Sons and Lovers is not only clearly an autobiographical novel—something a number of its first readers realised without any knowledge of Lawrence’s private life—it is a book written out of a situation and a dilemma which seeks a form transforming that situation and dilemma into a novel. Its author also sees the situation as ‘the tragedy of thousands of young men in England’ (19 xi 1912). He could label it, quite casually, as ‘Sons and Lovers—autobiography’ (23 xii 1912); but in a letter to the man who had once been the closest of his male friends, A. W. McLeod, he wrote that ‘I felt you had gone off from me a bit, because of Sons and Lovers. But one sheds one’s sicknesses in books—repeats and presents again one’s emotions, to be master of them’ (26 x 1913). That suggests rather more of what was involved, even if (with the awareness of hindsight) Lawrence’s first word for the novel’s contents was ‘sicknesses’. As befits a book written so much out of his own life, it is the only one of his novels which we find him rethinking later. When, for instance, he read The White Peacock in Mexico in 1924, for the first time in fifteen years, it seemed simply ‘strange and far off and as if written by somebody else’ (Nehls ii 414); but Sons and Lovers was a book which, in 1922, he ‘felt like rewriting’ because ‘he had not done justice to his father’ (Nehls ii 126); and Aaron’s Rod (completed the previous year) arguably demonstrates an attempt, in part, to recreate the figure of his father with a good deal more sympathy.


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  1. 9.
    D. H. Lawrence, ‘Foreword to Sons and Lovers’, in The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. Aldous Huxley (London: Heinemann, 1932), p. 100.Google Scholar

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© John Worthen 1979

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