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The Fluctuating Meanings of Marine Metaphors in Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Fiona Fleming


The poetic polysemy of marine metaphors in Lady Chatterley’s Lover enables Lawrence to set up images of the flux he perceives as a creative force against images of petrification and dissolution, but the fluctuating meanings of the sea images themselves recall the sea’s instability, which serves as a metaphor for love, sex, otherness, connection, degeneration, and rebirth.

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  • 1 See the “Introduction” to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, xx.

1It may at first seem curious to come across so many references to the sea in a novel which is set in the English Midlands, miles away from the coast, with a backdrop of collieries and forests. Yet, as Lawrence wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover overseas, in Italy,1 after more than a decade of travelling from one continent to another, crossing seas and oceans, living in close proximity to the sea in Italy and in Australia, it is only natural that he should draw inspiration from seascapes and derive meaning from sea symbolism.

  • 2 “And then to feel the long, slow lift and drop of this almost empty ship, as she took the waters. A (...)

2The only literally maritime episode in the novel, in Venice, consists in a succession of pleasure-seeking scenes by a languid lagoon, sharply contrasted with those which had taken place in the woods around Wragby, with Mellors. The entire chapter condemningly conveys a sense of seaside “dissolution,” to borrow a term from Colin Clarke – an unexpected reversal in Lawrence’s sea-writing, after the wonder expressed in other marine passages in Sea and Sardinia or Kangaroo.2 However, the experience and benefits Constance draws from her Venetian holiday are ambiguous: a “satisfying and stupefying” (LCL 261) interlude which leaves her both revitalized and disappointed.

3Similarly, marine metaphors in the novel fluctuate between destructive and creative connotations. Thus, metaphors in which humans are depicted as sea creatures emerge as consistently critical, offering an apocalyptic vision of reverse-Darwinism, wherein the sea, albeit the origin of life, is deadly to humans, unless they cease to be human. Sea symbolism also provides Lawrence with a range of images and attributes to define his opposite conceptions of creative and destructive sexuality, dedicating his most beautifully sensuous imagery to the depictions of Connie’s sexual delight.

4The representation of the sea in Lawrence’s poetic language is notoriously multifaceted, as Dawid W. de Villiers outlines: “in many of Lawrence’s poems, the ‘sea’ that is invoked is simultaneously a located geographical phenomenon, an elemental force at work in the universe, and an internal, or psychological, matrix.” (De Villiers 90). The poetic polysemy of marine metaphors therefore enables Lawrence to offer images of the flux he perceives as a creative force against images of petrification and dissolution, but the fluctuating meanings of the sea images themselves recall the sea’s instability, which serves as a metaphor for love, sex, otherness, connection, degeneration and rebirth.

Sea creatures as symbols of human degeneration: apocalyptic reverse-Darwinism?

5On various occasions in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lawrence describes his characters as sea creatures, beginning with the larger comment, seemingly attributed to Constance by way of free indirect speech, that:

The world is supposed to be full of possibilities, but they narrow down to pretty few, in most personal experience. There’s lots of good fish in the sea maybe! But the vast masses seem to be mackerel or herring, and if you’re not mackerel or herring yourself, you are inclined to find very few good fish in the sea.
Clifford was making strides into fame: and even money. People came to see him. Connie nearly always had somebody at Wragby. But if they weren’t mackerel they were herring, with an occasional cat-fish, or conger-eel. (LCL 31)

6This ingenious reinterpretation of the famous maxim, listing people as species of fish, allows Lawrence to offer a highly critical view of humanity as a social construct. The repetition of “mackerel” and “herring” reinforces the impression of homogeneousness and mediocrity. The novel is in fact fraught with negative fish imagery, expressive of the mindlessness, ghastliness and dehumanisation of contemporary English society.

7Mrs Bolton, Clifford Chatterley’s nurse, is the target of such criticism, as Clifford writes of her: “She reminds me of a fish which, though dumb, seems to be breathing silent gossip through its gills, while ever it lives. All goes through the sieve of her gills, and nothing surprises her. It is as if the events of other people’s lives were the necessary oxygen of her own” (LCL 266). Though it is Clifford who mocks her in this letter to Constance, his own interest in the scandal of the keeper and his reliance on Mrs Bolton’s gossip finally reduce him to a similar state. He is frequently depicted as a sea-creature himself, by Constance’s sister Hilda, who compares him to “a huge, boiled cray-fish” (LCL 78), but mostly by Constance, who, in a fit of anger, calls him a “[d]ead fish of a gentleman, with his celluloid soul!” (LCL 194), or, feeling estranged and abandoned, reflects on his “becoming almost a creature, with a hard, efficient shell of an exterior and a pulpy interior, one of the amazing crabs and lobsters of the modern, industrial and financial world, invertebrates of the crustacean order, with shells of steel, like machines, and inner bodies of soft pulp” (LCL 110). This metaphor of the hard exterior and disintegrating interior greatly appealed to Lawrence it seems, for he made use of it in a range of analogies from “addled eggs” (LCL 180) to putrefying sea-creatures, in order to convey his vision of human degeneration.

8The most significant and admirable of Lady Chatterley’s Lover’s nightmarish marine tableaux appears under Clifford’s pen, once more, which is rather unsettling, narratively speaking, since Clifford includes himself in the process of dehumanisation, thereby outwardly displaying remarkable powers of introspection and objectivity. At this point, the critical reader may reconsider and detect the author’s condemnation behind the artifice of Clifford’s epistolary, philosophical musings:

It seems to me absolutely true, that our world, which appears to us the surface of all things, is really the bottom of a deep ocean: all our trees are submarine growths, and we are weird, scaly-clad submarine fauna, feeding ourselves on offal like shrimps. Only occasionally the soul rises gasping through the fathomless fathoms under which we live, far up to the surface of the ether, where there is true air. I am convinced that the air we normally breathe is a kind of water, and men and women are a species of fish.
But sometimes the soul does come up, shoots like a kittiwake into the light, with ecstasy, after having preyed on the submarine depths. It is our mortal destiny, I suppose, to prey upon the ghastly subaqueous life of our fellow-men, in the submarine jungle of mankind. But our immortal destiny is to escape, once we have swallowed our swimmy catch, up again into the bright ether, bursting out from the surface of Old Ocean into real light. Then one realises one’s eternal nature. (LCL 266)

9The influence of natural science is obvious in this passage, both in the terminology Lawrence uses and in the opposing of “submarine fauna” to the flight of the kittiwake. Combining the language and principles of natural science with metaphysical considerations is again an ingenious device which serves Lawrence well in his incriminating portrayal of an unevolved or retrogressive humanity. This dreadful assimilation of humans and fish can also be found in the poem “City Life,” in which people are “like fearful and corpse-like fishes hooked and being played / by some malignant fisherman on an unseen shore / where he does not choose to land them yet, / hooked fishes of the factory world” (Complete Poems 632).

10Lawrence’s outlook on contemporary English society in Lady Chatterley’s Lover is emphatically negative, and suggests a post-humanist vision, which differs however from that which can be found in other texts containing fish imagery. Indeed, in Clifford’s description, Lawrence seems to have reversed the image of the “leaping fish” from “Education of the People,” equated with the “hovering hawk,” which he then used to extol as “joy in spontaneous mindless animation” (Phoenix 644). Neither is there any trace, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, of the mindless but physically healthy fish from “Glad Ghosts”: “dumb, soundless, and imageless, yet alive and swimming” (WWRA 208). Lawrence’s later piece “The Flying Fish” also points to a post-humanist reflection and a return to animality which are formulated in positive terms: “But these fish, these fleshy, warm-bodied fish achieve more than flowers, heading along. This is the purest achievement of joy I have seen in all life, these strong, careless fish. […] The life of the deep waters is ahead of us, it contains sheer togetherness and sheer joy. We have never got there” (St Mawr 221-222). Unlike Lady Chatterley’s Lover, “The Flying Fish” does not sound a note of warning in the face of impending dehumanisation, on the contrary, it celebrates a necessary and lifesaving surrender, “fall[ing] back into the deep element where death is and is not, and life is not a fleeing away” (St Mawr 215). Through these various texts, Lawrence therefore highlights the corruption at work in humans, when compared with the wholeness and liveliness of sea creatures, but interestingly, his use of maritime imagery in Lady Chatterley’s Lover stands out, insofar as it evinces a sense of “dissolution” in humans, degenerating into base creatures, while elsewhere in Lawrence’s writing that imagery is used to sharpen the contrast between corrupt humanity and healthy marine animals.

11Lawrence, then, can be seen manipulating these marine, terrestrial and aerial metaphors, to convey his feeling of human alteration, as in this passage from Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine: “Over we must and shall go, so we may as well do it voluntarily, keeping our soul alive; and as we drown in our terrestrial nature, transmogrify into fishes. Pisces. That which knows the Oceanic Godliness of the End” (RDP 172). Alteration here means becoming other, abandoning one element, earth, to adapt to another, water, and thus abandoning humanity for marine animality. As Dawid W. de Villiers observes, the sea is a symbol which conveniently hints at strangeness and other-worldliness thanks to its peculiar characteristics: “Depth – sometimes rendered as ‘bottomlessness’ – is another quality that informs the sea’s ectopian status, as are its vastness (as registered on the horizontal plane), its salinity, and its ever-moving, surging body, sometimes taking the more aggressive form of waves.” (De Villiers 91). The unknown world of the deep is of course a trope which can be applied both to the sea and the earth, and which Lady Chatterley’s Lover consistently exploits: from the simple, artistic, yet meaningful, comment on the colour of “the rock and refuse of the underworld […] shrimp-coloured on dry days, darker, crab-coloured on wet” (LCL 41), Lawrence moves to the more complex equation of marine depths and the telluric depths of the mining world, both unknown to Connie and indicative of the strangeness and inhumanity of the colliers in her eyes: “Elemental creatures, weird and distorted, of the mineral world! They belonged to the coal, the iron, the clay, as fish belong to the sea and worms to dead wood. The anima of mineral disintegration!” (LCL 160). The thought of disintegration frightens Connie, but the novel as a whole entertains the idea that human dissolution is unavoidable and perhaps desirable to begin anew. Mark Kinkead-Weekes spoke of “the difference between a ‘flux of corruption’ that is part of a divine process, and a vile and evil hardening into death that can know no rebirth” (Clarke xii). It seems as though most sea creature imagery in Lady Chatterley’s Lover belongs to the second category, yet Lawrence’s sea imagery also points to a “divine process” when applied to sexual intercourse, raising the question of creative and destructive disintegration.

Sea and sexuality

12The only positive sea symbolism to be found in Lady Chatterley’s Lover appears in the passages depicting Connie’s discovery of sexual delight, which marks a reversal in Lawrence’s writing about sexual intercourse, since his previous novels and essays tended, on the contrary, to associate the sea and its saltiness with a destructive form of sexuality. In his study of the scene in The Rainbow in which the young Ursula and Skrebensky make love by the sea, Colin Clarke comments on the recurrent use of comparisons involving salt to characterise Ursula’s corrosive passion:

But hard and fierce she had fastened upon him, cold as the moon and burning as a fierce salt […] seething like some cruel, corrosive salt. Cold […] and burning: the oxymoron (a common one wherever Lawrence is concerned with the reductive processes) focusses the sense of an inverse vitality running counter to growth and to warm organic blood desire. Nowhere in the novel is human personality reduced more obviously and more drastically to the inhuman and inorganic. (Clarke 54)

13Clarke goes on to quote from other texts, such as “The Crown” and Studies in Classic American Literature, to demonstrate how Lawrence summons notions of corruption, reduction and dehumanisation when he writes about immersing oneself in the sea, physically or imaginatively, or about taking on the attributes of the sea, becoming as the sea. Just as Ursula’s correlation with the burning sea brings out her inhumanity, Melville’s desire “To go to sea,” according to Lawrence, is “to escape humanity. The human heart gets into a frenzy at last, in its desire to dehumanize itself.” (SCAL 124). Connection with the sea, then, is contrary to human life, for the salt of the sea is destructive and incompatible with human flesh, so that when Mellors in Lady Chatterley’s Lover laments: “‘Ma lass!’ […] ‘Th’ world’s goin’ to put salt on thy tail.’” (LCL 286), he accuses society of wanting to destroy all that is human and vital in love and sexuality.

14An interesting derivative image of the burning sea salt is that of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess born from the semen of Chronos, which was thrown into the sea, and whom Lawrence also associates with destructive sexuality. Birkin in Women in Love first tells Ursula: “Aphrodite is born in the first spasm of universal dissolution” (WIL 172), while in The Plumed Serpent, she is “Aphrodite of the foam: the seething, frictional, ecstatic Aphrodite” (PS 422), the embodiment of unnatural sex in Lawrence’s mind. The term “frictional” refers to the female clitoral orgasm, criticised at length by Mellors and bitterly deplored by Michaelis in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and which Lawrence describes as being as burning and harmful as salt. Yet despite these disparaging similes, Lawrence used Aphrodite as an image of creative animal and human sexuality in the poem “Whales Weep Not!” exhibiting once again the fluctuating nature of his marine metaphors: “and Aphrodite is the wife of whales / most happy, happy she! / and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin / she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea / she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males / and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea” (Complete Poems 695).

15Immersion in water is thus perceived, on the one hand, as a disintegrating, dehumanising experience, but on the other, the thunderstorm episode in Lady Chatterley’s Lover is presented as a creative and vital stage in Connie and Mellors’s relationship. The “straight heavy rain, like a steel curtain” paradoxically calls to Constance, exciting “a sudden desire to rush out into it, to rush away” (LCL 221). Although the text does not specify from what she longs to “rush away,” the following lines make it clear that through physical contact with the rain washing over their naked bodies, the two lovers shed their humanity as well as their clothing: on seeing Connie “holding up her breasts to the heavy rain,” breasts which have become “keen animal breasts,” Mellors rushes after her “in the roaring silence of the rain, and short and sharp, he took her, short and sharp and finished, like an animal” (LCL 222). The words “short and sharp and finished” imply a directness and wholeness which are incompatible with human behaviour and, indeed, Connie afterwards appears “with a small wet head and full, trickling, naïve haunches, she looked another creature” (LCL 222), emphasising a second time the sense of natural, nonhuman fulfilment produced by their aquatic union. As Catherine Millet writes: “l’eau rapproche les corps,” water brings bodies together (Millet 38); it breaks down personality and social reserve, the elemental force of water awakening characters to a consciousness of their bodies, and to sexual desire.

16In accordance with Dawid W. de Villiers’s observation that “[l]ove and warm-bloodedness emerge” in the poems “Whales weep not!” and “They say the sea is loveless,” “which presents the sea ‘making love to Dionysos’ in the form of leaping dolphins” (De Villiers 90), I will demonstrate that marine metaphors are a cornerstone of the language of lovemaking in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Connie’s first vaginal orgasm is rendered by a combination of poetic images: the movements of water “rippling inside her” and of fire “like a flapping overlapping of soft flames,” the sharpness of light “running to points of brilliance” and a return to a liquid state “melting her all molten inside” (LCL 133). Yet after this first paragraph, Lawrence’s poetic language becomes primarily aqueous: “all her womb was open and soft, and softly clamouring, like a sea-anemone under the tide” (LCL 133), “then began again the unspeakable motion that was not really motion, but pure deepening whirlpools of sensation swirling deeper and deeper through all her tissue and consciousness, till she was one perfect concentric fluid of feeling, and she lay there crying in unconscious inarticulate cries” (italics mine; LCL 134). In a later episode, the sea imagery is further enhanced to convey the intensity of Constance’s innermost sensations:

And it seemed she was like the sea, nothing but dark waves rising and heaving, heaving with a great swell, so that slowly her whole darkness was in motion, and she was Ocean rolling its dark, dumb mass. Oh, and far down inside her the deeps parted and rolled asunder, in long, far-travelling billows, and ever, at the quick of her, the depths parted and rolled asunder, from the centre of soft plunging, as the plunger went deeper and deeper, touching lower, and she was deeper and deeper and deeper disclosed, the heavier the billows of her rolled away to some shore, uncovering her, and closer and closer plunged the palpable unknown, and further and further rolled the waves of herself away from herself, leaving her […] (LCL 174)

17Here Lawrence makes full use of the correlation between the sea and the body, presented as unknown, unfathomable places, subjected to uncontrollable forces, and open to exploration and discovery. Though it relies on a traditional trope of spatial and sexual exploration, this extended sea metaphor is captivating because of repetition, of accumulative syntax that lend it a breathless rhythm and of maritime terminology inner bodily sensations. It has, however, lost the poetic beauty of the first passage, in my opinion, just as Lawrence’s subsequent description of anal orgasm employs increasingly blunt and brutal imagery, compared to the earlier scenes. As Wilson Knight concludes: “Earlier engagements have been given the natural sexual associations of softness, peace and fluidity, of floods, waves and undulatory motions […]. The new engagement has associations of earth, rock, the metallic, heavy ore, smelting, fire and savagery. The contrast is precise” (Clarke 138) and, I would add, much less poetically pleasing.

18The extended sea metaphor depicting Constance’s sexual revelation bears a close resemblance to passages in Fantasia of the Unconscious in which Lawrence strives to explain, in pseudoscientific jargon, the phenomenon of blood connection during intercourse. The capitalisation he uses in the extract quoted above, “she was Ocean,” indicates a concept of oceanic being which is clarified in Fantasia of the Unconscious:

At the last hour of sex I am no more than a powerful wave of mounting blood which seeks to surge and join with the answering sea in the other individual. When the sea of individual blood which I am at that hour heaves and finds its pure contact with the sea of individual blood which is the woman at that hour, then each of us enters into the wholeness of our deeper infinitude, our profound fullness of being, in the ocean of our oneness and our consciousness. (FU 192-193)

  • 3 Note the passive form “she was deeper and deeper and deeper disclosed” in the passage p. 174, empha (...)

19Being “Ocean,” therefore, means reaching a state of ontological plenitude, which nonetheless requires a form of regression: to be “no more than,” or as Colin Clarke comments: “a wholeness to be achieved (or so it is implied at one level) by incorporating degradation” (Clarke ix). Clarke traces the connection between wholeness and destruction in Lawrence’s vision back to Romantic poetry and, earlier still, to Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), stating that “for Burke pleasure is conceived of in terms of yielding, passiveness, relaxation” (Clarke 8). Indeed, Fantasia dwells on the notion of a passive, uncontrollable transformation of the self during intercourse: “For I am carried away from my sunny day-self into this other tremendous self, where knowledge will not save me, but where I must obey as the sea obeys the tides.” (FU 192-193). Lawrence also asserts that Constance finds deeper sexual satisfaction by yielding to “the plunger”3 than she did “run[ning] the show” (LCL 53) with Michaelis. Yet this passive yielding of the self is contrasted with the powerful activity of the blood during sexual intercourse, which Lawrence suggests with a number of dynamic verbs: “In the act of coition, the two seas of blood in the two individuals, rocking and surging towards contact, as near as possible, clash into a oneness” (FU 184), “Like the waters of the Red Sea, the blood is divided in a dual polarity between the sexes. […] Suddenly the sea of blood which is me heaves and rushes towards the sea of blood which is her” (FU 185). Compelling biblical imagery is combined with vivid visual memories of crashing Pacific waves to render this expression of creation through destruction by giving in to the natural power of the sexual drive. This happens “under the spell of the moon, of sea-born Aphrodite, mother and bitter goddess” (FU 193), Lawrence points out, once again linking the figure of Aphrodite with the corrosive sea, but also, this time, with the empowering action of sex, thus “finding in corruption or disintegration an essential life-energy,” to quote Clarke (ix).

Seaside life and dissolution

20Life-energy is precisely what Constance Chatterley lacks, in the opinion of the London doctor she consults and whose diagnosis is that “[t]here’s nothing organically wrong, but […] vitality is much too low” because, he tells her: “You’re spending your life without renewing it. You’ve got to be amused, properly, healthily amused. You’re spending your vitality without making any” (LCL 78). The cure he proposes, “a month at Cannes or Biarritz” (LCL 78), is immediately echoed by Michaelis, who also claims to know the proper remedy:

Come to Nice with me! Come down to Sicily! Go on, come to Sicily with me, it’s lovely there just now. You want sun! You want life! Why you’re wasting away! Come away with me! Come to Africa! […] God’s love, that place Wragby would kill anybody. Beastly place, foul place, kill anybody! Come away with me, into the sun! It’s the sun you want, of course, and a bit of normal life. (LCL 79)

  • 4 “The doctor from England came on Monday – says the bronchitis is acute, and aggravated by the lung. (...)
  • 5 “‘Take her away, into the sun,’ the doctor said.” “Sun” in The Woman Who Rode Away, p. 19. “She had (...)

21Lawrence’s use of repetition, punctuation and truncated speech in this monologue suggests criticism, a wry comment on his early-twentieth-century contemporaries’ obsession with health and vitality, but a preoccupation which he himself shared nonetheless, owing to his own ill-health and disgust for the dullness of England after having lived in New Mexico and on the shores of the Mediterranean. He too received medical expertise, usually advising rest and admittance to a sanatorium, which Lawrence repeatedly refused,4 preferring southern seaside retreats to regain health, both physical and psychological. Such remedies he then transposed to his heroines, Constance Chatterley, and Juliet in “Sun”5.

22Constance thus travels to Venice with her sister Hilda and there:

[s]he lived in the stupor of the light of the lagoon, the lapping saltiness of the water, the space, the emptiness, the nothingness: but health, health, complete stupor of health. It was gratifying, and she was lulled away in it, not caring for anything. Besides, she was pregnant. She knew now. So the stupor of sunlight and lagoon salt and sea-bathing and lying on shingle and finding shells and drifting away, away in a gondola, was completed by the pregnancy inside her, another fullness of health, satisfying and stupefying. (LCL 261)

23Lawrence pinpoints a paradox of health, vitality and activity which is ultimately “satisfying and stupefying”: health and leisure create a numbness, a paralysis of consciousness, so much so that Connie’s nervous disorder is in fine overcome by apathy rather than treated medically. Juliet in “Sun” was also “dazed” by her sun-bathing and in a state of “half-consciousness [that] was like wealth” (The Woman Who Rode Away 22), but whereas Juliet enjoys a revitalising communion with the sun in an isolated part of Sicily, Connie is troubled by the frantic obsession with vitality, the enjoyment and mindlessness displayed by fellow tourists. She shrinks from social contact with them, preferring “to bathe from one of the shingle islands across the lagoon” because she “loathe[d] the Lido!” (LCL 151). In The First Lady Chatterley, in Biarritz, [t]he Lido, with its acres of sun-pinked or pyjamaed bodies, was like a strand with an endless heap of seals come up for mating,” while “[t]he very sea was like a huge bath-tub set out by the servants each morning” (118-119).

24Thus, while the Venice episode serves to restore Connie to health, just as her discovery of the woods seemed to do earlier in the story, the tone in this section is deeply critical and the regenerative motif deliberately undermined, for Connie’s satisfaction is ultimately only superficial. In truth, her disappointment in the resort lifestyle and society is palpable throughout, despite the apparent success of the doctor’s scheme to have her regain vitality. Carrie Rohman’s reminder that Nietzsche reversed the meanings of sickness and health leads us to reflect on Lawrence’s representation of so-called “health” in this episode. Rohman explains:

While defining the Apollonian and Dionysian states as polar, [Nietzsche] notes that the more symbolic or reflective Apollonian misreads Dionysian revelling as sickness with a smile of contempt or pity prompted by the consciousness of their own health: of course, the poor wretches do not divine what a cadaverous-looking and ghastly aspect this very ‘health’ of their presents. […] Accordingly, health is really sickness, civilisation really deterioration. (117)


25Is seaside dissolution consequently an effect of the sea upon the human, terrestrial body which one decides “in the destructive element [to] immerse” (243), to quote Conrad’s Lord Jim? Or is it an effect of the seaside, the leisure and boredom of early twentieth-century resort society and the international tourism of those who, like migrating birds, “go south in the winter” (30), to quote Eliot in The Waste Land? The ambiguity of the maritime dissolution image persists in Lady Chatterley’s Lover and other works by Lawrence. It is both creative and destructive, inasmuch as the dissolution of personality can be interpreted as a surrender of the human self, which will then be reborn as other. Marine metaphors allow Lawrence to question the nature of human life and human consciousness. The dissolution of society, meanwhile, showcases the end of civilization as a chance of reconstruction.

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Clarke, Colin. River of Dissolution: D.H. Lawrence & English Romanticism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969.

Conrad, Joseph. Lord Jim. Ed. Jacques Berthoud. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

De Villiers, Dawid W. “‘Shadow of All Things’: Oceanic Alterity in the Poetry of D.H. Lawrence,” in The D.H. Lawrence Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2015, p. 84-102. 22 December 2022

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Lawrence, D.H. Complete Poems. Ed. Vivian de Sola Pinto, Warren F. Roberts. London: Penguin Books, 1989.

Lawrence, D.H. The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels. Ed. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Lawrence, D.H. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Ed. Michael Squires. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Lawrence, D.H. The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Vol. 7, November 1928-February 1930. Ed. James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Lawrence, D.H. Phoenix: the Posthumous Papers of D.H. Lawrence. Ed. Edward D. McDonald. London: Heinemann, 1936.

Lawrence, D.H. The Plumed Serpent. Ed. L.D. Clark. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Lawrence, D.H. Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious. Ed. Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Lawrence, D.H. Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays. Ed. Michael Herbert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Lawrence, D.HSaint Mawr and Other Stories. Ed. James T. Boulon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Lawrence, D.H. Studies in Classic American Literature. Ed. Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey and John WorthenCambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Lawrence, D.H. The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories. Ed. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Lawrence, D.H. Women in Love. Ed. John Worthen and Lindeth Vasey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Millet, Catherine. Aimer Lawrence. Paris: Flammarion, 2017.

Rohman, Carrie. “Ecology and the Creaturely in D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Sun,’” in Journal of D.HLawrence Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, December 2010, p. 115-131. 22 December 2022

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1 See the “Introduction” to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, xx.

2 “And then to feel the long, slow lift and drop of this almost empty ship, as she took the waters. Ah, God, liberty, liberty, elemental liberty. I wished in my soul the voyage might last forever, that the sea had no end, that one might float in this wavering, tremulous, yet long and surging pulsation while ever time lasted: space never exhausted, and no turning back, no looking back, even.” Sea and Sardinia, 30.

“Ah, the lovely morning! Away behind us the sun was just coming above thesea’s horizon, and the sky all golden, all a joyous, fireheated gold,and the sea was glassy bright, the wind gone still, the waves sunk intolong, low undulations, the foam of the wake was pale ice-blue in the yellow air. Sweet, sweet wide morning on the sea, with the sun coming, swimming up, and a tall sailing bark, with her flat fore-ladder of sailsdelicately across the light, and a far-far steamer on the electric vividmorning horizon.The lovely dawn: the lovely pure, wide morning in the mid-sea, sogolden-aired and delighted, with the sea-like sequins shaking, and the sky far, far, far above, unfathomably clear. How glad to be on a ship! What a golden hour for the heart of man!” Sea and Sardinia, 47.

“When Somers got up at sun-rise, in the morning, he could wellbelieve it. But the sun rose golden from a low fume of haze in thenorth-eastern sea. The waves rolled in pale and bluey, glass-green,wonderfully heavy and liquid. They curved with a long arch, then fell ina great hollow thud and a spurt of white foam and a long, soft,snow-pure rush of forward flat foam. Somers watched the crest of fine,bristling spume fly back from the head of the waves as they turned and broke. The sea was all yellow-green light.” Kangaroo, 81.

3 Note the passive form “she was deeper and deeper and deeper disclosed” in the passage p. 174, emphasising Constance’s passive transformation.

4 “The doctor from England came on Monday – says the bronchitis is acute, and aggravated by the lung. I must lie still for two months – Talks of my going into a sanatorium near Nice, but I don’t know if it’s suitable. And I don’t know if I shall go.” Letters 7, 624-625.

5 “‘Take her away, into the sun,’ the doctor said.” “Sun” in The Woman Who Rode Away, p. 19. “She had told Marinina, who wentshopping for her in the village, that the doctor had ordered sun-baths.” “Sun,” 24.

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Fiona Fleming, « The Fluctuating Meanings of Marine Metaphors in Lady Chatterley’s Lover »Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 55 | 2023, mis en ligne le 07 novembre 2023, consulté le 22 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Fiona Fleming

Fiona Fleming is a Teaching Fellow at Paris Nanterre University. She teaches Business English to undergraduate students in Economics and Management. She has also given a course on Lawrence’s Sea and Sardinia for third-year students of English literature. She received her Ph.D. from Paris Nanterre University in 2016 for her dissertation on “Foreigners and foreignness in D.H. Lawrence: the creative and transformative power of otherness.” Her research interests include D.H. Lawrence’s fiction, essays and letters, French and British travel writing, and 19th and 20th century European theories on “degeneration” and “regeneration.” Her current research focuses on a comparison of Thomas Hardy's and Lawrence's fiction. She is a regular contributor to the journal Études Lawrenciennes and co-organiser of the Paris Nanterre D.H. Lawrence Conferences.

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