30 Aug 2021

Reflections on Lady Chatterley's Daughter (Part II: Chapters 12-22)

Cover of the first US edition 
(Ace Books, 1962) [a]
V. Chapters 12-14

Chapter twelve picks up where chapter eleven left off, with Clare still musing on her encounter with a kindly lesbian, called Jo. Receiving a note from the latter, Clare tears it up; "she felt no sympathy for Jo [and] certanly did not intend to see her" [139], despite feeling desperately lonely and unhappy:
"She began to be morbid. She might die in a raid - die never having found the true perfect love that the poets wrote about. She found herself praying with a kind of despair that she would meet the right man soon and that all her present bitterness and doubt would be swept aside." [139]
Then along comes Jacques ... A piano playing Frenchman with a penchant for redheads. Oh how she enjoys dancing with him at the Savoy and accepting his kisses at the end of the evening:

"She felt a new person - full of the joy of life [...] He was so masculine and so right after the episode with Jo Albiss which had left an unpleasant taste in her mouth." [145]

And so, one night, Clare agrees to return to the house in Chelsea that Jacques is staying in, so she might listen to him play Chopin and Debussy, whilst lying stretched out on the sofa with her eyes closed. Soon, the conversation turns to sex. Clare confesses her lack of feeling, but Jacques refuses to accept the possibility of asexuality: "'I do not believe that there lives or breathes a man or woman who is quite sexless'" [147]
Well Jacques, mon ami, I suggest you click here ... Although, maybe he's right; for suddenly, Clare decides she wants him to fuck her: "Her whole mind suddenly demanded surrender. It would be such a blessed relief to know that she was not neurotic or cold or abnormal in some way like Jo." [147]
Jacque lets down Clare's hair and even manages to quickly and skilfully remove her dress. But then he makes the fatal error of leaving the room for a few moments. For when he returns, wearing only his silk dressing gown: "She looked up at him and in an instant the old horror gripped her, completely smothering all desire." [149]
To be fair, Jacques doesn't rage or make a scene. In fact, he comforts Clare and draws from her the following confession ... When she was 13 - thus a year younger than when she discovered she was born out of wedlock - she came across a young couple fucking behind a haystack and this so upset her that she ran off and hid in a hedge until dark, crying her eyes out. 

When she tells her mother, the latter calls her a silly goose for getting upset, and explains that such things are (a) perfectly natural and (b) even beautiful. To make matters worse, Clare later discovers her parents at it, after entering their bedroom to look for a hair-slide. 
Jacques, for all his knowledge of l'amour, doesn't quite know what to say: "He had a kindly heart and he knew that something was very wrong with this young girl's outlook." [153] So he tells her to get dressed, then drives her home. 
Shortly afterwards, Clare has a nervous breakdown and ends up in hospital for a month:
"She felt nothing, and nothing mattered - not Robin or Jacques or Jo - nor her parents, the past, present or future. Just nothing. She lay in a corner of the busy ward, sometimes sleeping, sometimes watching drowsily the activities in the long brightly-painted ward, but always remote, withdrawn, as though in a secret uncaring world of her own.
      She wished she could remain in this void for ever. It was wonderful not to mind - not to feel. [...]
      She was not, however, allowed to remain in this apathy too long." [156-57] 

The psychiatrist assigned to her case tells her to pull herself together and to trust that one day she'll find the right man and all will be well: "'You must wait, Clare, quietly, patiently, until it happens to you. Love will come quite suddenly, and out of the blue, I promise you, but wait for it.'" [160]
Funnily enough, this little talk results in a strange new peace coming over Clare and her health begins to rapidly improve: "She was able to smile again." [160] (Who needs Freud?)

Post-recovery, Clare heads off to see her parents once more, down on the farm. Her father drives to the station to pick her up - yes, that's right! Oliver Mellors who, at one time, would rage about how "mechanised greed, sparkling with lights and [...] roaring with traffic" [b] would lead to the destruction of the natural world, is now happy to motor around in a car! 

According to Robins, even whilst driving Mellors was "able to distract his thoughts [...] and lose himself in an ecstatic acceptance of the beauties of nature" [163], but I think we all know that's bullshit; much the same kind of thing that is said by those eco-hypocrites today who express their concern about the environment and global warming, but still drive their gas-guzzling 4x4s to the supermarket to do the weekly shop, or take their precious darlings to football practice. 
Whilst alone with her mother, Clare reveals her plan to complete her convalescence with her friend Liz at the latter's home, Long Endon, five miles from Wragby. She also says with sudden complete frankness that she intends to call upon Sir Clifford. Connie thinks this is an act of peculiar disloyalty: 
"Why, why did her daughter want to resuscitate the past like this? What strange malicious fascination drew her towards Cliffird Chatterley?" [171]
VI. Chapters 15-17      
Whatever her motivation, Clare visists Wragby Hall: "She felt her cheeks colour. Also her heart beat in a curiously quick, uneven fashion." [172] Her friend Liz (and her parents), didn't know she was the love-child of Constance Chatterley. And Clare still wasn't sure whether she would reveal her maternal origin to Sir Clifford.  
Now a mature gentleman with beautifully-brushed white hair, Clifford still looked the part, handsome and well-dressed as always; some might even call him a silver fox. Clare is immediately very fond of him; Clifford seemed suave and sophisticated, yet also rather vulnerable and sensitive. Despite it feeling a bit strange to be drinking tea with her mother's first husband, she was excited to be with him.
And Clifford, of course, is smitten by Clare:
"This was a very beautiful girl, he thought. His interest in her was purely aesthetic. He admired her fine bones, her long slim figure, her narrow aristocratic ankles. [...] He could see that she had taste. He admired her very simply, well-cut, grey linen dress with its white collar and bolero-coat to match. He always liked a well-tailored woman." [176] (Who doesn't?)
Clare reminds Clifford of Connie (though she was slimmer and more graceful than the latter). And Clare could have sat listening to Clifford talk for ever: "It was utter bliss to [...] converse with a man like this who had so much to teach her - to give to a woman, mentally." [178] 
She realises that she has to tell him who she is; that it would be unfair to go on accepting his kindness and hospitality without doing so. And so the big reveal: she tells him who her parents are and apologises for visiting under false pretences: 
"'I suppose I should have told you at once. It was awful of me. [...] But I wanted so much to meet you. My mother has so often spoken of you, and Wragby [...] I felt I must see you. It wasn't just idle curiosity. It was a sort of compulsion ...'" [180]
Clifford receives this revelation in silence, like a figure made of stone. 
Finally, he is able to speak and express his astonishment. Obviously, he has mixed feelings about the situation he has been placed in and the young woman before him. Nevertheless, he behaves with perfect decency and, rather than throw her out, as might have been expected, he allows her to stay and even invites Clare to visit him again the following day.

She leaves Wragby strangely elated: 
"It was as though with this elderly paralysed man who had once been her mother's husband, she found a deep bond ... a more spiritual and intelligent understanding ... than she had received from any of the younger men. [...]
     She had no wish to be disloyal to her parents, but she had to admit she found Sir Clifford a fascinating character, His concise brain - his interest in learning - in all the things of the mind, had given her an exact answer to her desire to ignore the physical and live on a more intelligent plane." [186]
To which we can only ask: what would her parents think - and what would Lawrence make of this? I suspect that the latter would be spinning in his grave, if Frieda hadn't had his corpse exhumed and cremated. Because this is a real turn up for the books - and, if I were Robins, I would have Connie marry Clifford and thus square the love triangle that existed between him and her parents. (Spoiler: this isn't going to happen.)  

For Clare, Wragby has everything that her parents home - Swanningdean - lacks:

"There, her mother and father lived in the little snug farmhouse more or less in each other's arms, oblivious to anything that went on around them; not caring particularly what had been done in the past and what might happen in the future. Only the present mattered to them, within the narrow confines of their egotistical passion." [188]
Wragby has grandeur and a rich history and belonged to no one individual, but to generations past and generations to come: 

"At Wragby [Clare] found the strength, the vision and above all the restraint which appealed to everything fundamental in her. [...]
      Here, at Wragby, she could feel her own views vindicated. Passion played no part in Sir Clifford's life and yet his mind was free to roam at will over every aspect of living - enriched by past generations, by beauty, art, and an intellect far beyond her own." [188]
Of course, this is Clare's take on things: it would never be Connie's. For her mother is one of those women who believes in love über alles and that, for a woman, biology is a destiny: "that aesthetic pleasures could not bring complete fulfilment to a woman; nature did not fashion a woman's body for procreation, nor endow her with the desire to love and be loved to no purpose" [188-89].

Ultimately, for Connie (and I suspect for Robins): "No matter how Clare might try to run away from this basic truth, she would realize it in the end [...]" [189]
God save us all from basic truths ...!
Clare agrees to sit for Liz's brother, Francis, who fancies himself as a portrait artist. Of course he falls in love with her and even asks for her hand in marriage. She turns him down [c]. Which was just as well, for shortly afterwards he develops leukaemia and dies (see chapter 18, pp. 216-17). 
Clare spends more time with Clifford, talking about English architecture and the beauty of fireplaces. On the last night but one, they dine together and then watch a film; Henry V, starring and directed by Laurence Olivier (1944) [d]
When the time comes to say goodbye, Clifford extracts a promise from Clare that she'll return one day (a promise he'd also once extracted from her mother of course): "She had brought him great joy in a fashion which he found hard to explain to himsef." [201]      
Annoyingly, even Clifford can't resist saying something stupid at the end:
"'Your mother wasn't altogether wrong, you know - about the need of men and women for love. Few people can live altogether on an intellectual plane. There can be no survival for life without the attraction of male and female and vice versa.'" [201-02]    

Clare - like the rest of us - was deeply shaken by this: "Here was Sir Clifford, of all people, advocating her mother's way of life [...]" [202] and seemingly ignorant of the fact that life would continue just fine without 'the attraction of male and female'; that asexual reproduction is the primary form of reproduction for single-celled organisms and that many eukaryotic organisms (including plants, animals, and fungi) can also reproduce asexually.

Anyway, after leaving Wragby, Clare heads off to visit her parents. She finds Connie in the kitchen "making a bacon and cheese pie for her husband's supper" [203] - what a life! It turns out Gloria has done a bunk and abandoned her baby boy, even though he had "a profound, primeval wisdom in his round blue eyes" - or maybe because he had "a profound, primeval wisdom in his round blue eyes" [210].  
As Clare sits feeding the baby - whom Connie and Mellors plan to raise as their own - she ponders again on Clifford's final words to her.
VII. Chapters 18-22 
We pick up the tale on January 4th - three days after Clare's twenty-first birthday ... 
Apart from the odd date, Clare has managed to avoid getting entangled in any new love affairs, though has become caught up in the lives of Colin Talbot (a former patient) and his wife, Evelyn. Colin has been injured again in the war, this time suffering terrible facial wounds, much to Evelyn's horror: "Try as she might, she could not stop trembling when she was anywhere near him." [219]
Of course, Clare isn't very understanding of the young wife; she found Evelyn's physical revulsion pathetic and thought that "when a woman loved a man, facial disfigurement or any other kind of disablement could not possibly alter her feelings towards him" [219]
In private, however, Clare too "felt depressed [...] when she saw Colin's once delightful face so fearfully altered and scarred" [219]. Who wouldn't? For as he himself acknowledges, he resembles a gargoyle and it's not a sign of superficiality or lack of character to find such monstrousness problematic. 
That is to say, there's a reason why healthy people feel repulsed by sickness or injury; why disfigurement and disability disconcerts. And the reason is one that Nietzsche reminds us of in Twilight of the Idols: "Physiologically, everything ugly weakens and oppresses human beings. It reminds them of decay, danger, powerlessness; it actually makes them lose strength." [e] 
Clare's judgement of Evelyn - that she is of a shallow nature and therefore "incapable of strong enduring love" [226] - simply displays her own lack of depth and sound instinct. 
Clare's moralistic nastiness is arguably reflected in the author's decision to pass a death sentence on Evelyn - although perhaps this was just a fast and convenient method to advance the plot and clear the way for Clare and Colin to finally recognise their feelings for one another ... (As we will see later, a second fatality will prove even more advantageous to the couple.)   
Anyway, poor Evelyn dies - aboard a ship headed for Malta which is torpedoed by a German U-boat. Clare tries to make Colin forget that his wife is lying in a cold sea grave and look on the bright side. After all, he's still alive and "should be glad" [229]. On the train home she congratulates herself on her caring nature: "It's funny [...] that I should do people good [...] and can give them so much more of myself." [229]

Months pass, and Colin eventually stops talking about Evelyn and concentrates on his own recovery. Via extensive plastic surgery, he slowly has his face rebuilt and although still badly scarred, he no longer looks monstrous. Clare is pleased to see him doing so well: "Not for the first time she felt that it was a good thing Fate had removed Evelyn from his life. She might have found even this new face difficult to accept without a tremor of distaste." [231]

In the summer of 1945, the war in Europe ends. Clare is still visiting Colin regularly in the hospital. When he is given permission to leave for a weekend, Clare takes him to meet her parents. Mellors likes him and Connie adores him: "'I think he's so nice, so sweet. It doesn't seem to matter at all about his poor face'" [234],  she said, indicating that, actually, it is an issue for her. 

She and Mellors thinks Colin is in love with their daughter and advise her to marry him. So too does Clifford Chatterley, with whom Clare has continued to correspond. Eventually, Clare comes to the same conclusion: that it's Colin she loves; not his appearance, but the fact that he so reminds her of herself. She tells him:

"'Colin, it is no sacrifice for me to be with you. You're everything I've ever wanted in a companion. We think the same way about life, enjoy the same kind of entertainments, read the same books. When I'm with you it's almost like being with my twin.'" [236]

Lawrence, of course, would point out that having the same tastes and interests is an excellent basis for friendship, but disastrous grounds on which to marry [f]. I don't think narcissism much helps matters either.
Anyway, Colin decides that the love between him and Evelyn hadn't been the real thing after all; merely an attraction of the senses. Besides, she's dead. And so he and Clare agree to marry. But she feels she has to warn him about her little problem, i.e., her coitophobia. Colin realises that "it was essential for him to deal with all her complexities with the utmost tact" [242] - and so immediately asks her if she's seen a shrink.  
They decide not to worry - that it'll be alright on the wedding night. In fact, Clare feels so grateful that Colin is so understanding that she decides she wants to fuck him there and then on the sunlit South Downs: 
"Clare found herself able to surrender almost completely to the call of the blood that now moved hotly through her veins. [...] She believed in that moment that she would find nothing but joy in their ultimate union.
      Now, at last, she felt she understood the power of the love that had made her mother leave everything for the man she loved." [246]
Colin, however, the perfect getleman, decides not to take advantage of the moment, but to display perfect self-control. And so, instead of fucking, they sit up and enjoy a non-postcoital cigarette, before returning to the farm to inform her parents of their decision to wed.

Unfortunately, things, initially, do not go well ... Clare remains stupidly afraid on the first night of her honeymoon: "Lying in the big double bed, waiting for him to join her, she had felt her whole body cold with fear [...]" [245]

But she needn't have worried. For when Colin comes to bed he yawns and says: "'I'm tired - aren't you poppet? Weddings are frightful affairs. It's always the poor bride and bridegroom who come out of 'em exhausted.'" [246] Then he goes to sleep. 
This amazes - and relaxes - Clare: "He was so sweet and understanding [...]" [246] But when after several nights of lying like two children beside each other all through the night - "secure in each other's intimate presence" [247], yet passionless - she begins to worry; maybe he didn't want her? She began to wonder just how long they could go on living with a "strange, unnatural, unmentioned barrier between them" [248].   

Her mother advises her that she must totally surrender herself to Colin: "Perfect fulfilment can never be attained without this complete giving." [250] And this seems to do the trick; for apparently, this was what he had indeed been waiting for all along. And so, finally, Colin does the deed and Clare was lifted "into a new world, a new deeper understanding, a new life" [252]

But as happy as this makes her, I suspect it doesn't come close to the joy she feels when she learns of Sir Clifford's sudden death and the fact that he has left his entire estate, including Wragby Hall, to her. She and Colin immediately put their mews cottage up for sale and make plans to move in to the above as soon as possible (with the intention, apparently, of turning it into the Glyndebourne of the North). 
This news makes Connie shake with laughter: '"Oh, Clare, Clare, we must go and tell your father,' she said, gasping, 'he'll be so amused!'" [256]
And on that note ends the story of Lady Chatterley's daughter - surely one of the most objectionable figures in English fiction ...    
[a] The edition I'm reading is the original UK edition, published by Consul Books, 1961. Page references given in the post above are to this edition - not the first US edition published by Ace Books (1962).

[b] D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover, ed. Michael Squires, (Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 119. 

[c] Shortly afterwards, poor Francis develops leukaemia and dies: 
      "Clare had cried quite unashamedly over this. It seemed awful that Francis had to die without even the glory of being killed in defence of his country. And it made her feel almost guilty because she hadn't been able to love him as he had loved her." [216] 
      She really is a stupid girl and as self-absorbed as her mother.
[d] Unless Clifford had managed to get hold of a pre-release print of the film, there is no way he and Clare could have watched Henry V in the summer of 1944; it was released in British cinemas on 22 November of that year. Robins's claim that this movie was an old favourite of Clifford's and that Clare had also seen it before, when much younger, is simply careless on her part.
[e] Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, trans. 'Skirmishes of an Untimely Man', §20. 

[f] See D. H. Lawrence, A Propos of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', in Lady Chatterley's Lover and A Propos of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', ed. Michael Squires, (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 325-26, where he writes:

"Modern people are just personalities, and modern marriage takes place when two people are 'thrilled' by each other's personality: when they have the same tastes in furniture or books or sport or amusement, when they love 'talking' to one another, when they admire one another's 'minds'. Now this, this affinity of mind and personality is an excellent basis of friendship between the sexes, but a disastrous basis for marriage. Because marriage inevitably starts the sex activity, and the sex activity is, and always was and will be in some way hostile to the mental, personal relationship between man and woman. It is almost an axiom, that the marriage of two personalities will end in a startling physical hatred. People who are personally devoted to one another at first end by hating one another with a hate which they cannot account for [...]"

To read the first part of this post - on chapters 1-11 of Lady Chatterley's Daughter - click here

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