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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

D. H. Lawrence: London Mercury


 The Attributes of the Arts with a Bust of Mercury
: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, c. 1728, oil on canvas (Pushkin Museum, Moscow)

Oh when Mercury came to London
they "had him fixed".
It saves him from so many undesirable associations.

And now all the Aunties like him so much
because, you see, he is "neither, my dear!"

D. H. Lawrence: London Mercury, from Nettles, in Last Poems (1932)

The Attributes of Painting and Sculpture: Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, c. 1728, oil on canvas, 64 x 92 cm (Private collection)

Some periodicals could be relied upon to react in blimpish fashion against anything new, experimental or foreign in the arts. The once powerful English Review, J. C. Squire’s London Mercury, and more popular vehicles of middle-class taste such as Punch printed regular attacks on modern art, international Socialism, American jazz, and all young persons, especially young literary persons.

Alan Young: from Positive Refusal, in Poetry Nation No. 4, 1975

Among [Squire's] contemporaries ... his reputation was variable. Many of them, such as Virginia Woolf, found him coarse; they thought, with reason, that he drank too much; they had little confidence in the group, known as the Squirearchy, which surrounded him.

Alan Pryce-Jones [J. C. Squire's editorial  assistant on the London Mercury]: from The Bonus of Laughter (1987)

By 1920 Squire was well on his way towards establishing a literary coterie of the Right just as partisan, as militant and as dedicated as the Leftist coteries.

Robert H. Ross: from The Georgian Revolt (1967)

Sir John Collings Squire, by John Mansbridge, 1932-1933 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir John Collings Squire [editor of the London Mercury, 1919-34]: John Mansbridge, 1932-33, oil on canvas, 622 mm x 749 mm (National Portrait Gallery, London)

The Paintings of D. H. Lawrence.

D. H. Lawrence: from The Paintings of D. H. Lawrence, privately printed for The Mandrake Press, 1929

Twenty-five of Lawrence's paintings were exhibited at the Warren Gallery in Mayfair, London, 1929. After complaints from visitor to the exhibition, police raided the gallery on 5 July 1929 and seized thirteen of the paintings, which were removed to the Marlborough Street Police Station. The paintings were later returned to Lawrence on condition they never again be shown in England.


Dalriada said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TC said...

Lawrence wrote a number of poems expressing his fury and outrage over having his paintings seized.

Here is another:

13 Pictures

O my thirteen pictures are in prison!
O somebody bail them out!
I don't know what they've done, poor things, but justice has arisen
in the shape of half-a-dozen stout
policemen and arrested them, and hauled them off to gaol.

O my nice Boccaccio, O how goes your pretty tale
locked up in a dungeon cell
with Eve and the Amazon, the Lizard and the frail
Renascence, all sent to hell
at the whim of six policemen and a magistrate whose stale
sensibilities hate everything that's well.

"The poem refers to the police raid on Lawrence's exhibition of pictures at the Warren Gallery on 5 July 1929, when thirteen of the pictures were taken to the Marlborough Street Police Station. The proper names in the second stanza are those of pictures that were seized on that occasion. 'My Boccaccio' is the picture called 'The Boccaccio Story' (one of the best in the collection) based on the first story of the Third Day in The Decameron."

-- Vivian de Sola Pinto

Ed Baker said...

in his introduction to that now famous 1974 book: EROTIC ART of the MASTERS, 18 th, 19th, and 20th Centuries speaking to this, Henry Miller wrote -

"Today we enjoy the freedom to read, read most anything, whether by a literary master of by a (an) hack with a flair for using "dirty" words. Even the cinema permits us to observe couples performing the sex act. When it comes to sculpture and painting however there is still an aura of the forbidden connected with presenting them to the public. Monarchs, aristocrats and millionaires have always had access to these forbidden treasures of art. So has the Church and State. To be sure, these collections are not at the disposal of the general public.... The strange thing is that, so far as we know, none of the keepers of this unholy assortment of art has ever run amuck, has never become a rapist or a degenerate, which is alleged might happen to the man in the street were he exposed to such works. The rich collector,the expert, the critic of art, the clergy, the censors might view such work without fear of moral derangement, but not the ordinary man. L'homme moyen was regarded as a potential sex maniac who had to be hedged in with all manner of restrictive prohibitions."

heck, London ? you should read what MoMA up in NYC did to a BALTHUS painting all due to one very, very rich woman board member who (...) and this was about in 1977 !

Marie W said...

twelve and one awaiting
the wicket in cricket
my business has failed
the wicked and whetted
all locked up and jailed

(I wonder what happened to those paintings in the end? Did Lawrence get them back?)

Wooden Boy said...

The contrast between the Mansbridge and the Lawrence paintings are remarkable. Squire couldn't be more dressed.

Wooden Boy said...

the wicked and whetted
all locked up and jailed

Good stuff.

TC said...

Sorry to be a bit spotty in the comment-posting department, the village explainer's been poorly as it happens.

Marie, as to the fate of the thirteen confiscated pictures -- that's accounted for in the wee agate note at bottom of post. They were returned to DHL on condition he never show them again in England. Most of them ended up with wealthy collectors, in Taos (where many of them remain ensconced at La Fonda), and elsewhere (a principal destination being another famous American moneybags haven, the Humanities Research Centre of the University of Texas at Austin). The paintings were traded upon extensively after Lawrence's death, not so much for their artistic value as for the celebrity association (which of course counts so much more in collector circles). I did once know a shrewd collector who dealt quite profitably in Lawrence art. Indeed we've all seen the maggots crawling upon the remains of things that were once living, in so many different quarters.

About bracketing DHL with Henry Miller, I'm not so sure that being the second writer to achieve notoriety in the area of writing "dirty books"-- or was it third, given Joyce's infamous go-round -- amounts to the filling-in of a useful literary category. (The second temple was not like the first, nor the third like the second, und so weiter). But then I don't read much Miller any more, vivid though the memories might remain; curiously, however, the bit of alleged "obscenity" that sticks in the mind here would not be Miller's abundant and pungent accounts of all that sweaty coupling, truppling & c. but his remarkable passage on the early extremities of his period of "artistic" poverty in Paris, when, without funds to purchase butter or even the cheapest variety of mustard to make a crust of plain bread more interesting (would palatable be the word?), he was reduced to wiping his bottom with the crusts, and consuming them thus flavoured; the gastronomic satisfactions of the process, in Miler's account, contributing in no small part to the delirious suspension of critical judgment that informs so much of his fictional re-creation of ze Glory that Was Paris.

As to the term "felon" in one comment here, I've no idea where that came from. Surely neither from this post nor from the legal status of any putative "case" against Lawrence. (But please don't vanish that comment, doing so would only make a double fool of me for wasting my time pondering it not once but twice.)

It was not the legalities nor the quality of the paintings but the scandal -- the latter all out of proportion to the former -- which was meant to be the issue here, in any case.

Lawrence was an odd bird, always at odds with that Great Beast, Society. Oppositional energies, of course, have supplied the necessary tension which has enabled a good deal of the most interesting art. Or once did. Nowadays artists know which side the bread is buttered upon (and that's not the vintage Milleresque "Parisian margarine", either), and how to identify the hand that does the buttering, so that any pretense of biting that hand is rarely more than a half-hearted attempt at concealment of the general cynical slobbering and licking. If even a fraction of the time and trouble put in these days on the pimping went into the painting or the poetry, perhaps these arts would be less deserving of the disrespect with which they are commonly held now.

The point of the post, again, was Lawrence's singularly oppositional nature. As a later English artist who began his career in the project of working against the grain would eventually put it: "Anger is an Energy". (John Lydon.)

TC said...

And yes, WB, is that not a fine boating jacket Lawrence's straw nemesis J.C. Squire is wearing.

Squire has by the way gone down in the history of English Doggerel for these immortal lines:

And I've swallowed, I grant, a beer a lot --
But I'm not so think as you drunk I am.

J. C. Squire: from Ballade of Soporific Absorption (1931)

Indeed Squire's circle and Lawrence's were not exclusive. Lawrence, though famously "common" in his origins and in certain of his professed inclinations, did do his bit of buttering-up when necessary. He and Squire shared certain social connections. Small world and all that.

Perhaps the best case in point would be the Bloomsbury crowd.

Lady Ottoline Morrell in particular was a friend to both Squire and Lawrence -- among so many, many others. She was the epoch's most notable "collector of authors".

Here we see the Squires (Eileen Harriett née Anstruther Wilkinson Lady Squire and Sir John Collings-Squire) in company with Lady Ottoline (photo made by Ottoline's husband-of-convenience Phillip Morrell, 1930).

Those familiar with Lawrence's work and legend will have at least some hazy knowledge of Ottoline's role in both. In fact what with the relative primacy of gossip over actual history, she may have unwittingly served his fame more decisively than any of his critics (not of course that there was any shortage of the latter).

TC said...

A bit of fodder for the fame-fixated, then, from a 2006 Guardian piece on Lady Ottoline by Maev Kennedy:


She kept open house in London and at Garsington, her Jacobean mansion in Oxfordshire, and many treated her homes almost as a club.

Her drawing rooms were full of famous men, many of them her lovers.

[Virginia] Woolf wondered: "How on earth does Ottoline suck enough nourishment out of the solitary male? I was thinking of your tea parties and I thought of Stephen Spender talking about himself and of old Tom [TS] Eliot also enlarging on the same theme and then in comes shall we say Siegfried [Sassoon] and it all begins again. Now in human intercourse I like the light to strike on more angles than one. And all clever men become frozen stalactites."

The clever men also included the philosopher Bertrand Russell, Roger Fry whom she helped choose pictures for his Post Impressionist exhibition, one of the most influential of the 20th century, WB Yeats - whom her other poets might have been dismayed to know she regarded as the only genius - Henry James, DH Lawrence, Winston Churchill and Herbert Asquith. There were also friends of her Liberal MP husband and almost all the Bloomsburies.

She was bisexual and her many, often unhappy, affairs included Fry, the painters Augustus John and Dora Carrington - who would kill herself after the death of her adored but resolutely homosexual Lytton Strachey - author Axel Munthe, and Russell.

She and Russell were friends after passion waned. He wrote of their first encounter: "For external and accidental reasons I did not have full relations with Ottoline that evening but we agreed to become lovers as soon as possible."

Many of her guests were more than happy to accept her hospitality, and then brutally caricature her in their work. She was mortified to appear, painfully recognisably, in at least a dozen novels, including books by Osbert Sitwell, Aldous Huxley and, most famously, as the domineering and foolish Hermione Roddice in Lawrence's Women in Love.

Some critics believe she was also the model for Lawrence's most famous heroine, Lady Chatterley. She didn't have sex in a woodshed, but her fling with "Tiger", a young stonemason who came to carve plinths for her garden statues, was an open secret among the pathologically gossipy Bloomsburies.

She was deeply wounded by Lawrence's portrayal, as was Woolf on her behalf. In a letter, [Woolf] wrote: "I was so angry I could hardly finish his letters. There you were, sending him Shelley, beef tea, lending him cottages, taking his photograph on the steps at Garsington - oft stuffing gold into his pocket - off he goes, has out his fountain pen and - well, as I say I haven't read it."

Marie W said...

Ooops. It looks like Marie is in need of glasses. Glasses that would make her read further than the first line of an explanatory note. Let's say she got distracted by the painting :-))
Miller in Paris... !!! (I did read THAT note!)

Ed Baker said...

Henry Miller and many others wrote those long books for the money. I think the going rate for these erotic/'porn' books was US$1.00 per page...
I've yet to read one of his or of Nin'

I have, however, read HM's:

- Hamlet Letters
-From Your Capricorn Friend Irv Stettner was 'something else')
-Stand Still Like the Hummingbird
-The Cosmological Eye (especially you Lawrence fans, read The Universe of Death)
First Impressions of Greece
-Quiet Days in Clichy
-Henry Miller on Writing
and I tried but couldn't "get into" his The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (which, now that I am an experienced Olde Phart, I should try-on-for-size again ?

I am also trying to get an handle on this idea that crime is a gateway into ecstasy... but, I got a block about reading Sade