Lawrence on Hardy

  • Mark Kinkead-Weekes


Perhaps the most brilliant and certainly the most individual essay on Hardy has been sadly neglected. Although D. H. Lawrence’s Study of Thomas Hardy was written in 1914, it was only published in 1936, among the large miscellany of essays and sketches gathered in Phoenix.1 Too long and complex to be included in collections of essays on Hardy, too short to be published alone, the Study has led a fugitive existence in Hardy criticism, more referred to than read, and certainly more read in anthologised extracts tom from context than as a coherent whole. Recently, it is true, the Study has become a recognised stopping-place for critics of Lawrence en route for The Rainbow and seeking some help with the ‘ideas’ which inform that novel. Yet extrapolation of ‘ideas’ has done little justice either to the imaginative quality of the work, or to the impact of Hardy at this crucial moment of Lawrence’s development. As a book, supporting the claims of its title, it remains virtually ignored. There are however reasons for this. The bulk of the Study appears to be concerned with Lawrence, seemingly at his most arcane. It is also a study of art and the artist in painting as well as literature; a book about sex and marriage and not having enough to live on in 1914; a response to the outbreak of war.


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  1. 1.
    Phoenix — The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence, ed. E. D. McDonald (London, 1936) pp. 398–516. Page references in the text are to this edition.Google Scholar
  2. The Study is now also available in Lawrence on Hardy and Painting, ed. J. V. Davies (London, 1973).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    To Pinker, 5 September 1914: ‘What a miserable world. What colossal idiocy, this war. Out of sheer rage I’ve begun my book about Thomas Hardy.’ The Collected Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. Harry T. Moore (London, 1962) 1, p. 290;Google Scholar
  4. hereafter referred to as ‘C.L.’. Lawrence told Amy Lowell on 18 November that he was almost finished’s. Foster Damon, Amy Lowell. A Chronicle (Boston, 1935) p. 279Google Scholar
  5. later, that it had ‘turned out as a sort of Story of My Heart, or a Confessio Fidei’ — C.L. 298. For a fuller account of the circumstances of composition of the Study and its relation to the making of The Rainbow and Women in Love, see Mark Kinkead-Weekes, ‘The Marble and the Statue’ in Imagined Worlds, ed. Maynard Mack and Ian Gregor (London, 1968) pp. 371–418.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    C.L. 273. In a ‘Foreword to Sons and Lovers’, written in January 1913 and never meant for publication, he had first attempted to rewrite Christian theology in terms of the relation of man and woman. See The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. Aldous Huxley (London, 1932) pp. 95–102.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    T. S. Eliot, Notes towards the Definition of Culture (London, 1948) p. 21.Google Scholar
  8. The final sentence in Ian Gregor, The Great Web (London, 1974).Google Scholar

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© Mark Kinkead-Weekes 1977

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  • Mark Kinkead-Weekes

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