Sons and Lovers Author/Context
David Herbert Lawrence (called Bert) was born on September 11, 1885 to a miner and his wife in the small village of Eastwood near Nottingham, England. Arthur and Lydia Lawrence, his parents, had a troublesome marriage from the start: his father, a miner, was content to stay on the mining grounds while his mother yearned to leave. They already had three children by the time David Herbert was born: George Arthur, William Ernest (called Ernest), and Emily (their fifth and last child would be Ada, who was born twenty-months after Lawrence).
Lawrence was very close to his mother, so much that even he admitted that his relationship with his mother interfered with his own relationships with women. Lawrence confessed at one point that he looked at his mother with a sexual way. His relationship with his father, however, was very much like Paul Morel's - both young men sided with their mothers and clung to them. They did not hate their fathers, but detested how their fathers treated their mothers. After Ernest went to London and George married, Lawrence once said that he was the man in the house. He had always been more comfortable with women; as a young boy, he was sickly and weak and preferred to stay at home with his mother and sisters rather than play with the boys.
Lawrence was a very intelligent and clever child, excelling in reading and writing. He attended the Nottingham High School on scholarship. Later, he even taught Jessie Chambers, whose family he was friendly with, to speak French.
Lawrence became friendly with the Chambers family when he and his mother began visiting their farm. He bonded with Jessie's older brothers and father before he got to know her. Jessie was reserved and shy with him, because she felt inferior to Lawrence. The Lawrence family was impressed by Lawrence's knowledge of literature and philosophy. Lawrence cared for Jessie very deeply, but he did not feel any attraction for her. Jessie Chambers is the "Miriam" of Sons and Lovers. His relationship with Jessie fluctuated between love and hate; he intensely disliked the power she held over him. His sister, Ada, introduced Lawrence to Louie Burrows: all three of them were trained to be teachers at the same school.
He ended his engagement with Jessie and began another one with Louie Burrows in the last days of his mother's life. His mother died on December 10, 1910; Lawrence was ill and grief-stricken for months. Prior to his mother's death, Lawrence started writing Sons and Lovers, which he called Paul Morel first. Sons and Lovers is Lawrence's most autobiographical novel - Lawrence drew upon his own memories and experiences to write the story of Paul Morel.
He met Frieda von Richthofen Weekley, who was six years his senior. Frieda was already married, but she ran off with Lawrence to the Continent, leaving her three children and husband behind. They married on July 13, 1914. They resided in England from 1914 to 1919 because of World War I, in various towns and cities. They were expelled from Cornwall in 1917 because the police believed then to be spies for the enemy. After the war, they left for Italy in November 1919, staying at the Villa Fontana Vecchia until 1922.
Lawrence published a number of novels, essays, and poems including The White Peacock (1911), The Prussian Officer (1914), Sons and Lovers (1913), The Lost Girl (1920), Women in Love (1921), Aaron's Rod (1922), Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923), Studies in Classic American Literature (1923), The Plumed Serpent (1926), and Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). The Rainbow was published in November 1915 but was suppressed. He won the James Tait Black Memorial prize for The Lost Girl.
After their stay in Italy, the Lawrences travelled to San Francisco, California; Taos, New Mexico; and Mexico. Lawrence was told in 1925 that he had tuberculosis and did not have much time to live. He died in a sanatorium on March 2, 1930.
Lawrence was a gifted poet, painter and novelist, although some of his works may be considered pornographic. Editors cut out highly sexually-charged scenes in Sons and Lovers. In 1929, some of his paintings in the Warren Gallery in London were seized because they were too obscene. Whether or not Lawrence's fascinations and fixations were too sexual for the general audience, his appeal to the human mind and soul remains unchanged.
Becker, George J. D.H. Lawrence. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. 1980.
Callow, Philip. Son and Lover: The Young D.H. Lawrence. New York: Stein and Day. 1975.
Kermode, Frank. D.H. Lawrence. New York: The Viking Press. 1973.
Lawrence, D.H. Sons and Lovers. New York: Random House, Inc. 1962.
Maddox, Brenda. D.H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1994.
Preston, Peter. A D.H. Lawrence Chronology. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1994.