Jun 14, 2014

DH Lawrence and the Naked Cornish Farmer

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) was the darling of the grad English students when I was at Bloomington, maybe because he was more accessible than James Joyce or T.S. Elliot, but still Great Literature, and he wrote about sex.

A lot.

The heterosexual girls seemed to gravitate toward Lady Chatterley's Lover (1926), a Harlequin Romance with bad words.



The heterosexual boys liked Sons and Lovers (1913), about a boy who is in love with his mother.

No one ever mentioned Women in Love (1920), and I hadn't yet seen the 1969 movie starring Oliver Reed and Alan Bates (top photo).

Turns out it's about two sisters who become involved with a gay couple.  Actually they're all bisexual.  One of the men dies, and the other is told, "There can't be two kinds of love."



Aaron's Rod (1922) is about a flutist who leaves his wife and kids to go to Florence with his boyfriend and show his "rod" to men and women.

Lawrence was rather critical of heterosexual romance, Instead spinning wild fantasies of all-male Arcadias.

But he also created horribly homophobic characters, and criticized Walt Whitman for his gay subtexts in Studies in Classic American Literature. 

D.H. Lawrence had several same-sex relationships, notably with a farmer named William Henry Hocking, whom he apparently encountered naked on the beach in Cornwall.  He spent the rest of life searching for someone as perfect, just as Ernst Josephson spent his life searching for the "beautiful boy with a violin" he met in Norway.

But he also warned writer David Garnett against pursuing his "homosexual tendencies," and he hated the gay men he met in the Bloomsbury Group, such as Duncan Grant and John Maynard Keynes; they made him "mad with misery and hostility and rage."

Do you get the impression that this guy was a little nuts?


He tried his hand at painting, and exhibited 25 works at the Warren Gallery in London in 1929.  But they were mostly of nude Italian men with their penises flapping around, including his lover Piero Pini.

The police raided the gallery and seized 13 paintings. They were later returned, on the condition that Lawrence never again show them in England.   When his wife, Freda Lawrence, died in 1956, she willed them to her friend Saki, who willed them to Taos art collector George Sahd.  They're in Taos, New Mexico today.


Priest of Love (1982) stars gay actor Ian McKellen as D.H. Lawrence, Graham Faulkner in a five-second flashback as a nameless Cornish farmer, and Massimo Ranieri (left) as Piero Pini.  It displays his bisexuality in a couple of "you have to be looking for it" scenes.