D. H. Lawrence: Daughters of the Vicar

“So that now the little church stands buried in its greenery, stranded and sleeping among the fields, while the brick houses elbow nearer and nearer, threatening to crush it down.”

Aldecross, with this opening elbow-trigger somehow ironically symbolising the later “butterflies and cherries” on a Mansfield clock. God and Time and how things work out by nature and what things ‘fritter’ and flitter away within the human version of nature that we call indeed human nature, and Mrs Durant “rocking slightly” on the ground in illness having pulled the cabbages from the earth, as men pulled coal from deeper in the same earth. 

Two baby baths, one for the baby of Mary who’s married to an ‘abortion’ called ironically Mr Massy (“the little clergyman” to distinguish him from the bigger one called Mr Lindley), the other equivalent baby bath later being her sister Louisa innocently washing Alfred’s coal-black back…

Mr Lindley with his mercenary wife, now vicar of Aldecross, previously sermonising to farm labourers and now to coal colliers, finds it hard to subsist on this living, as he is tolerated not embraced by the community. They have children including two daughters who we see grow up, Mary and Louisa, Mary eventually a Mrs Massy, Louisa who sort of fancies the local man Alfred Durant, who ran away to the Navy. 

A novella of the tension of status, the conflict between reason and passion, and dealing with a complex human nature that has too many dichotomies than just two sisters’s characters. Somehow such complexity sort of all simply pans out like coal dust or snowflakes, but never gold. Not ideal but never completely damnable.

Mr Durant (“Already he was going dead; being a tailor, his large form had become an encumbrance to him.”) is Alfred’s father, part of Aldecross, with Louisa thus being a social cut above Alfred…. and the eventual barriers to their marriage, as family faces family.

Mr Massy is an amazing shrimp of a character: “And it was as if he had accepted the Christian tenets as axioms. His religion consisted in what his scrupulous, abstract mind approved of.” Eventually his obsession: “The world was all baby for him.” — and as her brother-in-law, “Miss Louisa was afraid of him. And she was bound, during the course of the prayer, to have a little reverence for him. It was like a foretaste of inexorable, cold death, a taste of pure justice.”

Mary, as the dichotomy between two sisters:
“She would not feel, and she would not feel.”

While Louisa… “They are wrong – they are all wrong. They have ground out their souls for what isn’t worth anything, and there isn’t a grain of love in them anywhere. And I will have love.”

“The old woman was sitting rocking slightly among the ragged snowy cabbages.”
That gamble of a horse that beset DHL. Of a boy whose two sisters had outgrown their dollshouse.

“‘They will soothe the wrench,’ she said.” But not the death that the wrench uncovered.

Alfred…
“He did not approach her. She was there like a wonderful distance. But it was a treat, having her in the house. […]The whole tide of his soul, gathering in its unknown towards this expansion into death, carried him with it helplessly, all the fritter of his thought and consciousness caught up as nothing, the heave passing on towards its breaking, taking him further than he had ever been.” — to Canada?

Two baby baths leading to an ending, human nature’s bathos.

***

“In the valley that was black with trees, the colliery breathed in stertorous pants, sending out high conical columns of steam that remained upright, whiter than the snow on the hills, yet shadowy, in the dead air.”

My previous reviews of D.H. Lawrence: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/06/10/d-h-lawrence-the-prussian-officer/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/05/25/the-rocking-horse-winner/

The anthology context of this review: https://cernzoo.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/#comment-392

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