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`D.H. LAWRENCE’ DOES JUSTICE TO COMPLEX CHARACTER

SHARE `D.H. LAWRENCE’ DOES JUSTICE TO COMPLEX CHARACTER

With the profound penetration of literary genius, D.H. Lawrence understood the dramatic richness of his own life and transformed vast amounts of autobiographical material into art.

Noted biographer and critic Jeffrey Meyers' splendid accomplishment in "D.H. Lawrence" has been to do justice to the complexities of Lawrence's often controversial character, to be piercingly analytical but objective, and very importantly, to deepen our understanding of Lawrence's works by brilliantly elucidating the numerous significant ways in which the work and the life intersected.However astute, persuasive and thought-provoking Meyers may be on the dazzling range of Lawrence's art, he always keeps the writer's life in masterly view. In addition to the novelistic masterpieces and other forms of fiction, Lawrence's work encompassed plays, poems, critical studies, paintings, translations, essays, travel books and letters. Meyers considers Lawrence "the greatest letter writer in English since Byron and Keats."

One of the pleasures of this biography is the deftness and delicacy with which Meyers, who portrays Lawrence as "the first writer to use Freudian ideas in the English novel," delineates the enduring sources of conflict that resonate in Lawrence's life and art, and that are as basic and epic as love, sex, power and, to a lesser extent, religion. Lawrence's first masterpiece, "Sons and Lovers" (1913), memorably dramatized the destructive power of love.

In describing the late-19th-century English family crucible that so influenced Lawrence's genius, Meyers illuminates the pivotal role of Lawrence's mother, whose obsessive domination of her son, destruction of his love and respect for his father and abhorrence of sex would permanently distort Lawrence's character but give life to his great artistic concerns.

Throughout his life Lawrence would repeat with women - particularly Frieda, his aristocratic German wife - the patterns of dominance and weakness, love and hatred, intense sexual desire and thwarted expression that he established with his mother.

Driving and twisting Lawrence, in addition to his inner conflicts, was his tragically bad health, including the almost lifelong tuberculosis - which would kill him in 1930 at age 44 - malaria, bronchitis, pneumonia and influenza, though nothing prevented his traveling over much of the world.

Admirably, Lawrence, who wrote impulsively but intensely, and revised extensively, used his subconscious sense of an early death to spur his creativity, and his passion for writing gave him years of life beyond the normal range for a tubercular person.

The highly charged eroticism of so much of Lawrence's writing, which resulted in persecution, suppression and critical attack - he privately published his only commercial success, "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (1928) - derived not only from his obsession with love and sexuality but from his unrestrained passion for honesty in all aspects of life. That passion in life alienated many and in art created masterpieces of literature.

Meyers, too, has been honest and eloquent. In "D.H. Lawrence," he has combined superbly detailed research, a fine sense of balance in exploring the brilliant, ugly and beautiful in Lawrence's soul, a critic's appreciation of the Lawrence canon, and a polished and supple style.