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He wants to Lawrence “release us from the horrid grip of the evil-smelling DH. old Logos”; he detests abstract philosophy, the particularly to “blood-conscious he constantly Kant”; “beastly appeals to the “solar to the consciousness,” ness,” “phallic plexus,” for the instinctive, the sub “dark gods”? so many metaphors intuitive. and the utterly conscious, Literary spontaneous criticism seems to have no chance whatever, rence was a radical and intelligent critic of industrial civiliza tion, traditional sexual morality, and human relationships in general. though Law Still, in 1937, F. R.
Leavis could call him “the finest lit erary critic of our time? a great literary critic if ever there one. ” The one book of was lished during his lifetime, Studies in Classic American Lit in 1943 as erature (1923), was praised by Edmund Wilson “one of the “now few first-rate books admired not power “Literary do that have ever been written literary criticism Lawrence pub on the subject”; and in the late 1950s Lionel Trilling Studies, outrageous intellect, universally It will book. ” and creed. than and understood,” to underrate called “a great, Lawrence’s shrewdness, of pungent formulation. Actually ment “can of an be is concept age-old of literary criticism a harsh attack is a good restate he the tells us in criticism,” account of Phoenix, introducing no more be on John Galsworthy, feeling pro a reasoned duced upon the critic by the book he is criticizing. can never science a science: The it is, in the first touchstone place, much not Criticism too per sonal, and in the second, ignores. it is concerned is emotion, with values reason. that We a work of art by its effect on our sincere and vital judge emotion, and nothing else. ” “A critic must be able to feel the a art in all its complexity and its force. impact of work of REN?
WELLEK 599 … A critic must lectually morally capable very be emotionally alive in every fibre, intel and skilful in essential logic, and then Sainte-Beuve remains to him a great honest. ” critic who has “the courage to admit what he feels, as well as ex the flexibility to know what he feels. ” Here Lawrence plicitly recognizes the role of the intellect and even of logic while still reserving first place for an instinctive taste or in voiced his opinions vividly, sometimes truculently but often In Our Time the short reviews of Hemingway’s perceptively: and of Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer, the introductions to sight.
In many contexts, in letters and in reviews, Lawrence Bottom translations of Verga and to Edward Dahlberg’s on H. G. Wells’s World and even the demolition Dogs, jobs (all collected in of William Clissold and on John Galsworthy are good traditional criticism. The World of Wil Phoenix) liam Clissold “is all chewed-up newspaper, and chewed-up scientific reports, like a mouse’s nest. ” Lawrence and retells with comic indignation, for instance, “The Apple Tree” vulgar to show sentimen “The tele I con bits up Galsworthy’s talism. Lawrence novel scope pher, class-bound snobbery view has a grand of the novelist’s mission. s a great far greater than Galileo’s discovery: or a novelist, else’s wireless. ” somebody “Being sider myself and here superior to the saint, the scientist, who are all great masters the philoso of man the alive, but never the poet, of different get the whole hog. ” “Whole hog” means total man? soul, and body? from which mind, or should so that he can cause creates create . . . The on the ether. as a tremulation “tremulations novel man can make can the whole alive tremble. ” “The novel help us to live, as it reveals else can”: all art, (as does nothing man “the relation between and his circumam presumably) at the is the moment. “The novel bient universe, living high est of subtle inter-relatedness that man has discov example reasons Lawrence the relation ered. ” For obvious pondered novelist to morality and specifically to pornography. He of overt moralizing. “Morality is that delicate, disapproved for ever trembling and changing balance between me and my of the novel 600 circumambient LITERARY CRITICISM while OF D. H. LAWRENCE universe”; as if “the novelist put his thumb in the scale, to ? is pull down the balance to his own predilection”? and that is for Lawrence immorality. He admits that “the novel is not, as a oralizing? tendentiousness rule, immoral because the novelist has any dominant idea, or purpose. The immorality lies in the novelist’s helpless, un conscious predilection,” blood-and-thunder novels, in sentimental in smart cynical “sweet” novels, novels, in any in art that falsifies reality and real relationships. He agrees that “every work of art adheres to some system of morality. But if it be really a work of art, it must contain the essential criticism on the morality to which it adheres. ” Lawrence was understandably much concerned with freeing the novel from prudish restraints in sexual matters.
We all know of his post humous victory in England. The trial, in 1960, of Lady Chat a terleys Lover broke the taboo on four-letter words with vengeance, but Lawrence himself in “Pornography and Ob scenity” and in his spirited defense “A propos Lady Chat terleys sor Lover9 was eager to make a distinction . . . it,” he between pornography and frank depiction of sex. “Even I would Pornography remarks, cen is the genuine rigorously. pornography, to insult sex, to do dirt on attempt whereas (he argues) his own fiction does away with tality and obscenity. Lawrence professes no interest in the both “critical sentimen widdle twaddle about style and form,” and he ridiculed Clive Bell’s term significant form. He disapproved of the “craving for form” in the novel after Flaubert and singled out Thomas Mann as “the last sick sufferer from the complaint of Flau identifies Aschenbach, bert. ” Oddly enough Lawrence aged in Mann’s Death in Venice, with Thomas Mann fifty-three and sees Mann as “old” and superannuated, though he was in 1913. “Even Madame Bovary seems thirty-eight years old tome dead in respect to the living rhythm of the whole work. ” The maxim “nothing outside of the definite line of the book” seems to him stultifying: the uman mind cannot “fix abso a living being. ” He thus lutely any definite line of action for defends a loose organic form: “We need an apparent form REN? WELLEK definite saying form that is mechanical. ” every work of art He has 601 sounds almost its own form, lessness, Crocean, which “has no relationship with any other form” and which the “admits the existence of no other form. ” He defended of Sons and Lovers by saying: “All rules of construc form tion hold good only for novels which are copies of other novels. A book which is not a copy of other books has its own construction. He argued, parrying objections to the first ver sion of The Rainbow (then caned The Wedding Ring), “You inmy novel for the old stable ego? of mustn’t look the char acter. There individual allotropie been used gle radically to whose action the according as it were, and passes unrecognisable, through, a sense than any we’ve states which it needs deeper are states of the same to exercise, to discover sin ego, is unchanged element. ” is another novel and the concept of rejection of the well-made fluid form and indeterminable character sound like unique defenses of the innovations that could loosely be called mod ernism.
Lawrence was also a strong advocate of free verse. The But this is deceptive. Lawrence detested psychologizing the mentalities” of Proust. In a jeering attack that “self-important lumps Dorothy Richardson, Proust, and Joyce together, he ” accuses them of preoccupation with petty trivialities. ‘Did I feel a twinge in my little toe, or didn’t I? ‘ asks every char acter of Mr. Joyce or “It of Miss Richardson or M. Proust”; Joyce and Miss Richardson the finest to be threads. ” absorbedly really self-conscious. ” “strip their smallest emotions to a certain is childish, after In a letter Lawrence ge, com plains more violently of an installment of Finnegans Wake in transition: “My God, what a clumsy olla p? trida James of quota Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage-stumps tions from the Bible and the rest, stewed in the juice of de old and hard liberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness? what worked staleness, masquerading as the all-new! ” In another letter he would-be or real says: and “James Joyce bores me utterly fictional stiff? too terribly done-on-purpose, life. ” Lawrence wanted without characters spontaneity and books to be “alive,” to be “quick. ” Quick, he tried to explain, means 602 LITERARY CRITICISM OF D. H. LAWRENCE [the man the other phallus, fuchsias, F? rsters the live in the novel] must have things trains, silk-hats, stars, round character ideas, and in the novel: cats, God, flat is snow, sorrow, a quick bed-bugs, people, relatedness sunshine, food, to all the paper. ” But this does not get us much characters. the always tooth-paste, lightning, diphtheria, and toilet further than E. M. in Lawrence, In practice, man or woman. instinctual All novelists are “phallic worshippers. From Balzac to Hardy, it is so. Nay, from Apuleius to E. M. Forster.
Yet all of them, when it comes to their philosophy, or what they think-they are, they are all crucified Jesuses. ” They all suffer from this duplicity of overt and latent meaning. This sense of the double bottom, of the subtext, the latent all of Lawrence’s meaning, pervades the unmaskers, that convinced the criticism. conscious He is one of of intentions the artist may run counter to his deeply contrast is an old idea in criticism: well gels, prominent in such diverse unrelated felt allegiances. This known to the Schle critics as Dobrolyu bov in Russia and De Sanctis in Italy, and used by Engels in his famous etter on Balzac. It is memorably formulated in Studies in Classic American Literature: by Lawrence trust the tale. The function “Never the artist. Trust proper a critic is to save the tale from the artist who it. ” created of as version this: “The artist, who writes earlier The amplifies a dream, a somnambulist, is in the truth as in spell of pure man and moral the wakeful and contradicted contravened by sits at the desk. ” ist who looks for symbols in literature, and he distin guishes them, in the fashion inherited from Goethe via Cole ridge, from allegory. Allegory is narrative description using, Lawrence as a or didactic purpose. ” Myth lies be nearly always for moral hind the symbols. “The images of myth are symbols. They don’t ing, mean human something. ‘ experience. a rule, to express certain definite images qualities. means is a term in the argument and image something, Each and is a symbol. And the power of the symbol is to arouse the deep emotional self, and the dynamic self, beyond compre stand They A complex for units of of human feel emotional experience REN? WELLEK 603 experience invent hension. ithin invent a Many ages of accumulated … No made man up can of still throb can or symbol. an emblem, images: but not symbols. ” Myth with Lawrence implies a view of history that is often another version of the dissocia tion of sensibility, the growing alienation of man, the artist’s conflict with society. Sometimes this historical scheme is de rived from Houston Lawrence’s Steward the wide reading in prehistory, anthro images: He symbols. or metaphors: pology, rison, Africa, and philosophies ascribes or Etruria of history Chamberlain, status of the (in Frobenius, nd many primeval Jane Har others); the now scheme to a mythical Atlantis, a fanciful Mexico, wholeness the same society is assigned to the Mid decayed. dle Ages? “the grandiose, violent past of the Middle Ages” ? or to the old peasant civilization, in Sicily or Sar simply or the old English countryside before industrialization. dinia, Sometimes it is thought of simply as a decay of wholesome sketches a history of English poetry in sexuality. Lawrence was terms. Chaucer these and fearless,” but “lovely “Shake is already morbid with the fear of sexuality. Drink speare to me only with thine eyes,’ sings the cavalier” (as if Ben Sometimes consciousness The cavalier). “physical in Burns. ” the “Wordsworth, Keats, song gives Shelley, all are post-mortem Swinburne and Wilde Brontes, poets. ” tried “to start a revival from the mental field”? meaning Jonson had been a last a that they, like the French reviving symbolists, were But Lawrence intellectuals wrote of self Swin consciously burne: the “I put him with sexuality. us. ” Shelley as our greatest as destined poet. He is last fiery Lawrence spirit among conceives of himself o reconstitute this original unity of man, to reconcile the mind and body, to establish the proper harmony between male and female? not necessarily the biological sexes, but (in a theory clearly to whom he alludes) as poles derived from Otto Weininger, between which every individual takes or rather has to take an intermediate position. This scheme of sexual psychology, combined with the scheme of history, which is not just primi tivism but a utopia of rebirth, becomes the main standard 604 LITERARY CRITICISM OF D. H. LAWRENCE by which he judges books and characters in books.
Char acters are frequently discussed without any regard to their function in a book, simply as human beings living today whom he examines for their morals and asks for right be havior in a situation the content abstracted of a book from the book. Literary criti cism breaks down. Lawrence stroys simply allegorizes books, de and uses these allegories to expound his own ideology. This practice comes out clearly in his discussions of Tol sees itmerely as preted when Lawrence displaying Anna and unable to “live in the pride of their sincere passion, Vronsky and spit inMother Grundy’s eye. This judgment is repeated several prets Anna times Tolstoy’s and motto is made worse when is mine: Lawrence I shall misinter repay,” as “Vengeance stoy and Dostoevsky. Anna Karenina is grossly misinter or the pattern of a writer’s mind, if Tolstoy demned identified with the “vulgar “divine social condemnation” Lawrence of con the discon the later ascetic Tolstoy, exaggerating the early and the late stages, opposing the tinuity between sensuous with philosopher of understanding” a very nauseating man the younger Christian-brother to and Vronsky punishment. ” “marvellous “the hood idea of himself. But Lawrence disliked even War and with that fat, Peace, calling it “downright dishonourable, diluted Pierre for a hero,” and with more justification he spoke “dead of Prince Nekhlyudov as lumber. ” in Resurrection as a “muff,” as Dostoevsky the violence is treated with of Lawrence’s embittered hostility. must be Some of ascribed pronouncements to his distaste for Middleton Murry’s exaltation of Dostoev and the Russians sky, to the whole English cult of Dostoevsky war years; but essentially it ismotivated by Law during the rence’s contempt and for Dostoevsky’s religion, which a he sus pected Crime of hypocrisy. Punishment
The “is early a tract, letters vary a treatise, in stridency: pamphlet. ” Lawrence did not care for The Possessed: “Nobody was pos sessed enough really to interest me. They bore me, these squirming sorts of people: they teem like insects. ” But the same letter attempts a reasonable classification of Dostoev REN? WELLEK 605 sky’s characters according to their will and a criticism of what might be called his angelism. “The whole point of Dostoev sky lies in the fact of his fixed will that the individual ego, the achieved I, the conscious entity, shall be infinite, God like, this and is absolved as phrased a introvert, purely … . e. free. ” Even from all relation, a condemnation. was Dostoevsky was not will? there disintegrating earlier “a pure a grain of the passion of evil. of love within become, him? all now, the passion a supreme of hate, wicked It has I think, ness to set up a Christ worship as Dostoevsky did: it is the an evil will, disguising in terms of love. ” outcome of itself God and Sadism, he is foul. ” Most ex “Dostoevsky, mixing are called travagantly Dostoevsky’s books and Murry’s on him stuff. ” “offal, putrid more drastic Even a rotten was “Dostoevsky is this: like “Dostoevsky, little the stinker. can rest, nicely stick his head between the feet of Christ, his behind in the air. ” A poem sums it up: the Judas, Dostoevsky, with his sham Christianity ruined epileptically the last bit of sanity left in the hefty bodies of the Russian nobility. “Now It’s Happened,” Pansies When Lawrence was induced to write a and waggle (1929) preface to The Grand Inquisitor (1930), he assumed a calm tone, retelling its point completely. the legend, but misreading Dostoevsky correct you. And Jesus in the end gives the kiss of acquies cence to the Inquisitor. “Jesus kisses the Inquisitor: Thank you, you are right, wise old man! ” But surely Jesus Christ does not accept the arguments of the Grand Inquisitor. He answers them in the only way supposedly says there: “Jesus, you are inadequate. Men must silence and forgiveness. The Inquisitor is refuted by ? by the kiss. Alyosha immediately afterwards kisses Ivan, forgiv ing him his atheism, answering his “revolt” with Christian religion can answer atheism 606 love. Ivan LITERARY knows CRITICISM this when OF D. H. LAWRENCE he “That’s says: You stole it from my poem. ” The rest of the novel?
Father Zossima, Brother Markel, the conclusion with Alyosha prom other (as do Dostoevsky’s ising the boys immortality? testifies fictional and journalistic) to the correctness of this writings, interpretation What Chekhov This can and one the wrongheadedness Lawrence writer and the of Lawrence’s, writes a in a which, letter was meant that a plagiarism. surprisingly, has been echoed widely. say when “is a second-rate against of the willy Russian greatest “enormous amount” Tolstoy, now wet-leg”? writers they had revulsion after denial, to Lawrence all, earlier: of tered almost more greatest writers “Turgenev, han all time. ‘ anything, But and I thought he realized Dostoievsky? mat them the “a certain insensitive crudity and thick, uncivilised, stupidity about them. ” He deplored their self-consciousness, their probings into the soul. “That is almost the whole of Russian literature: the place phenomenal people. common coruscations of the souls of quite . . . That’s are so the Russians why popular. … Every character in Dostoevsky absolutely or Chekhov thinks himself prefers who un had the terse straightforward who have mer. ” Rozanov have not no soul He made inwardly a nonesuch, art of Verga writing be hard mong unique. ” Lawrence about Sicilians got “our sort of subjective in our sense of the word. Russian discovered than Verga one it would exception “more to imagine: the Russians: recovered consciousness,” more “Anything save Ho he Vasily for having Rozanov. Reviewing or less Solitaria, he praised the genuine pagan vision, the phallic vision,” though he suspects him to kennel. ”
The other book be “a pup out of the Dostoievsky then translated, Fallen Leaves, interested him less as “just fragments of thought jotted down anywhere and anyhow. ” Lawrence was realized “with something of a shock, . . . ow much finer and purer and more ultimate our own stuff is” compared to the writings of the Russians. A long study of Thomas Hardy, all in 1914 but not published until 1936, wanders written happier with his predecessors at home. He REN? WELLEK 607 its author finally novels, some witty over the place but does contain, when tles down to a consideration of the set re telling of the absurd plots of the early novels and good com ment on the role of the setting in The Return of the Native. Lawrence and with the usual rejects Hardy’s metaphysics, contrast Lawrence ines? Eustacia, between overt and latent that Sue? s meaning thinks that “turn hero painful ing to the earth, denies, to landscape, then he the position tragic. is true to himself. ” of Hardy’s “Necessarily however, and Tess, itwas, but they were not at war with God, only with Society. . . .And the men killed them, not the judgment judgment of of their own souls or the judgment of Eternal God. ” “There is,” he feels, “a lack of sternness, there is a hesitating betwixt life and public opinion, which diminishes the Wessex novels from the rank of pure tragedy. ” But other contexts show that Lawrence actually did not rank tragedy highly. The little poem
Tragedy looks tome like man In love with his own defeat. is only a sloppy way of being Which I can’t very cared much so care about the woes in love with and yourself. tragedies of Lear and Macbeth they excessively and Hamlet themselves. and Timon: must be taken literally. In a vivid Lake Garda included in Twilight demns the based account of theatricals on con in Italy Lawrence proves of the reconciliation at the end of the Oresteia but finds the final duel in Hamlet merely foolish. Later he re is all sexual: the peats that “the real mortal coil’ in Hamlet young man’s horror of his mother’s incest, sex s in its concep character of Hamlet “repulsive on self-dislike and a spirit of disintegration. ” He tion, sees Hamlet even “far more than Orestes, his prototype, as, a mental Lawrence anti-sensual. ” creature, ap anti-physical, it a wild and nameless terror which, it seems to me, carrying with it had 608 never LITERARY CRITICISM carried before. ” In OF D. H. LAWRENCE of all of Lawrence’s revulsion against his time, he remained a Utopian, hope, who disapproved of tragedy. The terms discussion of Hardy’s main novels spite full of messianic unfortunately de generates Arabella grated. quickly into a criticism chematic of the main typology. characters For her instance out in of Lawrence’s Arabella sexual as in Jude the Obscure is not is defended, while made Sue is deni to so coarse be. Sue is not a woman: she had no love for Jude. But how or could Lawrence anybody else know that Arabella? who throws a pig’s pizzle at Jude after sticking the pig to bleed it slowly to death and who deserts Jude in total incomprehen sion of his ambition for learning? was less coarse than Hardy as being? Lawrence’s criticism here and inmany depicted her instances or suffers from a common critical vice: the confusion
Hardy of fiction and reality, the use of fiction Similarly preconception. a thesis? or rather several to illustrate a theory theses? on national is imposed on history, and sexual typology psychology, American writing in Studies in Classic American Literature in (1923). The chapters exist in earlier versions published the English Review in 1919 and 1920. These are more sober less less strident in tone, less Carlylese, and straightforward: exclamatory in style, but in also less pungent and The national psychology however, preposterous soul sential American which its wild s at the basis generalizations: stoic, and isolate, seems to me, “The a killer”; es “In impressive. is hard, America, nobody does anything from the blood. Always from the nerves, if not from the mind”; “Ghastly Americans, with their blood no longer blood. A yellow spiritual fluid”; “The American has got to destroy. It is his destiny. It is his destiny to destroy the whole corpus of the white psyche, the white consciousness”; “America hurts, because it has a influence upon the white psyche. ” The Ameri disintegrative are depicted as thinned out, intellec cans (all Americans? “the old European tualized, hating same time as demonic, destructive. spontaneity,” Lawrence but detests at the what powerful could be called the idealist tradition in America: “You must REN? WELLEK 609 look through the surface of American art, and see the inner it is all mere diabolism of the symbolic meaning. Otherwise childishness. ” Or: “You have got to pull the democratic and idealistic clothes off American utterance, and see what you can of the dusky it underneath. ” Lawrence does this, body of first, by denying that the Pilgrim Fathers came for freedom of worship.
Instead, as the earlier version develops it, they life at its had “a gloomy passion … to destroy or mutilate very quick, lusting in their dark power to annihilate all living impulses, both their own and those of their neighbour. ” Then Benjamin Franklin is satirized for his utilitarian Philis tinism. “He tries to take away my wholeness and my dark forest, my freedom. ” Franklin is oddly considered as some kind of dark plotter who “has done more to ruin the old Europe than any Russian nihilist”; how he is such remains we take him as the obscure? unless symbol of the shallow and technology.
Enlightenment James Fenimore Cooper is ridiculed for social snobbery and man to service He was “a gentle lip egalitarian democracy. sense of the word. ” in the worst are The “white novels” are but the Leather Tales condemned, par stocking praised, ticularly for the “stark, stripped human relationship of two and Natty Bumppo, “deeper than the men,” Chingachgook deeps “The a of sex. ” The tales create of a new myth relationship. men are two childless, womanless of opposite races” a new “the clue, the inception of The humanity. ” Deerslayer is “a man who on white turns his back “an isolate, society,” elfless, stoic, enduring man, who lives by death, by but who is pure white. This is the very intrinsic-most killing, American. ” almost the germ of the future. Poe, in contrast, belongs entirely to the past. “Ligeia” is as “a interpreted ghastly story of the assertion of the human will, edge. ” the will-to-love Poe and the will-to-consciousness, asserted Suddenly this lonely man is seen as containing against death self-consciousness, “ghastly disease, itself. The pride of human the of extreme conceit of in knowl excessive of the spiri and is for Lawrence love”? love representative intellectualism, here meaning omantic 610 LITERARY CRITICISM OF D. H. LAWRENCE tual love contrasted with healthy sex. Lawrence ridiculed it also in Dante and Petrarch, who had their “spiritual concu bines,” Beatrice and Laura, but fathered babies by other women. in the There is no overt discussion of transcendentalism Studies, but in a review of Stuart Sherman’s Americans (1923) Lawrence expressed his opinion of Emerson sufficiently: he is an that knew “idealist. ” Emerson only God who send me Quoting that “I am there surrounded by messengers of credentials day by day,” Lawrence are many messengers.
Gabriel. ” There was jeers He “a forgot a sort of smooth-shaven whole bunch of others. But Emerson had a stone-deaf ear for all except a nicely aureoled Gabriel qui n avait pas de quoi. ” The prime example of Lawrence’s method of unmasking appears in his criticism of The Scarlet Letter, “amasterpiece, but in duplicity and half-false excitement. ” The book is al a “colossal satire” on the destructive love of legorized into woman. Hester is a devilish girl-child, a little demon who married an Italian was se count (a detail invented by Lawrence). Dimmesdale duced by Hester but took his revenge in the public confession at the end. s The which Scarlet Hester “oriental,” characterized a Sister Woman became of Mercy. as a Great is called Mother and weird spiritual geography Prynne is a demon, a witch, a devil, as Pearl in Lawrence’s means also that “the aboriginal American principle [is] work is a malevo ing in her, the Aztec principle. ” Chillingworth is lent soul, somebody like Francis Bacon, while Dimmesdale “the whole clue to Dostoevsky. ” These ideas are developed in the earlier version? “Dostoevsky’s whole essence is in further alle last days of Arthur Dimmesdale”? and “The world is like Dimmesdale [and thus gorized fancifully: in the dark races. t has its Chillingworth like Dostoevsky? ], in Germany. ” Lawrence considers the It has had its Hester as resulting from Hawthorne’s surface meaning of the book is a pious fraud. ” Still duplicity. “All his reasoned exposition Lawrence praised the book ecstatically as a “profound and wonderful book, one of the eternal revelations. ” “It is far these REN? wellek more than and . . . more 611 perfect than we any work of fiction in French”? though, shortly before, are told that Hawthorne “is not, at least in his greatest work, a realist, straction, nor as even it exists a novelist. ” in its first The abstract characters nakedness. re not The even profound [Dostoevsky], types. They represent the human soul in its passional ab Scar let Letter is “a legendary myth. It contains the abstract of the fall of the white race. ” It is the reverse of the myth of Eve in the Book of Genesis. For Lawrence “the book scarcely belongs to the realm of art. It belongs to the realm of pri mary or passional ethics and ethnology, the realm of the myth and the morality play. ” Its claim to be a historical romance is entirely lost sight of. in Studies of Melville’s South Sea ro The interpretation mances is less far off the mark. paradise but also expressions of hatred for the life of civi is saying: “The ugliest beast on earth is lized man. Melville in which the white man. ” But the chapter on Moby-Dick, Lawrence They are not only escapes to “one of the strangest and most wonderful is perverse in its allegorical misreading. supposed to represent our deepest praises it as “a surpassingly beautiful book,” as books in the world,” The white whale is “the blood-consciousness, last phallic “the maniacal assisted by being of the white man”; and he is hunted by mental fanaticism of our white consciousness,” races: and black, Queequeg, the other red, yellow,
Tashtego, Daggoo. Why the white whale should or could man is remains particularly of the whale. In the last chapter of Studies Lawrence calls Whitman “a “the first heroic seer to seize the soul by very great poet,” the scruff of her neck and plant her down among the pot is criticized sherds” saying “Stay in the flesh. ” But Whitman and disparaged for his celebration of all-embracing sym “He couldn’t quite break the old maddening bond of pathy: he couldn’t quite get out of the rut of the love-compulsion, is addressed: the charity habit. ” Whitman “You’ve cooked the awful pudding of One Identity. ” He reaches “an empty onsciousness of the white the phallic represent nor can one understand what obscure; totally Ahab’s obsessive “mental” about Captain pursuit 612 LITERARY CRITICISM OF D. H. LAWRENCE Allness. An addled egg,” but this “last merging” is only death. (The rejection of romantic merging with nature and the uni verse is an old theme of Lawrence. Wordsworth’s as is ridiculed the primrose “impertinence” never Keats’s sang “a plaintive nightingale at his “Caruso But then Lawrence jauntiest. “) and praises Whitman for his “essential message Road,” “the heroic message of the American on poem and “bunk,” and but was anthem” turns around . . the Open con future,” ceived of as a lonely journey away from mansions and from too close association with other people. The message of Whit man seems identical with that of the Deerslayer. “Purified of the exultant message of merging, purified of myself, American Democracy, of souls in the Open Road, full of glad full of fierce readiness, full of the joy of worship, recognition, when souls. ” one soul sees a greater soul. The only riches, the great So ends a book that had an impact far beyond its claim to literary criticism.
Examined as criticism, it will appear often perverse, insensitive, indiscriminating, lacking in all the vir tues of scrupulosity, submission to a text, sympathy for a dif ferent book erature literature mind. came a at But the it was crest of not examined as instead itwas praised without idealist tradition and because literary criticism; attention to detail because the Puritan the and the wave at against a time it ascribed “the to American when American smiling lit of life” or celebrating America as the symbol of progress, as the inheritor of dying Europe. Lawrence displayed America’s “power of darkness,” even the demonic underside.
Hawthorne, portentous significance was seen as still often reflecting aspects Melville, prophets Whitman, and and even Cooper revolutionaries. Their assume meaning the role of in histori cal context is forgotten or distorted. Lawrence imposed his own ideology on these writers : a world view that it is unjust to label simply proto-Fascist, for it is too personal a combina tion of irrationalistic motives, of vitalism, of messianic hopes for a new man, propped up by occult and pseudoscientific notions. It was appealing in the United States, because of its civilization and egalitarian democracy rejection of machine REN? WELLEK 13 and its call for a resurrection of the flesh, to many who were worlds apart from Lawrence’s social or political views: to to Marius Bewley, to Richard William Carlos Williams, Chase, and to Leslie Fiedler, who all found inspiration in Lawrence’s book on America. If one reads in the mountainous literature heaping praise on Lawrence as the greatest English writer of the century, one marvels that all standards of accuracy of interpretation inter and fairness are abandoned in favor of the undeniable est that his critical ceptions about as comments on arouse writings and history, sex, love, society, morals, his con as and o his novels, to which they often can be accompaniments the Hardy linked in intimate enmeshments: study with in Love, the Studies in Classic American Literature Women remarked in a letter: with The Plumed Serpent. Lawrence ” “I always say, my motto is ‘Art for my sake. ‘ This may be mistaken when his novels are concerned, but it is surely true of his criticism.