Frances Wilson

’Twas the Fight before Christmas

If the Ghost of Christmas Past were to drag his chains to the end of my bed on 24 December, I’d ask him to bypass the disappointment of my childhood stockings and fly me back a hundred years instead, to see the D H Lawrence show. The battles between Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, were a spectator sport and Christmas is guaranteed to bring out the worst in a couple. The year 1917 was a terrible one for the Lawrences: after being evicted from Cornwall on suspicion of signalling to German submarines, they were spied on by the police in London. The previous Christmas they had sung folk songs around the piano in Zennor, but now they were homeless and spent the period holed up in a borrowed cottage in Berkshire. Lawrence had been in a foul mood since the war began, but the Cornish debacle, together with the suppression of The Rainbow in 1915 and his failure to find a publisher prepared to take on Women in Love, turned him into a spluttering, fuming volcano, ready to flare up at the slightest provocation.

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