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Friday, January 14, 2011

My dear Lady Asquith...

D H Lawrence (1906) Age 21

Garsington Manor, Oxford
Tuesday (1915)

To Lady Cynthia Asquith.

When I drive across this country, with autumn falling and rustling to pieces, I am so sad, for my country, for this great wave of civilisation, 2,000 years, which is now collapsing, that it is hard to live.  So much beauty and pathos of old things passing away and no new things coming; this house --- it is England --- my God, it breaks my soul --- their England, these shafted windows, the elm-trees, the blue distance --- the past, the great past, crumbling down, breaking down, not under the force of the coming birds, but under the weight of many exhausted lovely yellow leaves, that drift over the lawn, and over the pond, like the soldiers, passing away, into winter and the darkness of winter --- no, I can't bear it.  For the winter stretches ahead, where all vision is lost and all memory dies out.

It has been 2,000 years, the spring and summer of our era.  What, then, will the winter be?  No, I can't bear it, I can't let it go.  Yet who can stop the autumn from falling to pieces, when November has come in?  It is almost better to be dead, than to see this awful process finally strangling us to oblivion, like the leaves off the trees.

I want to go to America, to Florida, as soon as I can: as soon as I have enough money to cross with Frieda.  My life is ended here.  I must go as a seed that falls into new ground.  But this, this England, these elm-trees, the grey wind with yellow leaves --- it is so awful, the being gone from it altogether, one must be blind henceforth.  But better leave a quick of hope in the soul, than all the beauty that fills the eyes.

It sounds very rhapsodic: it is this old house, the beautiful shafted windows, the grey gate-pillars under the elm-trees: really I can't bear it: the past, the past, the falling, perishing, crumbling past, so great, so magnificent.

Come and see us when you are in town.  I don't think we shall be here very much longer.  My life now is one repeated, tortured, Vale! Vale! Vale!

D. H. Lawrence

Garsington Manor, Oxfordshire
Photo: Martin Beek

Garsington manor is a Tudor building, best known historically for its ownership by Lady Ottoline Morrell.  Ottoline and her husband Philip Morrell bought the house in 1914 and restored the run down property, also creating a series of Italian style gardens which survive today.  Through World War One and in the 1920s many of Britain's leading artistic and intellectual figures came here.  During the war the Morrells offered sanctuary to conscientious objectors such as Clive Bell and other members of the Bloomsbury Group.  They worked on the property's farm as a way of escaping prosecution.  The Morrell's many other visitors included D. H. Lawrence, Seigfried Sassoon, Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot and Bertrand Russell, who became Ottoline's lover.  Source: www.infobritain.co.uk 

Letter from 'D H Lawrence - Stories, Essays & Poems' Everyman's Library

21 comments:

Nancy said...

The sadness of this letter ... it's heart-wrenching.

steven said...

i was born in england and i haven't been home for over twenty years. the letter would cover the reasons why very well. wow. steven

Betsy said...

The Floridians probably are wishing for England! :)

alaine@éclectique said...

Nancy...it certainly is. With WW1 happening, everything seemed so futile.

alaine@éclectique said...

Steven...and that was 1915!

rallentanda said...

You might like to say Vale to Derrick on the post " Farewell Derrick " at my blog.
Cheers
Rallentanda

alaine@éclectique said...

rallentanda...thank you so much. I did ask him to re-consider and had a nice email in return.

alaine@éclectique said...

rallentanda...I can't access your blog anyway...

le style et la matière said...

A country , a house, a past -- time, time, time.

alaine@éclectique said...

le style et la matière...Nice to see the house still standing; what those walls could tell! In another letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell he exasperates about young people, their vacuous drivel and irreverence. Time hasn't changed how some view the young...

La Petite Gallery said...

Fantastic post,what a group of artists to be living under the same roof. Wish I were a fly on the wall. Bet there were some interesting conversations at night there.

yvonne

Maureen Walsh said...

Loved your blog Alaine! Lawrence's letter, so sad, but so beautifully written. Imagine all those literary greats under one roof!
Thanks for the info and for sowing the seeds of another adventure!
Maureen
X
http://wwworphanstones.blogspot.com

alaine@éclectique said...

Yvonne...thanks for visiting! Love your blog; I know where your daughter gets her spirit!

Yes, Garsington Manor would have been a very interesting place back in the 20s!

alaine@éclectique said...

Maureen...I'll look forward to reading yours!

Renee Finberg said...

i am with betsy...
we in florida
are wishing for england!

Leovi said...

I love this beautiful composition with an interesting structure

alaine@éclectique said...

Renee...you and Betsy have got me wondering; surely you mean 'ye olde England'?

alaine@éclectique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alaine@éclectique said...

Leovi...Many thanks for your visit. I've tried and tried clicking on your name and avatar to find your blog but it doesn't work! Do, please, get back to me with an address.

dancingbeastie said...

Good lord, he does lay it on a bit thick, doesn't he?! Sounds like a bad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder to me! Well, yes, I appreciate that the War must have felt like the end of civilization to many people - and in a way perhaps it was - but seriously, I wonder if DHL did suffer from the winter blues.

Meanwhile, while you head into autumn, we in the northern hemisphere are longing for spring!

alaine@éclectique said...

DB...indeed, come down with SAD and he's longing for Florida, after all!

Autumn is a little while off yet, 1st March but I'll be glad to see the end of Summer; we've killed two snakes near our front door in as many weeks! And the heat is debilitating!

Spring is always welcome after a long, bitter winter. Our winters are quite mild compared to yours, so I don't mind it at all.