The philosophy of life-worship: D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley.
This study will analyze the extent to which Huxley's philosophy of life-worship actually conforms to Lawrence's ideas, and the significant ways in which it departs from them; it will explore the differences, as well as the similarities, between Lawrence and the handful of Huxley characters allegedly inspired by him; and it will assess the effect of Lawrence's legacy on Huxley's later writing.
It was indirectly due to Lawrence that Huxley received his first invitation to Garsington Manor, the Elizabethan home of Lady Ottoline Morrell. Huxley had expressed his desire to visit through Ottoline's mother-in-law, Harriette Morrell, who was indignant that her granddaughter Dorothy Warren (Philip Morrell's niece), had been dragooned into Lawrence's Rananim scheme in Florida: "It was with a wish to placate her," writes Miranda Seymour, "that Ottoline hurriedly wrote to invite Aldous to lunch" (336). The meeting occurred on 29 November 1915; while the names of the Lawrences are also listed in the Garsington visitors' book under this date (2L 452n), Morrell reports in her memoirs that Huxley seemed "rather bored" on his first visit because "we happened to be alone that Sunday" (78); and Huxley, in a letter to his father describing his first impressions of Garsington, makes no mention of any guests. Presumably, since Huxley informs his father that he was invited to "luncheon" (Grover Smith 86), the Lawrences were the Morrells' dinner guests. Moreover, in Lawrence's first letter to Huxley, on 7 December 1915, he gives no sign of ever having met him: "Lady Ottoline Morrell wrote to me, that we ought to know each other. I should be glad if you would let me know when you come to London, so you can come and have tea with us here" (2L 467-68). In his second letter to Huxley on 9 December 1915, Lawrence invites him to tea the next day (2L 471). Huxley must have been unavailable, though, as the meeting took place on 17 December: "I went to see Lawrence on Friday," he writes to Lady Ottoline on 19 December. "One can't help being very much impressed by him" (Sexton 20). (1)
During their tea, Lawrence invited Huxley to join his community in Florida. Despite being somewhat abashed by Lawrence's prophetic manner, Huxley tentatively agreed: "If, as seems probable, I go and visit my Texan brother [Julian] next year," he writes to Lady Ottoline, "I shall certainly join his colony for a bit. I think it might be good to lead the monastic life for a little" (Sexton 21). The two lost contact, however, after Lawrence moved to Cornwall on 30 December, and the Florida project never materialized. Huxley's estimation of Lawrence as a writer was initially less favourable than his impression of the man. In a letter to his father, he laments the suppression of The Rainbow (1915): "It's a silly thing to do," he writes, "particularly when the book is so dull that no one would under ordinary circumstances read it" (Smith 85). In a letter to the American critic H.L. Mencken on 16 March 1921, he writes:
You speak of Lawrence. Rumor assigns a pleasing reason for his writing so badly now. It is said that he was psycho-analysed last year and that with the scotching of his numerous complexes and resultant sanity--for he used to be a bit of a sexual maniac--he has entirely lost the power of writing novels and is only at home when he is pouring forth little lucubrations about baa lambs and daffodils.
Huxley's satirical tone, however, arises less from malice than from a desire to impress his literary mentor Mencken, and he allows that Lawrence has done some "exceedingly good things" (Sexton 102-03).
Just how much contact Huxley and Lawrence had between their first encounter in 1915 and the start of their friendship proper a decade later is uncertain. When questioned whether the character of Kingham in the novella "Two or Three Graces" was based on Lawrence, Huxley replied: "Kingham was concocted before I knew him--at least I'd only seen him once, during the War" (Smith 339). In addition to the tea that took place on 17 December, Huxley writes to Morrell on Christmas Day that he has been to see Lawrence "again," and reports his discomfiture when Lawrence and Frieda had a "fierce argument" in front of him (Sexton 22). By the time he wrote his introduction to the volume of Lawrence's letters he edited after Lawrence's death (published in 1932), Huxley had clearly (or perhaps conveniently) forgotten this encounter, for he writes: "My second meeting with Lawrence took place some years later, during one of his brief revisitings of that after-war England which he had come so much to dread and to dislike" (Complete Essays 4:87). (2) Huxley and Lawrence had met, then, on at least three occasions before he wrote "Two or Three Graces," which was published in a collection bearing the same name in 1926. Despite Huxley's denial above, Kingham is often identified with Lawrence. For instance, Richard Aldington writes that Huxley faithfully portrays Lawrence's habit of "perverse and casuistical argument," and that the "character of Kingham presents a perfect picture of Lawrence at such times" (316). In a letter to Martin Secker, Lawrence writes that someone has informed him that there is an "unflattering character of me" in "Two or Three Graces" (5L 563), though Lawrence does not seem to have been sufficiently disturbed by the news to read it (or, if he did, he makes no mention of it in his voluminous correspondence).
Furthermore, there is a marked physical resemblance between Lawrence and Kingham, who is described as having "very bright" eyes, "dark brown" hair, and "a close-cut beard" that is "redder than his hair." In addition to this, the relationship between Kingham and Wilkes, Huxley's music-critic narrator, provides an apt description of the dynamic between Lawrence and Huxley:
There was a brilliancy, a vividness about him. If I were less slow to kindle, I should have burned responsively with his every ardour. Being what I am, I could always remain cool, critical, and cautious, however passionately he might burn. My unflammableness, I believe, had somehow fascinated him. [...] We irritate one another profoundly; but we were friends. (Two or Three Graces 5-6)
Like Lawrence, Kingham is a writer from a working-class background who is proud of not being a "gentleman" (10). Many of the things Kingham says are reminiscent of Lawrence: for example, Kingham describes the narrator's alleged idleness as a "sin against the Holy Ghost," then curses the Bible, asking: "Why is it that one can never talk about anything serious without getting mixed up in it?" Wilkes notes Kingham's fondness for the word "passional" (131), and is guilty, according to Kingham, of "spiritual impotence": "Your morality, your art," he continues, "they're just impotence organized into systems. Your whole view of life--impotence again. Your very strength, such as it is--your horrible passive resistance--that's based in impotence too" (15).
On the other hand, there are some salient differences between the two. Kingham is an unmarried womanizer, whereas Lawrence was devoted to Frieda; Kingham accuses Huxley's narrator of not thinking enough, whereas Lawrence criticized Huxley for being too intellectual; and Kingham is represented as squandering his talent through an excess of alcohol and frivolous socializing, whereas Lawrence was reasonably temperate (at least with respect to alcohol), seemed happiest in isolated outposts such as Taos, and was nothing if not prolific.
If Huxley borrowed some of Lawrence's characteristics for his portrait of Kingham, it was not because he wished to lampoon Lawrence, but because Lawrence was a prime example of what Jung termed the introverted type. That Huxley had been reading Jung around this time is evident from his essay "Varieties of Intelligence," which appeared in Proper Studies (1927) the following year. "Jung has divided human beings into two main types," writes Huxley, "the introvert and the extravert. The extravert's mental activity is directed outwards towards the object, which dominates all his thinking and feeling" (42). He "demands that the inward life shall adapt itself to the observed facts of the objective world"; a "thought or an imagination not canalized, so to speak, in an objective channel is a mere fantasy" (43).
Huxley identifies himself as a "moderately extraverted intellectual," whose "natural tendency is to cut the cloth of my inner life to fit the objective world of things and current ideas" (49). Hence "the extravert who 'explains' religion in terms of the observable facts of physiology and instinctive psychology is doing something which, for me, is perfectly comprehensible and natural. To impose the standards of the outward objective world upon the inner world strikes me as an obviously sensible process" (46). The introvert, on the other hand,
retires from the outer world, which he feels to be alien and even hostile. Looking inwards, he finds in his own thoughts, feelings, and imaginations about the object a higher degree of reality than in the object itself, as perceived by his senses. In other words, reality for him is his reaction to his sense-perceptions, not the perceptions themselves. When the introvert considers external objects, he demands that they shall fit into the emotional or intellectual scheme which he has elaborated in his mind. [.] For the introvert, external objects are mere ephemeral irrelevances, not to be compared in significance and durability with the creations of the spirit. (42-43)
Given these psychological orientations, one would expect, Huxley argues, the extravert to be a highly practical man, whereas he himself is only interested in understanding the world and shuns physical work. He goes on to cite "the complementary case of a writer of my acquaintance," who is almost certainly Lawrence. "An introvert if ever there was one," Huxley writes,
he imposes his thinking and feeling on the outside world in a manner which, in our predominantly extraverted age, seems very eccentric. This habit of extreme introversion does not, however, prevent my friend from delighting in the practical life of the garden, the workshop, and the farm. In the Utopias of William Morris or of Tolstoi he would be happy. (54-55)
Lawrence arguably recognized himself as the anonymous friend, for in a letter to Huxley on 14 November 1927, he wrote:
Many thanks for Proper Studies. I have read 70 pages, with a little astonishment that you are so serious and professorial. You are not your grandfather's Enkel for nothing--that funny dry-mindedness and underneath social morality. But you'll say I'm an introvert, and no fit judge. Though I think to make people introverts and extraverts is bunk--the words apply, obviously, to the direction of the consciousness or the attention, and not to anything in the individual essence. You are an extravert by inheritance far more than in esse. You'd have made a much better introvert, had you been allowed. (6L 214)
As a result of the inherent opposition between the introvert and the extravert, there exists between the two a mutual "incomprehension and mistrust" (Proper Studies 43), and much of the comedy of "Two or Three Graces" derives from the bemusement and exasperation of the extravert Wilkes at the behaviour of the introvert Kingham. For instance, the title refers to the different incarnations of Grace Peddley, who goes from being a dutiful wife to being a music critic manque under the tutelage of Wilkes, to being the bohemian mistress of the painter Rodney Clegg. When the latter leaves her, she attempts to "be very 'modern' about it," and disports herself coquettishly when introduced to Kingham. But her "performance," Wilkes notes, was "merely absurd. These smiles, these sidelong glances and flutteringly dropped eyelids, this teasing mockery by which she irritated Kingham into paying attention to her, struck me as wholly uncharacteristic of Grace and therefore ridiculous--above all, unconvincing" (106).
And yet Kingham is "taken in" and imagines Grace to be "an aristocratically reckless hedonist in wanton search of amusement, pleasure, excitement, and power" (114). This "first impression of Grace," Wilkes writes,
persisted in Kingham's mind and no evidence to the contrary could obliterate it. In the course of their first meeting, he had taken up his emotional attitude towards her; and the attitude once taken, he would not shift his ground, however palpable the proofs that he was wrong. Whether he ceased to be able to use his intelligence and became incapable of recognizing the facts that would have upset his prejudices, or whether he deliberately shut his eyes to what he did not wish to see, I do not exactly know. A powerful emotion had the double effect, I surmise, of rendering him at one and the same time stupid and most ingeniously perverse. (118-19)
Kingham is a textbook introvert, then: he is spellbound by his idiosyncratic conception of Grace and disregards those details that contradict his subjective impression of her as "devilish" and "diabolic" (119), whereas the extravert Wilkes perceives that, behind the vampish facade, Grace is "just a nice little girl, pretending [...] to be grown up" (114), and, since he is the narrator of the story, his judgement is privileged over that of the aberrant Kingham.
The Huxley character most frequently conflated with Lawrence is Mark Rampion in Point Counter Point. When Huxley's friendship with Lawrence began in earnest in 1926, he was assembling materials for the novel, and Lawrence was clearly the inspiration for Rampion, an outspoken intellectual, writer, and artist who comes from a working-class family in the Midlands. While Huxley subsequently stated that Lawrence's character was "incomparably queerer and more complex," he conceded that Rampion was the "mouthpiece" for some of Lawrence's ideas (Smith 339-40). Much the same could be said of Huxley's resemblance to Philip Quarles: though Huxley is "queerer and more complex" than Quarles, the latter is a mouthpiece for many of his ideas.
In contrast to Quarles and the other characters, who suffer as a result of their ontological over-specialization, Rampion is portrayed as a paragon of mind-body balance. "Civilization," he declares,
is harmony and completeness. Reason, feeling, instinct, the life of the body [.]. Barbarism is being lop-sided. You can be a barbarian of the intellect as well as of the body. A barbarian of the soul and the feelings as well as of sensuality. Christianity made us barbarians of the soul, and now science is making us barbarians of the intellect. (Point Counter Point 109)
Quarles is a barbarian of the intellect: he prizes mind over body, reason over passion, ideas over people. The "real charm of the intellectual life," he writes in his notebook,
is its easiness. It's the substitution of simple intellectual schemata for the complexities of reality; of still and formal death for the bewildering movements of life. It's incomparably easier to know a lot, say, about the history of art and to have profound ideas about metaphysics and sociology, than to know personally and intuitively a lot about one's fellows and to have satisfactory relations with one's friends and lovers, one's wife and children. Living's much more difficult than Sanskrit or chemistry or economics. (327-28)
In response to the hypertrophy of his intellect, Quarles' instinctive, emotional life has withered, and consequently his wife is driven to embark on an affair with the demonstrative Everard Webley. On a purely intellectual level, Quarles approves of Rampion's philosophy, but he is unable to "transform [his] detached intellectual scepticism into a way of harmonious all-round living" (326).
Rampion's model for balanced, harmonious living is Etruscan civilisation. In 1927, Lawrence was at work on his travel book, Sketches of Etruscan Places. (3) Although Lawrence had read the leading Etruscan scholars, he rejected their negative assessment of the people, and largely based his intuitive reconstruction of their culture on the tomb paintings of Tarquinia. Lawrence had long intended to write a book about the Etruscans and he clearly felt a spiritual affinity with their "religion of life":
To the Etruscan all was alive; the whole universe lived; and the business ofman was himself to live amid it all. He had to draw life into himself, out of the wandering huge vitalities of the world [.]. The whole thing was alive, and had great soul, or anima: and in spite of one great soul, there were myriad roving, lesser souls: every man, every creature and tree and lake and mountain and stream, was animate, had its own peculiar consciousness. And has it to-day. (SEP 56-57)
In Point Counter Point, however, Rampion praises the Etruscans for their mind-body balance, rather than their animistic affirmation of life: "They [the Etruscans] were civilized," he exclaims, "they knew how to live harmoniously and completely, with their whole being" (110). Indeed, Rampion's conception of God is more akin to Huxley's philosophy of life-worship (examined below) than it is to Lawrence's credo of cosmic relatedness
God's the total result, spiritual and physical, of any thought or action that makes for life, of any vital relation with the world. God's a quality of actions and relations--a felt, experienced quality. At any rate, he's that for our purposes, for purposes of living. (433)
If Lawrence "worshipped" life, it was because he regarded it as a metaphysical force, whereas for Huxley, at this time, life was a wholly secular affair, and "God" was but an anthropomorphic projection of fugitive psychological states. For instance, in Do What You Will, he argues that the Greeks conceived of a polytheistic universe because they perceived themselves as diverse, at once warlike (Ares) and loving (Eros), beautiful (Aphrodite) and wise (Athena), whereas the Christians exalted the soul at the expense of the body and therefore worshipped a monotheistic God. "Monotheism and polytheism are doctrines," writes Huxley,
equally necessary and equally true. Man can and does conceive of himself and of the world as being, now essentially many, and now essentially one. Therefore--since God, for our human purposes, is simply Life in so far as man can conceive it as a whole--the Divine is both one and many. A purely monotheistic religion is thus seen to be inadequate and unrealistic. The present age is predominantly monotheistic--monotheistic either because it feebly believes in a decaying Christianity, or else secularly and irreligiously monotheistic, with the unitarianism of science, of democracy, of international capitalism. (46-47)
In order to counteract the deleterious legacy of monotheism, Huxley proposed the adoption of a new polytheistic "religion of life":
It will have to be Dionysian and Panic as well as Apollonian; Orphic as well as rational; not only Christian, but Martial and Venerean too; Phallic as well as Minervan or Jehovahistic. It will have to be all, in a word, that human life actually is, not merely the symbolical expression of one of its aspects. (51)
It should be obvious from the above that while Huxley often sounds like Lawrence, his own doctrine of life-worship, which he had Rampion propound in Point Counter Point, was fundamentally humanist and therefore did not jibe with Lawrence's philosophy. It comes as no surprise, then, that Lawrence felt misrepresented by his "mouthpiece": in a letter to Huxley, he describes Rampion as "the most boring character in the book," and derides Huxley's "attempt at intellectual sympathy" (6L 600).
In Do What You Will, published a year after Point Counter Point, Huxley felt sufficiently confident of Rampion's philosophy to present it in propria persona. In his essay on Pascal, whom he dubs a "death-worshipper" in light of Pascal's preoccupation with salvation and the afterlife, Huxley sets forth the tenets of his new creed. The life-worshipper denies the existence of a single unified self, but rather believes in a diversity of selves; given this ontological inconsistency, it is inexpedient to cleave to moral absolutes, since what is absolutely true for self x in the morning may prove absolutely false for self y in the afternoon. Rather than renouncing, like Pascal, all but the religious self, thereby necessitating, in the words of Huxley, "chronic and continuous psychological pogroms" (279), the life-worshipper holds that each one of his several selves has the right to exist. "The life-worshipper's aim," writes Huxley, "is to achieve a vital equilibrium, not by drawing in his diversities, not by moderating his exuberances [...] but by giving them rein one against another. His is the equilibrium of balanced excess" (279). He therefore "aspires," Huxley continues,
to balance excess of self-consciousness and intelligence by excess of intuition, of instinctive and visceral living; to remedy the ill effects of too much contemplation by those of too much action, too much solitude by too much sociability, too much enjoyment by too much asceticism. (282)
Pierre Vitoux argues that Huxley's life-worship was a "moving away from the Laurentian doctrine [...] to a form of dilettantism which could only be abhorrent to his friend," viz. Lawrence; that it was "guided by no principle and no sense of values" and that it amounted to little more than a revamped hedonism (519). Another salient problem with life-worship was its impracticability, for it simply is not possible to be, for example, both "excessively passionate and excessively chaste," since excessive chastity is incompatible with any kind of sexual activity, much less the excess of passion Huxley prescribes (Do What You Will 282). In "Wordsworth in the Tropics," Huxley proposes a less ambitious, more realizable version of life-worship, whereby man lives dualistically, now with his body, now with his mind:
The only satisfactory way of existing in the modern, highly specialized world is to live with two personalities. A Dr. Jekyll that does the metaphysical and scientific thinking, that transacts business in the city, adds up figures, designs machines, and so forth. And a natural, spontaneous Mr. Hyde to do the physical instinctive living in the intervals of work. The two personalities should lead their unconnected lives apart, without poaching on one another's preserves or inquiring too closely into one another's activities. Only by living discretely and inconsistently can we preserve both the man and the [Rousseau-ian good] citizen, both the intellectual and the spontaneous animal being, alive within us. (125-26)
In Point Counter Point, Rampion advocates a similar program for the working classes, who, he claims, "live as idiots and machines all the time, at work and in their leisure." The solution is to live "dualistically," by compartmentalizing work from leisure, thereby living like a machine in the former and a "real complete human being" in the latter (309).
The chief defect of Point Counter Point is that Huxley is unable to represent a "real complete human being," for while he is adept at portraying Rampion's mental life, he can only gesture at his intuitive, bodily life. This problem is illustrated when he attempts to show us Rampion the artist, as opposed to Rampion the tireless coffeehouse philosopher: the narrator describes one of his drawings, entitled "Fossils of the Past and Fossils of the Future," in which dinosaurs with giant bodies and tiny brains are limned alongside eminent humans with giant brains and tiny bodies, including Bernard Shaw, Sir Alfred Mond and the Christian Scientist Mary Baker Eddy. Rampion then conveniently unpacks the picture's meaning for Burlap:
These fools [i.e. the humans with giant brains] seem to forget that they're just as top-heavy and clumsy and disproportioned as any diplodocus. Sacrificing physical life and affective life to mental life [...] I resent being condemned to extinction because these imbeciles of scientists and moralists and spiritualists and technicians and literary and political uplifters and all the rest of them haven't the sense to see that man must live as a man, not as a monster of conscious braininess and soulfulness. (217)
Towards the end of his life, Lawrence began to paint again after Maria Huxley gave him several canvases. In an essay on painting, Lawrence writes that the "picture comes clean out of instinct, intuition and sheer physical action. Once the instinct and the intuition gets into the brush-tip, the picture happens, if it is to be a picture at all" (LEA 228). But Huxley cannot depict this instinctive, intuitive, bodily process, and has to content himself instead with intellectual analysis of the results. In this respect, Huxley resembles his character Philip Quarles: he is a barbarian of the intellect who appreciates on an intellectual level the advantages of the intuitive bodily life, but is constitutionally incapable of living it. Consequently, he is, like Quarles, forced to write novels of ideas and has perforce to make Rampion produce paintings of ideas.
In an essay written in 1936, Huxley claims that Lawrence's "sexual mysticism" was seized on by readers "as a justification for a desire to indulge in the maximum amount of sexual promiscuity with a minimum amount of responsibility," and notes that "Lawrence passionately disapproved of such a use being made of his writings" (CE 4:23). Huxley imparts an ironic twist to this tendency in the novella "After the Fireworks" (1930), in which Clare Tarn attempts to live her life in the abandoned sensual bodily mode. She is inspired by the fictional author Miles Fanning, whose work bears a parodic resemblance to that of Lawrence. For instance, his novel The Return of Eurydice features a disaffected wife who emerges "from the wintry dark underworld of an unawakened life with her husband [...] into the warmth and brilliance of [a] transfiguring passion for Walter" (179), much like Connie in Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928).
Farming's friend Dodo relates a conversation with Clare, in which she theatrically asks Dodo whether she has ever taken "one of those wonderful Sicilian peasants [...] as a lover." When the nonplussed Dodo replies that her "estates are all in Umbria and Tuscany," Clare asserts that the "Tuscans are superb creatures too" and is "dreadfully disappointed" to learn of Dodo's old-fashioned fidelity to her husband. "But she made up for my churlishness," says Dodo,
by being lavish to herself [...] You can't imagine what a tirade she let fly at me. How wonderful it was to get away from self-conscious, complicated, sentimental love! How profoundly satisfying to feel oneself at the mercy of the dumb, dark forces of physical passion! How intoxicating to humiliate one's culture and one's class feeling before some magnificent primitive, some earthily beautiful satyr, some divine animal! And so on, crescendo. And it ended with her telling me the story of her extraordinary affair with--was it a gamekeeper? or a young farmer? I forget. (204-05)
This is less a parody of Lawrence than of people who attempt to impose Lawrentian feelings on reality, and it transpires that Clare, who is "congenitally as cold as a fish," is making the whole thing up and has never had a "spontaneous, untutored desire in her life" (210). Fanning defends Dodo's charge that he is responsible for Clare's fantasy life: a "writer can't influence people, in the sense of making them think and feel and act as he does. He can only influence them to be more, or less, like one of their own selves" (212). In the case of Clare, he tells Dodo, she "took my warnings against mental licentiousness to heart and proceeded to do--what? Not to become a creature of spontaneous, unvitiated impulses--for the good reason that that wasn't in her power--but only to imagine that she was such a creature." In fact, "she did exactly what all my books told her not to do. Inevitably; it was her nature. I'd influenced her, yes. But she didn't become more like one of my heroines. She only became more intensely like herself."
In his Introduction to Lawrence's Letters, Huxley notes that the problem with Lawrence's philosophy is that it makes no allowance for "old age or failing powers" (CE 4:80). He argues that The Escaped Cock (1929) was written in a mood of profound sadness occasioned by Lawrence's impending death, and that its depiction of resurrection was "the miracle for which somewhere in his mind he still hoped," despite "the certain knowledge that it could never happen" (90). With this in mind, Jerome Meckier speculates that Huxley's commitment to life-worship was "badly shaken" by witnessing Lawrence's "prolonged and painful demise," and opines that this experience led to Mustapha Mond quoting Maine de Biran and Cardinal Newman in Brave New World (1932) on the necessity of religion as a consolation for old age and death (191). Indeed, Meckier goes on to argue that Brave New World is a thoroughgoing "repudiation" of Lawrence's philosophy, as well as a revenge for the alleged caricature of Huxley in Lady Chatterley's Lover (195-96).
The character of Arnold Hammond, according to Meckier, was Lawrence's revenge for Huxley's portrait of him as Mark Rampion in Point Counter Point. The name "Arnold" supposedly derives from Huxley's great uncle Matthew Arnold, while his wife's name, Julia, derives from Huxley's mother. "Evidently," writes Meckier, "the incestuous implication upset Huxley. Lawrence, he objected, confused wife and mother. Thus Linda [in Brave New World] is linked with both Frieda [Lawrence] and Mrs Morel" in Sons and Lovers (1913). "The naming of Hammond's wife reminded Huxley of early misfortune," i.e. his mother's death from cancer in 1908 when Huxley was fourteen. "He retaliated by parodying Lawrence's autobiographical account of the death of Paul Morel's mother, also from cancer, in Sons and Lovers."
Part of the problem with criticizing Meckier's approach is that once a fictional character is identified as a parody of a real person, the differences between the two become indicative of the author's satire, rather than evidence that no satire was intended. For instance, the fact that Hammond's opinions in Lady Chatterley's Lover are nothing like Huxley's reinforces Meckier's conviction that Lawrence is here exacting his revenge for Huxley's portrait of Rampion, whereas it could equally be argued that the manifest differences between Hammond and Huxley indicate that Lawrence was not committed to a full-scale character assassination of the kind he had perpetrated on, for example, Ottoline Morrell as Hermione Roddice in Women in Love. Moreover, there is no question of Lawrence seeking revenge for Huxley's portrait of Rampion, since he completed the final version of Lady Chatterley on 8 January 1928 (FLC xii) and did not read Point Counter Point until October of that year (6L 600).
Doubtless, Lawrence was thinking of Aldous Huxley when he gave his writer Arnold Hammond the same initials and physique (both are tall and thin), but it is surely absurd to claim that Lawrence maliciously gave Hammond's wife the name of Huxley's mother, thereby implying an incestuous relationship between the two and reminding Huxley of his mother's death from cancer, especially given that Lawrence himself knew first-hand the agony of losing one's mother to cancer. Furthermore, if Huxley had inferred this from Lawrence's portrait of Hammond, and was secretly nursing a grudge, it is doubtful whether he would have undertaken the arduous job of editing a volume of Lawrence's letters.
Indeed, given Huxley's high opinion of Lawrence, both in his essays and in his private correspondence--"He was really," he writes to Eugene Saxton, "the most extraordinary and impressive human being I have ever known" (Smith 332)--it is highly unlikely that Huxley would parody the autobiographical account of the death of Gertrude Morel from cancer in Sons and Lovers. Once again, though, the fact that Linda's tragi-comic death in the Park Lane Hospital in Brave New World, amid the clamour of a Bokanovsky group of "maggoty" Deltas undergoing death conditioning, the "Semi-finals of the South American Riemann-Surface Tennis Championship," the "Super-Vox-Wurlitzeriana rendering of 'Hug me till you drug me, honey,'" with its artificial draughts of "verbena" and "patchouli" (175-79), the fact that this is nothing like the tragedy of Gertrude Morel's death by morphia overdose at the hands of her son is for Meckier proof of the vengeful nature of Huxley's parody.
In Huxley's novel Eyeless in Gaza (1936), the sociologist Anthony Beavis passes through a period of life-worship. During a crisis of conscience, he re-reads The Escaped Cock and concludes that "life" is "not enough." "How could one be content," he reflects, "with the namelessness of mere energy, with the less than individuality of a power, that for all its mysterious divineness, was yet unconscious, beneath good and evil?" (239). But Anthony Beavis is another barbarian of the intellect who cannot imagine the richness of the intuitive bodily life, and therefore it might be more accurate to say that for Beavis the life of the mind--of logic, of reason, of ratiocination--is not enough.
Beavis' journey, in Eyeless in Gaza, from Lawrentian life-worship to mystical pacifism reflects that of his author. Huxley's approach to mysticism, though, was nonetheless intellectual, in that he chose the path of the jnana yogi, i.e. someone who attempts to achieve enlightenment via knowledge, as opposed to action (karma) or devotion (bakhti). When Huxley moved to America in 1937, he became greatly interested in the Hindu Advaita Vedanta tradition: the Vedantists' goal is to attempt to realize that the individual soul, the atman, is essentially the same as the all-pervasive godhead, Brahman. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to transcend the body through formal austerities, such as sexual abstinence and dietary restrictions. For Lawrence, this type of bodily renunciation was anathema since he believed that the body, or the blood, was more attuned to the cosmos than the brain, which had led man astray by privileging reason over intuition, and he therefore rejected the Cartesian conflation of mind and soul (see Montgomery 69-70).
Although sexual infatuation had been the downfall of several of Huxley'searlier heroes, such as Theodore Gumbril in Antic Hay (1923) and Walter Bidlake in Point Counter Point, Huxley's disapprobation of the body took on a mystical cast in his fiction from the mid thirties onwards: for instance, both Mr Propter and Bruno Rontini, the fictional saints of After Many a Summer (1939) and Time Must Have a Stop (1944) respectively, are celibate, while his main characters tend to be libertines whose libido perverts their morality. The most spectacular example is Anthony Beavis, who, with his horror of responsibility, steadfastly refuses to requite the love of his mistress Helen Ledwidge; after he has had sex with Helen on the roof of his Mediterranean villa, a dog from a passing plane crash lands next to them, bespattering both with its blood, setting in motion a train of events that will culminate in Beavis' mystical conversion. Likewise, in Time Must Have a Stop, the womanizing poet Sebastian Barnack is rendered amenable to the mystical promptings of Bruno Rontini after his affair with Veronica De Vries has caused his wife to miscarry and die of blood poisoning.
While Huxley consistently praised Lawrence in his essays and in interviews, the idea that Lawrence was a barbarian of the body seems to have erroneously ossified in his mind. At the end of his travel book Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934), Huxley describes re-reading The Plumed Serpent (1926) as he travels through Mexico, and comes to the following conclusion:
The advance from primitivism to civilization, from mere blood to mind and spirit, is a progress whose price is fixed; there are no discounts even for the most highly talented purchasers. I thought once that the payment could be evaded, or at least very greatly reduced; that it was possible to make very nearly the best of both worlds. But this, I believe, was a delusion. The price that has to be paid for intellect and spirit is never reduced to any significant extent. To Lawrence, it seemed too high, and he proposed that we should return the goods and ask for our money back. When man became an intellectual and spiritual being, he paid for his new privileges with a treasure of intuitions, of emotional spontaneity, of sensuality still innocent of all self-consciousness. Lawrence thought that we should abandon the new privileges in return for the old treasure. But he was reckoning without himself [.]. In practice, he found that it was psychologically impossible to return the new privileges or be content with the primitivism that had been paid away for them. It was even impossible for him to make a fictitious personage do so, at any rate convincingly. (314-15)
But Lawrence did not want to "abandon the new privileges." For instance, in "Pan in America," Lawrence writes that "it is useless to glorify the savage," and asserts that "we cannot return to the primitive life, to live in tepees and hunt with bows and arrows" (P 31). While it is perhaps understandable that in 1934 Huxley, in the absence of Lawrence's posthumously published works, might construe The Plumed Serpent as advocating the abandonment of the mental mode of being commensurate with civilisation and thereby reverting to primitive blood consciousness, it is much harder to see how he might have gleaned the same message from Lady Chatterley's Lover. What Lawrence ultimately wanted was a balance of body and mind, blood and spirit, Dionysus and Apollo. The pastoral idyll of the faunish Mellors and the nymph-like Connie in the woods near Wragby is short-lived; the world of mind and Christian morality intrudes and the two are forced to separate in order to divorce their respective spouses. The best that Connie and Mellors can do, in the civilized, industrial society of post-war England, is to purchase a farm and reaffirm their connection to the cosmos, to each other and to their fellow man--this, at any rate, is Lawrence's threefold prescription in "A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover" (LCL 331).
It was not until Huxley came to write Island (1962) that he attempted a rapprochement with the body. The citizens of the utopian society of Pala practice maithuna, the yoga of love, which is equivalent to the Male Continence pioneered by John Humphrey Noyes in his Oneida Community, and which, in addition to being a reliable form of contraception, is a method of contemplation that allows the Palanese to perceive nirvana in samsara, or, in other words, to perceive the eternal and transcendent in the immanent and temporal.
But it was Huxley's experiments with psychedelic drugs, rather than Tantric sex, that had allowed him to make this breakthrough. On 4 May 1953 Huxley ingested 400 mg of mescaline and beheld "what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation-the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence" (The Doors of Perception 15). The fact that more than a decade of relative asceticism had yielded no such insight may well have led Huxley to recant his austere attitude to the flesh. It is surely no coincidence that in Island the Rani and her son Murugan, who strike a deal with the neighbouring dictator Colonel Dipa to sell the island's oil concession, thereby pulling the utopian plug on Pala, spurn the practice of maithuna and cherish "the Ideal of Purity" or "Brahmacharya" instead, and furthermore plan to use their filthy oil lucre for a "Crusade of the Spirit" (56).
Doubtless, Lawrence would have disapproved of Huxley's mescaline experiments. "For most of us most of the time," Huxley writes in Heaven and Hell (1956), "the world of everyday experience seems rather dim and drab. But for a few people often, and for a fair number occasionally, some of the brightness of visionary experience spills over, as it were, into common seeing, and the everyday universe is transfigured" (76). For Huxley this was only possible under the influence of mescaline or LSD, whereas Lawrence was evidently able to partake of this visionary world without the aid of psychedelics. "Praeternatural light and colour are common to all visionary experiences," writes Huxley. "And along with light and colour there goes, in every case, a recognition of heightened significance" (78). Objects cease to be mere illustrations of linguistic labels but are perceived as the refulgent thing in itself.
With this in mind, consider the following the passage from The Escaped Cock (the same one Anthony Beavis quotes in Eyeless in Gaza, concluding that "life" is "not enough"):
The man who had died looked nakedly on to life, and saw a vast resoluteness everywhere flinging itself up in stormy or subtle wave-crests, foam-tips emerging out of the blue invisible, a black and orange cock, or the green flame tongues out of the extremes of the fig-tree. They came forth, these things and creatures of spring, glowing with desire and with assertion. They came like crests of foam, out of the blue flood of the invisible desire, out of the vast invisible sea of strength, and they came coloured and tangible, evanescent, yet deathless in their coming. (VG 129-30)
Moreover, it was not only in his fiction that Lawrence was able to evoke this visionary world. "To be with Lawrence," Huxley writes,
was a kind of adventure, a voyage of discovery into newness and otherness. For, being himself of a different order, he inhabited a different universe from that of common men--a brighter and intenser world, of which, while he spoke, he would make you free. He looked at things with the eyes, so it seemed, of a man who had been at the brink of death and to whom, as he emerges from the darkness, the world reveals itself as unfathomably beautiful and mysterious. (CE 4: 88)
This type of visionary experience, Huxley points out, does not confer enlightenment or sainthood, and can as easily lead to hell as to heaven, as was the case with Kafka, Gericault and the late landscapes of Van Gogh (Heaven and Hell 107). For Huxley, at any rate, psychedelics such as mescaline and LSD bolstered his faith in an essentially benignant mystical universe, one in which the body, and for that matter the material world, was not fallen or sinful, but a part of the impersonal godhead he referred to as the "divine Ground."
While Huxley's disenchantment with mysticism in the mid twenties has often been ascribed to Lawrence, it was actually a result of his travels in India and southeast Asia from September 1925 to April 1926. In a letter to Mencken at the end of his trip, Huxley writes: "I'm entering the USA by the back door [...] from the Orient, where I have been spending some months to satisfy myself empirically that all this rigmarole of Light from the East etc. is genuinely nonsense. Having done so, I am now on my way home" (Sexton 171). There is little doubt, however, that Lawrence's disdain for asceticism and the purely mental mode of being he associated with organized religion strengthened Huxley's skepticism. Indeed, such was Huxley's humanism by the late twenties that he was unwilling, or simply unable, to represent the metaphysical dimension of Lawrence's philosophy in his portrait of Mark Rampion.
In the mid thirties, following a bleak period of depression, insomnia, and writer's block, Huxley returned to the mystical path he had forsaken after Those Barren Leaves. His next novel, Eyeless in Gaza, inaugurated a new ascetic phase in his career, which lasted for approximately fifteen years. His experiments with psychedelic drugs in the fifties catalyzed a sea change in his attitude toward the body and led him to adopt a more affirmative Lawrentian outlook. Consequently, in his final novel Island, sex has become a means of mystical contemplation, rather than, as in his previous novels, mystical contemplation being a means to transcend the body in order to seek union with the unmanifested aspect of the godhead, Brahman.
Aldington, Richard. Portrait of a Genius, but... The Life of D.H. Lawrence, 1885 to 1930. London: W. M. Heinemann, 1951.
Firchow, Peter. "Wells and Lawrence in Huxley's Brave New World." Journal of Modern Literature 5.2 (April 1976): 260-78.
Huxley, Aldous. Aldous Huxley: Complete Essays. Volume IV: 1936-1938. Ed. Robert S. Baker and James Sexton. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001.
--. Beyond the Mexique Bay: A Traveller's Journal. London: Chatto & Windus, 1950.
--. Brave New World. London: Vintage, 2004.
--. Brief Candles: Four Stories. London: Chatto & Windus, 1948.
--. The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. London: Grafton, 1977.
--. Do What You Will: Twelve Essays. London: Chatto & Windus, 1949.
--. Eyeless in Gaza. London: Grafton, 1977.
--. Island. London: Vintage, 2005.
--. Point Counter Point. London: Grafton, 1986.
--. Proper Studies. London: Chatto & Windus, 1927.
--. Two or Three Graces: Four Stories. London: Chatto & Windus, 1949.
Lawrence, D. H. The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels. Ed. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
--. Lady Chatterley's Lover and A Propos of "Lady Chatterley's Lover. " Ed. Michael Squires. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.
--. Late Essays and Articles. Ed. James Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.
--. Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence. Ed. Edward D. McDonald. London: Heinemann, 1936.
--. Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays. Ed. Simonetta de Filippis. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992.
--. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence: Volume II: June 1913-October 1916 . Ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981.
--. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence: Volume V: March 1924-March 1927. Ed. James T. Boulton and Lindeth Vasey. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.
--. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence: Volume VI: March 1927-November 1928. d. James T. Boulton and Margaret H. Boulton with Gerald Lacy. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.
Meckier, Jerome. "On D.H. Lawrence and Death, Especially Matricide: Sons and Lovers, Brave New World, and Aldous Huxley's Later Novels." Aldous Huxley Annual 7 (2007): 185-221.
Montgomery, Robert E. The Visionary D.H. Lawrence: Beyond Philosophy and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.
Morrell, Ottoline. Ottoline at Garsington: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell 19151918. Ed. by Robert Gathorne-Hardy. London: Faber & Faber, 1974.
Murray, Nicholas. Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual. London: Little, Brown, 2002.
Sexton, James, ed. Selected Letters of Aldous Huxley. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2007.
Seymour, Miranda. Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand Scale. Rev. ed. London: Sceptre, 1998.
Smith, Grover, ed. Letters of Aldous Huxley. London: Chatto & Windus, 1969.
Vitoux, Pierre. "Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence: An Attempt at Intellectual Sympathy." The Modern Language Review 69.3 (July 1974): 501-522.
Worthen, John. D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912. The Cambridge Biography, Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.
(1.) This date is at variance with the chronology in the biography of Lawrence by Mark Kinkead Weekes, who records the meeting as taking place on 10 December 1915. It seems unlikely, though, that Huxley would refer on Sunday, 19 December, to seeing Lawrence "on Friday," if he meant Friday, 10 December.
(2.) This essay was reprinted in Huxley's essay collection, The Olive Tree (1936) and vol. 4 of Huxley's Complete Essays (2001). My citations refer to the latter, hereafter CE. The date of this 'second meeting' remains a mystery. Huxley goes on to mention that his next contact with Lawrence was a letter he received from him in 1925; this would suggest that the meeting occurred between 11 December 1923, when Lawrence arrived in England from Mexico, and March 5 1924, when he set sail for New York. During this time, though, Huxley was living in Florence.
(3.) While the volume was published posthumously in 1932, a number of the essays contained in it had appeared in Travel and World Today between November 1927 and May 1928.
Jake Poller, a doctoral student at Queen Mary, University of London, is working on the place of mysticism in the life and work of Aldous Huxley.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||D.H. Lawrence Review|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2010|
|Previous Article:||Hester and the homo-social order: an uncanny search for subjectivity in D. H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner".|
|Next Article:||D. H. Lawrence. The Vicar's Garden and Other Stories.|