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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: May 2006

14 - Post-mortem: Lawrence’s critical and cultural legacy

from Part 2 - Contexts and critical issues

The risen phoenix

The risen phoenix became Lawrence's adopted emblem when, in December 1914, he found a picture of the mythical bird in a book that he was reading on Christian symbolism, and sketched a copy of it for his friends. Variations upon this phoenix design have adorned the dust-jackets and title pages of the many reprints of his books, including Heinemann's Phoenix Edition of the 1950s; and Phoenix was the title chosen by E. D. McDonald in 1936 for his edition of Lawrence's uncollected articles. A plaster phoenix still stands above the concrete slab encasing Lawrence's ashes in the shrine erected by his widow at Taos, New Mexico. The emblem commemorates his preoccupation with bodily resurrection, along with his recurrent literary theme of the shedding of old skins and selves for new. Lawrence's true afterlife has of course been in the Word, not in the Flesh, but its fitful cycles of immolation and revival seem still to rehearse the fate of the fabulous bird: in a posthumous career quite unlike that of any writer of his time, the risen Lawrence has undergone periodic ritual incineration, only to re-emerge in strange new plumage, ensuring that the 'Lawrence' we have made of his remains has never been at rest.

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The Cambridge Companion to D. H. Lawrence
  • Online ISBN: 9780511999147
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