《Lady Chatterley's Lover》 CHAPTER1
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.
The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little
habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road
into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no
matter how many skies have fallen.
This was more or less Constance Chatterley's position. The war had brought the roof down
over her head. And she had realized that one must live and learn.
She married Clifford Chatterley in 1917, when he was home for a month on leave. They
had a month's honeymoon. Then he went back to Flanders: to be shipped over to England
again six months later, more or less in bits. Constance, his wife, was then twenty-three
years old, and he was twenty-nine.
His hold on life was marvellous. He didn't die, and the bits seemed to grow together
again. For two years he remained in the doctor's hands. Then he was pronounced a cure, and
could return to life again, with the lower half of his body, from the hips down, paralysed
This was in 1920. They returned, Clifford and Constance, to his home, Wragby Hall, the
family `seat'. His father had died, Clifford was now a baronet, Sir Clifford, and
Constance was Lady Chatterley. They came to start housekeeping and married life in the
rather forlorn home of the Chatterleys on a rather inadequate income. Clifford had a
sister, but she had departed. Otherwise there were no near relatives. The elder brother
was dead in the war. Crippled for ever, knowing he could never have any children, Clifford
came home to the smoky Midlands to keep the Chatterley name alive while he could.
He was not really downcast. He could wheel himself about in a wheeled chair, and he had
a bath-chair with a small motor attachment, so he could drive himself slowly round the
garden and into the line melancholy park, of which he was really so proud, though he
pretended to be flippant about it.
Having suffered so much, the capacity for suffering had to some extent left him. He
remained strange and bright and cheerful, almost, one might say, chirpy, with his ruddy,
healthy-looking face, arid his pale-blue, challenging bright eyes. His shoulders were
broad and strong, his hands were very strong. He was expensively dressed, and wore
handsome neckties from Bond Street. Yet still in his face one saw the watchful look, the
slight vacancy of a cripple.
He had so very nearly lost his life, that what remained was wonderfully precious to
him. It was obvious in the anxious brightness of his eyes, how proud he was, after the
great shock, of being alive. But he had been so much hurt that something inside him had
perished, some of his feelings had gone. There was a blank of insentience.
Constance, his wife, was a ruddy, country-looking girl with soft brown hair and sturdy
body, and slow movements, full of unusual energy. She had big, wondering eyes, and a soft
mild voice, and seemed just to have come from her native village. It was not so at all.
Her father was the once well-known R. A., old Sir Malcolm Reid. Her mother had been one of
the cultivated Fabians in the palmy, rather pre-Raphaelite days. Between artists and
cultured socialists, Constance and her sister Hilda had had what might be called an
aesthetically unconventional upbringing. They had been taken to Paris and Florence and
Rome to breathe in art, and they had been taken also in the other direction, to the Hague
and Berlin, to great Socialist conventions, where the speakers spoke in every civilized
tongue, and no one was abashed.
The two girls, therefore, were from an early age not the least daunted by either art or
ideal politics. It was their natural atmosphere. They were at once cosmopolitan and
provincial, with the cosmopolitan provincialism of art that goes with pure social ideals.
They had been sent to Dresden at the age of fifteen, for music among other things. And
they had had a good time there. They lived freely among the students, they argued with the
men over philosophical, sociological and artistic matters, they were just as good as the
men themselves: only better, since they were women. And they tramped off to the forests
with sturdy youths bearing guitars, twang-twang! They sang the Wandervogel songs, and they
were free. Free! That was the great word. Out in the open world, out in the forests of the
morning, with lusty and splendid-throated young fellows, free to do as they liked,
and---above all---to say what they liked. It was the talk that mattered supremely: the
impassioned interchange of talk. Love was only a minor accompaniment.
Both Hilda and Constance had had their tentative love-affairs by the time they were
eighteen. The young men with whom they talked so passionately and sang so lustily and
camped under the trees in such freedom wanted, of course, the love connexion. The girls
were doubtful, but then the thing was so much talked about, it was supposed to be so
important. And the men were so humble and craving. Why couldn't a girl be queenly, and
give the gift of herself?
So they had given the gift of themselves, each to the youth with whom she had the most
subtle and intimate arguments. The arguments, the discussions were the great thing: the
love-making and connexion were only a sort of primitive reversion and a bit of an
anti-climax. One was less in love with the boy afterwards, and a little inclined to hate
him, as if he had trespassed on one's privacy and inner freedom. For, of course, being a
girl, one's whole dignity and meaning in life consisted in the achievement of an absolute,
a perfect, a pure and noble freedom. What else did a girl's life mean? To shake off the
old and sordid connexions and subjections.
And however one might sentimentalize it, this sex business was one of the most ancient,
sordid connexions and subjections. Poets who glorified it were mostly men. Women had
always known there was something better, something higher. And now they knew it more
definitely than ever. The beautiful pure freedom of a woman was infinitely more wonderful
than any sexual love. The only unfortunate thing was that men lagged so far behind women
in the matter. They insisted on the sex thing like dogs.
And a woman had to yield. A man was like a child with his appetites. A woman had to
yield him what he wanted, or like a child he would probably turn nasty and flounce away
and spoil what was a very pleasant connexion. But a woman could yield to a man without
yielding her inner, free self. That the poets and talkers about sex did not seem to have
taken sufficiently into account. A woman could take a man without really giving herself
away. Certainly she could take him without giving herself into his power. Rather she could
use this sex thing to have power over him. For she only had to hold herself back in sexual
intercourse, and let him finish and expend himself without herself coming to the crisis:
and then she could prolong the connexion and achieve her orgasm and her crisis while he
was merely her tool.
Both sisters had had their love experience by the time the war came, and they were
hurried home. Neither was ever in love with a young man unless he and she were verbally
very near: that is unless they were profoundly" title="ad.深深地">profoundly interested, TALKING to one another. The
amazing, the profound, the unbelievable thrill there was in passionately talking to some
really clever young man by the hour, resuming day after day for months...this they had
never realized till it happened! The paradisal promise: Thou shalt have men to talk
to!---had never been uttered. It was fulfilled before they knew what a promise it was.
And if after the roused intimacy of these vivid and soul-enlightened discussions the
sex thing became more or less inevitable, then let it. It marked the end of a chapter. It
had a thrill of its own too: a queer vibrating thrill inside the body, a final spasm of
self-assertion, like the last word, exciting, and very like the row of asterisks that can
be put to show the end of a paragraph, and a break in the theme.
When the girls came home for the summer holidays of 1913, when Hilda was twenty and
Connie eighteen, their father could see plainly that they had had the love experience.
L'amour avait possé par là, as somebody puts it. But he was a man of
experience himself, and let life take its course. As for the mot a nervous invalid in the
last few months of her life, she wanted her girls to be `free', and to `fulfil
themselves'. She herself had never been able to be altogether herself: it had been denied
her. Heaven knows why, for she was a woman who had her own income and her own way. She
blamed her husband. But as a matter of fact, it was some old impression of authority on
her own mind or soul that she could not get rid of. It had nothing to do with Sir Malcolm,
who left his nervously hostile, high-spirited wife to rule her own roost, while he went
his own way.
So the girls were `free', and went back to Dresden, and their music, and the university
and the young men. They loved their respective young men, and their respective young men
loved them with all the passion of mental attraction. All the wonderful things the young
men thought and expressed and wrote, they thought and expressed and wrote for the young
women. Connie's young man was musical, Hilda's was technical. But they simply lived for
their young women. In their minds and their mental excitements, that is. Somewhere else
they were a little rebuffed, though they did not know it.
It was obvious in them too that love had gone through them: that is, the physical
experience. It is curious what a subtle but unmistakable transmutation it makes, both in
the body of men and women: the woman more blooming, more subtly rounded, her young
angularities softened, and her expression either anxious or triumphant: the man much
quieter, more inward, the very shapes of his shoulders and his buttocks less assertive,
In the actual sex-thrill within the body, the sisters nearly succumbed to the strange
male power. But quickly they recovered themselves, took the sex-thrill as a sensation, and
remained free. Whereas the men, in gratitude to the woman for the sex experience, let
their souls go out to her. And afterwards looked rather as if they had lost a shilling and
found sixpence. Connie's man could be a bit sulky, and Hilda's a bit jeering. But that is
how men are! Ungrateful and never satisfied. When you don't have them they hate you
because you won't; and when you do have them they hate you again, for some other reason.
Or for no reason at all, except that they are discontented children, and can't be
satisfied whatever they get, let a woman do what she may.
However, came the war, Hilda and Connie were rushed home again after having been home
already in May, to their mother's funeral. Before Christmas of 1914 both their German
young men were dead: whereupon the sisters wept, and loved the young men passionately, but
underneath forgot them. They didn't exist any more.
Both sisters lived in their father's, really their mother's, Kensington housemixed with
the young Cambridge group, the group that stood for `freedom' and flannel trousers, and
flannel shirts open at the neck, and a well-bred sort of emotional anarchy, and a
whispering, murmuring sort of voice, and an ultra-sensitive sort of manner. Hilda,
however, suddenly married a man ten years older than herself, an elder member of the same
Cambridge group, a man with a fair amount of money, and a comfortable family job in the
government: he also wrote philosophical essays. She lived with him in a smallish house in
Westminster, and moved in that good sort of society of people in the government who are
not tip-toppers, but who are, or would be, the real intelligent power in the nation:
people who know what they're talking about, or talk as if they did.
Connie did a mild form of war-work, and consorted with the flannel-trousers Cambridge