Off Topic Friday: D.H. Lawrence, Master of S…Science!

As an author, D.H. Lawrence wrote many books; that he is remembered for one peculiar one, which goes by the circumspect title of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, makes him seem all the more mysterious and his book the more quaint – filled with potent descriptions of characters and scenery, and a broader critique of the English aristocracy in the early twentieth century – for a generation used to the likes of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or also referred to as ‘The Twilight Fan-Fiction Turned BDSM Manual for Incompetents’. But who would have thought that nestled in the acute descriptions of husband and wife antagonism and aristocratic snobbery (“ ‘It is the masses: they are unchangeable.’ ” [Clifford Chatterley on Social Theory]), there is also a passage devoted to science? So to speak; actually a bout of Clifford’s egomania as he enthusiastically presents to Connie (Lady Chatterley), “…one of the latest scientific-religious books…”, bringing forth another round of marital bickering which Lawrence, somehow, manages to turn into a contest:

‘What do you think of this, by the way?’ he [Clifford] said, reaching for his book. ‘You’d have no need to cool your ardent body by running out in the rain, if only we had a few more aeons of evolution behind us. Ah, here it is! – “The universe shows us two aspects: on one side it is physically wasting, on the other it is spiritually ascending.” ’ Connie listened, expecting more. But Clifford was waiting. She looked at him in surprise.

‘And if it spiritually ascends,’ she said, ‘what does it leave down below, in a place where its tail used to be?’

A bit later, the game becomes more heated:

‘The life of the body,’ he [Clifford] said, ‘is just the life of the animals.’

‘And that’s better than the life of the professional corpses. But it’s not true! The human body is only just coming to real life. With the Greeks it gave a lovely flicker, then Plato and Aristotle killed it, and Jesus finished it off. But now the body is coming really to life, it is really rising from the tomb. And it will be a lovely, lovely life in the lovely universe, the life of the human body.’

And after all that, it turns out that Clifford is arguing about the fact that his wife is going away to Venice, on a holiday he refused to go on anyway:

‘My dear, you speak as if you were ushering it all in! True, you are going away on holiday: but don’t please be quite so indecently elated about it. Believe me, whatever God there is is slowly eliminating the guts and alimentary system from the human being, to evolve a higher, more spiritual being.’

Actually, he seems unaware that Lady Chatterley is in such a good mood as she is secretly (well, maybe not so secret as his nurse knows) banging the gamekeeper, aptly named Mellors. Apt because it conjures up images of indifference mingled with ineptitude.

Still, the subtext within the argument is less awkward than the parts where the reader – oh, the horror! – is forced to witness as Connie and Mellors give pet names to their genitals. And so, in the words of D.H. Lawrence:

John Thomas says good-night to Lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart.

Adios se…I mean, science!

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