Lawrence found the demands of teaching at Davidson Road School – a large school in a poor area – very different from Eastwood under a protective headmaster. Nevertheless he established himself as an energetic teacher, prepared to employ innovative methods of instruction: Shakespeare lessons became practical drama classes, for example. The contacts he made through school were probably more important than his job. Arthur McLeod, on the Davidson staff, read Lawrence's work and loaned him books; Agnes Mason (rather older) tended to mother him, but a younger friend of hers – Helen Corke, at another school – interested him. Above all, Lawrence was trying to develop his writing career by working in the evenings and holidays; he was engaged on yet another draft of his novel and writing a lot of poetry. In the summer of 1909 came the breakthrough: Jessie Chambers sent some of his poems to Ford Madox Hueffer, at the English Review. Hueffer not only printed them, but saw Lawrence, and – after reading the manuscript of The White Peacock – wrote to the publisher William Heinemann recommending it. He also got Lawrence to write more about his mining background. Lawrence wrote 'Odour of Chrysanthemums' and his first play, A Collier's Friday Night; in 1910 he would write a second play, The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd. Hueffer's successor at the English Review, Austin Harrison, went on printing Lawrence's stories and poems.
Davidson Road School, Croydon (Lawrence Collection)
Lawrence was finding Croydon fruitful for other reasons too. He was attracted to yet another Croydon teacher, Agnes Holt; and discovered that Helen Corke had recently had an affair with a married man who killed himself. She told Lawrence the whole story, and he recreated it in the first draft of The Trespasser, falling in love with her as he did so. In the winter 1909-10, however, he started a new relationship with Jessie Chambers and they were (rather unhappily) lovers through the spring and summer of 1910. In August, he broke off their relationship, just before his mother was taken ill. He spent as much time as he could in Eastwood that autumn, and in October started the first draft of his autobiographical novel Paul Morel, with its vivid picture of Mrs Morel; but Lydia Lawrence died in December 1910, shortly after Lawrence had got engaged to his old College friend, Louie Burrows.
Louie Burrows (Lawrence Collection)
The year 1911 was – in spite of Heinemann's publication of The White Peacock in January – a desperate year for Lawrence; mourning his mother, unhappy in his engagement, missing Jessie Chambers' support, and desperate to get out of a job which took him away from the writing he was committed to (he could not get on with Paul Morel, for example). He was fortunate in making contact with the publisher Duckworth's reader Edward Garnett, who helped him place his work; but the end of his school-teaching career came when he fell seriously ill with double pneumonia in November 1911 and nearly died. After a month's convalescence in Bournemouth, where characteristically he rewrote The Trespasser – Garnett having got it accepted by Duckworth – he broke off his engagement to Louie Burrows, returned to the Midlands and worked to complete, for Heinemann, Paul Morel: the book on which he felt his future as a writer depended.
Next chapter: A New Life