D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
Anecdotes About Authors In The 20th Century

The very first copy of The White Peacock that was ever sent out, I put into my mother's hands, when she was dying. She looked at the outside, and then at the title-page, and then at me, with darkening eyes. And though she loved me so much, I think she doubted whether it could be much of a book, since no one more important than I had written it. Somewhere, in the helpless privacies of her being, she had wistful respect for me. But for me in the face of the world, not, much. This David would never get a stone across at Goliath. And why try? Let Goliath alone! Anyway, she was beyond reading my first immortal work. It was put aside, and I never wanted to see it again. She never saw it again.

After the funeral, my father struggled through half a page, and it might as well have been Hottentot.

`And what dun they gie thee for that, lad?'

`Fifty pounds, father.'

`Fifty pounds!' He was dumbfounded, and looked at me with shrewd eyes, as if I were a swindler. `Fifty pounds! An' tha's niver done a day's hard work in thy life.'

— D. H. Lawrence, Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers, ed. Edward D. McDonald (1936), p. 232

ON the rare occasions when we received an invitation which we could not evade, as to a party in Church Row at the house of H. G. Wells whom we genuinely admired, or to a literary at-home at the house of some editor who had power over us, we endured it in misery. What Katherine wrote of one such occasion might serve for them all. `A silly, unreal evening. Pretty rooms and pretty people, pretty coffee, and cigarettes out of a silver tankard. A sort of sham Meredith atmosphere lurking.... I was wretched. I have nothing to say to "charming" women. I feel like a cat among tigers.' . . .

The party I have mentioned at the Wells's was a tremendous undertaking. Lawrence had a new dress-suit, his first one, and he insisted on wearing it. He had curious rigid ideas about polite behaviour. I was rebellious about this, and wanted to go in grey flannels; I was quite sure, I said, that not all the guests would be in evening dress, and even if they were I didn't care. Again Lawrence was annoyed with me: I was letting him down again. So I agreed to wear a dinner-jacket. That called for a good deal of improvisation, for though I had a clean boiled shirt, I had neither studs nor links: but with Katherine's help, a few pearl buttons and a piece of wire, I managed to make myself presentable. Then I had to go round and tie Lawrence's tie for him.

Now Lawrence, who looked his lithe and limber self in many kinds of attire, did not resemble himself at all when locked in a dress-suit. Though there was a slight improvement in this matter with the years, it was only slight; and to the end Lawrence in a dress-suit was hardly more than a caricature of Lawrence in his habit as he lived. While I tied his tie, I was acutely conscious of this, and was on the point of imploring him not to wear it, on the pretext that it looked too new. But something warned me that he would take such advice in bad part, and that this initiation into the dress-suit world was for him a serious and ritual affair, my attitude towards which would be construed as another example of my fundamental flippancy. So I held my peace, and tried to make his bow-tie a little more dashing—in vain, for Lawrence had bought the kind of bow-tie which I associated with non-conformist parsons—excellent in its place, but very incongruous on Lawrence at that moment. I struggled with it; but no matter what bold innovations I endeavoured, it relapsed into decorous nonconformity, demanding to be completed by an upturned eye and a Bible. And I, in my turn, began to be annoyed with Lawrence, for allowing himself to be turned into this unnatural exhibition. The author of Sons and Lovers had a perfect right to go to a party in his pyjamas, I thought to myself, rather than appear as a callow acolyte of the Reverend Mr. Stiggins. And when I remembered that it was to abet this travesty that I was sporting links of pearl buttons and ginger-beer wire, I felt exasperated; and particularly exasperated with Frieda, for being totally unaware that her husband looked silly. She had the blissful habit of being completely preoccupied with her own appearance; yet, oddly enough, she would submit herself entirely to be dressed by him, and he did it well.

So, once more, we had `to pretend a bit'; but that evening we got no jolly time for our pains. We were a forlorn and somewhat irritable procession by the time we reached Hampstead. The only thing to do was to make a thorough joke of it all, which Katherine was inclined to do; but in his panoply something of the stiffness of his shirt and collar seemed to have entered into Lawrence's moral being. He became the puritan he looked, and he frowned upon Katherine's ill-timed gaiety. Inevitably, the party was a miserable affair for us all, and, as we returned, Lawrence was apocalyptic in his denunciation of H. G. Wells, who had nevertheless been very decent, and genuinely pleased to meet him. But when Katherine pointed out that one or two of the effusive ladies had had, on that evening, not much of their effusiveness to spare for him, but had lavished it on H. G. Wells, his anger fairly boiled over. The discreet insinuation that he had been letting himself down touched Lawrence on the raw. And on that journey home H. G. Wells had to suffer for it.

— John Middleton Murry, Between Two Worlds (1935), pp. 290-293.

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