D. H. Lawrence, autograph letter & 8 postcards

Item author: D H Lawrence
Item date: 1930
Grant Value: £4,000
Item cost: £11,250
Item date acquired: 2020
Item institution: Nottingham University
Town/City: Nottingham
County: Nottinghamshire

Mark Dorrington writes: The University of Nottingham is once more grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries for this generous grant towards a further addition to our designated D. H. Lawrence Collection.

Although Lawrence was a prolific letter writer and over 5,500 letters are published in the Letters of D. H. Lawrence (Cambridge University Press, 8 vols., 1979-2000), comparatively few letters and postcards to family members have survived. These have special significance because they provide valuable insights into relationships which are often invisible to, and overlooked by, critics and biographers who are more interested in his friendships with literary figures and publishers. The letter and eight postcards were written during the last three years of Lawrence’s life; the final postcard was written just days before his death on 2 March 1930, and on the last day he wrote any correspondence. They contain important details of his travels during these years, plus accounts of his health which were obviously provided in more detail to family members than to his other contacts. The University of Nottingham has the largest collection in the world of materials related to Lawrence’s early life and to his family. This includes the extensive papers of his sister Ada, purchased in 2018 (with the assistance of grant aid from FNL), which contain correspondence between D. H. Lawrence, his family and childhood friends, 1899-1930 and this letter and eight postcards can be fully contextualised with these papers.

The correspondence begins with a postcard sent to his niece, Margaret (daughter of Emily), on 16 June 1927 from Lucca, in Italy. The remaining postcards are to his sister, Emily first from Bandol, in the south of France, on 17 November 1928; then from Mallorca on 18 April 1929; followed by two from Baden-Baden, in Germany on 19 July and 12 August 1929.  On the second he writes: ‘I went to the doctor, he says my lung is very much better, healed, only the bronchials and the asthma are still bad’. The next postcard was sent from Rottach, in Germany, on 14 September 1929 and then another from Bandol on 23 September 1929.

Lawrence’s letter to Ada, dated 30 January 1930, is also from Bandol, in which he writes: ‘We shall be pleased to see you and Emily on the 18th or so.  The doctor says I must lie quite still for two months - absolute rest.  It is true, I’ve gone down badly this winter - really.  He wants me to go into a sanatorium above Nice - If this lying still doesn’t help, I shall have to do so.  I’ve been in bed ten days - feel rather better.’ 

In Vence, near Nice, on 27 February 1930, Lawrence wrote his last four letters and postcards.  On the postcard to Emily he writes: ‘I am about the same - anyhow no worse.  We are moving into a house here in Vence on Saturday and I am having an English nurse from Nice - I think it will be better.’ Three days later, he discharged himself from the Ad Astra sanatorium and moved into the Villa Robermond, where he died the following evening.         

The acquisition was also supported by a grant from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant fund.


Item Provenance
Bought from Paul Rassam