DH Lawrence

Biography

Dying game


Lawrence and Frieda tried living first at altitude in Switzerland, at Gsteig, and then went down to the Mediterranean island of Port Cros, but a small hotel in Bandol, in the south of France, by the sea – as in Fiascherino, Taormina, Thirroul and Spotorno – suited Lawrence better than anywhere.  He was now no longer writing fiction, but he created many of the poems in Pansies during the winter of 1928-29; and he also wrote short personal articles for newspaper publication, as he targeted yet another audience with his writing.  As a friend commented, 'he challenged everything'.  The fact of his writing itself was rooted in opposition; he remarked to another friend that 'If there weren't so many lies in the world ... I wouldn't write at all'.


With Aldous Huxley in Switzerland

With Aldous Huxley in Switzerland (Lawrence Collection)


It turned out that Lady Chatterley's Lover was being extensively pirated in Europe and USA.   The theft irritated Lawrence, who had always meant to make the novel available in a cheap edition; in the spring of 1929, accordingly, he went to Paris to arrange it.  He was further stirred to action by the police seizure in England of the unexpurgated typescript of his volume of poems Pansies; while the exhibition of his paintings in London in the summer of 1929 (which he was too ill to attend) was raided by the police, and court hearings were necessary before the paintings were returned to their owner.  These irritations both provoked and stimulated Lawrence ('Virginal, pure, policeman came / And hid their faces for very shame'); but in an increasingly desperate desire to find a place where his health would improve, he and Frieda visited Majorca, France and Bavaria before they returned to Bandol for the winter.  Beside the Mediterranean once again, he wrote his last book about the European psyche and its needs, Apocalypse, which had started as an introduction to a book by Frederick Carter; he also wrote the poems published posthumously as Last Poems.  He saw a good deal of the Huxleys and the Brewsters, who rallied round him and Frieda as his health failed. 


Lawrence in a carriage in Paris

Lawrence in a carriage in Paris (Lawrence Collection)

In a final attempt to stave off his illness, he agreed with an English doctor to spend a month doing nothing (after he had finished his poems and Apocalypse); and then, at the start of February 1930, he went into the ominously-named Ad Astra sanatorium in Vence.   It did not help; he was terrifyingly thin, and almost incapable of walking.  Determined, as he put it to Gertie Cooper, to 'die game', he discharged himself from the sanatorium on 1 March 1930, and Frieda helped him move into the Villa Robermond (a rented house) in Vence.  He was not going to die where he did not choose to live: it was his last independent act.  He died the evening of the following day, Sunday 2 March, and was buried in the cemetery at Vence on the 4th.

© Professor John Worthen, 2005

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