Lady Chatterley's Lover
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 realised 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 for ever.
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,