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“I wish that story at the bottom of the sea”: The Making and Re-Making of “England, My England”

Keith Cushman

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1In later life Ivy Low remembered that, after reading Sons and Lovers, she and her friend the writer Viola Meynell “adopted D. H. Lawrence as our creed. He was our party line from which we would admit no deviation [. . .]” (Nehls 215). In early January 1915 Meynell invited the Lawrences to live, rent-free, in her cottage in Greatham, a small village in West Sussex. The cottage, a converted cowshed the Meynell family jokingly called “Shed Hall,” was part of an extensive property owned by Viola’s parents, Wilfrid and Alice Meynell. “Humphrey’s Homestead” included a large 17th-century farmhouse and smaller buildings that had been renovated for Viola and her sisters Madeline and Monica. Madeline lived with her husband Perceval Lucas in Rackham Cottage. The Meynells were a literary family: Wilfrid was a journalist and editor, Alice a poet and essayist. The thought of living among “the whole formidable and poetic Meynell family” made Lawrence “wary of accepting Viola’s offer.” But the Meynells used Humphrey’s Homestead mainly as a weekend retreat from London. The Lawrences found themselves “badly off, through the war” (2L 255), and the offer was too good to pass up. Lawrence and Frieda moved into Shed Hall on 23 January 1915.

2On 4 August 1914 Great Britain had declared war on Germany. By the end of the Lawrences’ six-months’ stay at Greatham the war had been going on for nearly a year. The warwas the inescapable context of those six months. Lawrence wrote Lady Cynthia Asquith at the end of January 1915 that “the War finished me: it was the spear through the side of all sorrows and hopes” (2L 268). A week later he wrote S. S. Koteliansky that “those five months since the war have been my time in the sepulchre” (2L 276). The first German Zeppelin attack on London took place a few days before the Lawrences moved into Shed Hall. The Germans began their U-boat attacks on Allied and neutral shipping (and sank the Lusitania on 7 May). The Germans used poison gas for the first time in the second Battle of Ypres, which began on 22 April. The British and French landed at Gallipoli on 25 April. The second Battle of Artois, the most important battle of the Allied spring offensive of 1915, took place between 9 May and 18 June. The French sustained 100,000 casualties but failed to capture Vimy Ridge.

3Meanwhile at Greatham Lawrence revised and completed The Rainbow. He and his newfriend Bertrand Russell debated social philosophy and planned a joint lecture tour. Lawrenceexperienced “one of the crises” of his life when he visited Cambridge University in March and was “sent [. . .] mad with misery and hostility and rage” (2L 321) by the open homosexuality of John Maynard Keynes and his friends. Horrified by the war and “struggling very deep in the dark” (2L 307), Lawrence dreamed of establishing the ideal community he called Rananim and tried to enlist recruits. And by early June 1915 at Greatham he had completed the first version of “England, My England.” “England, My England” is Lawrence’s only work of fiction that features a scene on a Western Front battlefield.

4Janice Harris has observed that the 1915 version “demonstrates Lawrence’s sense, articulated in his letters, that he must make direct proclamations about the war” (Harris 116). Although the story is hardly a “proclamation,” its strongly unpatriotic, anti-war point of view is unmistakable. Lawrence suspected that no English magazine would publish the story in 1915(2L 354), given the rampant jingoism of the time. But the English Review bought the story and published it in its October 1915 number.

5That month Lawrence declared in a letter, “I am English, and my Englishness is my very vision” (2L 414). The 1915 “England, My England” is much more than an anti-war story. Lawrence’s presentation of the failed marriage of the dilettantish, ineffectual Evelyn and his beautiful wife Winifred dramatizes his belief that the failure of this generation constitutes a cultural death-wish that led to England’s participation in the slaughter on the Western Front. Lawrence’s title ironically echoes that of William Ernest Henley’s patriotic poem, published in 1900. Evelyn’s decision to die on a Flanders battlefield points to the death of England. As Lawrence wrote a few weeks after “England, My England” appeared in the English Review, “there is no future for England: only a decline and fall” (2L 441).

6Lawrence extensively revised the 1915 “England, My England” before it became the title story of his 1922 short story collection. None of the other nine England, My England stories received such a thoroughgoing revision. Although the two versions have the same plot, the revised version expands the pre-war portion of the story five-fold while greatly reducing and significantly changing the account of the protagonist’s experience in the army and on a Flanders battlefield (while also changing his name from Evelyn to Egbert). Revising “England, My England” in Taormina in late 1921, Lawrence had left both the war and England behind him. His revision of the story offered him the opportunity to fully develop his fictional presentation of his beliefs concerning what had gone so disastrously wrong. In the process the title of the story became elegiac as well as ironic. The 1915 text reads like a preliminary sketch for the more fully considered final version.

7In a letter to Lady Cynthia Asquith on 15 September 1915 Lawrence characterized “England, My England” as a “story about the Lucases.” He reminded her that they “passed by their cottage, and went into the garden” when she visited the Lawrences at Greatham. Lawrence also explained that “England, My England” “is the story of most men and women who are married today – of most men at the war, and wives at home” (2L 386). Lady Cynthia would be interested to read a story “about” the couple whose property she had visited during her Greatham visit. But Lawrence has transformed Percy and Madeline into representative figures:

“most men and women who are married today.” Still, the tension between the Lucases as actual people and the Lucases as representative figures has always existed.

8In this essay I will explore Lawrence’s use of the Lucases in both versions of “England, My England.” One of the most intriguing aspects of Lawrence’s fictionalization of the Lucases is that he added many more specific details about the family to the revised text of the story, even though Percy Lucas had died of wounds on the Somme in early July 1916.

9I will also retrieve the ancient disagreement between Harry Moore and Barbara Lucas—the youngest daughter of Percy and Madeline—over Lawrence’s fictionalization of her parents in “England, My England.” In 1961 Barbara Lucas published a response to Moore’s curious treatment of the story in his Lawrence biography, The Intelligent Heart. Lawrence’s use of the Lucases strikingly exemplifies Lawrence’s habitual practice of putting fictional versions of friends and acquaintances into his novels and stories, often to their understandable displeasure. I will discuss the most notorious examples of this practice before attempting to explain what was at stake for Lawrence in the process of fictionalizing and often offending people he knew. In other words this paper concerns both Lawrence’s use of Percy and Madeline Lucas and the larger question of Lawrence’s sometimes problematic fictionalization of real people.

The Daughtrys, the Lucases, the Meynells

10First a brief summary of “England, My England”. In the 1915 version the ineffectual Evelyn Daughtry, from “an old south-of-England family,” is “refined and tending towards dilettantism.” He has a small private income, and “he made no effort to do anything at all—he merely lived from day to day.” He is married to Winifred, who is “young and beautiful and strong with life like a flame in the sunshine”—and also strong-minded. Early in their marriage she and Evelyn were passionately in love. Winifred’s family is from the North; her father is a businessman who has “lived according to the ideas of duty inculcated upon him.” He regularly helps his daughter Winifred and Evelyn financially. Winifred grows increasingly dissatisfied with Evelyn: “What did he stand for?” (EME 220-21).

11Evelyn and Winifred have three young daughters. The story’s turning point occurs when their six-year-old daughter Joyce falls on a sickle left carelessly in the garden. The child recovers but is left lame. Despite the medical expenses associated with Joyce’s injury Evelynstill refuses to work.

12After the war breaks out, a “state of intense hard hatred” (EME 223) develops between Winifred and Evelyn. When he suggests to her that he had “better join,” she readily agrees: “Yes, you had.” He becomes a good soldier “because of a basic satisfaction he had in participating in the great destructive motion” (EME 225). Having drifted nihilistically from his wife and children, his “reality” now consists “in his own perfect isolation and abstraction” (EME 227). Wounded by a shell, he is overwhelmed by the “cold agony of dissolution” and becomes a “disembodied, clear abstraction” (EMF 231). In the 1915 text Evelyn kills three Germans before he achieves the death he desires. Evelyn’s death is a “willed response to the futility of home and country” (Ebbatson 79). As Paul Poplawski has forcefully put it, Lawrence elevates Evelyn’s death “to the status of a representative destiny for a whole culture that is seen to have lost all vital energy and direction and to be bent on self-destruction” (Poplawski 314).

13Undeniably “England, My England” is “about the Lucases,” as Lawrence told Lady Cynthia. This would have been clear enough to their families and circle of friends. Perceval Lucas had joined the army in September 1914, four months before the Lawrences moved into Shed Hall. He was commissioned in the infantry on 22 June 1915. He visited his family in Greatham when he received leave, and Lawrence probably met him. Like Percy, Evelyn has no job. Like Percy, Evelyn “was always at work in the garden; he had made the place beautiful” (EME 220). In the summer of 1913 Sylvia, the eldest of the three Lucas daughters, seriously injured her leg when she fell on a sickle that a visitor had left in the grass. In April 1915 Lawrence saw the three Lucas daughters when they were staying with their mother Madeline at Greatham in April 1915. He definitely met and talked with Sylvia Lucas (EME 235).

14Initially Lawrence was very happy at Shed Hall. The cottage was “rather splendid – something monastic about it – severe white walls and oaken furniture – beautiful. And there is a bathroom and all. And the country is very fine” (2L 261). Living comfortably and essentially in isolation was an ideal situation for completing The Rainbow (which Viola Meynell agreed to type) and for removing himself from the war as much as possible. Lawrence introduced the “very fine” countryside—the South Downs—into the novel. Ursula connects ecstatically with the glorious landscape surrounding Greatham as she is rejecting Skrebensky: “And she lay face downward on the downs, that were so strong, that cared only for their intercourse with the everlasting skies, and she wished she could become a strong mound smooth under the sky, bosom and limbs bared to all winds and clouds and burst of sunshine” (R 430).

15By mid-May 1915 Lawrence was growing restless and unhappy at Shed Hall. The Meynells were spending more time at Humphrey’s Homestead. On 26 May Lawrence complained that Madeline and Percy’s cottage, Rackham, had been a “seething pot [. . .] six children and six grown-ups” (2L 346). Although he liked the “Meynellàge,” he found them “so flusterous” (2L 345). Lawrence was happy when he (like Evelyn Daughtry) was “gardening over at Rackham Cottage – only then” (2L 344). Otherwise he felt “filled with corrosive darkness, and cut off from everybody” (2L 352). Lawrence and Frieda left Greatham at the end of July 1915.

16On 16 March 1916 Lawrence wrote Dollie Radford that he “didn’t want to go to [Greatham] ever again.” In fact he didn’t “want to see the Meynells ever again, any of them” (2L 566). Four months later, the Lawrences were living in Cornwall when they heard the news of Percy Lucas’s death. On 16 July 1916 Lawrence sent Catherine Carswell his response to this news: " It upsets me very much to hear of Percy Lucas. I did not know he was dead. I wish that story at the bottom of the sea, before ever it had been printed." (2L 635) But Lawrence gathered himself in the same sentence and—characteristically—began to try toconvince himself that he had no regrets:

Yet, it seems to me, man must find a new expression, give a new value to life, or his woman will reject him, and he must die. [. . .] Lucas was, somehow, a spiritual coward. But who isn’t? I ought never, never to have gone to live at Greatham. Perhaps Madeleine won’t be hurt by that wretched story – that is all that matters. If it was a true story, it shouldn’t really damage. (2L 635)

17Perhaps “that wretched story” could do some good—despite the pain that it must have caused Madeline Lucas. Lawrence finished his extensive revision of “England, My England” in Taormina late in 1921. Roger Ebbatson has called the revised story “a belated supplement to the ‘originary’ text of 1915” (Ebbatson 79). But the revised text is much more than a “supplement.” Instead Lawrence re-shaped the story—a great deal more about the Daughtrys before the war, much less about Egbert’s experience in the army and on the battlefield. In the revised story Lawrence more fully “pursues the larger thematic implications of the story’s title” (Bergonzi 15). He strengthens his implicit argument that the failure of Egbert and Winifred’s marriage embodies and dramatizes the failure of England that led to the nation’s participation in World War I.

18Perhaps surprisingly, Lawrence believed that in order to communicate the cultural meaning of “England, My England” more effectively he needed to draw more directly and specifically on the lives of Percy and Madeline Lucas and their extended family. The cruel necessity of art trumped any concern about hurting Madeline Lucas and her family. In Mark Kinkead-Weekes’s words, Lawrence filled the story “with vivid and intimate detail that also (unfortunately for the Meynells) made it far more recognisable than the earlier story had been” (Kinkead-Weekes 701).

19Only in the revised story does Lawrence report that Egbert “talked of literature and music, he had a passion for old folk-music, collecting folk-songs and folk-dances, studying the Morris-dance and the old customs” (EME 7). Percy Lucas was an important figure in the revival of Morris dancing early in the twentieth century. He edited the first two numbers of the Journal of the English Folk Dance Society (EME 236). Bernard Bergonzi reports that the physical description of Egbert, much expanded in the revision, “recalls surviving portraits of Percy” (Bergonzi 15). Lawrence wisely removed the shoot-‘em-up ending of the 1915 story in which Evelyn kills three Germans before he is himself killed.

20Winifred’s father becomes a much more prominent character. He appears in the 1915 text only as “her father.” In the revision Lawrence names him Godfrey Marshall (cf. Wilfrid Meynell), involves him more fully in the plot, and places greater emphasis on Marshall’s financial support of Egbert and Winifred: “she knew she was dependent on her father for three-fourths of the money spent for herself and her children” (EME 12). Lawrence also introduces the Meynells’ Catholicism into the revised story. Wilfrid Meynell edited the Catholic Weekly Register and wrote biographies of Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Newman, and Pope Leo XIII. In the revision Lawrence presents the Meynells’ “commodious old farm-house” (EMF 6) and the three sisters’ cottages in precise detail, including their locations in the Meynell property. Rackham Cottage—unnamed in the 1915 story—becomes Crockham Cottage. Shed Hall enters the story as “the long, long barn or shed which [Marshall] had made into a cottage for his youngest daughter Priscilla” (EME 6). (Viola was the Meynells’ youngest daughter). In the 1915 version the Daughtry daughters are not named. The Lucas daughters were named Sylvia, Christian, and Barbara. In the revision they are Joyce, Annabel, and Barbara. As Bernard Bergonzi tartly observes, “Lawrence’s powers of invention evidently gave out with the last of them” (Bergonzi 15). (One might also note that the father of the fictional Winifred is based on a man named Wilfrid.)

21Egbert is a “born amateur” who had “not been brought up to come to grips with anything.” His friends are “of the same ineffectual sort as himself, tampering with the arts, literature, painting, sculpture music.” “He stood for nothing” (EME 10, 11, 13). But Lawrence believed that he needed to make Egbert more than ineffectual and dilettantish. Egbert also had to be both irresponsible and clearly guilty. Joyce falls on the “sickle thing” that Egbert had “left lying about after cutting the grass” (EME 18). As Bruce Steele soberly explains in a footnote to the story, “The involvement of the father in the accident is DHL’s invention” (EMF 236). Bernard Bergonzi puts it more bluntly: “Lawrence had deliberately reinforced parallels with the Meynells and Lucases, and had inserted the cruel and false suggestion that the Percy-figure had been responsible for his daughter’s injury” (Bergonzi 15).

Harry Moore vs. Barbara Lucas

22Harry T. Moore, the pioneer Lawrence scholar and biographer, first published The Intelligent Heart: The Story of D. H. Lawrence in 1954. Revised and re-titled The Priest of Love in 1974, Moore’s biography remained the standard life of Lawrence for over thirty-five years. His reading of “England, My England”—which he never reconsidered—seems astonishingly obtuse. In The Intelligent Heart Moore characterizes “England, My England” as Lawrence’s “cruelest [roman] à clef story” (Moore 225). Moore even explains why Lawrence shouldn’t have been so unkind to Perceval Lucas:

Yet Percy Lucas was a man who, although past the age of forty, and the father of three children, volunteered for service. Lawrence might have been moved by Second Lieutenant Percy Lucas’s last letter to E. V. Lucas, which told of his being wounded in the pelvis and on the thigh by German machine-gun bullets, and sitting for eight hours in a crater under continual shell-fire, until stretcher bearers carried him two miles to a dressing station. All this he recounted to his brother in the most circumstantial manner with no self-pity. (Moore 224)

23The story of the fate of Perceval Lucas doesn’t show up elsewhere in the literature. It does honor to his memory to know the circumstances of his death. His stoic, stereotypically English manner of dying can only be admired. But by no stretch of the imagination does this information have anything to do with Lawrence’s protagonist in “England, My England”.

24Moore’s account of “England, My England” prompted Barbara Lucas, the youngest daughter, to publish a rejoinder. Her brief essay, “Apropos of ‘England, my (sic) England'” appeared in Twentieth Century in 1961. She argues that readers are incorrect to perceive Egbert as a portrait of her father, Percy Lucas. Moore’s portrait contains “many small inaccuracies” that she corrects. (For example, Lucas died at the age of 37.) But more importantly, “Moore is manifestly unaware of how little Lawrence knew Percy.” Barbara Lucas argues that what “Lawrence needed was simply the pattern of Percy, and his wife, and his children, and his in-laws, and his cottage, and the accident. These, worked on by Lawrence’s imagination, could be welded into the typical Lawrencian story that England, my England is” (Lucas 290-92).

25One must agree with Barbara Lucas that all Lawrence needed “was simply the pattern.”

26But she underplays Lawrence’s deployment of all the specific detail that would lead knowledgeable readers of the period to believe that Egbert is essentially a portrait of Percy Lucas. Barbara Lucas reports that “when the story came out” her family didn’t seem “to have done anything about it openly.” But she was told “by a friend who is a literary lawyer” that “England, My England” was “the most perfect libel case imaginable” (Lucas 293). The family shielded Madeline Lucas from the story. She discovered it by chance in 1930 at a friend’s flat in Rome when she was looking for something to read. Barbara Lucas remarks that she doesn’t know whether Percy Lucas ever read the story. The thought that he might have in the months before he was mortally wounded is horrifying.

27In her lifetime Barbara Lucas Wall published seven novels, wrote religious journalism, and published translations from both French and Italian. She and her husband Bernard Wall, collaborated “on a number of projects, including a book on the Second Vatican Council.” She died in 2009 at the age of 97. Her death “removed a direct link with D. H. Lawrence’s fiction, in which she briefly appeared under her own name” (Bergonzi 15).

“You’ll think it’s you, but it isn’t”

28After World War I Martin Secker—who published Compton Mackenzie as well as Lawrence—showed Mackenzie an advertisement offering the lease of the islands of Herm (£900 a year) and Jethou (£100 a year) (WWRA 407). Lawrence was amused and intrigued by the idea of Mackenzie as “Lord of the Isles.” “I shall write a skit on you one day” (3L 594), he wrote Mackenzie. In three separate letters Lawrence expressed interest in visiting Mackenzie on Herm, and indeed Mackenzie had invited him. In 1926 the “skit” blossomed into “The Man Who Loved Islands,” one of Lawrence’s most important late stories. So many details in the story closely correspond to the island life of Compton Mackenzie that Mackenzie threatened legal action. He successfully pressured Secker into omitting “The Man Who Loved Islands” from the 1928 first edition of The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories. Lawrence had been apprehensive about Mackenzie’s response to the story before it appeared in the August 1927 London Mercury. He explained to Secker that Mackenzie “only suggests the idea – it’s no portrait” (6L 69). When Mackenzie was—predictably—offended by the character, Lawrence became—also predictably—enraged and defensive:

And if Mackenzie is, as you say, certainly identified in most people’s minds with the Man Who Loved Islands, what harm does it do him? I may be identified with the Man in the Moon, or with Mr Crippen, in most people’s minds – but where in does it alter me? Have we no existence apart from other people’s minds? – Moreover, will people’s minds be adversely influenced against Compton M. by my story? On the contrary. The Man Who Loved Islands is a much purer and finer character than the vain, shallow, theatrical, and somewhat ridiculous Mackenzie. (6L 218)

29Versions of this scenario cycled through Lawrence’s career whenever someone took offense at a fictional portrait. Disbelief, defensiveness, anger, and usually name-calling are the typical components of Lawrence’s response. Probably the two most famous contretemps concerned Women in Love. Lady Ottoline Morrell read a duplicate typescript of the 1917 version of the novel. Understandably, she was “deeply upset and furious at what she took to be her portrait in Hermione” (Kinkead-Weekes 349). Lawrence wrote Catherine Carswell from Cornwell in February 1917 that " Ottoline Morrell was in a frenzy over the novel: I told her it was her own fault, There was nothing to be in a frenzy over. So now I expect we are enemies forever. (3L 87) Lady Ottoline threatened an action for libel and tried to stop publication. Lawrence insisted that “Hermione is not much more like Ottoline Morrell than Queen Victoria” (3L 95). He told Cynthia Asquith that Hermione was “infinitely superior” to Ottoline (Kinkead-Weekes 350)—just as he would later assert that his Man Who Loved Islands was superior to Compton Mackenzie. “To Hell with Ott. – the whole Otterlie” (3L 260), Lawrence exclaimed in July 1918.

30In September 1921 Philip Heseltine threatened a libel suit over Lawrence’s depiction of the bohemian artist Julius Halliday and his mistress the Pussum in the American first edition of Women in Love (1920). Lawrence characterized Heseltine—whom he had once considered “one of the men who will count, in the future” (2L 442)—as “trying to make himself important” and as “a half imbecile fool” (4L 87, 89). Lawrence made the necessary changes (and in the process created textual confusion that was not resolved until the publication of the Cambridge edition in 1987). Heseltine refused to accept the modifications until Secker agreed to offer him£50 for damages and ten guineas for costs. The settlement made Lawrence “sick with rage”: “Really, one should never give in to such filth” (4L 129).

31Jessie Chambers would be at the top of any roll call of people offended by their perceived portraits in Lawrence’s fiction, although she didn’t go public until 1935. Her memoir, D. H. Lawrence: A Personal Record, aims in part to correct the fictional representation of her relationship with Lawrence in Sons and Lovers. David Ellis asserts that Ethel Cane in “None of That!” “is unmistakably“ a “portrait” of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Ellis 360)—and an extremely unflattering portrait at that. Marchbanks in “The Last Laugh,” Matthew in “Smile,” and Jimmy Frith in “Jimmy and the Desperate Woman” belong in another category, for surely Lawrence wanted people to recognize these characters as satiric versions of John Middleton Murry. Philip Farquhar in “The Border Line” offers another unflattering version of Murry. And the list goes on.

32Lawrence’s American expatriate friends, Earl and Achsah Brewster, figure prominently on this list. The Brewsters were committed but unsuccessful painters and serious spiritual questers “who spent time in Ceylon and India in the 1920s before settling permanently in India in 1936” (Cushman 85). In a letter to the Brewsters in September 1928 Lawrence warns them about a story that is about to be published: “Have a most amusing story of mine in Amer. Bookman – called ‘Things’ – you’ll think it’s you, but it isn’t” (6L 562).

33Like the Brewsters, Erasmus and Valerie Melville perceived America as “the “Sodom and Gomorrah of industrial materialism.” Like the Brewsters, the Melvilles share “a mutual love of beauty, and an inclination towards ‘Indian thought’” (VG 84, 79). Like the Brewsters, the Melvilles “are painters, they place a high value on freedom, they live in France and Italy, they have one child (though a son rather than a daughter). Even the detail of the Melvilles’ hospital work in Italy during World War I conforms to the Brewsters’ experience” (Cushman 89-90).

34Lawrence’s satiric portrait of the high-minded Brewsters had to have stung. But the Brewsters were not offended. They were temperamentally accepting, they valued their friendship with Lawrence, and they knew what he was like. Perhaps they were even aware of the way Lawrence fictionalized friends and acquaintances, borrowing various qualities and characteristics while introducing others, all in the interest of creating characters that his fiction required.

35Compton Mackenzie, unhappy at his transformation into the Man Who Loved Islands, told Harry Moore that Lawrence “had a trick of describing a person’s setting or background vividly, and then putting into the setting an ectoplasm entirely of his own creation” (Bergonzi 15). This explanation of Lawrence’s habitual fictionalizing of friends and acquaintances is difficult to take seriously. The hurt feelings, angry controversy, and threatened actions for libel came into play when the ectoplasm in question seemed unmistakably to belong to the person whom Lawrence was fictionalizing. To some extent Lawrence truly believed that Hermione wasn’t a version of Lady Ottoline, that Halliday wasn’t a version of Heseltine, that Egbert and Winifred weren’t versions of Percy and Madeline. But only to some extent. Lawrence realized the risk he was taking. And when the fictionalized “victim” complained—or threatened a lawsuit—he always protested too much.

36Over the years Compton Mackenzie developed another response to having been fictionalized as the Man Who Loved Islands (and for that matter also as Cameron Gee in “TwoBlue Birds”). He explained that “Lawrence had the unfortunate habit of creating figures who [. . .] had a photographic resemblance to others when in fact all of them were versions of himself” (Ellis 302). That glib explanation doesn’t ring true. But it points to a possible conclusion about Lawrence’s practice of fictionalizing friends and acquaintances.

“versions of himself”

37What finally do we make of Lawrence’s “long history of putting friends and acquaintances into books” (Ellis 302)? I believe that many such characters—including Evelyn/Egbert Daughtry in “England, My England”—are alternate versions of Lawrence. He noticed (or imagined) characteristics of someone he knew that reminded him of personal qualities or tendencies that he disliked in himself. These became the basis of a character inwhich Lawrence could try out and explore the characteristics in question—and in the processunconsciously validate his own identity as someone who was not like that.

38“The Man Who Loved Islands” is an excellent case in point. Lawrence recognized in himself a desire to cut himself off from the world. Indeed Shed Hall in Greatham suited him because of its isolation: “a bit monastic – it was a cattle shed – now it is like a monks refectory” (2L 262). But he understood that yielding to this desire would be a mistake. As he wrote Brett in March 1926, “If we are to live, we must make the most of that, and not cut ourselves off” (5L 406). Compton Mackenzie became the Man Who Loved Islands so that Lawrence could validate his identity as someone who resists the temptation to remove himself from the world.

39Hermione, Halliday, and the Melvilles can also be perceived as Lawrencian anti-selves. Hermione exemplifies the wrong kind of “knowing”—all mental and superficial—as a way for Lawrence to define and dramatize his own belief that knowledge should consist in a new, whole integration of faculties. Julius Halliday is a poseur and sham artist whose falseness validates Lawrence’s identity as an artist. “All one wishes to do, is to live a full and beautiful life” (VG 79),says the narrator of “Things,” “scornfully echoing the Melvilles and distinguishing between their shallow, complacent, merely aesthetic style and Lawrence’s passionate belief in the ongoing struggle to live authentically” (Cushman 92). Lawrence and the Brewsters were good friends, but only Lawrence was a bona fide artist.

40Evelyn/Egbert is clearly a Lawrencian anti-self. Egbert is “all amateurish and sketchy” (EME 9), as opposed to Lawrence, so fully professional and very clearly defined. Egbert is an aesthete but in no way an artist. He and his friends only “tamper[ed] with the arts” (EME 10). He chooses not to work—although any man who wishes to live an authentic life must commit himself to a serious occupation (as did Lawrence). Egbert escapes from reality by living an isolated life in a “timbered cottage” that “belonged to the old England of hamlets and yeomen” (EME 6). He studies “the Morris-dance and the old customs” (EME 7). Egbert loses himself in an idealized past instead of vigorously encountering the future.

41Furthermore, the effete, ineffectual Egbert is unmistakably unmanly. Egbert’s lack of manliness is writ much larger in the revised story. In the 1921 version Egbert’s effeteness contrasts sharply with Winifred’s masculine, authoritative father Godfrey—who is so manly that God is present in his first name. The “power of her father” is “back of” Winifred (EMF 10). As Janice Harris has argued, Godfrey Marshall “is what all men should be, what all women long for, an irrepressible power, a glowing representative of masculine energy.” Harris also points out that Lawrence was “revising ‘England, My England’” at the same time he was writing Aaron’s Rod (Harris 120, 121). That is, the revised “England, My England” is situated at the gateway to the so-called “leadership” fiction.

42In the revised story the failure of English manhood greatly contributes to the failure of England. And in emphasizing his anti-self’s lack of manliness, Lawrence is unconsciously asserting his own manhood. Lawrence is the real man . . . And here perhaps is the rub: Lawrence is the real man despite the fact that he spent the war in England rather than fighting on the Western Front.

43On 31 July 1915 Lawrence wrote to Viola Meynell, thanking her for the cottage with its “special atmosphere.” He felt as if he had been “born afresh there, got a new, sure, separate soul: as a monk in a monastery, or St John in the wilderness”:

Now we must go back into the world to fight. I don’t want to, they are so manyand they have so many roots. But we must set about cleaning the face of the earth a bit, or everything will perish. (2L 374)

44In the summer of 1915 the people of Britain would have regarded Lawrence’s sort of “fighting” as at best irrelevant, at worst bordering on treasonous. In two months The Rainbow would bepublished. In three months a magistrate’s warrant for its suppression would be issued. The suppression of The Rainbow put Lawrence’s livelihood at risk but not his life. The unmanly, dilletantish Perceval Lucas died of wounds in France on 6 July 1916.

45By the time Lawrence revised “England, My England” for publication in England, My England and Other Stories he had long since left Greatham, Shed Hall, the Meynells, and indeed England behind. Good-bye to all that. Did he think twice about adding so much specific detailabout Percy and Madeline Lucas and their children—including the invented detail of placing the blame on Egbert for Joyce’s injury? We’ll never know. One way or another, it surely didn’t occur to him that the revised “England, My England” would endure—in the words of Mark Kinkead-Weekes—as “one of the most hurtful examples of his ruthlessness in using scenes and people ‘from life’” (Kinkead-Weekes 252).

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Bergonzi, Bernard. “That wretched story.” TLS, 16 October 2009. 15.

Cushman, Keith. “The Serious Comedy of ‘Things.’” Etudes lawrenciennes 6 (1991). 83-94.

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Keith Cushman, « “I wish that story at the bottom of the sea”: The Making and Re-Making of “England, My England” »Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 46 | 2015, mis en ligne le 12 novembre 2015, consulté le 24 novembre 2020. URL :; DOI:

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Keith Cushman

University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA

Keith Cushman, Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, has written or edited seven books about Lawrence. He is Past President of the D. H. Lawrence Society of North America and a recipient of the Harry T. Moore Award for Lifetime Achievement in and Encouragement of D. H. Lawrence Studies.

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