Saturday, December 11, 2010
Jessie, Louie, Frieda and D H Lawrence
Lawrence had strong friendships with other women at this time. Some we know less about, like Agnes Holt and Blanche Jennings, others feature in surviving correspondence so we can track their level of involvement. Helen Corke was someone Lawrence met in teaching, and his second novel, ‘The Trespasser’ comes directly out of his relationship with her.
Then came 1911, otherwise known as the ‘sick year’, a year in which Lawrence nearly died of pneumonia. On top of that, Lawrence knew painfully that he was not in a financial position to become married. He wasn’t able to fulfil his own personal expectation of being able to earn 120 pounds a year, with 100 pounds already in the bank.
By the beginning of 1912, as this all dawned on Lawrence, it became clear to him that the marriage was never going to happen. Lawrence’s letters became shorter. The perennial sense of sexual frustration never abated. Lawrence had again chosen a young woman with a strict code of manners. Poems written at this time discuss the repressed desire that Louie felt compelled to enforce:
‘Yet if I lay my hand in her breast,
She puts me away, like a saleswoman whose mart is
Endangered by the pilferer on his quest.’ (from Amores, 1916)
Lawrence also remarked to friends, perhaps in bitterness, that he felt that Louie was too inexperienced, too immature, this due to her unscarred youth. This idea of a lack of self-reliance is portrayed to some extent in Ursula in ‘The Rainbow.’
The relationship between the two began petering out, driven, by the end of 1911, and into 1912, partly by Lawrence’s precarious health. Unsatisfactory meetings continued, until a massive event in Lawrence’s life occurred that would put an end to their friendship altogether. Lawrence met the German wife of his former Professor of Languages and after meeting secretly at Charing Cross Station on May 3, 1912, Lawrence and Frieda crossed the Channel to Ostend to begin a new life together (although Frieda was not committed to a ‘new life’ with Lawrence at this early stage of their illicit relationship).
A couple of letters between Louie and Lawrence were exchanged during 1912, then neither heard from one another again. In the final letter Lawrence wrote to Louie, from Lake Garda in Italy, near the end of 1912, he spoke of the fact that he was ‘such a rotter’ to her, that she always treated him well, that he thinks of her with ‘gratitude and respect’ and that the ‘wrong’ is ‘all on my side.’ Then he comes out with this:
‘I am living here with a lady whom I love, and whom I shall marry when I come to England, if it is possible. We have been together as man and wife for six months, nearly, now, and I hope we shall always remain man and wife. I feel a beast writing this. But I do it because I think it is only fair to you. I never deceived you, whatever- or did I deceive you-? I may have done even that.- I have nothing to be proud of.-…The best thing you can do is to hate me. I loathe signing my name to this. D H Lawrence.’
(‘Lawrence In Love- Letters to LB from DHL’, Univ of Nottingham, 1968).
The final instalment in the story of Louie and Lawrence takes place in Vence, France in March, 1930. The depth of Louie’s affection for Lawrence can be guessed when we see that Louie twice visited Vence to see Lawrence’s grave, this despite the long period without contact. She was at this stage still unmarried and living with her parents in Quorn. Louie did eventually marry in 1940, and retired as Headmistress a year later. She died in 1962. Lawrence scholar, James T Boulton, says of Louie that ‘the wound received in 1912 had not healed in 1930.’
Jessie Chambers also married later, and she too never forgot Lawrence, not even remotely so. This can be seen in her book ‘D H Lawrence, A Personal Record’(1935) in which she states that she always saw in him ‘in the strictest sense of the word, immortal.’ Lawrence, too, always looked back fondly on Jessie and her family, writing a wonderfully tender and appreciative letter very late in life to Jessie’s brother about the unforgettable memories he had of Hagg’s Farm, and that his experiences there would remain with him forever.