Cover image for Living at the edge : a biography of D.H. Lawrence and Frieda von Richthofen
Living at the edge : a biography of D.H. Lawrence and Frieda von Richthofen
Squires, Michael.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 501 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
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PR6023.A93 Z92386 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Dashingly told and meticulously researched, this double biography of D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda von Richthofen is the first to draw fully on Frieda's unpublished letters and on interviews with people who knew her well. It explores their collision with an industrial world they hated and chronicles the stormy relationship between husband and wife. The strong sexual vitality that inspired Lawrence's art brought both joy and anguish to his marriage. Here, the Lawrences emerge as proud but not conceited in their unconventional lives, staunch in the face of fierce opposition from a conformist society.
    Living at the Edge follows the separate lives of Lawrence and Frieda up to their first meeting in 1912. Tracing their new life together, it depicts their grateful escape from the English Midlands; their discovery of exotic places where they made temporary homes--Italy, Cornwall, Australia, New Mexico, and Mexico; Lawrence's courageous battle against illness; and, after his death in 1930, Frieda's success in recreating the simple life on ranches near Taos, New Mexico, where she died in 1956.
    At the center of their story is Lawrence's literary career. Biographers Squires and Talbot see Lawrence's major novels-- The Rainbow, Women in Love, Lady Chatterley's Lover --as a fresh way to understand his turbulent and conflicted life. They reveal the extreme care with which he rewrote his personal experience to satisfy his deepest needs, and they introduce the many influential people who entered the Lawrences' lives and work. The rich materials from Frieda's letters reveal a different Lawrence--more difficult as a man but more interesting as an artist; they also reveal a different Frieda--more vibrant as a woman, more substantial as a companion. This superb biography gives both Lawrence and Frieda striking new dimensions.

Author Notes

Michael Squires is professor of English at Virginia Tech. A past president of the D. H. Lawrence Society of America and recipient of the Harry T. Moore Distinguished Scholar Award for Lifetime Achievement in D. H. Lawrence Studies
Lynn K. Talbot is professor of Spanish at Roanoke College

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Biographers have long trafficked in secrets and revelations from literary marriages, those wellsprings of talent and drama: consider the Brownings, or Mark Twain and Olivia Langdon, to name just two. In their joint biography of D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, scholars and husband-and-wife team Squires and Talbot (who are also editing Frieda's letters) proceed with a bit more decorum than is common in the trade. Their volume may offer the last word on the Lawrences' volatile partnership, which was famously beset by sexual identity crises (his) and infidelities (hers). But compared to the carryings-on of the Bloomsbury group, with whom the Lawrences occasionally associated, their marriage was a model of stability. And while one might imagine that D.H. Lawrence, who became the novelist of sex for his generation (and many to follow), would have had a fascinating marital and romantic life, the authors present the Lawrences' quarrels as human-scaled the inevitable clash of two strong temperaments. Squires and Talbot's literary analyses are occasionally impenetrable (Despite the strange artificiality of the narrative design, the motif of insecurity broods plangently over the novel), but they do draw compelling parallels between the couple's romantic life and Lawrence's imaginative work, giving particular attention to Women in Love and Lady Chatterley's Lover. Lawrence aficionados will find something to enjoy in this carefully realized work, even if Squires and Talbot don't overturn the prevailing view that D.H. never strayed from his spouse, and even if the Lawrences' saga is not nearly as precipitous and climactic as the title suggests. 40 b&w photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Notaro, who writes a weekly humor column for the Arizona Republic, has collected some of those columns into her first book. Notaro is "everywoman" not quite pretty enough, not the popular one, not good at holding a job or a man. She tells her stories about public bathrooms and high school reunions with a wicked edge that keeps us laughing at her and, of course, at ourselves. On the dreaded reunion: " `It's time for your high school reunion!' the letter shrieked, and then went on to inform me that 546 of the people I hated most in the world were coming together at some lah-de-dah resort for the entire weekend to talk about the good old days." In "Suckers," she recalls the gym class where the girls got "the talk." "It was one of the darkest days of my life when that nurse, Mrs. Shimmer, pulled out a maxi pad that measured the width and depth of a mattress and showed us how to use it." Ahhh...the good old days. This is a great, funny read that women will love. Recommended for most humor collections. Kathy Ingels Helmond, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A husband and wife team, Squires (Virginia Tech) and Talbot (Roanoke College) consider the famously vexed marriage of their subjects as a metaphor of modern life because it embodied tensions between the religious and the pagan, the puritanical and the hedonistic, the rebellious and the submissive. Frieda responded to these warring impulses by making relationships central; Lawrence did so in his writing. But this book is important less for the authors' thesis than for their success in producing a comprehensive yet compact and lively narrative in a crowded field. They base their study on some 8,000 letters written by the couple--Frieda's come from scattered libraries, Lawrence's from Cambridge's magnificent eight-volume edition of his letters, The Letters of D.H. Lawrence (1979-2000; v.1-2, CH, Dec'79, Jul'82). Many, of course, are cited in the three-volume eponymous life of Lawrence (v.1, by John Worthen, CH, Feb'92; v.2., Mark Kinkead-Weekes, CH, Dec'96; v.3, David Ellis, 1997). Squires and Talbot gracefully weave details of the Lawrences' residences, friendships, finances, and publications into their narrative, occasionally challenging Brenda Maddox's somewhat comparable D.H. Lawrence, The Story of a Marriage (CH, Apr'95). Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers. M. S. Vogeler emerita, California State University, Fullerton

Table of Contents

Illustrationsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Part 1
1. Lawrence in the English Midlandsp. 3
2. The Apprentice Schoolteacherp. 13
3. Frieda Finds Her Destinyp. 34
4. Their Adventure Beginsp. 50
5. Exploring the Unknownp. 71
6. The Dawn of The Rainbowp. 89
7. Crisisp. 105
8. Disappointmentp. 123
9. The Discovery of Cornwallp. 138
10. Women in Love: The Masterpiecep. 158
11. Suspicionp. 173
12. Wartime Castawaysp. 186
Part 2
13. The Sun Rises Againp. 213
14. Farewell to Fontana Vecchiap. 232
15. The Voyage Outp. 250
16. The Lure of the Indiansp. 261
17. Reconciliationp. 280
18. The Mysteries of Oaxacap. 297
19. What Lawrence Discoveredp. 311
20. Lady Chatterley's Lover: The Last Novelp. 330
21. The End and the Beginningp. 350
22. A New Life for Friedap. 368
23. Frieda and Angelo at Los Pinosp. 388
24. Port Isabel, Peace, and Marriagep. 407
Acknowledgmentsp. 429
Notesp. 433
Works Citedp. 475
Indexp. 485