D.H Lawrence

D.H. Lawrence (11th September 1885-2nd March 1930) was an English novelist, short story writer, and poet. He was a prolific writer who often went unappreciated in his own time and was accused of writing obscene and inappropriate texts. Today, he is celebrated as one of the twentieth century's best and most unique writers.

Get started Sign up for free
D.H Lawrence D.H Lawrence

Create learning materials about D.H Lawrence with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Table of contents

    Author D.H. Lawrence: biography

    D.H. Lawrence was born David Herbert Lawrence on 11th September 1885 in Nottinghamshire. His father was a coal miner, so Lawrence grew up in a working-class family. His family environment was turbulent with his parents continually fighting. Lawrence was also frequently very ill as a young child. He wrote from a young age, taking much inspiration from his personal life.

    D.H. Lawrence, Portrait of D.H. Lawrence, StudySmarterFig. 1 - D.H. Lawrence's works are important reflections of modernity and industrialisation.

    D.H. Lawrence: education and career

    Lawrence attended primary school in Nottinghamshire and was awarded a scholarship to attend secondary school. He then began to work as what was known as a pupil-teacher from a relatively young age. He received a scholarship to study at Nottingham University College in 1906, where he completed a teaching degree.

    Lawrence's first published work, a short story entitled 'A Prelude', was included in the Nottinghamshire Guardian the following year. After receiving his degree, Lawrence began working as a teacher full-time. During this period, he had several romantic relationships and was engaged for a time. He later broke this engagement off.

    D.H. Lawrence had multiple intense romantic relationships as a young man, one of the most notable of which was with a young woman named Jessie Chambers. The pair met as teens when Lawrence was purchasing eggs and milk from Hagg's Farm, where the Chambers family lived. He and Jessie struck up a friendship, bonding over a love of books. Many now surmise that Jessie was Lawrence's first true love. He cared for her deeply, often asking for her help and advice with his literary work. The character of Miriam from Sons and Lovers (1913) was based on Jessie Chambers. However, Jessie was unhappy with this portrayal, which drove a wedge between the two. Their relationship seems to have dwindled after this.

    During his time as a teacher, Lawrence became engaged to an old friend, Louie Burrows. This relationship was short-lived and came in the wake of his mother's death and his split from Jessie. Lawrence broke the engagement off not long after it began.

    In 1910, The White Peacock, Lawrence's first novel, was published. This was a difficult time for Lawrence as he also lost his mother in the same year. This loss devastated him, and he spent a great deal of time grieving over her.

    In 1912, he published the novel The Trespasser. This was based on the diaries of a teaching colleague of Lawrence's that detailed an affair she'd had. Throughout 1911 and 1912, the ill health that had plagued Lawrence resurfaced as he caught pneumonia. The toll this took on him meant a teaching career was no longer viable.

    In 1913, Lawrence met Frieda Weekley, a German woman six years older than him who was married to one of his former university professors. Frieda and Lawrence fell in love, eloping to Frieda's family home in Germany. The couple spent time travelling around mainland Europe, eventually marrying in 1914. Being released from the profession of teaching and having the ability to travel seemed to free Lawrence. This can be seen in how his writing gradually developed into looser and more exploratory prose.

    D.H. Lawrence, Photo of Frieda Lawrence, StudySmarterFig. 2 - An older Frieda Lawrence photographed by Carl Van Vechten.

    Also in 1913, Lawrence published his next novel, Sons and Lovers. It proved controversial because of its explicit sexual scenes, even though the text had already been censored somewhat by Lawrence's editor Edward Garnett, whom he had met in 1911. Sons and Lovers would become one of Lawrence's most intriguing works.

    Known today mainly as a novelist, Lawrence also wrote poems, short stories, and travel books. He published the poetry collection Love Poems and Others in 1913 and the travel book Twilight in Italy in 1916.

    Living between mainland Europe and Britain, Lawrence wrote his next two novels, both part of the same series. The Rainbow (1915) and Women in Love (1920) are still some of Lawrence's best-known novels today. Both novels explore the lives of women and challenge conventional ideas of gender. As a result, they were temporarily banned due to perceived obscenity.

    Lawrence and Frieda then moved back to England, living in Cornwall during the First World War. They struggled greatly during this time. The couple had aroused the suspicion of the British authorities because Lawrence had openly criticised militaries before and Frieda had a German background. They were thought to be a potential security threat to the British war effort, being accused of spying.

    D.H. Lawrence: later life and death

    After the war, Lawrence and Frieda left Britain to travel the world extensively. They visited many countries, including Italy, Australia, and America, throughout the 1920s. In this period, Lawrence published Sea and Sardinia (1921), Kangaroo (1923), and The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories (1928). In 1925, Lawrence was hit by a bout of tuberculosis that would affect him for the rest of his life. The Lawrences settled in a villa near Florence during the writer's recovery.

    In 1928, the defining novel of Lawrence's career, Lady Chatterley's Lover, was published in full in Italy and in a highly censored version in America. British censorship boards refused to publish the novel due to its explicit language and detailed sexual scenes. The novel was not published in its entirety in Britain until 1960, after the infamous 'Lady Chatterley Trial' took place.

    Lawrence's poor health finally caught up to him on 2nd March 1930. He passed away from tuberculosis in France and was buried locally. A few years later, Frieda instructed that his remains be cremated and moved to the area in New Mexico in which they had lived for a period in the 1920s. She was buried beside him upon her death in 1956.

    D.H. Lawrence: writing style

    Lawrence's writing style developed as he aged. In his early works, his writing was more old-fashioned and strictly structured. However, Lawrence's style changed after leaving his job as a teacher and travelling. His work became characterised by its lyricism and ability to portray full, developed worlds. Lawrence's style focused on depicting the world through the senses. This aided readers in experiencing his novels fully. Lawrence also liked to explore philosophy and interrogate the meaning of life.

    One of the defining aspects of Lawrence's writing style is his eroticism and investigations of human sexuality. He wrote honestly about sexuality in a way that was viewed as obscene in the early twentieth century. Lawrence encouraged both men and women to explore this side of life with curiosity and without shame. This was highly unusual and quite groundbreaking at the time.

    Can you identify these characteristics in the Lawrence novels you have read?

    D.H. Lawrence: books

    Lawrence wrote many novels in his lifetime. He often explored love, intimacy, and sexuality, investigating the intricacies of human relationships. Many of Lawrence's novels were also censored in their time for perceived obscenity. Below is a selection of some of his key texts.

    D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers (1913)

    Sons and Lovers is a bildungsroman about the complicated and dysfunctional Morel family. Gertrude Morel, the mother of the family, feels dissatisfied early into her marriage to her working-class miner husband, Walter. She is used to a middle-class life, and Walter is also often dangerous and drunk. Gertrude, therefore, pours all her love and affection into her children, particularly her sons William and Paul. William grows into a codependent relationship with his mother, relying on her for his every emotional need. However, unusually, she also relies on him for her needs.

    The mother and son walked down Station Street, feeling the excitement of lovers having an adventure together. (Sons and Lovers, Ch. 5)

    When William moves out and gets engaged, Gertrude feels abandoned and jealous. She is then devastated when William passes away from pneumonia.

    Gertrude turns her attention to Paul, her second eldest son, and treats him just as she has treated William. This causes complications for Paul as his codependency with his mother creates difficulties in his romantic relationships. He subconsciously compares every woman to his mother and feels that none of them measure up. Paul is left desolate when Gertrude passes away from cancer, isolating himself totally.

    Lawrence uses the literary techniques of juxtaposition and imagery to explore the novel's themes. Gertrude's relationships with her sons heavily reference Freud's idea of the Oedipal Complex.

    Freud's Oedipal Complex theorised that all young boys idealise their mothers and are jealous of and competitive with their fathers. This impacts their development into adulthood.

    D.H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)

    Lady Chatterley's Lover was Lawrence's most famous and most controversial work. It follows Connie Reid, or Lady Chatterley. She is a wealthy woman who has married the aristocratic Clifford Chatterley. However, Clifford goes to war and returns paralysed from the waist down. He throws himself into writing and surrounds himself with intellectuals as distractions. Connie feels isolated by her husband and this new world he has created in their home. Clifford also becomes increasingly reliant on a nurse he has hired. Connie dislikes this new development intensely.

    Connie eventually begins an affair with Oliver Mellors, the family's groundskeeper. He is a passionate man who's not afraid to show his feelings. This is a new and refreshing experience for Connie. Lawrence includes intense sex scenes between the two characters in which they become more and more emotionally connected.

    But the little forked flame between me and you: there you are! That's what I abide by, and will abide by. (Lady Chatterley's Lover, Ch. 19)

    Connie ends up pregnant with Oliver's child. This was a hugely taboo plot line as Connie and Oliver are from very different social classes. They are both also married and try to obtain divorces from their respective spouses. Lady Chatterley's Lover ends with Connie and Oliver awaiting their divorces so they can be together.

    Lawrence's novel was considered too obscene to be published in Britain until 1960. Penguin Books was taken to court by the British government that year for trying to publish the novel. This was under the new Obscene Publications Act. In court, Penguin argued that Lady Chatterley's Lover should no longer be a banned text. They brought in many renowned writers, like E.M. Forster, to argue that the novel had literary value. The jury decided that Lady Chatterley's Lover was not obscene and was published to record sales.

    The sexual themes in Lady Chatterley's Lover are found in most of Lawrence's work. Lawrence wrote openly and honestly about sexuality in a way few of his contemporaries did. This led to accusations of his writing being perverse and obscene.

    Unusually, he also included homosexual characters in his writings. For example, there is intense homoerotic tension between the characters of Rupert and Gerald in Women in Love. At the close of the text, Rupert suggests to his wife that a person can only ever truly be satisfied by relationships with both sexes, suggesting a bisexual nature.

    Including these kinds of relationships in his works has led to much speculation about D.H. Lawrence's sexuality. Some think he may have had homoerotic encounters with one of Jessie Chambers's brothers when they were both teenagers. Frieda even believed he had an affair while they were married with a Cornish farmer named William Henry Hocking.

    D.H. Lawrence: poems

    While best recognised as a novelist, D.H. Lawrence was also a prolific poet, writing hundreds of poems. As with his novels, Lawrence's poetic style developed as he aged. He began writing poems with strict formal structures, later moving into free verse. Below is one of Lawrence's lesser-known poems.

    D.H. Lawrence: 'Self-Pity' (1914)

    'Self-Pity' is a concise poem consisting only of four lines.

    I never saw a wild thing

    sorry for itself.

    A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough

    without ever having felt sorry for itself.

    'Self-Pity' is written in free verse and is an introspective look at human nature. This is a common theme in Lawrence's work.

    The poem muses that humans are the only animals that can feel sorry for themselves. Other animals exist without these burdens. 'Self-Pity' is a typical modernist poem.

    Modernism as a genre began as a reaction to Victorian literary techniques and destructive world events, particularly World War I. Modernist texts focused on the fact that life was chaotic, fragmented, and difficult to control. They also emphasised that each individual experiences things differently, so there are no set truths in life. Famous modernists include Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot.

    D.H. Lawrence: facts

    In his relatively short life, D.H. Lawrence both experienced and wrote a great deal. This is a key reason why he is now one of the best-known literary figures of the twentieth century, frequently studied and written about.

    • Sons and Lovers is often considered a semi-autobiographical novel as Lawrence based many of the characters on people in his own life.
    • Growing up, Lawrence's childhood nickname was 'Bert'.
    • Lawrence was engaged multiple times before he married Frieda in 1914.
    • Lawrence was friends with many other famous literary figures, including Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, and Aldous Huxley.
    • The Rainbow and Women in Love were originally one novel called The Sisters.

    D.H Lawrence - Key takeaways

    • D.H. Lawrence was an early twentieth-century novelist, short story writer, and poet. Under appreciated in his time, he is now renowned for his literary works.
    • Lawrence came from a working-class background, winning scholarships to continue his education.
    • Two of Lawrence's most important novels are Sons and Lovers (1913) and Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928).
    • Lawrence also wrote poetry, including the 1914 poem 'Self-Pity'.
    • During his life, many of Lawrence's works were banned or censored for perceived obscenity.
    Frequently Asked Questions about D.H Lawrence

    What did Lawrence do to show his ideas?

    Lawrence showcased his beliefs and ideas best through his work.

    What is D.H. Lawrence best known for?

    Lawrence is perhaps best known for his controversial 1928 novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover.

    What nationality is Lawrence?

    Lawrence was English.

    Why was D.H. Lawrence's work controversial?

    Lawrence's work was controversial because of his frank depictions of sexuality and his challenging of gender conventions.

    Was D.H. Lawrence married?

    Yes, Lawrence married Frieda Weekley in 1914 and they remained together until his death in 1930.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    In what year was D.H. Lawrence born?

    How did Lawrence continue his education?

    What genre is Sons and Lovers?


    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team English Literature Teachers

    • 13 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner