Reviews of Nobel Prize winner | Comments on all Shakespeare's plays | Poetry reviews | Multiple reviews of same author | Haiti books |


By D.H. Lawrence
New York: Dover Publications, 1993
ISBN: 0-486-27794-1
124 pages

Bob Corbett
October 2015

I very much enjoyed these short stories of D.H. Lawrence. They reflect the period of time in which he wrote them, and he wrote from the point of view of one who was challenging the traditions and customs of his time and wanted to emphasize some of the cultural issues which faced that time period. He isn’t in the slightest hesitant to look more to the dark and even hypocritical side of the culture in which he lives, but his stories seem very human and he is honest to the feelings, doubts and struggles of people in his time with the cultural rules and limitations on everyday life which they imposed.

Below I simply comment briefly on each of the seven stories.


The officer is in charge of himself and his personal aide. It’s been the young aide’s plan to do his work as he must, but not really to engage the officer. On the other hand the officer sees this or some part of it and interprets the aide’s demeanor as an affront, even a challenge to his authority. He resolves to be tougher on the aide.

Thus he presses the aide constantly, demeaning him, bullying him, struggling to demonstrate his power over the young soldier.

This conflict weighs heavily on both men. The captain is constantly frustrated and affronted by the aide’s aloofness despite his always doing his duty. The aide’s hatred of the officer grows as he is more and more demeaned by the captain. Eventually the captain has an accident falling from his horse and is badly wounded. The aide goes somewhat insane, and enhances the captain’s injuries unto his death and sort of hides the body in the woods.

The young soldier, however, can’t really face who he’s become and what he’s done. Eventually he is nearly insane and incapacitated. In this state he brings about his own death.

The two bodies are discovered, but no one in the troop really has any idea of what’s happened and how or why it happened.

This is a very dark but believable psychological story. The captain’s passion to control and demean his aide, and the aide’s increasing hatred of the captain simply play out the natural course to which they were headed.


As the story opens 27 year old Rev. Ernest Lindley has come to head the church for workers in the mining region. He isn’t too happy about this move since he regards himself as in a different social class than the local people and has little interest in any social life that would include them.

Nonetheless he remains in the village and serves these people for many years. Along the way he and his wife have two daughters and a son. We hear little about the son, but the essence of the story centers on the two daughters, who, while being very close and loving to each other, are very different sorts of people.

Mary, the older daughter is attractive, dutiful and totally loyal to her father’s values. Louisa, just two years younger is much more independent, much less attractive and hasn’t the same attitude toward the local people as do the rest of her family.

Eventually Louisa falls in love with a local boy, George Durant, but he is extremely shy of being around her. He is much more aware of their class difference that is Louisa. He’s not only shy with her, but he’s not comfortable in the village and wants more of life. When he’s a late teen he runs off and joins the navy in which he serves for a number of years.

Upon arriving back home George feels the obligation to care for his widowed mother and gets a job in the local mine that he had before he went away. Louisa is much more forward than George, or, for that matter, any of the other people in the story, and she lets George know that they had been sort of good friends before he went away and she’d like that to continue. He’s rather frightened of the idea and not sure at all that it is a good idea.

However, he’s deeply devoted to his mother, and when she becomes ill Louisa simply goes to their humble cottage and tells George that she’s there to help his mother and she’s not going anywhere. She does this much to the displeasure of her own family.

Eventually these differences in the two families cause the question of George and Louisa to come to the fore. Her family are fairly shocked when Louisa goes to live in George’s Mother’s home (where he, of course also lives) to take care of her in a serious illness. When his mother dies George is fairly lost and Louisa simply tells him that he should marry her and they would have a marvelous life.

She seems to be the only person who thinks this. However, her older sister, Mary, while married “properly” to a young minister and already having children of her own, stands by her sister, not fully accepting what’s she’s doing, but respecting her right to do it. Under the fact that Louisa’s going to do what she wants and the defense that Mary, they cave in and support the marriage.

Almost hilariously, the very shy and unsure, but in love, George, himself agrees to the marriage and even following his dream, the two would migrate to Canada after they marry. He is certainly in love, but it is Louisa who is in charge of the details!

The story is very touching and human, and emphasizes the difficulties of the mixing of the classes at the time Lawrence was writing. The story would have seemed bold at the time, even a bit radical. However, reading it today, while I was cheering on the boldness and determination of Louisa, I was quite aware of the startling cultural changes that the past 150 years has brought to our world.


Sisters are out for a walk in the woods near their farm. Anne is 14, just beginning to realize she’s not a child. Frances is 23, just returned from a visit to Liverpool where she discovered that the boy she liked a lot and thought might well become her husband had chosen a different woman.

Anne is just beginning to discover she no longer a child, but is a good deal confused about how men and women act toward each other and she probes her sister and discovers that Frances will not be marrying the Liverpool bow.

Anne tends to play the role of the adult to Frances, who is generally amused by it. Anne pesters Frances about who she will now seek out and asks about a local farm boy. Frances denies any interest in him, but there isn’t much sincerity in it and very soon she does meet up with him and they seem to be about to be a pair.

Lawrence deals with this simple ritual of youth and young love with a nonchalance that underlines the naturalness of the behavior. There is little suggested of either love or lust, rather it just seems like two people playing a role they know they are expected to play, but are not sure of their lines. I liked the simplicity and naturalness of the very short tale.


A husband and wife have come to a seaside village in England for a few days of vacation. They are fairly newlywed. She had once lived in the village and had asked to come here, yet she asks him to tell no one that she had ever been her before.

He is puzzled, but agrees. They set off to different places in their first morning, he to the sea one way and she toward the village. She goes to a garden on the property of a mansion and is allowed by the gardener to visit the roses. There she meets a man who is clearly mad and doesn’t know her at all. However, the man was her former lover and had been wounded and mentally destroyed in war.

She is so shaken by the visit that when she returns her husband can’t but help see how distraught she is and he sort of forces the story from her. He is shocked that she had this lover and never told him about the man or their love. Yet, he is willing to work it out with her, and she, too, seems willing, but it’s all in the open now and they know this will be a difficult time.

This is a very simple story, yet powerful. Lawrence is able to bring out her pain and deep sadness very powerfully, and yet the quite touching and sad confrontation between husband and wife is presented boldly and without any seeming anger or even bitterness, just the realization that this is definitely an issue to their marriage and they have to work it out. Indeed, there was a “shadow in the rose garden” as the title tells us, but there is, at the end, a deep shadow in the marriage as well.


Whiston and Elsie have been married just two years and it is Valentine’s Day. They seem to love each other very much, yet he is a bit jealous of her beauty and its effect on men.

In the morning mail she does get two small packages and she doesn’t tell her husband about them. One is a single silk stocking, but it matches the one she received (and saved) from the year before. The other is a piece of jewelry.

She lies to her husband about where these things came from, pretending not to know about the jewelry and claiming the stocking was just a “sample” which is why there was only one.

However, the seeds of jealousy have been sown and he worries about her former employer, Sam. He is having a party and has invited them to come. They go to the party, but Whiston doesn’t dance at all, and Sam dominates her dance card. He also tries to dominate her too, but without much luck. She seems to love the flirtation and attention, but isn’t really attracted to Sam.

Nonetheless, this whole scene does create a violent reaction in Whiston and they have a terrible argument and eventually he even strikes her, a first in their marriage. There is great tension in the air, but, it does seem that their love, which is real, if not so well expressed, seems to win out.

It is an interesting story and touches the difficulties involved in intimate relationships, and the notions of jealousy and freedom and the conflicts it can inflict. At the same time, it points harshly to the need for open and freer communication among lovers.


This is a rather sad little story about a family, father, two daughters, one a fairly learned school teacher, the other an unwed mother, and a son, who, though he lives with the family is mainly estranged from them.

They live in a small village, and even though the father had been a miner most of his life, he did carefully save his money so they are modestly well provided for. However, the younger daughter has an out-of-wedlock child and this has been a shame on the family. The story, which mainly just reveals their situation and the various tensions in the family – the bossiness of the teacher, the bitterness of the young mother, the serious ill health of the father and the aloof and nastiness of the son – all plays out in front of the minister who has come to their home to baptize the baby since they are ashamed to bring the child to church for a christening.

There is no question that Lawrence paints a powerful picture of unhappiness of the household, the smallness, even meaninglessness of their lives, and the shame that the out of wedlock child has brought upon them all. There is simply nothing pleasant in this story, yet it is well written and even powerful.


There is very little action or development in this story that grabs one. However, the telling is so creative and fascinating that I was gripped from beginning to end. The tiny plot is that a man doesn’t come home from work – yet again. He’s had some patterns of going first to the tavern up the street, and, unless he is home within a half hour or so after work he’s not likely to come home until some men from the tavern carry him there.

Finally his worried wife goes herself to the tavern to see (getting a nearby woman friend to go in and check), but he’s not there. It turns out tragedy happened to him at work and he was smothered by a cave-in at his coal mine.

His wife and mother prepare his body for a wake and burial. This is the essence of the “plot” as such. However, Lawrence’s very dark and brilliant narration lifted this story to the level of a very powerful and moving tragedy. The story seems to me to be a model of utterly brilliant writing.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett