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Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover

David Herbert Lawrence

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1

  • Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. Th_ataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up ne_ittle habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there i_ow no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over th_bstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
  • This was more or less Constance Chatterley's position. The war had brought th_oof down over her head. And she had realized that one must live and learn.
  • She married Clifford Chatterley in 1917, when he was home for a month o_eave. They had a month's honeymoon. Then he went back to Flanders: to b_hipped over to England again six months later, more or less in bits.
  • Constance, his wife, was then twenty-three years old, and he was twenty-nine.
  • His hold on life was marvellous. He didn't die, and the bits seemed to gro_ogether again. For two years he remained in the doctor's hands. Then he wa_ronounced a cure, and could return to life again, with the lower half of hi_ody, from the hips down, paralysed for ever.
  • This was in 1920. They returned, Clifford and Constance, to his home, Wragb_all, the family 'seat'. His father had died, Clifford was now a baronet, Si_lifford, and Constance was Lady Chatterley. They came to start housekeepin_nd married life in the rather forlorn home of the Chatterleys on a rathe_nadequate income. Clifford had a sister, but she had departed. Otherwis_here were no near relatives. The elder brother was dead in the war. Cripple_or ever, knowing he could never have any children, Clifford came home to th_moky Midlands to keep the Chatterley name alive while he could.
  • He was not really downcast. He could wheel himself about in a wheeled chair, and he had a bath-chair with a small motor attachment, so he could driv_imself slowly round the garden and into the line melancholy park, of which h_as really so proud, though he pretended to be flippant about it.
  • Having suffered so much, the capacity for suffering had to some extent lef_im. He remained strange and bright and cheerful, almost, one might say, chirpy, with his ruddy, healthy-looking face, and his pale-blue, challengin_right eyes. His shoulders were broad and strong, his hands were very strong.
  • He was expensively dressed, and wore handsome neckties from Bond Street. Ye_till in his face one saw the watchful look, the slight vacancy of a cripple.
  • He had so very nearly lost his life, that what remained was wonderfull_recious to him. It was obvious in the anxious brightness of his eyes, ho_roud he was, after the great shock, of being alive. But he had been so muc_urt that something inside him had perished, some of his feelings had gone.
  • There was a blank of insentience.
  • Constance, his wife, was a ruddy, country-looking girl with soft brown hai_nd sturdy body, and slow movements, full of unusual energy. She had big, wondering eyes, and a soft mild voice, and seemed just to have come from he_ative village. It was not so at all. Her father was the once well-known R.
  • A., old Sir Malcolm Reid. Her mother had been one of the cultivated Fabians i_he palmy, rather pre-Raphaelite days. Between artists and culture_ocialists, Constance and her sister Hilda had had what might be called a_esthetically unconventional upbringing. They had been taken to Paris an_lorence and Rome to breathe in art, and they had been taken also in the othe_irection, to the Hague and Berlin, to great Socialist conventions, where th_peakers spoke in every civilized tongue, and no one was abashed.
  • The two girls, therefore, were from an early age not the least daunted b_ither art or ideal politics. It was their natural atmosphere. They were a_nce cosmopolitan and provincial, with the cosmopolitan provincialism of ar_hat goes with pure social ideals.
  • They had been sent to Dresden at the age of fifteen, for music among othe_hings. And they had had a good time there. They lived freely among th_tudents, they argued with the men over philosophical, sociological an_rtistic matters, they were just as good as the men themselves: only better, since they were women. And they tramped off to the forests with sturdy youth_earing guitars, twang-twang! They sang the Wandervogel songs, and they wer_ree. Free! That was the great word. Out in the open world, out in the forest_f the morning, with lusty and splendid-throated young fellows, free to do a_hey liked, and—above all—to say what they liked. It was the talk tha_attered supremely: the impassioned interchange of talk. Love was only a mino_ccompaniment.
  • Both Hilda and Constance had had their tentative love-affairs by the time the_ere eighteen. The young men with whom they talked so passionately and sang s_ustily and camped under the trees in such freedom wanted, of course, the lov_onnexion. The girls were doubtful, but then the thing was so much talke_bout, it was supposed to be so important. And the men were so humble an_raving. Why couldn't a girl be queenly, and give the gift of herself?
  • So they had given the gift of themselves, each to the youth with whom she ha_he most subtle and intimate arguments. The arguments, the discussions wer_he great thing: the love-making and connexion were only a sort of primitiv_eversion and a bit of an anti-climax. One was less in love with the bo_fterwards, and a little inclined to hate him, as if he had trespassed o_ne's privacy and inner freedom. For, of course, being a girl, one's whol_ignity and meaning in life consisted in the achievement of an absolute, _erfect, a pure and noble freedom. What else did a girl's life mean? To shak_ff the old and sordid connexions and subjections.
  • And however one might sentimentalize it, this sex business was one of the mos_ncient, sordid connexions and subjections. Poets who glorified it were mostl_en. Women had always known there was something better, something higher. An_ow they knew it more definitely than ever. The beautiful pure freedom of _oman was infinitely more wonderful than any sexual love. The only unfortunat_hing was that men lagged so far behind women in the matter. They insisted o_he sex thing like dogs.
  • And a woman had to yield. A man was like a child with his appetites. A woma_ad to yield him what he wanted, or like a child he would probably turn nast_nd flounce away and spoil what was a very pleasant connexion. But a woma_ould yield to a man without yielding her inner, free self. That the poets an_alkers about sex did not seem to have taken sufficiently into account. _oman could take a man without really giving herself away. Certainly she coul_ake him without giving herself into his power. Rather she could use this se_hing to have power over him. For she only had to hold herself back in sexua_ntercourse, and let him finish and expend himself without herself coming t_he crisis: and then she could prolong the connexion and achieve her orgas_nd her crisis while he was merely her tool.
  • Both sisters had had their love experience by the time the war came, and the_ere hurried home. Neither was ever in love with a young man unless he and sh_ere verbally very near: that is unless they were profoundly interested, _talking_ to one another. The amazing, the profound, the unbelievable thril_here was in passionately talking to some really clever young man by the hour, resuming day after day for months… this they had never realized till i_appened! The paradisal promise: Thou shalt have men to talk to!—had neve_een uttered. It was fulfilled before they knew what a promise it was.
  • And if after the roused intimacy of these vivid and soul-enlightene_iscussions the sex thing became more or less inevitable, then let it. I_arked the end of a chapter. It had a thrill of its own too: a queer vibratin_hrill inside the body, a final spasm of self-assertion, like the last word, exciting, and very like the row of asterisks that can be put to show the en_f a paragraph, and a break in the theme.
  • When the girls came home for the summer holidays of 1913, when Hilda wa_wenty and Connie eighteen, their father could see plainly that they had ha_he love experience.
  • _L'amour avait passe par la_ , as somebody puts it. But he was a man o_xperience himself, and let life take its course. As for the mot a nervou_nvalid in the last few months of her life, she wanted her girls to be 'free', and to 'fulfil themselves'. She herself had never been able to be altogethe_erself: it had been denied her. Heaven knows why, for she was a woman who ha_er own income and her own way. She blamed her husband. But as a matter o_act, it was some old impression of authority on her own mind or soul that sh_ould not get rid of. It had nothing to do with Sir Malcolm, who left hi_ervously hostile, high-spirited wife to rule her own roost, while he went hi_wn way.
  • So the girls were 'free', and went back to Dresden, and their music, and th_niversity and the young men. They loved their respective young men, and thei_espective young men loved them with all the passion of mental attraction. Al_he wonderful things the young men thought and expressed and wrote, the_hought and expressed and wrote for the young women. Connie's young man wa_usical, Hilda's was technical. But they simply lived for their young women.
  • In their minds and their mental excitements, that is. Somewhere else they wer_ little rebuffed, though they did not know it.
  • It was obvious in them too that love had gone through them: that is, th_hysical experience. It is curious what a subtle but unmistakabl_ransmutation it makes, both in the body of men and women: the woman mor_looming, more subtly rounded, her young angularities softened, and he_xpression either anxious or triumphant: the man much quieter, more inward, the very shapes of his shoulders and his buttocks less assertive, mor_esitant.
  • In the actual sex-thrill within the body, the sisters nearly succumbed to th_trange male power. But quickly they recovered themselves, took the sex-thril_s a sensation, and remained free. Whereas the men, in gratitude to the woma_or the sex experience, let their souls go out to her. And afterwards looke_ather as if they had lost a shilling and found sixpence. Connie's man coul_e a bit sulky, and Hilda's a bit jeering. But that is how men are! Ungratefu_nd never satisfied. When you don't have them they hate you because you won't; and when you do have them they hate you again, for some other reason. Or fo_o reason at all, except that they are discontented children, and can't b_atisfied whatever they get, let a woman do what she may.
  • However, came the war, Hilda and Connie were rushed home again after havin_een home already in May, to their mother's funeral. Before Christmas of 191_oth their German young men were dead: whereupon the sisters wept, and love_he young men passionately, but underneath forgot them. They didn't exist an_ore.
  • Both sisters lived in their father's, really their mother's, Kensingto_ousemixed with the young Cambridge group, the group that stood for 'freedom'
  • and flannel trousers, and flannel shirts open at the neck, and a well-bre_ort of emotional anarchy, and a whispering, murmuring sort of voice, and a_ltra-sensitive sort of manner. Hilda, however, suddenly married a man te_ears older than herself, an elder member of the same Cambridge group, a ma_ith a fair amount of money, and a comfortable family job in the government: he also wrote philosophical essays. She lived with him in a smallish house i_estminster, and moved in that good sort of society of people in th_overnment who are not tip-toppers, but who are, or would be, the rea_ntelligent power in the nation: people who know what they're talking about, or talk as if they did.
  • Connie did a mild form of war-work, and consorted with the flannel-trouser_ambridge intransigents, who gently mocked at everything, so far. Her 'friend'
  • was a Clifford Chatterley, a young man of twenty-two, who had hurried hom_rom Bonn, where he was studying the technicalities of coal-mining. He ha_reviously spent two years at Cambridge. Now he had become a first lieutenan_n a smart regiment, so he could mock at everything more becomingly i_niform.
  • Clifford Chatterley was more upper-class than Connie. Connie was well-to-d_ntelligentsia, but he was aristocracy. Not the big sort, but still it. Hi_ather was a baronet, and his mother had been a viscount's daughter.
  • But Clifford, while he was better bred than Connie, and more 'society', was i_is own way more provincial and more timid. He was at his ease in the narrow
  • 'great world', that is, landed aristocracy society, but he was shy and nervou_f all that other big world which consists of the vast hordes of the middl_nd lower classes, and foreigners. If the truth must be told, he was just _ittle bit frightened of middle-and lower-class humanity, and of foreigner_ot of his own class. He was, in some paralysing way, conscious of his ow_efencelessness, though he had all the defence of privilege. Which is curious, but a phenomenon of our day.
  • Therefore the peculiar soft assurance of a girl like Constance Reid fascinate_im. She was so much more mistress of herself in that outer world of chao_han he was master of himself.
  • Nevertheless he too was a rebel: rebelling even against his class. Or perhap_ebel is too strong a word; far too strong. He was only caught in the general, popular recoil of the young against convention and against any sort of rea_uthority. Fathers were ridiculous: his own obstinate one supremely so. An_overnments were ridiculous: our own wait-and-see sort especially so. An_rmies were ridiculous, and old buffers of generals altogether, the red-face_itchener supremely. Even the war was ridiculous, though it did kill rather _ot of people.
  • In fact everything was a little ridiculous, or very ridiculous: certainl_verything connected with authority, whether it were in the army or th_overnment or the universities, was ridiculous to a degree. And as far as th_overning class made any pretensions to govern, they were ridiculous too. Si_eoffrey, Clifford's father, was intensely ridiculous, chopping down hi_rees, and weeding men out of his colliery to shove them into the war; an_imself being so safe and patriotic; but, also, spending more money on hi_ountry than he'd got.
  • When Miss Chatterley—Emma—came down to London from the Midlands to do som_ursing work, she was very witty in a quiet way about Sir Geoffrey and hi_etermined patriotism. Herbert, the elder brother and heir, laughed outright, though it was his trees that were falling for trench props. But Clifford onl_miled a little uneasily. Everything was ridiculous, quite true. But when i_ame too close and oneself became ridiculous too… ? At least people of _ifferent class, like Connie, were earnest about something. They believed i_omething.
  • They were rather earnest about the Tommies, and the threat of conscription, and the shortage of sugar and toffee for the children. In all these things, o_ourse, the authorities were ridiculously at fault. But Clifford could no_ake it to heart. To him the authorities were ridiculous _ab ovo_ , no_ecause of toffee or Tommies.
  • And the authorities felt ridiculous, and behaved in a rather ridiculou_ashion, and it was all a mad hatter's tea-party for a while. Till thing_eveloped over there, and Lloyd George came to save the situation over here.
  • And this surpassed even ridicule, the flippant young laughed no more.
  • In 1916 Herbert Chatterley was killed, so Clifford became heir. He wa_errified even of this. His importance as son of Sir Geoffrey, and child o_ragby, was so ingrained in him, he could never escape it. And yet he kne_hat this too, in the eyes of the vast seething world, was ridiculous. Now h_as heir and responsible for Wragby. Was that not terrible? and also splendi_nd at the same time, perhaps, purely absurd?
  • Sir Geoffrey would have none of the absurdity. He was pale and tense, withdrawn into himself, and obstinately determined to save his country and hi_wn position, let it be Lloyd George or who it might. So cut off he was, s_ivorced from the England that was really England, so utterly incapable, tha_e even thought well of Horatio Bottomley. Sir Geoffrey stood for England an_loyd George as his forebears had stood for England and St George: and h_ever knew there was a difference. So Sir Geoffrey felled timber and stood fo_loyd George and England, England and Lloyd George.
  • And he wanted Clifford to marry and produce an heir. Clifford felt his fathe_as a hopeless anachronism. But wherein was he himself any further ahead, except in a wincing sense of the ridiculousness of everything, and th_aramount ridiculousness of his own position? For willy-nilly he took hi_aronetcy and Wragby with the last seriousness.
  • The gay excitement had gone out of the war… dead. Too much death and horror. _an needed support and comfort. A man needed to have an anchor in the saf_orld. A man needed a wife.
  • The Chatterleys, two brothers and a sister, had lived curiously isolated, shu_n with one another at Wragby, in spite of all their connexions. A sense o_solation intensified the family tie, a sense of the weakness of thei_osition, a sense of defencelessness, in spite of, or because of, the titl_nd the land. They were cut off from those industrial Midlands in which the_assed their lives. And they were cut off from their own class by th_rooding, obstinate, shut-up nature of Sir Geoffrey, their father, whom the_idiculed, but whom they were so sensitive about.
  • The three had said they would all live together always. But now Herbert wa_ead, and Sir Geoffrey wanted Clifford to marry. Sir Geoffrey barely mentione_t: he spoke very little. But his silent, brooding insistence that it shoul_e so was hard for Clifford to bear up against.
  • But Emma said No! She was ten years older than Clifford, and she felt hi_arrying would be a desertion and a betrayal of what the young ones of th_amily had stood for.
  • Clifford married Connie, nevertheless, and had his month's honeymoon with her.
  • It was the terrible year 1917, and they were intimate as two people who stan_ogether on a sinking ship. He had been virgin when he married: and the se_art did not mean much to him. They were so close, he and she, apart fro_hat. And Connie exulted a little in this intimacy which was beyond sex, an_eyond a man's 'satisfaction'. Clifford anyhow was not just keen on his
  • 'satisfaction', as so many men seemed to be. No, the intimacy was deeper, mor_ersonal than that. And sex was merely an accident, or an adjunct, one of th_urious obsolete, organic processes which persisted in its own clumsiness, bu_as not really necessary. Though Connie did want children: if only to fortif_er against her sister-in-law Emma.
  • But early in 1918 Clifford was shipped home smashed, and there was no child.
  • And Sir Geoffrey died of chagrin.