D. H. Lawrence

English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter (1885-1930)

David Herbert Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works, among other things, represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, some of the issues Lawrence explores are emotional health, vitality, spontaneity and instinct.

Censors are dead men
set up to judge between life and death.
For no live, sunny man would be a censor,
he'd just laugh.
For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.


  • I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections. And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that i am ill. I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self, and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help and patience, and a certain difficult repentance long difficult repentance, realization of lifes mistake, and the freeing oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify. - Healing, Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence
  • I hold that the parentheses are by far the most important parts of a non-business letter.
    • Letter to Blanche Jennings (15 April 1908), Letters of D.H. Lawrence (1979), edited by James T. Boulton
  • If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.
  • My God, these folks don't know how to love — that's why they love so easily.
    • Letter to Blanche Jennings (8 May 1909), The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. James T. Boulton, Vol. 1 (1979), pp. 127
  • Tragedy ought really to be a great kick at misery.
    • Letter to A W McLeod (6 October 1912)
  • Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today. They've got white of egg in their veins, and their spunk is that watery its a marvel they can breed. They can nothing but frog-spawn — the gibberers! God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wish-wash. Exterminate them, slime.
    I could curse for hours and hours — God help me.
    • Letter to Edward Garnett, expressing anger that his manuscript for Sons and Lovers was rejected by Heinemann (3 July 1912)
  • We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free from their authority.
  • He talked to her endlessly about his love of horizontals: how they, the great levels of sky and land in Lincolnshire, meant to him the eternality of the will, just as the bowed Norman arches of the church, repeating themselves, meant the dogged leaping forward of the persistent human soul, on and on, nobody knows where; in contradiction to the perpendicular lines and to the Gothic arch, which, he said, leapt up at heaven and touched the ecstasy and lost itself in the divine.
    • Sons and Lovers (1913)
  • Mrs Morel always said the after-life would hold nothing in store for her husband: he rose from the lower world into purgatory, when he came home from pit, and passed into heaven in the Palmerston Arms.
    • Sons and Lovers - Edited out of the 1913 edition, restored in 1992
  • Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
    • Song of a Man who has Come Through (1917)
  • The nature of the infant is not just a new permutation-and-combination of elements contained in the natures of the parents. There is in the nature of the infant that which is utterly unknown in the natures of the parents.
    • Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious (1921)
  • The dead don't die. They look on and help.
    • Letter to John Middleton Murry (2 February 1923)
  • California is a queer place — in a way, it has turned its back on the world, and looks into the void Pacific. It is absolutely selfish, very empty, but not false, and at least, not full of false effort.
    • Letter (September 24, 1923); published in The Letters of D.H. Lawrence, James T. Boulton, E. Mansfield, and W. Roberts (1987), vol. 4.
  • Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it
    • Studies in Classic American Literature (1923)
  • It was in 1915 the old world ended.
    • Kangaroo (1923) "The Nightmare"
  • Men! The only animal in the world to fear!
    • Mountain Lion (1923)
  • The Rhine is still the Rhine, the great divider... Immediately you are over the Rhine, the spirit of place has changed... It is as if the life had retreated eastwards. As if the Germanic life were slowly ebbing away from contact with western Europe, ebbing to the deserts of the east.
    • 'A Letter from Germany', written 19 February 1924, printed in The New Statesman (13 October 1934), quoted in D. H. Lawrence, Selected Essays (1950), pp. 175-176
  • The moment you are in Germany, you know. It feels empty, and, somehow, menacing. So must the Roman soldiers have watched those black, massive round hills: with a certain fear, and with the knowledge that they were at their own limit. A fear of the invisible natives. A fear of the invisible life lurking among the woods. A fear of their own opposite. So it is with the French: this almost mystic fear. But one should not insult even one's fears. Germany, this bit of Germany, is very different from what it was two and a half years ago, when I was here. Then it was still open to Europe. Then it still looked to western Europe for a reunion, for a sort of reconciliation. Now that is over. The inevitable, mysterious barrier has fallen again, and the great leaning of the Germanic spirit is once more eastwards towards Russia, towards Tartary. The strange vortex of Tartary has become the positive centre again, the positivity of western Europe is broken. The positivity of our civilisation has broken. The influences that come, come invisibly out of Tartary. So that all Germany reads Beasts, Men, and Gods with a kind of fascination. Returning again to the fascination of the destructive East, that produced Attila.
    • 'A Letter from Germany', written 19 February 1924, printed in The New Statesman (13 October 1934), quoted in D. H. Lawrence, Selected Essays (1950), p. 176
  • Out of the very air comes a sense of danger, a queer, bristling feeling of uncanny danger. Something has happened. Something has happened which has not yet eventuated. The old spell of the old world has broken, and the old, bristling, savage spirit has set in... Back, back to the savage polarity of Tartary, and away from the polarity of civilised Christian Europe. This, it seems to me, has already happened. And it is a happening of far more profound import than any actual event. It is the father of the next phase of events. And the feeling never relaxes. As you travel up the Rhine valley, still the same latent sense of danger, of silence, of suspension. Not that the people are actually planning or plotting or preparing. I don't believe it for a minute. But something has happened to the human soul, beyond all help. The human soul recoiling now from unison, and making itself strong elsewhere. The ancient spirit of prehistoric Germany coming back, at the end of history.
    • 'A Letter from Germany', written 19 February 1924, printed in The New Statesman (13 October 1934), quoted in D. H. Lawrence, Selected Essays (1950), pp. 177-178
  • Something about the Germanic races is unalterable. White-skinned, elemental, and dangerous. Our civilisation has come from the fusion of the dark-eyed with the blue. The meeting and mixing and mingling of the two races has been the joy of our ages. And the Celt has been there, alien, but necessary as some chemical re-agent to the fusion. So the civilisation of Europe rose up. So these cathedrals and these thoughts. But now the Celt is the disintegrating agent. And the Latin and southern races are falling out of association with the northern races, the northern Germanic impulse is recoiling towards Tartary, the destructive vortex of Tartary. It is a fate; nobody now can alter it. It is a fate. The very blood changes. Within the last three years, the very constituency of the blood has changed, in European veins. But particularly in Germanic veins. At the same time, we have brought it about ourselves—by a Ruhr occupation, by an English nullity, and by a German false will. We have done it ourselves. But apparently it was not to be helped. Quos vult perdere Deus, dementat prius.
    • 'A Letter from Germany', written 19 February 1924, printed in The New Statesman (13 October 1934), quoted in D. H. Lawrence, Selected Essays (1950), pp. 178-179
  • I want to go south, where there is no autumn, where the cold doesn't crouch over one like a snow leopard waiting to pounce. The heart of the North is dead, and the fingers of cold are corpse fingers.
    • Letter to John Middleton Murry (3 October 1924)
  • For Society or Democracy or any political State or Community exists not for the sake of the individual nor should ever exist for the sake of the individual, but simply to establish the Average, in order to make living together possible: that is, to make proper facilities for every man's clothing, feeding, housing himself, working, sleeping, mating, playing, according to his necessity as a common unit, an average. Everything beyond that common necessity depends on himself alone.
    • "Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine" (1925)
  • The more scholastically educated a man is generally, the more he is an emotional boor.
    • John Galsworthy (1927)
  • Men fight for liberty, and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.
    • Poem, "Liberty's old story" in Pansies (Third typing, ribbon copy - 231 poems, c. 11-28 February 1929)
  • Every man has a mob self and an individual self, in varying proportions.
    • Pornography and Obscenity (1929)
  • Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it.
    • Pornography and Obscenity (1929)
  • I can't stand Willy wet-leg,
    can't stand him at any price.
    He's resigned, and when you hit him
    he lets you hit him twice.
    • Willy Wet Leg (1929)
  • Censors are dead men
    set up to judge between life and death.

    For no live, sunny man would be a censor,
    he'd just laugh.
    • Censors (1929)
  • I never saw a wild thing
    Sorry for itself.
    A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
    without ever having felt sorry for itself.
    • Self-Pity (1929)
  • The tiny fish enjoy themselves
    in the sea.
    Quick little splinters of life,
    their little lives are fun to them
    in the sea.
    • Little Fish (1929)
  • What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not his own isolate salvation of his "soul." Man wants his physical fulfillment first and foremost, since now, once and once only, he is in the flesh and potent. For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh. The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation. In my own very self, I am part of my family. There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.
    • Apocalypse (1930)
  • To the Puritan all things are impure, as somebody says.
    • Sketches of Etruscan Places (1932)
  • God is only a great imaginative experience.
    • Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence, pt. 4, ed. by E. McDonald, (1936)
  • Those that go searching for love
    only make manifest their own lovelessness,
    and the loveless never find love,
    only the loving find love,
    and they never have to seek for it.
    • "Search for Love" in The Works of D. H. Lawrence, Wordsworth Editions, (1994), p. 552

Sons and Lovers (1913)Edit

  • "I suppose that's what we do in death⎯⎯⎯sleep in wonder."
    • Ch.11
  • "To be rid of our individuality, which is our will, which is our effort⎯⎯⎯to live effortless, a kind of curious sleep⎯⎯⎯that is very beautiful, I think; that is our after-life⎯⎯⎯our immortality."
    • Ch.11

Women in Love (1920)Edit

  • Humanity is a huge aggregate lie, and a huge lie is less than a small truth. Humanity is less, far less than the individual, because the individual may sometimes be capable of truth, and humanity is a tree of lies. And they say that love is the greatest thing; they persist in SAYING this, the foul liars, and just look at what they do! Look at all the millions of people who repeat every minute that love is the greatest, and charity is the greatest— and see what they are doing all the time. By their works ye shall know them, for dirty liars and cowards, who daren't stand by their own actions, much less by their own words.'
    • Ch. 11
  • But better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions.
    • Ch. 15
  • Mystic equality lies in abstraction, not in having or in doing, which are processes. In function and process, one man, one part, must of necessity be subordinate to another. It is a condition of being.
    • Ch. 17

Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)Edit

  • Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
    • First paragraph
  • The world is supposed to be full of possibilities, but they narrow down to pretty few in most personal experience. There's lots of good fish in the sea ... maybe ... but the vast masses seem to be mackerel or herring, and if you're not mackerel or herring yourself you are likely to find very few good fish in the sea.
  • And dimly she realized one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance. It is really only the mechanism of the reassumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise, which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst.
  • Folks should do their own fuckin', then they wouldn't want to listen to a lot of clatfart about another man's.
  • I believe in being warm-hearted. I believe especially in being warm-hearted in love, in fucking with a warm heart. I believe if men could fuck with warm hearts, and the women take it warm-heartedly, everything would come all right. It's all the cold-hearted fucking that is death and idiocy.
  • The Italians are not passionate: passion has deep reserves. They are easily moved, and often affectionate, but they rarely have any abiding passion of any sort.
  • Money poisons you when you've got it, and starves you when you haven't.

A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1929)Edit

We are today, as human beings, evolved and cultured far beyond the taboos which are inherent in our culture. This is a very important fact to realise.
The great necessity is that we should act according to our thoughts, and think according to our acts. But while we are in thought we cannot really act, and while we are in action we cannot really think. The two conditions, of thought and action, are mutually exclusive. Yet they should be related in harmony.
Sex is the balance of male and female in the universe, the attraction, the repulsion, the transit of neutrality, the new attraction, the new repulsion, always different, always new.
  • We are today, as human beings, evolved and cultured far beyond the taboos which are inherent in our culture. This is a very important fact to realise. Probably, to the Crusaders, mere words were potent and evocative to a degree we can't realise. The evocative power of the so-called obscene words must have been very dangerous to the dim-minded, obscure, violent natures of the Middle Ages, and perhaps are still too strong for slow-minded, half-evoked lower natures today. But real culture makes us give to a word only those mental and imaginative reactions which belong to the mind, and saves us from violent and indiscriminate physical reactions which may wreck social decency. In the past, man was too weak-minded, or crude-minded, to contemplate his own physical body and physical functions, without getting all messed up with physical reactions that overpowered him. It is no longer so. Culture and civilisation have taught us to separate the reactions. We now know the act does not necessarily follow on the thought. In fact, thought and action, word and deed, are two separate forms of consciousness, two separate lives which we lead. We need, very sincerely, to keep a connection. But while we think, we do not act, and while we act we do not think. The great necessity is that we should act according to our thoughts, and think according to our acts. But while we are in thought we cannot really act, and while we are in action we cannot really think. The two conditions, of thought and action, are mutually exclusive. Yet they should be related in harmony.
  • Men and women aren't really dogs: they only look like it and behave like it. Somewhere inside there is a great chagrin and a gnawing discontent.
  • Of course Celia shits! Who doesn't? And how much worse if she didn't.
  • Augustine said that God created the universe new every day: and to the living, emotional soul, this is true. Every dawn dawns upon an entirely new universe, every Easter lights up an entirely new glory of a new world opening in utterly new flower. And the soul of man and the soul of woman is new in the same way, with the infinite delight of life and the ever-newness of life. So a man and a woman are new to one another throughout a life-time, in the rhythm of marriage that matches the rhythm of the year.
  • Sex is the balance of male and female in the universe, the attraction, the repulsion, the transit of neutrality, the new attraction, the new repulsion, always different, always new. The long neuter spell of Lent, when the blood is low, and the delight of the Easter kiss, the sexual revel of spring, the passion of midsummer, the slow recoil, revolt, and grief of autumn, greyness again, then the sharp stimulus of winter of the long nights. Sex goes through the rhythm of the year, in man and woman, ceaselessly changing: the rhythm of the sun in his relation to the earth. Oh, what a catastrophe for man when he cut himself off from the rhythm of the year, from his unison with the sun and the earth. Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and the equinox! This is what is the matter with us. We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.
  • Marriage is the clue to human life, but there is no marriage apart from the wheeling sun and the nodding earth, from the straying of the planets and the magnificance of the fixed stars. Is not a man different, utterly different, at dawn from what he is at sunset? And a woman too? And does not the changing harmony and discord of their variation make the secret music of life?

Quotes about LawrenceEdit

  • The picture of D.H Lawrence suggested by the obituary notices of ‘competent critics’ is of a man morose, frustrated, tortured, even a sinister failure. Perhaps this is because any other view of him would make his critics look rather silly...Lawrence was as little morose as an open clematis flower, as little tortured or sinister, or hysterical as a humming bird. Gay, skilful, clever at everything, furious when he felt like it but never grieved or upset, intensely amusing, without sentimentality or affection, almost always right in his touch for the content of things or persons, he was at once the most harmonious and the most vital person I ever saw.
  • Now he is dead, and the low-brows whom he scandalized have united with the high-brows whom he bored to ignore his greatness. This cannot be helped; no one who alienates both Mrs Grundy and Aspatia [sic] can hope for a good obituary press. All that we can do...is to say straight out that he was the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation. The rest must be left where he would have wished it to be left – in the hands of the young.
    • E. M. Forster, letter to The Nation and Athenaeum (29 March 1930), quoted in P. N. Furbank, E. M. Forster: A Life, Volume Two: Polycrates' Ring 1914–1970 (1978; 1979 ed.), p. 163
  • Lawrence’s special and characteristic gift was an extraordinary sensitiveness to what Wordsworth called “unknown modes of being.” He was always intensely aware of the mystery of the world, and the mystery was always for him a numen, divine. Lawrence could never forget, as most of us almost continuously forget, the dark presence of the otherness that lies beyond the boundaries of man’s conscious mind. This special sensibility was accompanied by a prodigious power of rendering the immediately experienced otherness in terms of literary art.
    • Aldous Huxley, "Introduction", in The letters of D. H. Lawrence,London, William Heinemann Limited, 1932.
  • Isn’t it remarkable how everyone who knew Lawrence has felt compelled to write about him? Why, he’s had more books written about him than any writer since Byron!
  • Is there no name later than Conrad's to be included in the Great Tradition? There is, I am convinced, one: D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence, in the English language, was the great genius of our time (I mean the age, or climatic phase, following Conrad's).
  • The number of people who can copulate properly may be few; the number who can write well are infinitely fewer.
  • He had a mystical philosophy of "blood" which I disliked. "There is," he said, "another seat of consciousness than the brain and nerves. There is a blood consciousness which exists in us independently of the ordinary mental consciousness. One lives, knows and has one's being in the blood, without any reference to nerves and brain. This is one half of life belonging to the darkness. When I take a woman, then the blood percept is supreme. My blood knowing is overwhelming. We should realize that we have a blood being, a blood consciousness, a blood soul complete and apart from a mental and nerve consciousness." This seemed to me frankly rubbish, and I rejected it vehemently, though I did not then know that it led straight to Auschwitz.
  • It seems to us now that his system, for all its fervour, was largely negative, a mere assertion of his denial of the system of his upbringing. His God, for instance, must be the exact opposite of the 'gentle Jesus' of his childhood. There must be nothing at all gentle about the "dark" force to which the dark independent outlaws of his dreams would owe a sort of reverence. . . .The community to which Lawrence looked forward, the leaders and the led, is established. Men act, instead of wasting their energies in abstract thought. And yet, if Lawrence had seen it, he would have been appalled. Fascism finally succeeded, at least temporarily, in making the synthesis that eluded Lawrence.
  • Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley's Lover has just been reissued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-by-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion this book cannot take the place of J. R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeping.
    • Ed Zern, Field & Stream magazine, November 1959. Reprinted in Best of Ed Zern: Fifty Years of Fishing and Hunting from One of America's Best-Loved Outdoor Humorists, ISBN 1585743429

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