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Reviewed by:
  • D. H. Lawrence's Non-Fiction: Art, Thought and Genre, and: Lady Chatterley: The Making of the Novel
  • Kingsley Widmer
David Ellis and Howard Mills. D. H. Lawrence's Non-Fiction: Art, Thought and Genre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. 193 pp. $39.50.
Derek Britton. Lady Chatterley: The Making of the Novel. London: Unwin Hyman, 1988. No price given.

Rather dubious aggrandizing labels claiming large scope and purpose seem, as with the volumes under review, all too common these days in critical-scholarly studies. The Ellis and Mills book consists of three essays by each, and a very brief introduction, on an arbitrary selection of Lawrence's varied "non-fictional" writings. The critics intermittently make large claims about going beyond genres, certainly appropriate to Lawrence, but they do not sustain the issues, nor examine much of the crucial "non-fiction." In effect, concern with "non-fiction" seems an excuse for making a book out of miscellaneous pieces.

Mills presents rather crabbed essays on a few of the matters in the "Study of Thomas Hardy," Twilight in Italy, and "Introduction to Memoirs of the Foreign Legion by M[aurice] M[agnus]." On the latter, for example, the claim is made that this lively novella-length-and-styled work got little attention because of its lack of genre place, and even what little it did get was not available until its reprinting in Phoenix II (Moore and Roberts, 1970). But it was, of course, enthusiastically reprinted by Alexander Woollcott in a popular anthology (1937), praised by a number of writers (such as, repeatedly, Henry Miller, who also partly imitated it with his Devil in Paradise, 1956), and analyzed as one of Lawrence's better literary works (in a book of mine on Lawrence's fiction, 1962). Mills ignores such material. Certainly Lawrence's lively portrait deserves more literary attention, but Mills uses his stylistic concerns mostly to redo the Lawrence-Norman Douglas contention that surrounded its publication, sensitively siding with Lawrence, instead of exploring its theme of the repulsive-fascinating marginal character and what he tells us about Lawrence and ourselves.

In somewhat more open ways, Ellis sketchily discusses several genre problems of Lawrence's late poetry, briefly defending some of the unusual efforts. [End Page 332] He also does a responsive commentary (the best essay in the volume) on some of Lawrence's travel writings with their distinctive intensity and ambivalence. And he belabors a couple of issues of the continuity with the rest of Lawrence of the "psychological" excursions (Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious). He sensibly indicates that much in these writings is "rubbish," but, unfortunately, he has a patently insufficient perspective because of countering the callow science/myth distinction (Evelyn Heinz, 1972) instead of the larger ideological concerns (such, for example, as that neoconservatively argued by Philip Reiff, 1966—not mentioned). I suggest that, instead, such writings have to be considered in the context of Lawrence's role as prophet against "industrial civilization" and its denuded consciousness.

These earnest and sometimes sensitive essays by Mills and Ellis are rather Leavisite in manner, spotty in scholarship, and inadequate in intellectual awareness. They also do not meet much of the claim of dealing with the issues of Lawrence's "non-fiction."

Better in scholarship and writing, Britton's book on the background for Lady Chatterley's Lover is biographically informative, both in researched detail and psychological analysis. Some of the research is unique, such as exactly working out where Lawrence went on a motor tour and on a walk in the Midlands prior to writing the novel. Some of the material, such as elaborating previous writers' arguments that Lawrence indirectly drew on the Sitwells for source material for the Chatterleys, seems even more overdone. But the relentless assumption of this long book is that the "making" consists mostly of biographical relationships and motives. However acutely done, that is deeply reductive of the artistic, the social, and the intellectual.

Not that Britton is reluctant to toss off literary judgments. Of the long novella The Virgin and the Gipsy, drafted but never finally revised during the same period, he pronounces that it is "inconsequential and ill constructed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-658X
Print ISSN
0026-7724
Pages
pp. 332-334
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-01
Open Access
No
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