D H Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider by John Worthen - review by Peter Washington

Peter Washington

Serious About Sex

D H Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider

By

Allen Lane The Penguin Press 494pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

In most people’s minds, the letters DHL refer to a delivery service. When I was at school forty years ago they stood for something quite different and much more exciting (unless you happened to be a van driver). David Herbert Lawrence’s reputation as a serious writer had been rising since his early death in 1930. Lawrence was seen as someone with a genuinely modern sensibility who was neither experimental nor difficult in the manner of Joyce or Proust. Although original, he presented an accessible picture of a recognisable world. By the late 1950s he was firmly established as a classic author, and in 1960 his fame received an enormous boost when the publishers of his last novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (issued more than three decades earlier in Italy but only recently published unexpurgated in England), were prosecuted for obscenity.

The subsequent trial gripped the national imagination. As Larkin noted in ‘Annus Mirabilis’, Lady Chatterley was instantly identified with the campaigns for sexual liberation which dominated those years. When the book was charged with ‘tending to deprave’ its readers, Lawrence, already celebrated by F R Leavis as part of the

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