Saturday, December 10, 2011

Joyce and Lawrence: two brief stories of living in exile

Both Lawrence and Joyce were very restless by nature, uprooting and travelling to new places, partly in the search for better health (especially Lawrence), but also beset by money problems, relying on others for their generosity. It has to be said, though, that Joyce was much better off in this regard, having an American woman called Harriet Weaver as a generous benefactress throughout the twenties and beyond. There are countless references to Weaver sending Joyce money as his chief benefactress. Joyce squandered a lot of it too. He had a much more profligate life than Lawrence. A lot of socialising, a lot of drinking, expensive rents. It wasn’t until the emergence of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ that Lawrence became financially reasonably secure, and this was quite late in his life. He had many generous friends whose houses he often borrowed, but not much ongoing financial assistance from any particular quarter.

Joyce left his native Ireland in October 1904. There is no doubt he found the clerical life of Dublin suffocating. Joyce wanted artistic freedom, a journey of self-discovery. For Joyce, the prospect of staying in Dublin was a wasted life. It would not play a direct role toward his great writing adventure. He alludes to this continually in his writing. Ironically, it would be Dublin life that was the main source for inspiration for all the books that were to follow.

Joyce’s life in exile began in Trieste where he found the atmosphere conducive to writing. Here he developed the stories that would comprise ‘Dubliners’, and with his partner, Nora, began a family with the arrival of first born, Giorgio. Here, with Joyce’s brother, Stanislaus, the family would stay until 1915, by which time ‘Ulysses’ was well underway. Joyce would make only sporadic returns to Dublin during the rest of his life, spending much of his life in Paris in an atmosphere of the likes of Picasso, Beckett, Ezra Pound, et al.

Lawrence was living in Cornwall at the start of the First World War, having already lived in Italy where he finished ‘Sons and Lovers’, and working on ‘The Rainbow.’ It was such a bitter experience for him that he was forced to leave by the authorities because he was deemed a suspicious person- living close to the water, walking in fields with torches at night, singing German songs with his German wife, and in October 1917, therefore being ordered out of Cornwall. After the Armistice, the Lawrence’s lived in various places in England and Italy, and by 1922, were living in their preferred home in New Mexico, arriving via Sri Lanka and Australia. Lawrence would return to Europe later in life, but Italy and France were his preferred destinations. He would never feel comfortable in England again. And yet, like Joyce, he still wrote about England, in exile. ‘Lady Chatterley’ would be his final great novel, and is set in Derbyshire. However, Lawrence’s fondest memories of England would always be his years growing up in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. This is the story of ‘Sons and Lover’s, and falling for ‘Miriam’ and going to her family’s farm called ‘the Haggs.’ As late as November 14 1928, Lawrence wrote, from France, to the brother of his childhood sweetheart, Jessie Chambers (Miriam), ‘’Whatever I forget, I shall never forget the Haggs- I loved it so…whatever else I am, I am somewhere still the same Bert who rushed with such joy to the Haggs.’

It is moving to read such lovely sentiment and it informs us that great writers living in exile never really forget the places that gave them their inspirations and their start.

                                                the Haggs, near Eastwood, Nottinghamshire

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