The White Peacock

The White Peacock

The White Peacock

The White Peacock

Synopsis

`Like a tree that is falling, going soft and pale and rotten, clammy with small fungi, he stood leaning against the gate, while the dim afternoon drifted with a flow of thick sweet sunshine past him, not touching him.' Lawrence's first novel is a compelling exploration of the estrangements of modern life. Focusing on three relationships - one destructively stillborn, one disastrously unfulfilling and one passionately unspoken - Lawrence exploits the language and conventions of the rural tradition to foreground man's alienation from the natural world. His evocation of the vanishing countryside of the English midlands, as soon through the eyes of the effete Cyril Beardsall, is both vivid and arresting, and as the novel draws towards its tragic conclusion Lawrence handles his themes with an increasingly visionary power. The White Peacock is both a fascinating precursor of the more famous novels to come and a moving and challenging book in its own right. In his introduction to this edition David Bradshaw reassesses this often underrated novel, and shows how Lawrence was already breaking the mould of English fiction.

Excerpt

I STOOD watching the shadowy fish slide through the gloom of the mill-pond. They were grey, descendants of the silvery things that had darted away from the monks, in the young days when the valley was lusty. The whole place was gathered in the musing of old age. The thick-piled trees on the far shore were too dark and sober to dally with the sun; the weeds stood crowded and motionless. Not even a little wind flickered the willows of the islets. The water lay softly, intensely still. Only the thin stream falling through the millrace murmured to itself of the tumult of life which had once quickened the valley.

I was almost startled into the water from my perch on the alder roots by a voice saying:

'Well, what is there to look at?' My friend was a young farmer, stoutly built, brown eyed, with a naturally fair skin burned dark and freckled in patches. He laughed, seeing me start, and looked down at me with lazy curiosity.

'I was thinking the place seemed old, brooding over its past.'

He looked at me with a lazy indulgent smile, and lay down on his back on the bank, saying:

'It's all right for a doss--here.'

'Your life is nothing else but a doss. I shall laugh when somebody jerks you awake,' I replied.

He smiled comfortably and put his hands over his eyes because of the light.

'Why shall you laugh?' he drawled.

'Because you'll be amusing,' said I.

We were silent for a long time, when he rolled over and began to poke with his finger in the bank.

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