D. H. Lawrence

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For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.

D. H. Lawrence (11 September 1885 - 2 March 1930) was one of the most important English writers of the 20th century.


  • If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.
  • I hold that the parentheses are by far the most important parts of a non-business letter.
    • Letter to Blanche Jennings, 15 April, 1908, Letters of D.H. Lawrence (1979), James T. Boulton, ed.
  • My God, these folks don't know how to love — that's why they love so easily.
    • Letter to Blanche Jennings, May 8, 1909, The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. James T. Boulton, Vol. 1 (1979), pp. 127-8.
  • Tragedy ought really to be a great kick at misery.
    • Letter to A W McLeod (6 October 1912)
  • Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rutters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulseless lot that make up England today. They've got the white of egg in their veins and their spunk is so watery it's a marvel they can breed.
    • Letter to Edward Garnett, expressing anger that his manuscript for Sons and Lovers was rejected by Heinemann (July 1912)
  • He talked to her endlessly about his love of horizontals: how they, the great levels of sky and land in Lincolnshire, meant to him the eternality of the will, just as the bowed Norman arches of the church, repeating themselves, meant the dogged leaping forward of the persistent human soul, on and on, nobody knows where; in contradiction to the perpendicular lines and to the Gothic arch, which, he said, leapt up at heaven and touched the ecstasy and lost itself in the divine.
    • Sons and Lovers (1913)
  • Mrs Morel always said the after-life would hold nothing in store for her husband: he rose from the lower world into purgatory, when he came home from pit, and passed into heaven in the Palmerston Arms.
    • Sons and Lovers - Edited out of the 1913 edition, restored in 1992
  • Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
    • Song of a Man who has Come Through (1917)
  • But better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions.
    • Women in Love (1920) Ch. 15
  • The nature of the infant is not just a new permutation-and-combination of elements contained in the natures of the parents. There is in the nature of the infant that which is utterly unknown in the natures of the parents.
    • Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious (1921)
  • The dead don't die. They look on and help.
    • Letter to John Middleton Murry (2 February 1923)
  • Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it
    • Studies in Classic American Literature (1923)
  • It was in 1915 the old world ended.
    • Kangaroo (1923) "The Nightmare"
  • Men! The only animal in the world to fear!
    • Mountain Lion (1923)
  • I want to go south, where there is no autumn, where the cold doesn't crouch over one like a snow leopard waiting to pounce. The heart of the North is dead, and the fingers of cold are corpse fingers.
    • Letter to John Middleton Murry (3 October 1924)
  • The more scholastically educated a man is generally, the more he is an emotional boor.
    • John Galsworthy (1927)
  • Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.
    • Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)
  • Every man has a mob self and an individual self, in varying proportions.
    • Pornography and Obscenity (1929)
  • Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it.
    • Pornography and Obscenity (1929)
  • Men and women aren't really dogs: they only look like it and behave like it. Somewhere inside there is a great chagrin and a gnawing discontent.
    • A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1929)
  • Of course Celia shits! Who doesn't? And how much worse if she didn't.
    • A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover (1929)
  • I can't stand Willy wet-leg,
    can't stand him at any price.
    He's resigned, and when you hit him
    he lets you hit him twice.
    • Willy Wet Leg (1929)
  • Censors are dead men
    set up to judge between life and death.
    For no live, sunny man would be a censor,
    he'd just laugh.
    • Censors (1929)
  • I never saw a wild thing
    Sorry for itself.
    A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
    without ever having felt sorry for itself.
    • Self-Pity (1929)
  • The tiny fish enjoy themselves
    in the sea.
    Quick little splinters of life,
    their little lives are fun to them
    in the sea.
    • Little Fish (1929)
  • What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not his own isolate salvation of his "soul." Man wants his physical fulfilment first and foremost, since now, once and once only, he is in the flesh and potent. For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh. The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation. In my own very self, I am part of my family. There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.
    • Apocalypse (1930)
  • To the Puritan all things are impure, as somebody says.
    • Sketches of Etruscan Places (1932)
  • God is only a great imaginative experience.
    • Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence, pt. 4, ed. by E. McDonald, (1936)


  • Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley's Lover has just been reissued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-by-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion this book cannot take the place of J. R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeping.
    • Ed Zern, Field & Stream magazine, November 1959. Reprinted in Best of Ed Zern: Fifty Years of Fishing and Hunting from One of America's Best-Loved Outdoor Humorists, ISBN 1585743429.

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