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Literature from Life

The spirit of the place is a strange thing. Our mechanical age tries to override it. But it does not succeed. In the end the strange, sinister spirit of place, so diverse and so adverse in differing places, will smash our mechanical oneness into smithereens…

Lawrence, On Cagliari, in Sea and Sardinia (1921)


Lawrence on place is wonderfully observant. Whether it be the landscape and the natural world, the cities and streets which he had known, or the detail of domestic interiors, his descriptions draw pictures so vivid that one can almost enter them.

 

He stood on the edge of the pit-bank for a moment, looking out. Over the fields, grey rain was falling. The trucks stood full of wet, bright coal. Water ran down the sides of the wagons, over the white C.W. & Co. Colliers, walking indifferent to the rain, were streaming down the line and up the field, a grey, dismal host.

Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (1913)

Photograph of Brinsley Colliery, a scene typical of Lawrence's early experiences and portrayed in his Nottinghamshire stories

Photograph of Brinsley Colliery, a scene typical of Lawrence's early experiences and portrayed in his Nottinghamshire stories

 


The talent which made Lawrence such a successful travel writer - through his letters as well as publications like Etruscan Places - is evident in his novels and short stories. Works reflecting his early experiences of Midlands' collieries, or drawing on his later life in exotic places, show an imagination inspired by a sense of place.

'Sons and Lovers' is the most clearly autobiographical of Lawrence's works of fiction. Locations in Nottinghamshire, events of family and childhood life, and early friendships can all be traced. The very special role played in his life by Jessie Chambers and her family at the Haggs has been immortalised in the account of Miriam Lievers and Willey Farm.

Photograph of the Chambers family

The Chambers family at Haggs farm

People as well as places provided Lawrence with inspiration. Physical resemblances and personal characteristics of people he knew can be identified in his stories. At times this gave offence or unease to his contemporaries, although the fictional characters created from this material were distinctively Lawrentian.

More: Telling his Story

DH Lawrence at Nottingham home

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