D.H. Lawrence: favorite passages discovered upon re-reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover for the first time since high school

The world is supposed to be full of possibilities, but they narrow down to pretty few, in most personal experiences. There’s lots of good fish in the sea – maybe! But the vast masses seem to be mackerel or herring, and if you’re not mackerel or herring yourself, you are inclined to find very few good fish in the sea.

She could sift through the generations of men through her sieve, and see if she couldn’t find one that would do. ‘Go ye into the streets and by-ways of Jerusalem, and see if you can find a man.’ It had been impossible to find a man in the Jerusalem of the prophet — though there were thousands of male humans. But a man! C’est une autre chose!

It’s no good trying to get rid of your own aloneness. You’ve got to stick to it — all your life. Only at times, at times, the gap will be filled in. At times! But you have to wait for the times. Accept your own aloneness and stick to it, all your life. And then accept the times when the gap is filled in, when they come. But they’ve got to come. You can’t force them.

Was it actually her destiny to go on weaving herself into his life all the rest of her life? Nothing else? Was it just that? She was content to weave a steady life with him, all one fabric, but perhaps brocaded with an occasional coloured flower of an adventure. But how could she know how she would feel next year? How could one ever know? How could one say yes! for years and years? The little yes!, gone on a breath! Why should one be pinned down by that butterfly word? Of course it had to flutter away, and be gone, to be followed by other yeses! And no’s! Like the straying of butterflies.

Even if the kiss was only a formality, it was on such formalities that life depends.

And dimly she realized one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance. It is, really, only the mechanism of reassumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise which only slowly depends its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst.

Her body was going meaningless, going dull and opaque, so much insignificant substance. It made her feel immensely depressed, and hopeless. What hope was there? She was old, old at twenty-seven, with no gleam and sparkle in the flesh. Old through neglect and denial: yes, denial. Fashionable women kept their bodies bright, like delicate porcelain, by external attention. There was nothing inside the porcelain. But she was not even as bright as that. The mental life! Suddenly she hated it with a rushing fury, the swindle!

She was thinking to herself of the other man’s words: Tha’s got the nicest woman’s arse of anybody! She wished, she dearly wished she could tell Clifford that this had been said to her, during the famous thunder-storm. However! She bore herself rather like an offended queen, and went upstairs to change.

Well, so many words, because I can’t touch you. If I could sleep with my arm round you, the ink could stay in the bottle…But a great deal of us is together, and we can but abide by it, and steer our courses to meet soon. John Thomas says good-night to lady Jane, a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart.

* * *

From the author’s A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover:

English publishers urge me to make an expurgated edition, promising large returns . . . So I begin to be tempted, and start in to expurgate. But impossible! I might as well try to clip my own nose into shape with scissors. The book bleeds.

The man who finds a woman’s underclothing the most exciting part about her is a savage.

Marriage is the clue to human life, but there is no marriage apart from the wheeling sun and the nodding earth, from the straying of the planets and the magnificence of the fixed stars. Is not a man different, utterly different at dawn, from what he is at sunset? And a woman too? And does not the changing harmony and discord of their variation make the secret music of life? And is it not so throughout life? A man is different at thirty, at forty, at fifty, at sixty, at seventy: and the woman at his side is different. But is there not some strange conjunction in their differences? Is there not some peculiar harmony, through youth, the period of childbirth, the period of florescence and young children, the period of the woman’s change of life, painful yet also a renewal, the period of waning passion but mellowing delight of affection, the dim unequal period of the approach of death, when the man and woman look at one another with the dim apprehension of separation that is not really a separation: is there not, throughout it all, some unseen, unknown interplay of balance, harmony, completion, like some soundless symphony which moves with a rhythm from phase to phase, so different, so very different in the various movements, and yet one symphony, made out of the soundless singing of two strange and incompatible lives, a man’s and a woman’s? This is marriage, the mystery of marriage.

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