This biography riveted me; with its 418 pages of small-font print I thought it would last me two weeks, but it didn't last a week; it was hard to set it aside. I kept thinking how cool it would be to have been introduced to Sons and Lovers or Women in Love or Aaron's Rod in high school instead of the painfully boring Silas Marner, but, truth be told, I probably wouldn't have paid any attention to anything introduced by the small-town/small-school English teachers I had. They were not cool; I would not have allowed them to reach me. Well, then, maybe Lady Chatterly's Lover? ... surely that would have gotten my attention ... no, not even that, unless it had been introduced by one of the only two teachers I liked -- Tony Pavlick (agriculture) and George Wendell Bryant (business and typing).
Lawrence, son of a coal miner, labored for years and years, producing book after book, without making much of a living from his writing. His wife, Freida, child of German aristocracy, once commented, "Ach, Lorenzo, for a genius you are a poor ting." (Germans natives cannot, as a rule, master the th of English; thus Freida's thing becomes ting.)
Most interesting in The Life of An Outsider is its presentation of Lawrence's developing philosophies, such as the rejection of love and sex depicted in Aaron's Rod.
Lawrence would develop these ideas further in the second of his psychoanalyis books, Fantasia of the Unconscious, which he drafted in Germany immediately after Aaron's Rod: 'We have a vice of love, of softness and sweetness and smarminess and intimacy ... We think it's so awfully nice to be like that, in ourselves.' The theory thus grew (as he liked to thin it did) out of the passional experience of writing and engaging in fiction, so that the theory was both a confirmation of the fiction and a development away from it. But both the fiction and the theory expressed the conviction that this was the end of the road for 'the vice of love'. When he revised Fantasia eight months later, Lawrence would go still further: love becomes 'a piece of indecent trickery of the spiritual will. A man should smack his wife's face the moment he hears her say it. The great emotions like love are unspoken. Speaking them is a sign of an indecent bullying will.' And this from the man who in 1912 had proclaimed himself 'a priest of love', and who had imagined that his life's work would be 'sticking up for the love between man and woman'. He now makes himself the priest of freedom: 'one fights one's way through it, till one is cleaned: the self-consciousness and sex-idea burned out of one, cauterized out bit by bit, and the self whole again, and at last free.' If only.**
*And, one hopes, Lawrence would think too that a woman should smack her husband's face the moment she hears him say it, but, considering Lawrence's views re: women, I doubt that his thoughts went that far.
** That If only from the biographer is priceless.