In the introduction to her 1958 selection of D. H. Lawrence’s letters, Diana Trilling complained that “so much a poet, he yet insists that we read him as a preacher.” This undeniable fact made a full appreciation of Lawrence’s imaginative writing rather problematic for many of his contemporaries, and even more so for posterity. The Lawrence scholar John Worthen begins his excellent new biography by informing us that the sage’s once titanic reputation has now diminished and that many English departments both in Britain and the United States have stopped teaching him altogether.[1] If this is so it constitutes an extremely speedy fall from grace: when I was a graduate student only twenty years ago, one could hardly avoid having to grapple with Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow at the very least.

Worthen ascribes this shift to changing political fashion, and...


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