The Italian job

Lawrence and Frieda spent time in Italy, at the Fontana Vecchia, a villa which they loved and returned to. It seems that they lived a very itinerant lifestyle. They grew to hate England, particularly when they were in Cornwall towards the end of the war and were asked to leave by the police, who thought that a German such as Frieda could only be subversive. The war was soon over however, and Lawrence had a great need to travel south, just as soon as he and Frieda could obtain their passports.

What strikes me about their lifestyle is that it must have been deeply unsettling not to have any permanent home, to continually pack and unpack one’s belongings must have wasted a lot of creative time. Perhaps however it was the constant change which allowed Lawrence to think afresh and continue to be creative. Lawrence found in Italy a group of gay men with whom he could explore that part of his character which could no longer be ignored, and he and Frieda continued to dally with others whilst remaining in love with each other. But theirs was a tempestuous love, with shouting and ranting a daily occurrence.

Their money worries continued to dominate and direct their geographic course, which at one stage took them to a farmhouse near Lawrence’s sister who paid the annual rent for them on a property called Mountain Cottage to allow them some domestic stability at least for a time. Lawrence also suffered ongoing health issues, and was feared to be suffering from TB at one stage.

Frieda went to see her three children before leaving England and this apparently confirmed for her that she had made the correct decision in choosing to spend her life with Lawrence, rather than these three young children who by then were being cared for by their grandparents. She, it seems, was his inspiration. He found it difficult to work when she went to Germany to care for her sick mother for example. It appears that she both cared for and cajoled him into furious spates of creativity when he produced some of his best work, such as The Rainbow.

Later, they went via Ceylon to visit a couple who had coincidentally lived at the Fontana Vecchia some years before. They found the humidity there untenable and journeyed on, although funds were dwindling, to Australia to live temporarily in Perth. Whilst en route to Australia and whilst living there for a couple of months, Lawrence penned a novel he called Kangaroo in which one of the characters was definitely Frieda, dressed as she was in Bavarian style.

Then an invitation was made to them by Mabel Dodge Sterne, as she then was, to go to Taos in New Mexico to spend time there. Mabel was a philanthropist or patron of the arts, and they met her accompanied by her Indian husband Tony on the platform at Lamy, New Mexico, some 60 miles distant from Taos where she had her home. 12 September 1922.


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