[L. 113 | 120] 28 February 1965

I am sorry to hear that you are having difficulty with Ulysses, but you can console yourself with the thought that very few people indeed manage to make very much of it, particularly on a first reading. And, of course, it is ten times more difficult for anyone who has not been brought up in the English—or at least European—literary tradition. It is, in spite—or perhaps because—of its difficulties, one of the most important books (from the literary, or artistic, point of view at least) to appear in this century. Only yesterday, reading Sartre, I came across a footnote where he acknowledges his indebtedness to Joyce for his 'interior monologue' style (and there is a short story by Sartre[1] which seems to be almost directly copied from the last chapter of Ulysses).

I have no doubt that you found Lady Chatterley rather easier to cope with; but though both books are obscene (though not pornographic), the purpose or treatment of the obscenity in the two cases is widely different. Lawrence is propaganda; Joyce is art. Lawrence is out to exalt sex (or at least to be open and honest about it—but for him it is almost a religion); Joyce only talks about sex because it is part of life, and he is out to represent life—to hold a mirror up to the average sensual Western man, in which he can recognize his image. Joyce has had a great influence on me (in earlier days), but Lawrence none at all (and, of course, there is nothing fundamentally new in Lady C.). Perhaps you will recall Rampion and his wife in Huxley's Point Counter Point? This is a portrait of Lawrence, with whom Huxley was once closely associated. Lawrence was himself the son of a coal miner, and he married a titled woman (a German Baroness). So you can see that, in some respects, the story of Mellors and Lady Chatterley is parallel to Lawrence's own life-story.

Editorial Notes:

[113.1] Sartre: 'Intimacy', in the short story collection of that title. [Back to text]