D.H.Lawrence’s The Trespasser, published, after The White Peacock, in 1912 is very much of its time. Unlike the more famous Lady Chatterley’s Lover, this is a book that might excite the interest of a modern publisher but wouldn’t be actually published. The language, full of deeply poetic angst, is identifiably old fashioned, and the plot is so thin, and no longer in any form unique, that no current editor could consider publication.
We live in a different age and few these days would have the patience to read this piece of literature in the way necessary to absorb fully the subtlety of the nuanced language. As a step back into an earlier time, when readers were prepared to mull over the words and ideas presented by an author, it did an excellent job for me. But, I admit, there were descriptive passages I skipped, wanting to get back to the emotional conflicts and leave the landscape to my imagination.
Lawrence has a way of employing language in ways that most writers wouldn’t dare, and he not only gets away with it, but produces evocative and moving prose. If the story is thin, the characters most certainly are not. This is a book all about character in its literal and metaphorical senses. Modern readers, by which I mean those young enough to remain unaware of the furore over Lady C (which I read in my late teens, when it was finally released in UK), are unlikely to understand the moral dilemma at the heart of the novel. When the idea of faithfulness in marriage has been as widely disparaged as it has in modern literature, it must be hard to comprehend why anyone would put themselves through the torture here described simply in order to satisfy the whim of then current social and religious mores.
I’d like to report that I enjoyed the book, but it is a work more to be endured, whilst the empathetic reader is compelled to discover an outcome that is, in reality, inevitable. Those interested in Lawrence, studying literature, or fascinated by portrayals of English life at the beginning of the last century will find a great deal here. For the rest, I suspect the archaic language and the lack of a modern plot will prevent any real enjoyment.