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"Pangbourne is repulsive - it sort of smells"

Letter penned by 'peevish' DH Lawrence to go under the hammer

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

"Pangbourne is repulsive - it sort of smells"

The author of Lady Chaterly’s Lover, DH Lawrence, once described Pangbourne as repulsive and smelly in a letter which will be auctioned later this week. 

Lawrence wrote the letter, addressed to Bertie Herbert Farjeon in 1919, asking whether the little cottage that Farjeon owned would be empty, and, if it was, he would take it. 

Lawrence wrote: "We like Myrtle Cottage – but Pangbourne is repulsive – it sort of smells – women use scent on their clothes & petrol plus river plus pavement plus women – I suffer by the nose but here in the garden one has peace."

Auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull said that Lawrence was in a peevish mood when he penned the letter. 

Lawrence, who lived in Hermitage for a short period in 1919, recalls going for a picnic in the village before saying "I’m reading Harrison Ainsworth - Jack Sheppard - & wish I could become an interesting criminal".

He describes travelling on a steamer up the Thames. "Beautiful river - but faugh! – humanity – I can’t bear to be mixed up with it

"I’m so sick of mankind – think the elements might be consoling. Here there’s an old, very seedy-looking shabby old robin attends me perpetually when I work in Ros’ garden. He reminds me too much of myself." 

The little cottage which Lawrence wanted is believed to have been Spring Cottage in Bucklebury Common.

The letter is to be auctioned in Edinburgh on Wednesday with an estimate of between £800 and £1200.

Lawrence, who also wrote Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow, and his German wife Frieda were forced to leave Cornwall at three days notice after being accused of spying and sending signals to enemy submarines during the First World War. 

The forced move led Lawrence to Hermitage and in 1919 poverty forced him to move from address to address, which may explain his mood in the letter. 

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Article comments

  • Floss

    08/12/2018 - 11:11

    Many thanks to NWN readers, fund-raisers, packers, deliverers for the lovely over 80s Christmas parcels received this morning. It’s great to know that this very old Newbury tradition has continued. I believe it started as the two Ts (tea and tobacco)fund in the First World War for those in the workhouse.