Thursday 18 January 2018

What Lies Beneath: D.H. Lawrence by Paul Fillingham

D.H. Lawrence by Paul Fillingham courtesy

DH Lawrence by Paul Fillingham
DH Lawrence by Paul Fillingham

Niall MacMonagle

David Herbert Lawrence, dogged by illness all his life, didn't live to see September 11, 1930, his 44th birthday. He died that March in Venice but 30 years later he was a household name when Lady Chatterley's Lover, originally published in Florence in 1928, became the subject of a sensational obscenity trial. More famous now than that novel's four-lettered words are the words of British Judge John Mervyn Guthrie Griffith-Jones, who asked the jury: "Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters - because girls can read as well as boys - reading this book? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?"

To that long name should be added "Out of touch". Penguin Books was acquitted, three-and-a-quarter-million copies were sold in the eight months after the trial - presumably, even wives and servants bought copies - and the 1960s swung into life.

Novelist, short-story writer, essayist, journalist, travel writer, Lawrence's output was prodigious.

Over 5,000 letters, 800 poems, he'd write 3,000 words a day. Aged 27, having met and eloped with Mrs Frieda Weekley (German born von Richthofen), the 33-years-old wife of a professor and mother of three, their lives were spent going from place to place. You couldn't keep up with them: Germany, Italy, Australia, Ceylon, the US, Mexico and France, where he died in 1930.

Lawrence also painted and was painted. There are portraits but when Paul Fillingham, digital expert, DHL enthusiast and promoter of the DH Lawrence Heritage Museum, met with copyright hassle, "getting pictures of the author were problematic," Fillingham "hit on the crazy idea of painting an entirely new picture of Lawrence that would be completely copyright-free - though maybe not as crazy as it seems because I can actually paint.

"I trained as a fine artist but had long given up because painting is so time-consuming." He painted it in two days and brought it "into the digital domain" and to "see it combined with bits of code was kind of magical. Within days the image was on websites, business cards and pop-up banners And that was magical too." There he is now, forever staring at us with those burning bright and gentle, intelligent eyes. Forever free.

Sunday Independent

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