Saturday, 2 July 2011

Thoughts on Lady Chatterley


I recently read, for the first time, all of DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover . A marvellous book: rich, deep, & long-resonating, containing great truths & insights into maleness & masculinity, & yet reads like a woman's romance novel. To bridge that gap, to write so well for both sexes is rare indeed, & I can't help but think that, even with all the advantages & developments that writers have had at their disposal since then, still no-one has written better about men & women than this. And perhaps, in this present age, no-one would be allowed to.

The book was was written in 1928, while Lawrence was ill with tuberculosis, & was his last full-length novel. Two years later he would be dead. After finishing it he wrote an afterword - 'A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover' - discussing his thoughts behind its creation, & upon the state of man & woman generally. I am shaken by how prophetic his vision of the future - our future - has been. In particular, the replacing of the family, the tribe, the trade union, & the bond between the man & the woman - which all others emanate from - with the State.

The point he makes is that all states - capitalist or communist - have pushed for the weakening of the family unit, & of the power of the individual. Such is their nature. And Feminism has been state policy all over the western world for at least 40 years - most likely more - & an argument could be made that in fact it has been state policy since the beginnings of the 20th century, with the rise of industrialized labour, & the wartime work of women in WWII being a test run for what was to come: the forcible full-time employment of the one half of humanity which had always previously been exempt from wage-slavery, all under the banner of liberation. That Lawrence saw this, so clearly, within 10 years of the Russian revolution, takes my breath away.


As I said before, I can't help but think that, for all the 'freedoms' we now apparently enjoy, the sexual liberation & freedom of expression we are told we possess (in no small part due to censorship battles like 'the Lady Chatterley trial' of the 1960s), still no-one has written better of, or more deeply about, the eternal mystery of man & woman since then. Lawrence speaks of sex with awe & reverence, & when he does he is speaking of the whole, instead of the parts, of the terrible magnetic compulsion of our unity, instead of the petty grievances & greedy recriminations of our separation. We simply don't see ourselves in that way anymore. But perhaps one day we will again.

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  Extracts from A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1928

Everybody, pretty well, takes it for granted that as soon as we can find a possible way out of it, marriage will be abolished. The Soviet abolishes marriage: or did. If new “modern” states spring up, they will almost certainly follow suit. They will try to find some social substitute for marriage, and abolish the hated yoke of conjugality. State support of motherhood, State support of children, and independence of women. It is on the programme of every great scheme of reform. And it means, of course, the abolition of marriage.

Do we, then, want to break marriage? If we do break it, it means we all fall to a far greater extent under the direct sway of the State. Do we want to fall under the direct sway of the State? Any State? For my part, I don’t.

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The sense of isolation,  followed by the sense of menace and of fear, is bound to arise as the feeling of oneness and community with our fellow men declines, and the feeling of individualism and personality, which is existence in isolation, increases. The so-called “cultured” classes are the first to develop “personality” and individualism, and the first to fall into this state of unconscious menace and fear. The working classes retain the old blood-warmth of oneness and togetherness some decades longer. Then they lose it too. And then class-consciousness becomes rampant, and class-hate. Class-hate and class-consciousness are only a sign that the old togetherness, the old blood warmth has collapsed, and every man is really aware of himself in apartness. Then we have these hostile groupings of men for the sake of opposition, strife. Civil strife becomes a necessary condition of self-assertion.

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The blood of man and the blood of woman are two eternally different streams, that can never be mingled. Even scientifically we know it. But therefore they are the two rivers that encircle the whole of life, and in marriage the circle is complete, and in sex the two rivers touch and renew one another, without ever commingling or confusing. We know it. The phallus is a column of blood that fills the valley of blood of a woman. The great river of male blood touches to its depths the great river of female blood—yet neither breaks its bounds.

Two rivers of blood, are man and wife, two distinct eternal streams, that have the power of touching and communing and so renewing, making new one another, without any breaking of the subtle confines, any confusing or commingling. And the phallus is the connecting link between the two rivers, that establishes the two streams in a oneness, and gives out of their duality a single circuit, forever. And this, this oneness gradually accomplished throughout a life-time in twoness, is the highest achievement of time or eternity. From it all things human spring, children and beauty and well-made things; all the true creations of humanity. And all we know of the will of God is that He wishes this, this oneness, to take place, fulfilled over a lifetime, this oneness within the great dual blood-stream of humanity.

Man dies, and woman dies, and perhaps separate the souls go back to the creator. Who knows? But we know that the oneness of the blood-stream of man and woman in marriage completes the universe, as far as humanity is concerned, completes the streaming of the sun and the flowing of the stars.



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6 comments:

  1. I only read half of this book before I got too bored to carry on, probably because it reads like a romance novel. Every time Lady Chattlerly and Mellors got together, while Clifford waxed philosophical, oblivious to everything, including himself, it occurred to me that this book would have NO PREMISE AT ALL IF LADY CHATTERLY WOULD JUST GET ON TOP.

    I put it down a few months ago. I'm not the type that needs to finish reading books I hate. The only reason I'm bothered is because the best book recommendations usually come from other books. I started reading Lawrence on a recommendation from Anais Nin, who I love, so I feel a little guilty quitting this one. What do you think? Should I finish it? Maybe he has another book with a more likable main character?

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  2. this book would have NO PREMISE AT ALL IF LADY CHATTERLY WOULD JUST GET ON TOP
    :)

    I love Anais Nin's journals (particularly the middle two or three) as much as anything else I've ever read, though her stories bore the teats off me.

    Lady Chatterley is of interest because of what it is trying to say, the things he is trying to address, not as a fantasy tale in itself. It will have interest to you in as much as you are interested in those ideas. I've not had much luck with his other books in the past myself. Had a go at his final work 'Apocalypse' but found that one awfully dull, so stopped after 30 pages or so.
    Don't finish books you hate. Life's too short.

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  3. The discussions were good. But then Connie would just start thinking about how she's hot for the gamekeeper, but not hot enough to do more than just lie there. Seriously, the gratuitous sex scenes put me to sleep. I think that's the real reason it was banned. The class conflict part was interesting though.

    The little girl named Connie, does she come back? Is she Mellors' kid? Does Lady Chatterly get knocked up? I just need to know that it gets better. I can trudge through the rest.

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  4. Bertha returns & starts up a torrid affair with Clifford, whose newly awakened passion enables him to walk again. Mrs Bolton reveals she is not the middle-aged nurse she appears to be but in actuality Edward Chatterley, the reckless twin brother of Anthea Chatterley, back to seek revenge on the house for his sister's earlier suicide. Connie's older sister Hilda decides she would like a bit of the rough too & so hires 12 new gardeners of her own who she employs in many inventive but unsanitary ways. There's a big fire, the manor burns down & Mellors gets pregnant. It's all go the last 20 pages.

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  5. LOL. you should update the wikipedia.

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