"jigging English sisters" DH Lawrence in Paris with Lady Chatterley

In Paris at any rate she felt a bit of sensuality still. But what a weary, tired, worn-out sensuality. Worn-out for lack of tenderness. Oh! Paris was sad. One of the saddest towns: weary of its now-mechanical sensuality, weary of the tension of money, money, money, weary even of resentment and conceit, just weary to death, and still not sufficiently Americanized or Londonized to hide the weariness under a mechanical jig-jig-jig! Ah, these manly he-men, these FLANEURS, the oglers, these eaters of good dinners! How weary they were! weary, worn-out for lack of a little tenderness, given and taken. The efficient, sometimes charming women knew a thing or two about the sensual realities: they had that pull over their jigging English sisters. But they knew even less of tenderness. Dry, with the endless dry tension of will, they too were wearing out. The human world was just getting worn out. Perhaps it would turn fiercely destructive. A sort of anarchy! Clifford and his conservative anarchy! Perhaps it wouldn't be conservative much longer. Perhaps it would develop into a very radical anarchy.

Connie found herself shrinking and afraid of the world. Sometimes she was happy for a little while in the Boulevards or in the Bois or the Luxembourg Gardens. But already Paris was full of Americans and English, strange Americans in the oddest uniforms, and the usual dreary English that are so hopeless abroad.

She was glad to drive on.
I, on the other hand, was quite happy to find myself in Paris. But I'm not making the argument that Lawrence is making in Lady Chatterley's Lover, the argument based upon false nostalgia, that mankind should return to some primitive, pre-industrial state, that the straining after money has emasculated men which has in turn unsexed women and there is nothing left of real humanity except walking corpses modeled psychically upon machines, machines that have no purpose and will eventually--even hopefully (says one of Lawrence's characters in a nod to Nietzsche)--destroy themselves and leave nothing left except a space for the next species to come along and inhabit the earth as masters. Lady Chatterley's Lover is a political novel, a social novel, a big Dickensian argument against the status quo and the grinding down of the working classes. Dickens' solutions were always social, a diverting of money and an awareness of the dignity of the poor. Lawrence's solutions are quite different, and alien, and it might surprise Lawrence to see how they are also patronizing and don't actually solve the problems of real life. Yet he makes them, because he has conflated the economic problems of England with the psychological problem of true love. To solve the one, Lawrence argues, is to solve the other.

It also occurred to me on the walk from the bus to my front door this evening that Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is a weak version of Lady Chatterley's Lover, a version that takes the phallos (as DHL would say) seriously but has none of the bravery, humanity, or originality of Lawrence's narrative. Chatterley is a risky novel, in a number of ways.

photo credits: Mighty Reader

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