Saturday, February 25, 2006

The birthplace of DH Lawrence

A few weeks ago I met my mother in Nottingham. Nottingham, of course, is famous for its castle, its sherrif and its outlaw, Robin Hood. Nottingham is also the birthplace of one of my favourite authors, D H Lawrence. The house where he was born, actually in a village called Eastwood about ten miles outside the town, has now been converted into a museum. The place has been preserved much as it was when the Lawrences lived there.

It was an end terrace, the museum shop having been built on later, and here is my mother standing outside.

D H Lawrence was devoted to his mother. She was well-to-do in comparison with Lawrence's father and had been a teacher - which is probably one reason why he read and wrote so well.

From the museum shop you go into the kitchen with its range, sink (without running water), sewing machine, table and chairs and stairs off leading to the bedrooms above.
The only other downstairs room in the house was the parlour which was kept for special occasions. This had a grand fireplace, the obligatory aspidistra, dresser, a piano and bookshelves. It also had a large window and deep window sill - Lawrence's mother sold items such as baby clothes. However all shop business was done in the kitchen via the back door. The front door was kept for important visitors such as the minister and also the coffin. The table was covered with a thick cloth. Apparently this was supposed to be a feature of Victorian prudery - the table legs were supposed to remind people too much of naked legs and so had to be covered. However, according to a very interesting book I am reading at the moment (HOPE AND HEARTBREAK: A Social History of Wales and the Welsh 1776-1871 by Russell Davies) this is a myth. The table legs were covered merely to prevent scuffing by hob-nailed boots.

The Lawrences were lucky because they had their own backyard and off this was a wash house with dolly tub, a copper for boiling water, a mangle, stove and a few washboards - all very interesting.

Upstairs there were two bedrooms - one for the parents and one for some of the children, and then up some more stairs there was another bedroom in the loft. There was little in these rooms except the bed, a chest of drawers and a table with a jug and basin. People needed so much less then than they do today.

I found the street unusual - a row of terraces, the sort you generally find in the middle of town, but these led to open fields and we were able to see the same view of countryside that Lawrence would have seen because little seemed to have changed.

David Herbert Lawrence didn't live long in this house. They were an upwardly mobile family - they moved within the village to another larger end terrace and then a semi-detatched house. Lawrence didn't seem to like Eastwood or its inhabitants very much, and once he left he rarely came back. He went to university in Nottingham, and thentaught in Croydon before eloping with Frieda, the wife of one of his teachers, to the continent. Like most writers he seemed to lead an unhappy life, forever flitting around from place to place - the fact that Frieda was German and related to the famous Red Baron probably did not not help matters very much, especially during the first world war.

He died at the young age of 45 of tuberculosis. There is a very interesting website devoted to his life in Eastwood here.


Blogger A said...

What a nice place!

Saludos from Argentina.

Sat Feb 25, 11:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Anon said...

A good objective write up.

The crimeficreader...

Sun Feb 26, 12:27:00 am  
Blogger Martin Kirk said...

I was brought up about 5 miles north of Eastwood, and cycled round the Lawrence Countryside.
At that time the local people were not particularly impressed with his writings!!
When in 1968-9ish, just before going to teach in Groby, Terry and I drove through Eastwood, and it was the first time she had seen children playing in the street without shoes and socks on !!

Whenever I drive up the M1 these days I always look across to the east near Eastwood and Annesley and I too think of "The Country of my Heart"

Sun Feb 26, 08:43:00 pm  
Anonymous JAN said...

Hello Clare
Have you read " Zennor in darkness" by Helen Dunmore? Superb story, set in St Ives area of Cornwall, Summer 1917.. In the book, Dunmore fictionalises DHL and Frieda's life in a village called Zennor, after they'd escaped there from London, hoping to find peace.Think it was Helen Dunmore's 1st novel and certainly one of her best. JAN

Mon Feb 27, 10:35:00 am  
Anonymous Clare said...

Thanks for your comment 'a'. I like your country too. I went there a couple of years ago and was most impressed. I loved Buenos Aires and the Andes were wonderful. I have eaten some Califate berries so that means I shall return to Patagonia.
Saludos to you too!

Thanks Crimeficreader - I think you have visited me here before.

Mr Kirk: I am amazed children were playing barefoot at the end of the sixties. I got the impression local people were not that keen, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised really - I hear he is out of fashion again, but I remain a big fan.

Thanks Jan - another for the great tottering pile of have to be read...sounds great.

Mon Feb 27, 04:48:00 pm  
Blogger Cathy Timberlake said...

I'm going to add a very intellectual comment; I like your Mum's coat. But I dont much like D H Lawrence. Having spent the first 17 years of my life in the same circumstances as D H L, but much, much poorer. I never, ever want to read about it. Give me exotic locations, and rich people, preferably with a sense of humour, sort of like Evelyn Waugh or Enid Bliyton. But I still enjoyed your article.

Wed Mar 01, 09:34:00 am  
Anonymous Clare said...

Thanks Cathy Timberlake. I'm afraid I love gritty stuff, and DH Lawrence really takes me along with him. I think it is sensuous stirring writing and I am a big fan.

Wed Mar 01, 11:29:00 pm  
Blogger Barnze said...

Hood Town is fantastic ain't it?

Thu Mar 02, 11:48:00 pm  
Blogger MellowDrama said...

Well if 'Sons and Lovers' was autobiographical then Lawrence was certainly better off than Paul :) Nice post, made for interesting reading!

Sun Apr 09, 04:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Clare said...

Barnze: Yes Hood City is fantastic - think I'll call it that from now on, excellent stuff. Just returned from another visit, and just as impressed.

And thanks Mellow Drama - like your choice of name - very witty. I have a feeling DHL's difficulties mostly arose because he didn't fit in - from what I read he was a sickly and sensitive child, especially close to his mother and consequently found it difficult to be accepted by the society around him.

Wed Apr 12, 11:58:00 am  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Oh, that's lovely. Funny how time makes that chilly brick house into a warm pink--and converts the mangle and washing contrivances into objects of interest.

Interesting account. The piano instantly brought back one of his poems:


Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamor
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamor
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

Sat Sep 23, 11:15:00 pm  
Anonymous clare said...

I haven't read many of DH Lawrence's poems and this one seems very apt! Thank you, Marly - and thanks for reading my blog.

Mon Sep 25, 05:35:00 pm  

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