Frieda von Richthofen was fond of telling people that she was as interesting and important as her husband, D H Lawrence. Not everyone agreed. To the unconverted, the most extraordinary thing about her – putting aside her loud voice and immense capacity for smoking – was what might be called her freedom from sexual inhibitions.
This had its fans, naturally enough. Her lover Otto Gross, the schizophrenic Austrian psychologist, hailed her as ‘the woman of the future’. Lawrence (with whom she probably had sex within twenty minutes of their meeting, in 1912, despite the fact that she was married at the time) told a friend, ‘I could stand on my head for joy, to think that I have found her.’ Less than two months after his death in 1930, she spent the night with his quondam friend John Middleton Murry, who wrote in his journal afterwards: ‘With her, and with her for the first time in my life, I knew what fulfilment in love really meant.’ She seems to have been a lot of fun.
She was obviously more than that – a real inspiration to the men who knew her; to Lawrence, most of all. It is hard to imagine The Rainbow or Women in Love being written without her influence and support. I’m still not sure, however, that this justifies a joint biography