Rananim: D. H. Lawrence’s Failed Utopia

  • George J. Zytaruk


The earliest manifestation of Lawrence’s desire for an ideal society can be found in a statement attributed to him by one or both of the Chambers sisters (Jessie and May) and was apparently uttered in his seventeenth or eighteenth year. Jessie, who was ‘the threshing floor’ for most of his early beliefs, reports: ‘When he was 17 or 18 he said to me how fine it would be if some day he could take a house, say one of the big houses in Nottingham Park, and he and all the people he liked could live together.’1 This general idea is fleshed out in an account supposedly written by May Chambers which not only supplies the setting for the extended family circle, but also draws attention to the advantages of communal living. Bert, as the young Lawrence was familiarly known, asks:

‘Don’t you think it would be possible, if we were rich, to have a large house, really big, you know, and all the people one likes best live together? All in the one house? Oh, plenty of room inside and out, of course, but a sort of centre where one could always find those one wanted, a place all of us could come to as a home. I think it would be heaps nicer than to be all scattered and apart. Besides, there’d always be someone one liked near at hand. I know I should love something of the sort. Haven’t you often felt sad at the thought of the gradual breakup of families or groups of friends like ours? I have — and it could be avoided, if we had the means. I should like to be rich and try it, shouldn’t you?’2


Social Revolution Economic Question Ideal Society Decent People Utopian Vision 
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  1. 1.
    Emile Delavenay, D. H. Lawrence: lHomme et la Genèse de son Oeuvre (1885–1919) (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck, 1969) p. 665.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This account, attributed to May Chambers, is printed in D. H. Lawrence: a Composite Biography, ed. Edward Nehls, vol. III: 1925–1930 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1959) p. 601.Google Scholar
  3. The attribution is disputed in George J. Zytaruk, ‘The Chambers Memoirs of D. H. Lawrence — Which Chambers?’, Renaissance and Modern Studies, XVII (1973) pp. 5–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 5.
    E.T. [Jessie Chambers], D. H. Lawrence: a Personal Record (Cambridge University Press, 1980) p. 49.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton, vol. II, June 1913-October 1916 (Cambridge University Press, 1981). Citations to this volume will be given in parentheses within the text and abbreviated as L. II.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    ‘Study of Thomas Hardy’ was published in Phoenix: the Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence, ed. Edward D. McDonald (London: William Heinemann, 1936) pp. 398–516. The original typescript from which McDonald printed the text is clearly titled by Lawrence ‘Le Gai Savaire’. This title should be restored when the book is edited for publication in the Cambridge Edition of the works of D. H. Lawrence. For some useful comments on the various versions of Lawrence’s philosophy,Google Scholar
  7. see L. D. Clark, The Minoan Distance: the Symbolism of Travel in D. H. Lawrence (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1980) pp. 91–111.Google Scholar
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    The Quest for Rananim: D. H. Lawrences Letters to S. S. Koteliansky 1914–1930, ed. George J. Zytaruk (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1970). Citations to this volume will be given in parentheses within the text and abbreviate as QR.Google Scholar

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© the Estate of Gāmini Salgādo and G. K. Das 1988

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  • George J. Zytaruk

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