DH Lawrence had many complex political ideas, which he explored in exciting ways in his poetry and essays and in dramatic depth in daring works of fiction, such as Kangaroo and The Plumed Serpent.
Late in his life, he wrote a small body of poems he called Nettles, in which he stingingly satirises our system of government, lampoons our press, sends up the censors and makes clowns of his “little critics”. He also pokes fun, derisively, at the police, who raided the exhibition of Lawrence’s fabulously fleshy paintings, which took place at the Warren Gallery in London, in 1929, arresting 13 of them, and imprisoning them in the cells before they were banned from the country - sent into an exile from which few have returned.
Lawrence’s hard hitting, healthy, sometimes scathing humour has been unfairly overlooked, for instance, he refers to the Great British public as Britannia’s Baby.
In Change of Government, the main political parties are Aunt Maud, Aunt Gwendoline and Aunt Libby, whose efficiency, or inefficiency, as managers of the household is compared.
Aunt Lou is the one to ‘dread’, for “painting the wood-work red” and making you “go to work, even if you have money of your own”.
Lawrence’s critics are likened to pussy cats which have been neutered, or ‘fixed’, by their aunties, so they are “little pets”, safe from “undesireable associations”.
The newspaper editor warns his subordinate, Mr Smith, to make each article “pappy and easy to swallow” so their readers, summed up as Miss Harrison, won’t go and order the “morning smile” instead.
Of the idiotic reaction to nudity and wisps of pubic hair in Lawrence’s courageous pictures, he ponders whether an artist must use a fig-leaf or ‘a wreath of mist’ to conceal ‘where the turtle doves sing’ and longs to ‘sponge away’ the ‘slimy taint’ of the ‘police eyes’ that smear ‘the gentle souls that figure in the paint’.
Lawrence wrote: ‘A picture lives with the life you put into it’.
The same applies to most true works of art.
However, few creative artists have had to endure the unjust slurs and hysteria which Lawrence faced.
Yet he faced this official craziness undaunted, with dignity and considerable spirit.