A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Country Of My Heart


Yes, of course, the passage below is by D. H. Lawrence, and it's the 1st paragraph of his early short story Odour Of Chrysanthemums. Lawrence sent the story to The Literary Review. (Earlier, Lawrence's girlfriend Jesse Chambers had submitted some of his poems to the same journal.) The Review's editor, Ford Madox Ford, scanned this 1st paragraph late one evening after a long day's reading. He placed the manuscript on the acceptance pile. His secretary looked up and said: "You've got another genius?" Replied Ford: "Yes, and it's a big one this time."

And so it proved to be. This resulted in the publisher Heinemann taking Lawrence on board, and led to Lawrence's astonishing, often controversial output of short stories, poems, plays, essays, travel books, paintings and novels. 4 of these novels, in my opinion, will always remain 4 of the finest novels ever written in the 20th century: Sons And Lovers, The Rainbow, Women In Love and Lady Chatterley's Lover.

The photo below shows the restored headstocks of Brinsley Colliery, the colliery mentioned in the extract, and the actual place where Lawrence's father worked as a miner. This lay near the large mining village of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where Lawrence was born in a small end-of-terrace house at 8a Victoria Street. This is now a museum. I've been there several times - it's little more than an hour from here - and it's fascinating. In fact the whole area round Eastwood and the Erewash Valley and along the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border - just west of the M1 motorway above Nottingham - is extraordinarily evocative of Lawrence and much of his work. So many of his characters, situations and locations were drawn from this small, unexceptional corner of England - the part of England he called 'The Country of my Heart'.

I've got so much to say about Lawrence, who is one of my very favourite writers, if not my best loved writer of all. But I'll do it gradually - I don't want to risk boring everyone to death!

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