October 2, 2014, by bramh2
D. H. Lawrence in Nottingham
By Dr Andrew Harrison, School of English
A banner hanging on some buildings adjacent to Nottingham Train Station contains images of three prominent Nottingham authors beneath the headline: ‘Our Rebel Writers’. The writers in question are, of course, Lord Byron, D. H. Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe.
All three men have tangible links to venues in and around the city, but it is arguably Lawrence whose writings are best known to contemporary readers, if only because of the furore caused by the 1960 Lady Chatterley Trial. Lawrence is perhaps most famous today as the cosmopolitan writer who criticised the country of his birth as an exile and outsider, challenging censorship by writing in a shockingly outspoken manner about sexual experience and the life of the body.
Yet it was his formative experience in Eastwood, a former mining town eight miles to the north-west of Nottingham, which shaped his radical outlook. He lived here for the first twenty-three years of his life (from 1885-1908), before leaving to take up a teaching post in Croydon. The intimacy of the miners’ lives in the town, the ugliness and confinement of the miners’ dwellings, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside, link this place to the author as surely as Bath is linked to the fiction of Jane Austen.
Today, you can retrace Lawrence’s steps around Eastwood by following the Blue Line Trail in the town and visiting the two museums run there by D. H. Lawrence Heritage. The blue line takes you past the four houses which the Lawrence family lived in during the author’s early life there. Plaques and information points provide the appropriate contexts for understanding how the places and views shaped his early life, his outlook, and his writings. Visiting the town and then reading some of Lawrence’s early poems – like The Wild Common’ and ‘Discord in Childhood’ – and the short stories from his first collection, The Prussian Officer and Other Stories (1914) – especially ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’ – will provide you with the best introduction possible to the work of this great author.
Taster tours of the D.H. Lawrence Heritage Birthplace Museum and Hometown Trail tours will take place in Eastwood on the 15 November 2014 as part of the Heroes and Villains: subversion and rebellion in Nottinghamshire events programme for the Being Human Festival of the Humanities