The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd: A Drama in Three Acts

The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd: A Drama in Three Acts

The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd: A Drama in Three Acts

The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd: A Drama in Three Acts


"The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd," written immediately after Sons and Lovers, is one of D. H. Lawrence's most significant early works. The play, Lawrence's first, is the alter ego of the story "Odour of Chrysanthemums" and, like the short story, deals with a catastrophe in the lives of a coal mining family. Drawing upon the intensity of events that unfold in the miner's kitchen, the play explores a marriage bowed under the weight of a husband's drinking and infidelity and peers into the strange, burgeoning relationship between the neglected wife, Mrs. Holroyd, and the young electrician in whom she seeks emotional refuge. First published in 1914, The "Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd" is a bare tracing of the ways in which a marriage has gone wrong.


John Worthen

D. H. Lawrence’s play The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, representing work he had done at various times between 1910 and 1913, is one of his most significant early works. He began it as an unknown and almost unpublished writer in London, influenced by the suggestion of Ford Madox Hueffer that he should concentrate on the lives of the working class he knew so well (Lawrence had been born in Eastwood in Nottinghamshire; his father was a miner at Brinsley colliery, about a mile to the north). Lawrence completed a draft of the play in 1910, but could do nothing with it in spite of the support of his friend and adviser Edward Garnett, reader for the firm of Duckworth (who would eventually publish the play in England). Not until 1913 did Garnett get the play accepted by the American publisher Mitchell Kennerley, and by then Lawrence not only had published Sons and Lovers but was at work on the first drafts of the “Sisters” novel that became both The Rainbow and Women in Love. It was in 1914, at the height of his early success as a published author, that his play would be published in America and England.

The play and its alter ego, the story “Odour of Chrysanthemums,” both center on a catastrophe in the lives of a mining family. the disaster was based on what had actually happened, five years before Lawrence was born, in his

1. Details in D. H. Lawrence, The Plays, ed. Hans-Wilhelm Schwarze and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), xxv-xxxiii, xxxvii-xlv.

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