The Rainbow and Beyond

D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow was published on this day in 1915. A month later, all unsold copies were seized and destroyed by the authorities as allegedly pornographic. These events, coming on top of other longer-standing issues—his WWI pacifism, his unconventional attitudes toward sex and society, his precarious health—caused Lawrence to renew his efforts to escape to Florida, Australia, anywhere but England. His letters during this period show his mood swinging between the attempt to keep his spirits up, and this:

…Oh, my God, the horrible hopelessness of life!… I feel now pushed to the brink of existence, and there remains only to fall into oblivion, or to give in, and accept the ruck…. You ask ‘Is there any Florida?’ I’m inclined to answer ‘No.’ There is no Florida, there’s only this, this England, which nauseates my soul, nauseates my spirit and body…this banquet of vomit, this life, this England, this Europe.

Lawrence was confined in England until after the war, after which he roamed the world looking for improvements to his mood and health. The four collections of travel writing that came from this nomadic life are now regarded as some of the best in the genre, though they perhaps belong to a genre of their own. Mornings in Mexico is punctuated by provocative one-offs (“Humanity enjoying itself is on the whole a dreary spectacle….”), and even when describing the chattering parrots above him or the flea-bitten dog at his feet, Lawrence cannot resist being Lawrence. What begins as a description of the parrots and the dog suddenly becomes a rumination on his belief “in what the Aztecs called Suns: that is, Worlds successively created and destroyed”:

This pleases my fancy better than the long and weary twisting of the rope of Time and Evolution, hitched on to the revolving hook of a First Cause. I like to think of the whole show going bust, bang!—and nothing but bits of chaos flying about. Then out of the dark, new little twinklings reviving from nowhere, nohow. I like to think of the world going pop! when the lizards had grown too unwieldy, and it was time they were taken down a peg or two.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.