May 25, 2021

Frances Wilson: D.H. Lawrence, Burning Man (1915)

In 1915, D.H. Lawrence published his ‘big and beautiful book’, The Rainbow. Despite being considered one of his finest novels today, within a year of its publication it was censured by the state for obscenity and the remaining 1,011 copies of it were burnt by a hangman outside the Royal Exchange.

So begins the biographer Frances Wilson’s tour of 1915, which would turn out to be dark and turbulent year in the life of one of Britain’s most controversial writers.

Frances Wilson is an award-winning biographer and critic. Her latest book, Burning Man: The Ascent of D. H. Lawrence (Bloomsbury) focuses on the middle period of the writer’s life between 1915 and 1925.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website

Show Notes

Scene One: November - Bow Street Magistrates Court, where D H Lawrence’s novel, The Rainbow, is tried for obscenity and the remaining 1.011 copies burnt by a hangman outside the Royal Exchange. Lawrence is not present at either event, but the destruction of his ‘big and beautiful book’  will impact dramatically on the direction of his writing.

Scene Two: November - The Vale of Health at the top of Hampstead Heath, where Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, are living in house in a row called Byron Villas. Lawrence now decides that he will become, like Byron himself, a literary outlaw: ‘I will retire out of the herd and throw bombs into it.’

Scene Three: March - Trinity College, Cambridge, where Lawrence, the son of a coal miner, is invited to High Table by Bertrand Russell. This is his first visit to the ancient university. After being paraded around like a pet, he gets a taste of Bloomsbury homosexuality and is horrified. A ‘little madness’ passes into him and for the next few weeks he loses his mind.


Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Frances Wilson

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partnerColorgraph

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