chapter  11
13 Pages

`Making history': D. H. Lawrence, Frieda Weekley and

ByOtto Gross JOHN TURNER

If there is any truth to the exasperated humour of this claim ± that Lawrence found it easier to write history than to make it ± it is not that he had a novelist's gift to write ®ctional history but that to write history was only an exercise in imagination, whereas to `make history' meant to confront the recalcitrant facts of real relationships in the real world. It was his wish to establish a new ethic, a new way of living, a new basis for sexual

relationships, and to authenticate them in his own life so that he could then go on to dramatise them in his writing; but to achieve this, he had ®rst to deal with Frieda's family in their social world, he had to deal with Frieda in her world and, not least, he had to deal with the newly revealed truths about his own nature. It is true that all sexual relationships are in a certain sense ®ction, in that they take their meaning from narrative, whether written or from the subjective internal narrative, or narratives, that we tell ourselves. The sexual act is nothing in itself, if not woven into a history that gives it meaning and symbolic value. It is true too that those narratives are in an important sense amphibious, inhabiting both the subjectivity of the imagination and the objectivity of the real world. Their business, indeed, is with the relationship between those two realms, making sense of them, establishing connections and easing strains between them. Lawrence's exasperation, however, reminds us that at times the strain can become too great, that these narratives can break down or become illusory. Those people like Frieda and Lawrence who are committed to `making history' ± committed, that is, to sexual revolution ± feel this strain particularly since they set themselves against the masternarratives of their age; and their attempt to realise a new future means that not only do they have to cope with the strains caused by the pressures of society, of their partners and of their own inner selves, but with those strains as an expression of the past that they are trying to surpass.