Where was D.H. Lawrence born and what was the greatest influence and inspiration for his work?
Eastwood is a former coal mining town, eight miles north-west of Nottingham. It was important in the 19th century as a major producer of coal, but the last pit closed in 1985. It is one of the few places where the distinctive dialect of East Midlands English can still be heard. Today, the town is famous for being the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence in 1885, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and his home for the first twenty-three years of his life. As well as author of famous novels such as, ‘Sons and Lovers’, ‘Women in Love’ and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, he wrote short stories, over one thousand poems and was also a playwright. The town attracts many visitors from all over the world and there is a thriving tourist industry connected with David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930).
Although he lived abroad for much of his adult life and travelled widely in Europe, Australia, Mexico, the United States and Sri Lanka, he never forgot where he grew up and his lowly background. In later years, his moves were dictated by attempts to find places which suited his deteriorating health. He never referred to his illness as tuberculosis, which he had suffered from since 1911, but always as his “bronchials”. Eastwood and the surrounding countryside were a source of inspiration throughout his life.
Visit Eastwood today. There are still many places which can be identified from his novels, short stories and poems.
Where is the country of your heart?
To D.H. Lawrence, or Bert as he was known, this was the countryside that he saw from his home in Walker Street, Eastwood. From an early age, Lawrence roamed this open, hilly country and Felley Woods, part of Sherwood Forest. Years later, Lawrence, in a letter from abroad, stated, “I lived in that house from the age of 6 to 18, and I know that view better than any in the world … That’s the country of my heart.” Across the road from the houses, were fields known as “the canyons”, which were the source of clay for the Lynncroft Pottery. It is now a conservation area.
Was Eastwood ugly?
Although Lawrence travelled widely, it was Eastwood that had the most influence on his writings. How he felt about his birthplace varied with his age and mood. Shortly after his mother’s death in 1910, he claimed that he had always disliked the place and in his essay, ‘Nottingham and the Mining Country’, he describes Eastwood’s, ‘ugliness, ugliness, ugliness’, but in 1918, he wrote, ‘Eastwood. For the first time in my life I feel quite amiably towards it. I have always hated it. Now I don’t.’ In Lawrence’s lifetime, the industrialisation of England horrified him. He visited England in 1926 and saw that the landscape of his youth had all changed and been despoiled. In Lady Chatterley’s Lover, he describes his feelings –
‘It was a world of iron and coal, the cruelty of iron and the smoke of coal, and the endless, endless greed that drove it all.’
His father worked at Brinsley Colliery, which he blamed for his father’s condition. The great quadrangles of houses, which the mine owners, Barber Walker & Co. built, Lawrence described as “sordid and hideous.” Brinsley Colliery stopped producing coal in 1930, ironically, the year that D.H. Lawrence died. The colliery headstocks have been returned to their original site outside the town and are now within a conservation area.
Can you identify the places used in D.H. Lawrence’s novels?
Photos of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire – Birthplace of D.H. Lawrence
Here is a small selection of photos of Eastwood, but there are many more available on my Eastwood page.
Sons and Lovers, a largely autobiographical novel.
– Durban House, now an exhibition centre, depicting Lawrence’s life in Eastwood.
– The Three Tuns pub. In the novel it is known as The Moon and Stars. D.H. Lawrence’s father regularly called in for a drink on his way home from the colliery.
– Breach House. 28 Garden Road. ‘The Bottoms’, where the Lawrence family lived from 1887 until 1891. Although aged only 6 when he left, he absorbed sufficient memories to use it in the novel which was published in 1913.
– Haggs Farm, Greasley. The infamous ‘Willey Farm’ owned by the Barbour family and strictly private. Here, Lawrence became familiar with the Chambers family and the farming community.
The White Peacock
– Eastwood. In this his first novel, Lawrence called it ‘Nethermere’. He started writing the novel in 1906, but it was not published until 1911, after his mother had died in 1910. It is said that he placed the first copy of the novel in her hand when she was dying at 97 Lynncroft. His mother was the ‘love of loves’. He was devastated by her death and the next few months he described as his “sick year”. Her death was a turning point in his life, as was the death of Mrs. Morel in Sons and Lovers.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
– Eastwood. It is widely accepted that ‘Tevershall’ is based on Eastwood.
– Lambclose House. ‘Wragby Hall’.
– A hut used by woodmen on the Lambclose House estate. The cottage, wher Mellors, the gamekeeper lived.
– The Lady Chatterley pub, Nottingham Road, Eastwood. Obviously not used in the novel, but near this pub was the home of George Chatterley, Mayor of Eastwood 1917/1918 and the local colliery agent of the Barber and Walker families who owned most of the mines in Eastwood.
Was D.H. Lawrence a spy?
D.H. Lawrence was not conscripted during the First World War, on the grounds of ill health. In 1912, he met Frieda Freiin Von Richthofen, a member of the German aristocracy and wife of a professor at Nottingham University. They eloped to her parent’s home in Metz, a town in Germany near the disputed border with France. He was arrested and accused of being a British spy, but then released when Frieda’s father intervened. When her divorce was finalised, they married in London in July 1914, one month before the outbreak of World War I. At the end of December 1915, they settled in Zennor, Cornwall, but in October 1917, they were expelled under the Defence of the Realm Act, on suspicion that they were signalling to German submarines. It did not help that Frieda was the cousin of the famous German pilot, the “Red Baron”. They were given three days to leave Cornwall and returned to London.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – who said it was obscene?
The mention of Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper lover, is enough to produce a snigger or dirty laugh for many people who have never read the novel, but rely on the popular imagination of the intensive, passionate relationship between a wealthy upper class woman and a working class servant. Many literary critics and academics regard the novel as a masterpiece. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most controversial novels in English literature – a psychologically powerful depiction of adult relationships dealing with many themes. Lawrence regarded it as a sad novel. He described Connie’s (Lady Chatterley) sadness –
‘All the great words, it seemed to Connie, were cancelled for her generation: love, joy, happiness, home, mother, father, husband, all these great dynamic words were half-dead now, and dying from day to day. ………. As for sex, the last of the great words, it was just a cocktail term for an excitement that bucked you up for a while, then left you more raggy than ever.’
Six months after their marriage in 1917, Connie’s husband returned from the trenches ‘more or less in bits’, ‘paralysed for ever’. In 1928, Lawrence published the final version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover privately through friends. Many copies were confiscated by the authorities in the United States and England. Lawrence died in 1930 and it was not until thirty years later that Penguin Books Limited published a full unexpurgated edition of his novel. They had been prosecuted under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act for publishing a work that contained offensive words. The Act allowed publishers to escape conviction if they could demonstrate that the work was of literary merit. Various academic critics and literary experts were called as witnesses. The Jury of three women and nine men gave a “not guilty” verdict.
D.H. Lawrence’s last novel was, therefore, made available for the first time to the British public. Penguin Books quickly sold three million copies. As a landmark legal decision, more explicit literary material was now able to be published in the United Kingdom.