The following article appeared in the December 2018 edition of Journal of DH Lawrence Studies, [Vol. 5, Number 1 (2018), pp. 143-62], and is published in its pre-edited version here by kind permission of the editor, Sue Reid.
Lawrence’s fraught and rivalrous relationship with Fyodor Dostoevsky was throughout his life connected with his fraught and rivalrous relationship to Christ. Both authors were, to use Murry’s term about Lawrence, “Christ-haunted”, and both were likened to Christ Himself. Lawrence criticised Dostoevsky for endorsing what he perceived to be one of Christ’s false doctrines – albeit only with the mental, willed, and unartistic part of his divided self. In response to Koteliansky and Murry’s translation of Dostoevsky’s Pages from the Journal of an Author, he wrote to Koteliansky in December 1916:
How is it that these foul-living people ooze with such loving words. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” – well and good, if you’ll hate thy neighbour as thyself. I can’t do with this creed based on self-love, even when the self-love is extended to cover the whole of humanity. – No, when he was preaching, Dostoevsky was a rotten little stinker. In his art he is bound to confess himself lusting in hate and torture. But his “credo” – ! my God, what filth!(3L53)
Lawrence made his final paired meditation on Dostoevsky and Christ just five weeks before his death, in an eight-page Introduction to Koteliansky’s translation of ‘The Grand Inquisitor’ episode of Dostoevsky’s 1879-80 novel The Brothers Karamazov(itself completed only four months before Dostoevsky’s death). Although Lawrence used this Introduction to rehearse several of his long-standing criticisms of Dostoevsky, he also manifested in it a greater approbation of his writing than he had ever done before. This new approbation rested on his attribution to Dostoevsky of criticism of Christ (again, with the mental part of his divided self). However, since this criticism took the form of hoisting Christ by his own petard, Lawrence’s last appreciation of Dostoevsky and criticism of Christ constituted – at another level – a new acceptance of Christ on his part. This in turn involved accepting a duty of care for the mass of humanity. He felt that this perception “once recognised […] will change the course of history” (IR 130). It is this vision – which the dying Lawrence perceived to have been that of the dying Dostoevsky – that this article seeks to describe.
It is worth acknowledging at the outset that Lawrence’s perception involves misreading. F.R. Leavis wrote of Lawrence’s response to Tolstoy: “It is astonishing that so marvelously perceptive a critic as Lawrence could simplify in that way, with so distorting an effect”.In fact it is not surprising; as Bakhtin did with Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy with Shakespeare, so Lawrence converted other writers into his own critical vocabulary. In Dostoevsky’s case, both his differences from and similarities to the Russian provoked a hostility that may have encouraged liberties of this kind. In fact, many of the criticisms leveled by others towards Lawrence were felt by Lawrence towards Dostoevsky: that he was uncouth, scandalous, and unhealthily obsessed with psychological extremes (Turgenev called Dostoevsky “our Sade”).In 1910 Lawrence wrote to Violet Hunt: “Mr Hueffer accuses me of Dostoieffskyism – it is an accusation, for all the dear crank Russian’s stuff is as insane as it can be. […] I thought these Holroyd folk were nicely levelled down” (1L 199). In February 1916 he wrote to Ottoline Morrell about The Possessed: “It seems so sensational, and such a degrading of the pure mind, somehow. It seems as though the pure mind, the true reason, which surely is noble, were made trampled and filthy under the hoofs of secret, perverse, undirect sensuality” (here, in contrast to the quotation from December 1916 given above, he elevates Dostoevsky’s rational above his passional self) (2L 521).
Both authors were – Christ-like – outsiders to their respective establishments, were accused of treason, aroused controversy with their treatments of sexuality, had a sense of living in decayed civilizations heading towards destruction, and tried to point the way to humanity’s salvation. Their similarities as wild, untutored, and unartistic artists, were and have been often asserted by their admirers and detractors alike. When The Trespasser was reviewed in The Athenaieum alongside Constance Garnett’s translation of The Brothers Karamazov, the reviewer praised Lawrence in terms of Dostoevsky’s “psychological intensity” and “poetic realism of a Dostoevskian order”.In 1956, Murry wrote that ‘The Man Who Died’ (The Escaped Cock) was as great as ‘The Grand Inquisitor’.John Galsworthy, having turned against Dostoevsky after his initial enthusiasm, wrote to Edward Garnett in complaint about Sons and Lovers: ‘Confound all these young fellows: how they have gloated over Dostoevsky’.Henry Miller, to whom Lawrence was exceeded in importance only byDostoevsky, argued that “Of all his forerunners, Jesus included, it was with Dostoevsky that he had the most difficulty”.Gilbert Phelps thought that “the fact that Dostoevsky’s principal figures are, as André Gide pointed out, always in the course of formation, never quite emerging from the shadows, was closer to what Lawrence was attempting than anything that had gone before”.George Panichas not only likened their modes of characterisation, but went to the length of pairing their characters: Ivan and Gerald, Svidrigailov and Loerke, and the Underground Man and Hermione.Peter Kaye claimed that: “as a novelist Lawrence travelled a distinctively Dostoevskian path after the publication of Sons and Lovers, which moved him away from the English tradition of the novel as biography, the story of individual lives largely immune from metaphysical debate and cultural crisis. In a manner worthy of Dostoevsky, he sought to combine the particular with the universal, the concrete with the abstract”.He also might have added, he sought to make “philosophy and fiction” “come together again, in the novel”, as Lawrence advocated in ‘The Future of the Novel’ of 1923 (STH154).
Such likenesses increased the urgency to Lawrence of breaking free from Dostoevsky’s influence, but he had the additional inducement of a generalised irritation at the Russian Craze, which by 1916 focused heavily on Dostoevsky. Many of those who helped launch Lawrence in his own literary career were enthusiasts, and Kaye suggests that “Lawrence felt the cloying presence of his rival because the height of Dostoevsky’s English influence coincided with his own most creative and troubled years”.Zytaruk suggests that it may have been the more irritating to Lawrence that the leader of the worship was Murry (who was to follow his 1916 monograph on Dostoevsky with one on Christ eight years later).Kaye suggests that “Murry’s zeal proved especially galling; in a move tantamount to John the Baptist abandoning the camp of the Nazarene, he exchanged devotion to Lawrence for the worship of his rival.”Although early in 1916 Lawrence had offered to collaborate with Murry on his book, he was not involved in the final version, to which he reacted coolly(2L646). In his letter to Koteliansky, quoted above, he yoked Dostoevsky and Murry in his criticism of them: “Thank you for the little Dostoevsky book. I have only read Murry’s Introduction, and Dostoevsky’s ‘Dream of a Queer Fellow’. Both stink in my nostrils. […] Dostoevsky is big and putrid, here, Murry is a small stinker, emitting the same kind of stink” (3L 53). Yet, when Koteliansky approached Lawrence, three months before the end of his life, for an introduction to ‘The Grand Inquisitor’, Lawrence agreed to revisit Dostoevsky.
About one third of the way through Dostoevsky’s last novel, two of the three legitimate Karamazov brothers are discussing the ethical nature of the universe. Alyosha, a novice monk, turns the conversation to Christ, to which Ivan responds with an imaginative account (supposedly the plot of a poem that he has written) of Christ returning for a visit, between his resurrection and his second coming, to sixteenth century Seville. The people recognise and worship Christ, and he performs one miracle, of raising a child from the dead. But the Grand Inquisitor, rather than worshipping him, has him arrested. He visits him in prison, and tells him at length why he is going to “condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake as the worst of heretics” – for the same reason that he had the day before burned “almost a hundred heretics” – because the Church’s autocratic rule relieves the spiritually-weak masses of the overwhelming burden of “freedom of faith” which Christ would otherwise impose on them. “Nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom”.
The Cardinal illustrates his point by referring to Christ’s three temptations in the wilderness. When Christ declined to turn stones into bread, He was declining to maintain his rule by feeding the people. In refusing to fling Himself from a cliff, or to make the nations worship Him, Christ refused miracle and mystery as a means to enforce his authority, and in so doing failed to unify the people. Unity in worship is, the Cardinal maintains, a fundamental human need, which the Church provides by deceiving the masses. His utilitarian and self-sacrificial conclusion is that the church leaders accept the burden of freedom in order to remove it from others, if necessary by burning free-thinkers: “There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil” (BK 284). Since the Cardinal argues that Christ would have done better to succumb to Satan’s temptations, his principles are, by his own admission, Satanic. He says that for the eight preceding centuries the leaders of the Catholic Church have actually worshipped Satan rather than Christ. The distinction is also that between the secular and the divine. The Cardinal calls Satan “the spirit of the earth”, and Ivan agrees with Alyosha’s supposition that the Cardinal does not in fact believe in God (BK 276).
Lawrence’s response to Ivan’s story can be summarised as three points. First, he identifies Dostoevsky with Ivan and Ivan with the Grand Inquisitor. When Christ’s only response to the Inquisitor’s death sentence is to silently kiss him on the lips, and Alyosha’s only response to Ivan’s narrative is silently to kiss himon the lips, Lawrence characterises these as narratively-condoned acts of acquiescence (IR 128).
Second, he sees all five (Dostoevsky in his endorsement of Ivan, Ivan in his endorsement of the Inquisitor, the Inquisitor, Christ in his assent to the Inquisitor, and Alyosha in his assent to Ivan) as correct. Whereas on earlier readings of the novel he had found the story “just a piece of showing-off: a display of cynical-satanical pose which was simply irritating”, now “under that, I hear the final and unanswerable criticism of Christ.” (IR 127).
Third, he thinks that they are not whollyright. Dostoevsky, being self-divided, has perverted an accurate perception, which Lawrence purports to correct. He says that someone with the insight into human nature that is what Lawrence calls “the spirit of all great government” would not be the character that Dostoevsky makes him: “Where Dostoevsky is perverse is in his making the old, old wise governor of men a Grand Inquisitor.” “The Spanish Inquisition actually was diabolic. It could not have produced a Grand Inquisitor who put Dostoevsky’s sad questions to Jesus. And the man who put those sad questions to Jesus could not possibly have been a Spanish Inquisitor. He could not possibly have burnt a hundred people in an auto da fé. He would have been too wise and far-seeing. […] The man who feels a certain tenderness for mankind in its weakness or limitation is not therefore diabolic” (IR 131).
Here Lawrence makes the opposite and counterpart objection to the story to Alyosha, who disputes with Ivan that someone with the Inquisitor’s views could in fact be self-sacrificial and loving, as Ivan claims him to be. Since his point is a defence of Christ from the argument of the Inquisitor, it follows that Lawrence in putting the objection the other way round is criticising Christ (“I hear the final and unanswerable criticism of Christ”) (IR 127).
In his Introduction, Lawrence once more and for the last time expresses his distrust of egalitarian, democratic social systems, and his interest in strong, enlightened leaders. This was after something of a break from doing so. Lawrence’s last so-called “leadership novel”, The Plumed Serpent, was completed in 1925. The satire in Lady Chatterley’s Lover(1926-28) is anti-hierarchical in spirit. In the novel’s first draft, Parkin ends as the secretary of the Communist group in his Sheffield factory; the concluding vision of the final draft is one of equality, anarchy, and a kind of literal commune-ism, with no reference to authority (LCL 299). During the last summer that he spent working on this novel (in 1927) he was also writing Sketches of Etruscan Places, which contrasts the bullying, authoritarian Romans (and Fascists) to the pacific Etruscans, and laments about subsequent history: “Why has mankind had such a craving to be imposed upon! Why this lust after imposing creeds, imposing deeds, imposing buildings, imposing language […]?” (SEP 33)
Immediately before, in May 1927, he had finished his own Christ-returning-to earth-in-the-flesh story, probably negatively inspired by Dostoevsky’s. In The Escaped Cock, the criticism of Christ (for over-sacrificing himself) is very different from that of Lawrence’s Introduction. The story also refutes aristocratic and authoritarian values; the risen Christ is an individualist, whose ambition is to make his way through the world living as fully as possible. So far from being either an administrator or a subject of an authoritarian system, he repudiates all society, breaking even his bond with the Priestess of Isis at the point when they could form a social unit. Such a rootless cosmopolitan is a trouble-maker in any strictly-ordered ordered society, and the risen Christ would certainly have taken it severely amiss were a Pontius Pilate to reimprison him. He would not silently kiss his Roman Inquisitor on the lips, much less submit to the burden of authority. Kaye notes (achronistically) that ‘The new gospel presented by The Escaped Cock subverts what Lawrence endorses in his Grand Inquisitoressay’.
Five weeks before his death, Lawrence swung back towards a vision of a despotism which those who were enlightened had a duty to enforce. The mood in which he did so differed from that of the excited, if also tentative, exploration of the leadership novels: the tone is sombre, and in its exasperated way submissive to what it describes as reality. Lawrence says that in his last few readings of the story he “each time found it more depressing because, alas, more drearily true to life […] my heart sinks right through my shoes” (IR 127). He is no longer merely, as in The Escaped Cock, expostulating against the human “craving to be imposed upon” (SEP 33), but accepting what he sees as the political and moral implications of its existence. These implications are in dialogue with Lawrence’s feelings (which had vacillated over the course of his life) about Communism. This dimension is apparent in the Introduction’s focus on bread.
Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that he, Christ, refused to turn stones into bread on two grounds: “what is that freedom worth if obedience is bought with bread?” and (Christ’s actual response to Satan in Matthew 4:4): “man lives not by bread alone”. Implicit in the Grand Inquisitor’s argument is that the second response is beside the point, since if Christ had turned stones into bread, the bread would have been the bread of heaven as well as physical bread, which he could have given to the people, thus filling their stomachs and satisfying their need for miracle, mystery, and somebody to worship in unison. Christ refused this (and the Inquisitor conveniently passes over such Biblical miracles as the feeding of the five thousand, and indeed the resurrection of the child of Seville, which Christ had performed just before the Inquisitor arrested him).
The Inquisitor continues: “Dost Thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? ‘Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!’ that’s what they’ll write on the banner, which they will raise against Thee, and with which they will destroy Thy temple” (BK 277). According to the Inquisitor, these people will raise a tower of Babel, which like the original will not be finished.
This is a clear reference to events which were happening in Dostoevsky’s and Ivan’s time – the promulgation of atheist, anarchist thought which promoted physical provision for the masses at the expense of any other moral imperative. In the year after the serialization of The Brothers Karamazov was completed, in 1881, Tsar Alexandr II was assassinated by anarchists. Nonetheless, the fact that Marxism itself had by that point had little impact in Russia made Ivan’s vision – in Ellis Sandoz’s term – “amazingly predictive” of the Revolution, which never fully accomplished Communism.The prediction’s felicity is enhanced by the fact that ‘bread’was the last term in the Bolshevik Revolutionary slogan: мир, земля, хлеб. Indeed, the Grand Inquisitor not only predicts an atheist, anticlerical revolution, but its eventual fall: “they will come back to us after a thousand years of agony with their tower. They will seek us again, hidden underground in the catacombs, for we shall be again persecuted and tortured”. “They will find us and cry to us ‘Feed us, for those who have promised us fire from heaven haven’t given it!’ And then we shall finish building their tower, for he finishes the building who feeds them” (BK277).
In the Inquisitor’s conception, only a theocracy, as loosely-defined, can supply the needs of all people. A few “tens of thousands” are willing to follow Christ for the sake of the bread of heaven alone, but the “millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly” must also be fed (BK277) The bread which the church will give to the people will of course be simply bread, as made bythe masses, it will be given back to them, as though by miracle. At one level the people will not be deceived, but they will nonetheless be satisfied in their desire to worship: “They will see that we do not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! For they will remember only too well that in old days, without our help, even the bread they made turned to stones in their hands, while since they have come back to us, the very stones have turned to bread in their hands” (BK 283).
Lawrence echoes much of this argument. He expands the concept of bread to money and other material goods: “All that remains is for the elect to take charge of the bread – the property, the money – and then give it back to the masses as if it were really the gift of life”. (IR 130) He implicitly rejects capitalism as a form of distribution, arguing that the people “is too weak, or vicious or something, to be able to” share it out, so “He has to hand the common bread over to some absolute authority, Tsar or Lenin, to be shared out. And yet the mass of men are incapableof looking on bread as a mere means of sustenance, by which man sustains himself for the purpose of true living, true life being the ‘heavenly bread’. It seems a strange thing that men, the mass of men cannot understand that lifeis the great” (IR 129).
To accept and work with this incapacity is to demonstrate love for all mankind, such as Christ himself demanded; this is the point on which the Inquisitor purports to hoist Christ by his own petard: “If a love of mankind entails accepting the bitter limitation of the mass of men, their inability to distinguish between money and life, then accept the limitation, and have done with it” (IR 130). “And is that serving the devil? It is certainly not serving the spirit of annihilation and not-being” (IR 131). Lawrence’s defence of the Inquisitor is therefore to this extent Christian, and his praise of Dostoevsky here reverses his previous criticism (cited above) of Dostoevsky’s preaching of love for one’s neighbour.
Responding to his own period’s knowledge of collectivisation-induced famine in the Soviet Union, he says: “Lenin, surely a pure soul, rose to great power simply to give men – what? The earthly bread. And what was the result? Not only did they lose the heavenly bread, but even the earthly bread disappeared out of wheat-producing Russia” (IR 131). He seems to sense that the Russian Revolution, with its extremism, could have been averted if, amongst other things, Dostoevsky had not been so perverse as (with part of his being) to identify this compromise with the devil. This perspective is apparent in his anti-Bolshevik poem of late 1928 or early 29, Now It’s Happened, where the ‘It’ is the Russian Revolution. It asserts:
Dostoevsky, the Judas,
with his sham Christianity
the last bit of sanity
left in the hefty bodies
of the Russian nobility.
So our goody-good men betray us
and our sainty-saints let us down,
and a sickly people will slay us
if we touch the sob-stuff crown
of such martyrs; while Marxian tenets
naturally take hold of the town. (Poems 466)
(Of course, Lawrence is ignoring, or denying, the sense in which Leninism itself had religious aspects.) He asserts: “Whatever makes life vivid and delightful is the heavenly bread. And the earthly bread must come as a by-product of the heavenly bread” (IR 132).
Here we see Lawrence twisting the Inquisitor’s ideas into his own. The Inquistor’s vision is entirely cynical; he sees the masses’ need for miracle as a weakness that must be pandered to by mendacity. His spiritually-orientated monist ontology makes itself felt in his interpretation of what it is to make physical bread: “it is the earthly bread as a miracle, a yearly miracle. All the old religions saw it: the Catholic still sees it, by the Mediterranean. And this is not weakness. This is truth. The rapture of the Easter kiss, in old Russia, is intimately bound up with the sharing of the seed […] They eat dead bread, now”, the Bolsheviks (IR 132). What follows reprises, in its syntax and diction, the opening of The Rainbow: “the reaping and the harvest are another contact, with earth and sun, a rich touch of the cosmos, a living stream of activity, and then the contact with harvesters, and the joy of harvest home. All this is life, life, it is the heavenly bread which we eat in the course of getting our earthly bread” (IR 133).
Yet this conflicts with his original argument in support of the Grand Inquisitor, since his description of the Easter kiss in “old Russia” has nothing to do with the existence of the Tsar: “Men bow down to the lord of bread, first and foremost. For, by knowing the difference between earthly and heavenly bread, he is able calmly to distribute the earthly bread, and to give it, for the commonalty, the heavenly taste which they can never give it. That is why, in a democracy, the earthly bread loses its taste, the salt loses its savour, and there is no one to bow down to” (IR 134).
Lawrence also vacillates as to whether the masses are helplessly limited, or right, to demand the miraculous: on the one hand, only the elect “are capable of abstaining from the absolute demand for bread, for miracle, mystery, and authority” (IR 128). On the other: “the Inquisitor says that it is a weakness in men, that they must have miracle, mystery and authority. But is it? Are they not bound up in our emotions, always and forever, these three elements […] If Jesus cast aside miracle in the Temptation, still there is miracle again in the Gospels” (IR 132). Either way – in caring for the limited masses as he finds them, or in condoning the miraculous – his argument is Christian, and his contradiction can be argued to mirror one in Christ (though the Inquisitor himself ignores Christ’s miracles).
Insofar as his attitude is one of resigned acceptance rather than approbation, it is forecast in the very ending to Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Mellors writes to Connie: “If you could only tell them that living and spending aren’t the same thing! But it’s no good. If only they were educated to liveinstead of earn and spend, they could manage very happily on twenty-five shillings” (LCL 299). But “you can’t do it” (LCL 300). He finishes his letter “a little droopingly, but with a hopeful heart-” (LCL 302); in Lawrence’s Introduction, drooping predominates over hopefulness. In 1912 Lawrence had criticised Conrad’s Under Western Eyes, which is widely understood to parody Dostoevsky, in these terms: “I can’t forgive Conrad for being so sad and giving in” (1L 465).In his Introduction he displays a somewhat Conradian resignation, even as he praises Dostoevsky. This apparent paradox is soluble in the light of Lawrence’s creative misreading of the latter, which is in turn connected to his understanding of Dostoevsky’s characterisation.
In identifying Ivan with the Inquisitor, he describes him as:
the thinking mind of the human being in rebellion, thinking the whole thing out to the bitter end. […] He is also, of course, Dostoevsky himself, in his thoughtful, as apart from his passional and inspirational self. Dostoevsky half hated Ivan. Yet after all, Ivan is the greatest of the three brothers, pivotal. The passionate Dmitri and the inspired Alyosha are, at last, only offsets to Ivan” (IR 127).
But he is wrong to present Dostoevsky’s support for Ivan and the Grand Inquisitor as dominant, albeit subverted by a covert, passionate hatred. As would have been the less apparent to Lawrence in rereading only this chapter of the novel, Ivan is distanced from the Inquisitor. Before he tells Alyosha his story, he has been expressing distress at the fact that the world is one in which torture exists. He claims nescience: “I recognise in all humility that I cannot understand why the world is arranged as it is”. He gives no sign of belief that any kind of social organisation – least of all one such as the Inquisitor’s, which relies on torture – could improve it (IR 226). The Grand Inquisitor story reflects Dostoevsky’s long-standing and patriotic hostility towards Roman Catholicism.
Ivan’s story appears as a therapeutic exercise of his imagination, which he is provoked to retell by Alyosha’s piety. He gives the Russian literary antecedents for writing a secular story featuring Christ, thus displaying literary self-consciousness. Afterwards he tells his dismayed brother “Why, it’s all nonsense, Alyosha. It’s only a senseless poem of a senseless student, who could never write two lines of verse. Why do you take it so seriously? Surely you don’t suppose I am going straight off to the Jesuits, to join the men who are correcting His work? […] I told you, all I want is to live on to thirty, and then…dash the cup to the ground!” (IR 288). Of course, we do not need to take him at his word here. Throughout the novel, Ivan is presented as a character whom one must nottake at his word, but that applies to his story too. He is a ‘rounded character’, as E.M. Forster, who popularised the concept, praised all of Dostoevsky’s characters for being.Lawrence, on the other hand, describes only Dostoevsky, not his characters, as self-divided: “As always in Dostoevsky, the amazing perspicacity is mixed with ugly perversity. Nothing is pure. His wild love for Jesus is mixed with perverse and poisonous hate of Jesus” (IR129).
On this Lawrence had been consistent over time. On March 24th1915 he wrote to Ottoline Morrell what has become his most famous comment on Dostoevsky: “I have been reading Dostoievsky’s Idiot. I don’t like Dostoievsky. He is again like the rat, slithering along in hate, in the shadows, and, in order to belong to the light, professing love, all love. But his nose is sharp with hate, his running is shadowy and rat-like, he is a will fixed and gripped like a trap. He is not nice” (2L 311). The charge is reiterated in ‘The Spirit of Place’, the first essay in Studies of Classic American Literature, which manifests Lawrence’s turn to American literature and away from Russian literature (SCAL 14). In his belief in the unity of Dostoevsky’s characters he accorded with his (unknown) contemporary Mikhail Bakhtin. In his 1923 book Problems of Dostoevsky’s Works, Bakhtin praised Dostoevsky as an innovative practitioner of heteroglossia (разноречие), polyglossia (многоязычие), polyphonia (полифония), and co-being(событие), by presenting non-coinciding consciousnesses, including that of the author, in mutual interaction.Where Lawrence differs from Bakhtin is that he regards Dostoevsky as split between his characters.In the notes that Lawrence sent to Murry for his book in 1916, he identified three types of desire in Dostoevsky:
I: [Dostoevsky’s] desire to achieve the sensual, all-devouring consummation comes out in Dmitri Karamazov, and Rogozhin, and, not so clearly, in Stavrogin.
His desire for the spiritual, turn-the-other-cheek consummation, comes out in the Idiot himself, in Alyosha, partly in Stavrogin.
There is the third type, which represents pure unemotional will: this is the third Karamazov brother [Ivan] (2L544)
As Peter Kaye has argued, in fact, ‘The three types of desire that Lawrence identifies as predominantly unmixed and isolated can be found in varying proportions in virtually all of Dostoevsky’s major characters’.
Notably, Lawrence excepts Ivan from his usual practice of interpreting Dostoevsky’s characters with respect to their endings. In February 1916 he explained that in Prince Myshkin, “The Christian ecstasy leads to imbecility”(RDP 282).Rather as Marxist critics such as Lukács praised Tolstoy for revealing the contradictions of life under Tsarism despite his own reactionary politics, Lawrence grudgingly praises Dostoevsky for acknowledging the truth about people like Myshkin, and Father Zossima: “Zossima is pure Christian, selfless, universal in the social whole. Dead, he stinks” (2L 543).He does not apply this logic to Ivan, who later in the novelhas a conversation with the devil, recognises that his doctrines have incited his half-brother to parricide, and becomes mad.
Murry, in his 1916 monograph on Dostoevsky, echoed Lawrence and Bakhtin in finding his characters to be unitary, going sofar as to say that they were not humans but symbols.Like Lawrence, he senses that Dostoevsky is inall of his ‘heroes’, by which he means his male protagonists. But unlike Lawrence (except in Ivan’s case), and like Bakhtin, he makes no distinction between them with reference to their endings. They are all approaching heights of consciousness and wholeness, and suffer the endless terror of experiencing the timeless world in the temporal one; it is then a detail whether or not they are good. He finds the real hero of Crime and Punishmentto be Svidrigailov, who in self-consistency achieves what Raskolnikov cannot.
None of these writers – Bakhtin, Lawrence and Murry – entertain the possibility that if Alyosha ends The Brothers Karamazovbeing hurrahed by the little children, and Prince Myshkin ends The Idiotin a post-traumatic coma in a Swiss sanatorium, that is (presented as being) to the respective glory of Alyosha’s society and the disgrace of Myshkin’s. In this respect, Dostoevsky and Lawrence were more similar as authors than Lawrence allowed; if Murry shaped Dostoevsky into a (Nietzsche-inflected) idealisation, Lawrence shaped Dostoevsky against himself.Many of Lawrence’s fictions rhetorically favour one character, whose plot may not end happily, but who does not suffer complete disaster. In Lawrence’s work this character has obvious similarities to Lawrence himself, and voices his ideosyncratic values, whereas Dostoevsky’s most positive characters manifested that of which the author generally approved.It follows from this that, as Kaye observes, “Lawrence’s heroes are self-sufficient, and find their own heaven. Dostoevsky’s characters don’t”.
Lawrence sees all of Dostoevsky’s characters as self-conscious. In his Introduction to Verga’s Mastro-don Gesualdo’ 1923 he presents Verga and Dostoevsky as antitheses in this respect. [IR 151-52]In this he agreeswith Bakhtin, who wrote: “Everything that usually makes up who a character is becomes in Dostoevsky an object of self-consciousness on the part of the character. At a time when the self-consciousness of a character was usually seen merely as an element of his reality, as merely one of the features of his integrated image, here, on the contrary, all of reality becomes an element of the character’s self-consciousness”.Yet what neither Bakhtin nor Lawrence seem to recognise is that the characters whom Dostoevsky’s novels most value (such as Alyosha) are the least self-conscious. It is a near-total lack of self-consciousness that makes Prince Mishkin his novel’s eponymous Idiot.
In treating Ivan Karamazov with such critical indulgence, Lawrence not only manipulated Dostoevsky to reinforce his own vision, attributing Ivan’s self-division to Dostoevsky himself, but he made several new departures in his own thinking. He praised the novel’s most hyper-conscious character. He accepted the need to care for the masses, as the world-weary Grand Inquisitor trumped for him not only Alyosha’s loving but non-utilitarian Christ, but Lawrence’s own independent and detached Christ of two years earlier. This perception was, of course, one amongst many that he had in the last weeks of his life. Yet, given its essay form and sustained thought, it is not to be treated as one of the penséeswhich Lawrence held to be “true while they are true and irrelevant when the mood and circumstance changes” (Poems 671). With his physical condition rapidly deteriorating, he imagined not an asocial, revivified gamekeeper, nor an asocial, revivified Christ – but an old man with a mission to take people as they were, and serve them. Lawrence’s eight pages represent an extraordinary buckling down to service.
F.R. Leavis, ‘Anna Karenina’ and Other Essays(London: Chatto and Windus,
Susanne Fusso, Discovering Sexuality in Dostoevsky(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2006), 3.
Peter Kaye, Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930(Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999), 34.
John Middleton Murry, ‘The Living Dead – I: DH Lawrence’, The London Magazine(III, May 1956), 58.
Kaye, Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930(Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999), 170.
Maria Bloshteyn, The Making of a Counter-Cultural Icon: Henry Miller’s Dostoevsky(Toronto, London: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 59.
Gilbert Phelps, The Russian Novel in English Fiction(London: Hutchinson, 1956), 183.
George Panichas, ‘F.M. Dostoevskii and D.H. Lawrence: their vision of evil’, Dostoevskii
and Britain, ed W.J. Leatherbarrow (Oxford: Berg, 1995), 249-76.
Kaye, Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930(Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999), 52.
George J. Zytaruk, D.H. Lawrence’s Response to Russian Literature, Studies in English Literature, LXIX (The Hague: Mouton & Co. N.V., 1971), 113.
Kaye, Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930(Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999), 29.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett, Intro. A.D.P. Briggs(Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 2007), 276. Garnett’s translation of 1912 is the one that Lawrence read three times.This edition will henceforth be referred to in the text as (BK).
Kaye, Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930(Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999), 63.
Ellis Sandoz, Political Apocalypse: A Study of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor(Wilmington: Isi Books, 2000), 242.
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (London: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1927), 68-69.
Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, trans. byEmerson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 90-91.
Kaye, Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930(Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999), 41.
John Middleton Murry, Fyodor Dostoevsky : A Critical Study(London: M. Secker, 1916),
Kaye, Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930(Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999), 53.
Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, trans. byEmerson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 92.
Letters of D. H. Lawrence
1L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume I: September 1901–May 1913, ed. James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1979).
2L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume II: June 1913–October 1916, eds. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981).
3L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume III: October 1916–June 1921, eds. James T. Boulton and Andrew Robertson (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984).
4L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume IV: June 1921–March 1924, eds. Warren Roberts, James T. Boulton and Elizabeth Mansfield (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987).
5L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume V: March 1924–March 1927, eds. James T. Boulton and Lindeth Vasey (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989).
6L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume VI: March 1927–November 1928, eds. James T. Boulton and Margaret H. Boulton with Gerald M. Lacy (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991).
7L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume VII: November 1928–February 1930, eds. Keith Sagar and James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993).
8L The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Volume VIII: Previously Uncollected Letters and General Index, ed. James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000).
Works of D. H. Lawrence
A Apocalypse and the Writings on Revelation, ed. Mara Kalnins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1980).
AR Aaron’s Rod, ed. Mara Kalnins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988).
BB The Boy in the Bush, with M. L. Skinner, ed. Paul Eggert (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990).
EmyE England, My England and Other Stories, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990).
FLC The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels, eds. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999).
Fox The Fox, The Captain’s Doll, The Ladybird, ed. Dieter Mehl (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992).
FWL The First ‘Women in Love’, eds. John Worthen and Lindeth Vasey (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998).
IR Introductions and Reviews, eds. N. H. Reeve and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005).
K Kangaroo, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994).
LAH Love Among the Haystacks and Other Stories, ed. John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987).
LCL Lady Chatterley’s Lover and A Propos of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, ed. Michael Squires (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993).
LEA Late Essays and Articles, ed. James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004).
LG The Lost Girl, ed. John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981).
MEH Movements in European History, ed. Philip Crumpton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989).
MM Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, ed. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009).
MN Mr Noon, ed. Lindeth Vasey (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984).
Plays The Plays, eds. Hans-Wilhelm Schwarze and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999).
PM Paul Morel, ed. Helen Baron (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003).
PO The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, ed. John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983).
Poems The Poems. 2 Vols., ed. Christopher Pollnitz (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013).
PS The Plumed Serpent, ed. L. D. Clark (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987).
PFU Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004).
Q Quetzalcoatl, ed. N. H. Reeve (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011).
Paintings The Paintings of D. H. Lawrence(London: Mandrake Press, 1929).
R The Rainbow, ed. Mark Kinkead-Weekes (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989).
RDP Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, ed. Michael Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988).
SCAL Studies in Classic American Literature, eds. Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003).
SEP Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays, ed. Simonetta de Filippis (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992).
SL Sons and Lovers, eds. Helen Baron and Carl Baron (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992).
SM St. Mawr and Other Stories, ed. Brian Finney (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983).
SS Sea and Sardinia, ed. Mara Kalnins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997).
STH Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985).
T The Trespasser, ed. Elizabeth Mansfield (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981).
TI Twilight in Italy and Other Essays, ed. Paul Eggert (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994).
VicG The Vicar’s Garden and Other Stories, ed. N. H. Reeve (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009).
VG The Virgin and the Gipsy and Other Stories, eds. Michael Herbert, Bethan Jones and Lindeth Vasey (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006).
WL Women in Love, eds. David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987).
WP The White Peacock, ed. Andrew Robertson (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1983).
WWRA The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories, eds. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995).