Firstly let me tell you that i am not a great fan of D. H. Lawrence. I have him on this site merely to show how i like his ideas. His flowery language, although very much a product of his era, is not something i champion in any genre, never mind erotica…
However, he did have some very interesting ideas; somewhat naive but still interesting. If you read Lady Chatterley’s Lover: AND A Propos of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (Penguin Classics) you will find these ideas are nicely explained by the man himself.
Despite popular belief, Lawrence did not just write an erotic novel, although it was certainly erotic. No, he was also, like many writers of his era, a great social commentator. Alive in a rapidly industrialising era, Lawrence recognises its dispiriting effects through the characters in his novel; mostly through Mellors.
For those who have not read the novel, Mellors is Lady Chatterley’s Lover; he is the man Connie (Lady Chatterley) transgresses social boundaries to be with as often as she can. The narrative voice given to Mellors is opposed to all the industrial and financial might of modernity:-
But even in its sleep it was an uneasy, cruel world, stirring with the noise of a train or some great lorry on the road, and flashing with some rosy lightning-flash from the furnaces. It was a world of iron and coal, the cruelty of iron and the smoke of coal, and the endless, endless greed that drove it all.
In the novel Lawrence does not patronise us by offering solutions to the “world of iron and coal”, he recognises that there is no safe haven to escape the spread of the modern machine. But here we get to the point of Lawrence’s idea. Mellors eventually begins to see that life, or his potential life, with Connie, is a measure he can take to escape the world that brings him down. He begins to see her as an ally:-
‘I stand for the touch of bodily awareness between human beings,’ he said to himself, ‘and the touch of tenderness. And she is my mate. And it is a battle against the money, and the machine, and the insentient ideal monkeyishness of the world. And she will stand behind me there. Thank God I’ve got a woman!
And here in the novel Lawrence drives his point home a little further using his protagonsit Mellors again to tell his readers that there is an escape route from modernity if only they would slow down and change their philosophy:-
If only you could tell them that living and spending isn’t the same thing! But it’s no good. If they were educated to live instead of earn and spend, they could manage very happily on twenty-five shillings…And that’s the only way to solve the industrial problem: train the people to be able to live and live in handsomeness, without needing to spend.
In A Propos (Lady Chatterley’s Lover: AND A Propos of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (Penguin Classics)) Lawrence writes “Poor England, she will have to regenerate the sex in her young people, before they can do any regeneraring of her.
Perhaps I shall have given some notion of my feeling about sex, for which I have been so monotonously abused. When a ‘serious’ young man said to me the other day: ‘I can’t believe in the regeneration of England by sex, you know,’ I could say, ‘I’m sure you can’t.’ He has no sex, anyhow: poor, self-conscious, uneasy, narcissus-monk as he was. And he didn’t know what it meant, to have any. To him, people only had minds, or no minds, mostly no minds…all sex means to them [is] the trimmings. The regeneration of England with that? Good God!
In order to free man from the enslavement of modernity, Lawrence saw salvation in savage sensuality. However, in A Propos Lawrence does highlight the futility in trying to overturn the modernist machine. That is not what his aim is. His aim is to offer us ways in which we may clear a space and momentarily defy the dispiriting effects of the modern world, simply by learning “how to live”.
Perhaps D. H. Lawrence can offer us a little solace in our times of recession?
Maybe we should embrace each other a little more and stop concerning ourselves with the acquisition of things we do not really need?
Maybe we should all have lots of sex. I am sure Lawrence would approve!