Academic journal article D.H. Lawrence Review

The Philosophy of Life-Worship: D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley

Academic journal article D.H. Lawrence Review

The Philosophy of Life-Worship: D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley

Article excerpt

At the end of Those Barren Leaves (1925), Huxley's would-be mystic Calamy retires to a cottage in the Apuan Alps in order to investigate ultimate reality by dint of meditation, introspection, and celibacy. In Huxley's next novel, Point Counter Point (1928), the mystical experiences of Marjorie Carling are represented as resulting from physiological changes that occur in the fourth month of pregnancy, and the religious convictions of the other characters are scrupulously explained in terms of psychology. This tergiversation in Huxley's writing, the aggressive scepticism with respect to religion and the renunciation of his interest in mysticism, has traditionally been attributed to the influence of D. H. Lawrence. But this thesis derives more from Huxley's conception of Lawrence as Mark Rampion in Point Counter Point (1928) than it does from the flesh-and-blood Lawrence, who, unlike Rampion, was a deeply, albeit idiosyncratically, religious man. Furthermore, the supposedly Lawrentian doctrine of "life-worship" that Huxley advocated in his essay collection Do What You Will (1929) was largely incompatible with Lawrence's creed of cosmic relatedness.

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). …

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