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Odour of Chrysanthemums | Study Guide

D. H. Lawrence

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D. H. Lawrence | Biography


Early Life

David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England, on September 11, 1885. He was the fourth child of an uneducated and nearly illiterate Midlands coal miner. His more refined, religious mother, a former schoolteacher, came from the south of England. "Odour of Chrysanthemums" most likely draws on Lawrence's boyhood memories of the discord between his ill-matched parents as well as the contrast between the unspoiled countryside in Eastwood and the culture of the miners. His mother strove to instill the value of education in her son, relying on him to fulfill her own unrealized ambitions.


Because of his mother's influence, Lawrence won a scholarship to Nottingham High School but left at 16 to clerk in a factory. He was forced to leave soon afterward, however, the result of a bout of pneumonia, a condition from which he had suffered since childhood. While convalescing, he met Jessie Chambers, who became his first girlfriend and encouraged him to pursue creative writing. He later received a teaching certificate from University College, Nottingham and began to work at an elementary school.

Marriage and Writing Career

While teaching, Lawrence continued to write poems and stories, including in 1909 "Odour of Chrysanthemums," and to draft his first novel, The White Peacock (1911). In 1912 Lawrence's life changed when he fell in love with Frieda Weekley (née von Richtofen), the wife of one of his university professors. Eventually she divorced, and the two married in 1914.

Throughout his short life, he wrote prolifically, penning not only the novels that established his literary reputation, but also poems, short stories, plays, literary criticism, and travel literature. He is best known for Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), the subject of an obscenity trial brought against Penguin Books when the company published an uncensored British version of the novel in 1960. Lawrence also wrote Sons and Lovers (1913), The Rainbow (1915), and Women in Love (1920), among other novels.

Death and Legacy

Lawrence spent the remainder of his life traveling the world, visiting Italy, France, Ceylon, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and the United States. He lived for several years in a ranch outside Taos, New Mexico. As he grew older, his lung problems worsened, and he died of tuberculosis in Vence, France on March 2, 1930.

Lawrence was a controversial figure, both because of the frank treatment of sexuality in his writing and because of Frieda's alleged pro-German sympathies, which made the couple suspect by British authorities during World War I. In addition to Lady Chatterley's Lover, Sons and Lovers was banned from public libraries and two other Lawrence novels—The Rainbow and its sequel, Women in Love—were also banned for much of Lawrence's lifetime because of their explicit sexual content. Today he is considered a visionary and a leading 20th-century writer.
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