Saturday, December 4, 2010

Introducing Frieda Lawrence

Some time ago I promised to write something about Frieda Lawrence. Since then I have discovered several archival sources that have brought new insights on Frieda—for example, she served as an associate editor for the “New Mexico Writers” page of The New Mexico Sentinel newspaper in the latter 1930s. Although I have read some works on her, I am eager to discover more writing by her. Frieda was a fascinating woman. In The Genius and the Goddess, Aldous Huxley wrote that she was “Hera and Demeter and Aphrodite gloriously rolled into one.” In admiration, Tennessee Williams called her "a valkyrie…a real woman." Intriguing, to say the least. 

Frieda Lawrence, 1938 Courtesy of Jenny Vincent

In my quest to discover the real Frieda, I am following several leads, including setting up interviews with local people who knew her. In the meantime, for those of you who don’t know about her, I provide a few introductory paragraphs from an overview that Karen Young compiled before I became blog host. (Thank you, Karen.)

Frieda von Richthofen was born into an aristocratic family in Metz, Germany. In 1899 she moved to England after marrying the much older, Ernest Weekly, professor of French at the University College, Nottingham. After giving birth to three children, Frieda met the author D.H. Lawrence in March, 1912. Two months later the couple eloped to Europe.

After marrying in 1914, the Lawrences returned to England. At the outbreak of the First World War the authorities became concerned that Frieda was a spy. The couple settled at Zennor in Cornwall, but local people reported that the Lawrences were using the clothes hanging on their washing line to send coded messages to German U-boats. After searching their cottage, the authorities forced the Lawrences to leave the area.

 When D. H. Lawrence was diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis, the couple went to live in Sicily. Over the next few years they also spent time in North America, Mexico and Australia. Novels published by Lawrence during this period included Women in Love (1920), Aaron's Rod (1922), Kangaroo (1923) and The Plumed Serpent (1926). He also wrote Lady Chatterley's Lover but unable to find a publisher, he had it printed privately in Italy.

New Mexico was the place in North America where the Lawrences spent the most time. In 1919, after British authorities relinquished D.H. Lawrence’s confiscated passport, he and Frieda eventually landed in Sicily. In November 1921, while the couple was living at Fontana Vecchia (“Old Fountain”) in Taormina, D.H. received a letter from Mabel Dodge Luhan inviting him to come to Taos.

After a side trip to Ceylon and Australia, the Lawrences finally arrived in Taos on September 11th, 1922 – on D. H.’s thirty-seventh birthday. Both were struck by the beauty of the landscape, as Lawrence would later write: “In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico, one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly and the old world gave way to the new.” *

Frieda echoed her husband’s words in her memoir, Not I, But the Wind: “A new life for us – and we began it straight away. Out from the pueblo to the east of us, a few miles away, came the feel of the Indians, so different from anything we had ever known.”

Frieda and D.H. Lawrence spent months in the Taos area in 1922-1923, 1924 and 1925. I will report on this time and the influence that northern New Mexico had on Frieda during this time of her life as soon as I complete my research.

Adios for now,

* This quote originates from D.H. Lawrence's article, "New Mexico", first published in Survey Graphic in 1928.


  1. I eagerly await your research. Can we help but be interested in those people, who came to Taos, who loved Taos, held it sacred, in their time. Thanks for your post.

  2. Hi, Liz. I'm back in Annapolis after our wonderful Christmas visit to Taos. I'm looking forward to keeping in touch and learning more about the interesting women of Taos - including more about Freida.

  3. I just love this website! It's stories and events make me yearn to return to Taos, which I will do in April.
    Linda Lambert