jump to navigation

Lawrence’s Missing Tree May 11, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

letter

D.H.Lawrence, the high priest of love, the enemy of the bourgeoisie (and their closest ally), an indifferent stylist, a brilliant novelist and the man our great grandmothers prayed that they would not be seated next to at a dinner party. DHL had a lifelong, masturbatory relationship with Italy: a country that was, in his mythology, supposed to represent everything that Britain had failed to become. Above all, he loved, like Hitler and several other suspect personalities, Florence and it was in Florence that he produced his worst novel, the novel that F.R.Leavis defended with the faintest praise at a famous trial, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. (‘All her body clung with tender love to the unknown man, and blindly to the wilting penis, as it so tenderly, frailly, unknowingly withdrew, after the fierce thrust of its potency etc etc etc’). Lawrence and his darling Frieda took out a lease on Villa Merenda (aka Villa L’Arcipressi) in Scandicci, in 1926, where, in a previous age, the Medici had wasted their summers among the lemon blossoms. Like many writers Lawrence had his rituals and for Lady C, he took to sitting with his back to a twisted olive tree to scribble out his ‘erotica’ listening to nightingales in the woods. (Think of other places grazed in time by talented writers. The chair in the British Museum where Marx wrote out his words, every one worth thousands of deaths; Roald Dahl’s Gipsy House where he penned all those chapters of elongating women and unlikely monsters; George Bernard Shaw’s rotating shed – specially constructed to follow the sun…)

lawrence's missing olive tree

Nothing so far here is remarkable, let alone bizarre, but Beach wrote this post because he wants to get to the bottom of an episode/legend that has grown up around the olive tree. Recently, an eminent professor described a visit to Villa Merenda.

villa merenda

The professor was told there the following almost incredible story by a custodian. A few years before (the 1980s?) said custodian had shown a number of Japanese visitors around the villa and had naturally taken them to that tree, which still twisted towards the heavens out in the garden. (Did the nightingales sing for them?) The Japanese tourists thanked their host and left, then evening gave way to night, then the morning came and the custodian walked out into the garden and a huge hole gaped in the ground where the tree had once stood! Somehow a party had come under cover of darkness (with a digger?) and stolen Lawrence’s olive tree! The implication of the story was that the Japanese visitors were responsible. This strikes Beach as being unlikely. First, because, if the story has been recounted faithfully, the visitors would only have had one evening to organize. Second, because Japanese tourists sound like a natural punchline for a Florentine story: Asiatic tourists are (unjustly) notorious in the city for proving a nuisance. Third, because there is in western culture generally the idea of rich Japanese as collectors of the unusual. Beach’s money is, then, on this story being an urban legend. But if anyone has proof to the contrary…: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com