St Mawr by D H Lawrence

I liked  St Mawr even though there is so much philosophising and repetition (why use a word just once when you can repeat it three times) that the story is rather swamped. It’s a short novel (147 pages in my copy), first published in 1925, set in the English countryside and then in America, on a ranch in the Rocky Mountains.

This is the story of Mrs Witt, an American, Lou her daughter and Rico, her daughter’s artist husband and the influence of the stallion St Mawr on their lives. Initially desperately in love with each other Lou and Rico react badly on each other and being together makes them ill – they sap each other’s vitality.

As soon as Lou sees St Mawr she knows she just has to buy him:

She laid her hand on his side and gently stroked him. Then she stroked his shoulder, and then the hard, tense arch of his neck. And she was startled to feel the vivid heat of his life come through to her, through the lacquer of red-gold gloss. So slippery with vivid hot life.

In St Mawr Lou finds the vitality that is lacking in Rico. St Mawr represents to her freedom, and wildness as well as masculinity. He cannot be tamed. Bored with life Lou goes to America with her mother, Phoenix, her mother’s Mexican-Indian servant, St Mawr and his groom Lewis. There too she is bored; she leaves St Mawr and Lewis behind and travels to the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico with her mother and Phoenix. Here she comes across a tumbledown ranch, Las Chivas, that she immediately loves, aligning herself to the wild spirit that she says wants her. (The ranch is based on Lawrence’ s Lobo Ranch (later called Kiowa) at Questa, seventeen miles fro Taos, where Lawrence wrote the novel.)

This a richly written story, with beautiful descriptions of the landscape and the characters, full of symbolism and Lawrence’s views on male/female relationships, life and death, and the power of nature. I think I may need to re-read it to understand it better.

4 thoughts on “St Mawr by D H Lawrence”

  1. I went through a huge Lawrence phase as a teenager/twenty-something, and have always been a bit afraid to revisit him in case he doesn’t live up to my memories. Perhaps it’s time to overcome the fear…

    Like

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