to be dead any minute. I can't bear it when Frieda is away. I could bang my head against the wall, for relief. It's a bit too much.

And William Heinemann — may his name be used as a curse and an eternal infamy — kindly sends me this letter in the thick of it all.

I had a rather nice letter from somebody — "Hugh Walpole." Is he anybody? Could I wring three ha'porth of help out of his bloody neck. 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. They've got white of egg in their veins, and their spunk is that watery it's a marvel they can breed. They can but frog-spawn — the gibberers! God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wish-wash. Exterminate them, slime.

I could curse for hours and hours — God help me.

It doesn't matter a bit what Miss Whale tells any inquiring lady. The trouble is, that Weekley won't get a divorce. I want Frieda free.

Why, why, why was I born an Englishman! — my cursed, rotten-boned, pappy-hearted countrymen, why was I sent to them. Christ on the cross must have hated his countrymen. "Crucify me, you swine." — "Put in your nails and spear, you bloody nasal sour-blooded swine, I laugh last." God, how I hate them — I nauseate — they stink in sourness.

They deserve it that every great man should drown himself. But not I (I am a bit great).

My dear Garnett, at this eleventh hour I love you and understand you a bit. Don't sympathise with me, don't.

Yours sincerely,


P.S. And Heinemann, I can see, is quite right, as a business man.