Paul Morel by DH Lawrence

In this exclusive extract from Paul Morel, DH Lawrence's early blueprint for Sons and Lovers, a family deals with the fatal consequences of a drunken father's violent rage

Paul Morel lives in the mining village of Eberwich, Nottinghamshire, with his parents and his brother Arthur. Paul is 21, a clerk in Nottingham, while Arthur, 19, is a student at the university. Once his father's favourite, Arthur has come to despise Walter ('Morel'), who is increasingly drunken and violent.

Morel came home primed with injury.

They should catch it, the first that made a mug of him. Arthur had finished his tea, sat reading up for his exam.

"It's very evident you've been stopping," said Mrs Morel, as Morel lurched against the dresser.

"What the hell's that got to do with you?" he shouted at her, flinging his tin bottle and snap bag on the table. The latter, a dirty calico food-bag, fell on Arthur's book. The young man sent it, with a jerk of contempt, on to the floor.

"Nice behaviour!" said Mrs Morel to her husband. He dragged the table to the fire, though it was midsummer. Arthur, going pale and trembling with rage, dragged it back again. It enraged him to be left sitting before space, his book gone.

"What!" cried Morel, starting to his feet, and bending threateningly over the table. He looked incredibly ugly, the whites of his eyes showing from his black face, his red lips pushed out under the rag of hanging moustache.

"Now then!" cried Mrs Morel in a note of warning. Arthur dropped his eyes, curled his lips in a sneer. Morel sat down again. Mrs Morel went out to pick a few gooseberries in the garden.

Morel, in a fearful temper, did all he could that was irritating. He hawked and spat in the fire. Arthur, very much overwrought, bore it for a moment, then cried, low and sudden: "Stop it!" Morel started, there was such fierce authority in the tone.

"You're there are you?" he sneered at his son. "You mind your books, I s'll mind my own business." Arthur shrugged his shoulders with contempt.

Morel poured his tea into a saucer, sucked it up with much slobbering.

Arthur put his hands over his ears, sat reading with his hands shut tight over his ears. It made his father tremble with rage.

Having sharpened the carving knife, Morel hacked off a thick lump of the cold meat.

Arthur, looking from under his brows, felt sick at the sight. Then the father proceeded to shovel up peas on his knife, and to thrust them into his mouth. One naked, black arm lay along the clean tablecloth. The great dirty hand seemed near to the boy.

"Eat with your fork," cried Arthur.

"Don't look, if you don't like what I do," shouted Morel.

"I won't," said the lad, quick and low.

He snatched up a newspaper, propped it up before the teapot and sugar basin, a screen between himself and his father.

Then he put his hands over his ears again.

It made Morel boil with rage. However, there was silence between the two.

Presently Morel was more than ordinarily disgusting. Arthur started up, the paper fell down.

"Goodness gracious!" cried the lad, "I can't do anything where you are, filthy beast!" "Go out then," bawled Morel.

Mrs Morel, down the garden, stood still to listen.

"It's you who ought to stop out," cried the son, white to the lips.

"You're not fit to live with decent people.

You're not fit to live with beasts. I'd rather have a pig in the room than you." "What?" cried Morel, starting up, his hand closing on something.

The last bar of restraint broke.

"Filthy, abominable beast!" cried Arthur, in a white-heat of loathing.

"Ah, I wouldn't come near you, I wouldn't touch, Ah, it would make me sick, it makes me sick to have you in the room."

"Have you done?" yelled Morel. "Have you done?"

"No - not while a filthy, stinking thing like you is -" Morel had sprung up, his chair falling backwards, and had hurled at his son the thing he had in his hand. It was the steel.

Instantly there was a fearful shriek. The boy was flung back on the sofa, there was blood spurting, the steel was stuck in the lad's ear. Mrs Morel, running in, saw her husband crouching forward, immobile, in exactly the position whence he had hurled the steel, whilst Arthur shuddered, writhed convulsively on the sofa.

They came to Paul at Jordans, at ten minutes to eight, just before he was leaving to go home. Mrs Morel had travelled with her son in the miners' ambulance, the long ten miles to Nottingham, to the hospital.

In ten minutes Paul was at the hospital.

Arthur, starting and giving terrible shrieks, but not recognising anything, was at that moment laid in bed, and doctors were being summoned to consultation.

Mrs Morel had helped like a nurse. There was blood on her black skirt - Paul saw it was her working skirt, and her bursten working boots. Now she had nothing more to do, she stood in her small black bonnet, like an image, white and motionless, looking at her wounded son. Paul stood perfectly still for a moment or two, looking at his brother. He wished they were all dead, all the Morels. At that moment he learned that not death, but life, is fearful. We die several times during life, most of us. Paul died distinctly at that moment - as his mother, his father, his brother, all were tasting death.

The doctors came, Mrs Morel must go away. They let her sit in the waiting room.

Paul felt all the time that his heart was breaking - but he must do things.

When he got home, he found his father had been taken in charge, was in the lockup of the police-station. The son was admitted to see his father, and his heart was sore for pity when he saw the man already peaked, quite shrunk.

"How was he?", were Morel's first words, husky and quiet. Morel felt he had no longer any right to anything - must beg to be spoken to.

It was very painful.

"I don't know, father," said Paul, drearily.

"The doctors had a consultation; they didn't seem to think there was much hope: there might be, of course. You never know." Morel sunk his head. It was evident from Paul's tone what his opinion was, and Morel had implicit faith in Paul's opinion.

"Shall I try and bail you out, father? I think they'd let me. Shall I? Mother's stopping in Nottingham - Annie will keep house."

"No child," the man replied. "No child, don't you trouble."

"But I will, father, if you'd care for me to. I want to do just what you like."

"No child," said the father, pleadingly.

"You'd rather stay here till we see - "

"Yes child, I think I would." Paul would have wished the same.

"All right father. I'll come and tell you every day -"

"Do child, if it's not too much trouble - "

"And I'll telephone to the station if anything happens - whether you're here or in Nottingham, I'll come, or I'll telephone - see?"


"Could I bring you anything, father - tobacco? - or a drink?"

"No no - I don't want anything." Paul took his father's hand. He was sorry for the poor, broken, emotional man; he kissed him on the forehead.

Tears began to run down Walter Morel's cheeks.

For ten days Arthur Morel lay in the hospital, in great anguish. His screams were sometimes terrible. Mrs Morel's hair went nearly white in this time. She had no hope.

"Let him go - let him die," she said at last to the doctors. The boy recognised her once or twice, but it was only to cry to her in anguish.

Once, on the eighth day, he said: "It wasn't my father's fault, mother." When this was told to Walter Morel he was himself in prison-hospital in Nottingham.

He wept aloud and unrestrainedly, rather like a dog.

They buried the lad in the cemetery at Eberwich, on the sunny hill that looks down to the ash-trees of the valley, and over the distant meadows.

The tall church towered up above its trees, half a mile away uphill.

In the cemetery field marguerite daisies and red sorrel waved. It was a sweet spot. But to bury a proud young life in, any field is bitter.

For a fortnight after Arthur's death, Walter Morel dared not see his wife. Then she came, and he hid his face among the pillows. She was touched with pity, but nothing moved her deeply now.

Morel was so ill that he could not be tried for four months. Then, such a frail, broken creature he was, the judge expressed his sympathy, and gave him the very minimum penalty. Morel was scarcely in prison at all.

When he came home, he was visibly dying. The will to live had gone.

Mrs Morel had a separate room from him, otherwise she was very kind. Everybody was very kind. But life filtered gradually from him.

He scarcely went out of doors, scarcely spoke, but wished always to keep in the shadows. As they say, he never looked up.

Within a year he was dead. One could not grieve for that. But when Paul had looked for a time on the dead face of his father, the childish, forlorn, frightened face, he went and hid in his own bed and cried uncontrollably for an hour. Life was so dreadful, and so cruel. It had been very cruel to his father.

· This is an extract from the Cambridge Edition of the text of Paul Morel. © The Estate of Frieda Lawrence Ravagli 2003, by arrangement with Pollinger Ltd. Paul Morel by DH Lawrence, edited by Helen Baron, is published by Cambridge University Press price £70.

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