©2008 NewFoundations

D. H. Lawrence On "Woman"

edited 8/19/11

D. H. Lawrence was an inspired and controversial writer who, among other things, championed the regeneration of the individual through sexual love. He was the pioneer of modern psychological fiction, unsurpassed in powerful depiction of human passions and conflicts. E. M. Forster called him, “the greatest imaginative novelist of our time.”

Lawrence’s stormy and controversial affair with and subsequent marriage to Frieda von Richthoffen, the mother of three small children, became a prime source for his fiction. He also utilized the enduring battle between his doting mother and coal miner father.

Lawrence championed the “free,” modern woman and her right to an independent existence, and he criticized both men and women--the former for promulgating stereotypes of women and the latter for trying to live up to them. Lawrence maintained, “The problem of the day is the establishment of a new relation . . . between men and women.”


D[avid] H[erbert] Lawrence (1885-l930) -- English novelist, poet, dramatist and essayist who was described at his death as "the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation.”

 Since beauty is a question of experience, not of concrete form, no one can be as acutely ugly as a really pretty woman. When the sex-glow is missing, and she moves in ugly coldness, how hideous she seems, and all the worse for her externals of prettiness. -- New Sex Versus Loveliness

When a woman is thoroughly herself, she is being what her type of man wants her to be. When a woman is hysterical it’s because she doesn’t quite know what to be, which pattern to follow, which man’s picture of woman to live up to. -- New Give Her a Pattern

Just as there are many men in the world, there are many masculine theories of what women should be. . . . The Romans produced a theory or ideal of the matron, which fitted in very nicely with the Roman property lust. “Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion.”--So Caesar’s wife kindly proceeded to be above it, no matter how far below it the Caesar fell. Later gentlemen like Nero produced the “fast” theory of woman, and later ladies were fast enough for everybody. Dante arrived with a chaste and untouched Beatrice, and chaste and untouched Beatrices began to march self-importantly through the centuries. The Renaissances discovered the learned woman, and learned women buzzed mildly into verse and prose. Dickens invented the child-wife, so child-wives have swarmed ever since. George Eliot imitated this pattern, and it became confirmed. The noble woman, the pure spouse, the devoted mother took the field, and was simply worked to death. . . .There are, of course, other types. Capable men produce the capable woman ideal. Doctors produce the capable nurse. Businessmen produce the capable secretary. And so you get all sorts. You can produce the masculine sense of honour . . . in women, if you want to.
-- Give Her a Pattern

Women don’t change. They only qo through a rather regular series of phases. They are first the slave; then the obedient helpmate; then the respected spouse; then the noble matron; then the splendid woman and citizen; then the independent female; then the modern girl . . . [and then] the slave once more, and the whole cycle starts afresh, on and on, till in the course of a thousand years or two we come once more to the really “modern” girl.
-- Do Women Change?

There are two aspects to women. There is the demure and the dauntless. Men have loved to dwell . . . on the demure maiden whose inevitable reply is: Oh, yes, if you please, kind sir! The demure maiden, the demure spouse, the demure mother ‑ this is still the ideal. A few maidens, mistresses and mothers are demure. A few pretend to be. But the vast majority are not. And they don’t pretend to be. We don’t expect a girl skillfully driving her car to be demure, we expect her to be dauntless. What good would demure and maidenly Members of Parliament be, inevitably responding: Oh, yes, if you please, kind sir! .... . The girl who has got to make her way in life has got to be dauntless, and if she has a pretty, demure manner with it, then lucky girl. She kills two birds with two stones.
-- New Cocksure Women and Hensure Men

There are the women who are cocksure, and the women who are hensure. A really up-to-date woman is a cocksure woman. She doesn’t have a doubt nor a qualm. She is the modern type. Whereas the old-fashioned demure woman was sure as a hen is sure, that is, without knowing anything about it. She went quietly and busily clucking around, laying the eggs and mothering the chickens in a kind of anxious dream that still was full of sureness. But not mental sureness. Her sureness was a physical condition, very soothing, but a condition out of which she could easily be startled or frightened.
-- Cocksure Women and Hensure Men