In his later years Lawrence developed the potentialities of the short novel form in St Mawr, The Virgin and the Gypsy and The Man Who Died (known also as The Escaped Cock). Published less than a year before his passing away at the age of forty-five, The Man Who Died takes up the theme of Christ’s resurrection and his final days on Earth. Lawrence recounts Christ’s agonizing journey from death back to life.
Lawrence’s opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile he called his “savage pilgrimage.” At the time of his death, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. Lawrence is now valued by many as a visionary thinker and significant representative of modernism in English literature.
Lawrence is perhaps best known for his novels Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Within these Lawrence explores the possibilities for life and living within an industrial setting. In particular Lawrence is concerned with the nature of relationships that can be had within such settings. Though often classed as a realist, Lawrence’s use of his characters can be better understood with reference to his philosophy. His depiction of sexual activity, though shocking at the time, has its roots in this highly personal way of thinking and being.
Lawrence was very interested in human touch behaviour and that his interest in physical intimacy has its roots in a desire to restore our emphasis on the body, and re-balance it with what he perceived to be western civilisation’s slow process of over-emphasis on the mind.
The obituaries shortly after Lawrence’s death were, with the notable exception of E. M. Forster, unsympathetic or hostile. However, there were those who articulated a more favourable recognition of the significance of this author’s life and works. For example, his longtime friend Catherine Carswell summed up his life in a letter to the periodical Time and Tide published on 16 March 1930. In response to his critics, she claimed:
In the face of formidable initial disadvantages and life-long delicacy, poverty that lasted for three quarters of his life and hostility that survives his death, he did nothing that he did not really want to do, and all that he most wanted to do he did. He went all over the world, he owned a ranch, he lived in the most beautiful corners of Europe, and met whom he wanted to meet and told them that they were wrong and he was right. He painted and made things, and sang, and rode. He wrote something like three dozen books, of which even the worst page dances with life that could be mistaken for no other man’s, while the best are admitted, even by those who hate him, to be unsurpassed. Without vices, with most human virtues, the husband of one wife, scrupulously honest, this estimable citizen yet managed to keep free from the shackles of civilization and the cant of literary cliques. He would have laughed lightly and cursed venomously in passing at the solemn owls—each one secretly chained by the leg—who now conduct his inquest. To do his work and lead his life in spite of them took some doing, but he did it, and long after they are forgotten, sensitive and innocent people—if any are left—will turn Lawrence’s pages and will know from them what sort of a rare man Lawrence was.