Lawrence was ill when first in Cornwall; and how to earn enough to keep Frieda and himself was a real problem. He remained resourceful; he published his first travel book, Twilight in Italy, in June 1916, and between 1916 and 1919 brought out four books of poetry, including Amores and his verse narrative of love and marriage, Look! We Have Come Through!. In spite of what he feared would be the fate of his fiction after The Rainbow, in the spring of 1916 he started again on the Sisters material, and – after an enormous creative effort in which he wrote the whole book twice – in November finished the first version of Women in Love. But it was rejected by every publisher who saw it; the fact that it contained recognisable re-creations of several people (including Russell, Heseltine and the Morrells) did not help.
He and Frieda stayed in Cornwall, living as cheaply as they could; the English Review published the first versions of what would become Studies of Classic American Literature, his pioneering study of the great nineteenth century American writers. Early in 1917 the Lawrences made another, more serious attempt to be allowed to go to America, but they could not obtain passports. To make matters worse, in October they were expelled from Cornwall; the military authorities objected to a suspect writer and an enemy alien living near shipping lanes where German submarines were bringing heavy losses to allied ships. All the Lawrences could now do was live precariously in friends' flats and country cottages. In 1917 he completed a major revision of Women in Love; it was the novel which represented his last comprehensive attempt to write for his country, as it examined and characterised contemporary anxiety and conflict. In future novels, his voice would often – quite consciously – come from the sidelines: he staged guerrilla attacks as well a full-frontal assaults: his writing was goading, insistent, revelatory.
Amores / D H Lawrence in Middleton-by-Wirksworth, Derbyshire, 1918 (Lawrence Collection)
By 1918, Lawrence was back in the Midlands, at Middleton-by-Wirksworth, living in a cottage paid for by his sister Ada; he wrote essays, a play (Touch and Go) and poems; his new publisher, Martin Secker, also published New Poems, and he wrote the first version of his short novel The Fox. The death of his old friend and neighbour, Frankie Cooper, in Eastwood, however, brought back poignantly his hatred of the Midlands. He was himself desperately ill again in the influenza outbreak of February 1919, and only just pulled through; he was reduced to writing a schools' history book for money. Only in the summer of 1919 did he start to regain what he felt was his freedom. In the autumn, Frieda returned to Germany to see her family (her father had died in 1915), while Lawrence finally scraped together what money he had, and left England for Italy. It was the real end of his relationship with England. Italy in 1912 had been a radical new experience; it was now a place to go when England was finished.
© Professor John Worthen, 2005
Next chapter: Farewell to Europe