She says that Lawrence said, "Frieda, if people really knew what you were like, they would strangle you." I say, "Did he say that angrily?" She said, "No--very quietly, after several minutes deep thought."Anthony Powell--whose relatively catholic literary tastes can be trusted to overcome what one would be right to assume would be his social and political dislike of Lawrence--described him well in a review of Lawrence's literary criticism written for Punch in 1956:
Lawrence was in a way too gifted; at least too lacking in self-discipline to control his gifts to their best advantage. Leaning heavily towards the state of being primarily a poet, he was chiefly, as it turned out, concerned with writing novels. As a novelist, with all his force, he is never wholly at ease with his medium. He himself is the only character who ever truly emerges.Nonetheless, Lawrence and his work remain of interest, so when my coworker Joseph Peterson lent me Edmund Wilson's The Twenties, one of the volumes of his journals that FSG published in the 1970s, I was greatly entertained by Wilson's account of a party given for Lawrence in August of 1923 that Wilson, then twenty-eight, attended:
Terrific argument betwen John Macy and Lawrence about extent to which reviewers were prostitutes. Lawrence thinks critics influential and should realize their responsibility. . . . I found Lawrence's appearance disconcerting. He was lean, but his head was disproportionately small. One saw that he belonged to an inferior caste--some bred-down unripening race of the collieries. Against this inferiority--fundamental and physical--he must have had to fight all his life: his passionate spirit had made up for it by exaggerated self-assertion. (I have never seen this physical aspect of Lawrence mentioned.) On this occasion, he suddenly became hysterical and burst out in childish rudeness and in a high-pitched screaming voice with something like: "I'm not enjoying this! Why are we sitting here having tea? I don't want tea! I don't want to be doing this!" The Seltzers [the hosts], rather stodgy in their bourgeois apartment, sat through it and made no reply, and nobody else took any notice of it. . . . The furious fit soon passed, and he presently came over and began to talk to me in a conventional British way. I don't remember what he said except to ask me a question or two about myself. I had earlier been rather antagonized by his denunciation of Dante as a writer who had tried to intellectualize love.After which I find myself wanting to turn back to Powell, who, elsewhere in the Punch piece quoted above, wrote of Lawrence,
[H]is whole approach seems largely inappropriate to the world of literature. Lawrence was a frustrated politician or preacher. He wanted power: to force people to do his will. He was temperamentally unable to understand that different people by their nature may require to live different lives; and, accordingly, to find their expression in different forms of art.All of which, oddly enough, makes me think it may be time--after nearly twenty years--to revisit The Rainbow.