The Journal of the DH Lawrence Society of Australia

ISSN No: 1039-9658

No. 24, February 2017





HAVING NOW published three successful books onLawrence, The Svengali Press has decided to set up a division devoted to publishing books about Lawrence  by scholars and others with something to say about DHL

In today’s tight world of book publishing, many authors with excellent books about Lawrentian topics are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to find a traditional publisher willing to take on their books. The traditional publishers claim Lawrence is no longer of interest to the general public, but we at The Svengai Press look at the matter differently: we can target our Lawrence books to people who are interested in Lawrence.






This is because we are in the vanguard of the New Publishing, producing not only printed copies but downloadable e-books and Print-on-Demand (POD) versions of our books so that they are available at a much-reduced price all over he world. Moreover, our expert knowledge of Lawrence and his works means that your manuscript will be treated sensitively and carefully.

If you would like to know more about how the Svengali Press can help you, please email:

or visit our website:

Sandra Darroch
The Svengali Press Pty Ltd
Secretary of the D.H. Lawrence Society of Australia





By Michael Lester



michael and jill
Michael and Jill Lester

It is my destiny to wander (Lawrence)

IN LATE November 2015 Jill and I set out to visit the “Villa Fontana Vecchia’ and locales frequented by Lawrence and Frieda during their eighteen month stay in Taormina, Sicily from February 1920.  Ours alas, is a tale of frustration and disappointment, not unlike Lawrence’s own deep frustrations and often anger with his restless per-ipatetic travels in search of freedom and meaning….

I particularly enjoy visiting the many places and haunts that the ever-restless Lawrence had visited, lived and written in. We have been to the two cabins he rented on the Del Monte ranch house in the hills outside Taos, New Mexico, where Frieda buried his ashes. We have also visited Zennor, the tiny Cornish village that was the scene of his harassment as a supposed ‘spy’ for the Germans. We live in Cremorne, Sydney just round the corner from where Lawrence visited Mosman Bay and Neutral Bay where he stayed visiting local contacts that provided the material for his Australian novel, Kangaroo written in 1922. These visits and familiarity with the places in which he spent time and on which he drew in his writing adds to an understanding and appreciation of his writing; Lawrence indeed coined the phrase ‘spirit of place’. Many have remarked upon Lawrence’s remarkable genius among writers to ‘inhabit a place at a glance’ and the remarkable simplicity of his apparently app-arently‘effortless reportage’. Yet he always moved on…

‘Sicily is not Italy’

‘Sicily is not Italy’ declare the tourism guides and posters as we made our way around this triangular-shaped and very mountainous Italian island, the second largest island in the Mediterranean, on a car touring holiday for five weeks. The island’s symbol is the ‘Trinacria’ a three-corned figure, a Gorgon head Medea with snakes for hair.  Sicily lies off the coast of southern Italy, across the legendary Straits of Messina, and between the stunningly blue waters of the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. Importantly in its history it also lies only one hundred miles north of the African coast.

Due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sicily has a unique and culturally diverse history even when set against the standards of its Italian mainland. It has been successively invaded and occupied by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabian Germans, French, Spanish and Italians. Despite its tumultuous history it has a timeless and unchanging character captured so vividly by its native son Giuseppe del Lampedusa (1896-1957) in his classic novel ‘The leopard’ set in the turbulent nineteenth century of the ‘Risorgimento’ (Unification of Italy). They all came… and then they eventually left.

Taormina is like a ‘node’ in Lawrence’s travels alongside Taos and Villa Mirenda outside Florence. In the immediate post-war years Lawrence had a pattern of travel in Europe that would find him spending nine months a year in Italy until it just became too hot for him. He lived in Italy from November 1919, when he left England, until February 1922, when he sailed for Ceylon; he remained outside Italy for three and a half years, returning in November 1925.  His ‘dash’ to Sardinia while living in Taormina inspired his wonderful  ‘The sea and Sardinia’ and sits alongside his ‘Etruscan Places’, ‘Twilight in Italy’ and a number of shorter ‘Italian essays’ as further testament to his remarkable powers of evocative and innovative benchmark contributions to the genre of travel writing. They stand alongside Goethe’s classic “Italian Journey”(1816) and his description of Sicily as ‘a little patch of paradise’.

The main Square

‘so magically beautiful’

The picturesque setting of Taormina was a source of immediate attraction to Lawrence despite his abhorrence of its evident poverty and squalor. He wrote Lady Chatterley while living there on the north east coast of the island, just down from the Straits of Messina that separate the island from the toe of the mainland, the province of Calabria and the poor regions of southern Italy. It is a beautiful tourist ‘hill top’ village set on a rocky and steep promontory overlooking the Ionian Sea. We based ourselves there for a week and it was on our agenda to seek out and visit the house called Villa Fontana Vecchia that he and Frieda rented.

The main street Corso Umberto wends its way over a few hundred metres merging into the equally lovely Via Teatro Greci, adhering to a single contour of the towering hills with picturesque piazzas and inviting laneways, above and below.


It is lined with the predominantly gently tinted white limestone buildings of the many ages and cultures that have invaded the island. Classical, medieval, renaissance and even baroque, styles constitute a virtual encyclopedia of architecture through the ages. The heritage is immaculately maintained, and actively in use for small businesses and commerce, while the streets and piazzas are proudly festooned and garlanded with a colourful array of flowers. It is a sheer delight that these days unfortunately endures and it must be said, prospers, from the inevitable over-commercialization of mass tourism. They all came, they saw, they paid…and then they left.

We sat in the warm late autumn evenings on our terracotta paved terrace high above the wonderful sparkling waters of Castellamare Bay with its dazzling aquamarine hues, under a vast pellucid sky, sipping on our aperitifs of orange coloured and flavoured Aperol Spritz and rose wine, and munching on the delicious local salamis, olives and cheeses.  It is easy to fall under a certain spell of enchantment. Looming high above us to our far right was the smoking cone of Mount Etna the highest active volcano in Europe, immediately above us lay the medieval, crenellated walls of Castellamare, while behind and to our left nestled the wondrous remains of the Greco-Roman theatre possessed of surely the finest setting ever for such a venue. Immediately below lay the terraced public garden Giardini-Naxos with its sweeping views over the sun-bathed water and to a delightful design of topiary, flowers, trees, ponds and follies. Sometimes called the Trevelyan Gardens it was laid out in the English style in the late nineteenth century complete with small ‘follies’.

Limestone buildings

Lawrence wrote in Sea and Sardinia: “Etna, like a white queen, or a white witch, standing there in the sky; so magically beautiful, but I think wicked”. When he arrived in 1920 he read and was enchanted by the writings of the preeminent novelist of the region, the realist writer, Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) and fascinated by his spare and concise language. He set to translating Verga’s works while in Taormina.  Verga provided brutal details of local peasant lives dominated by toil and poverty but redeemed by spontaneous vitality, themes shared in Lawrence’s own works.

‘a glossy sheen of glamour’

Taormina is proud of its artistic and literary heritage as a famous watering hole for visiting European and American celebrities over the decades. There are signs at various locations displaying photos of many of them in the haunts they frequented. The brochures sparkle with celebrity names, from the days of the European ‘grand tour’ in the late nineteenth century when Taormina was ‘discovered’ by the glitterati of the day, including, Goethe, Dumas, Wilde, Wagner, Brahms, Klimt... Latterly came the Hollywood stars, directors, writers and jet set, including Capote, Hemmingway, Tennessee Williams, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Marcello Mastroianni, Ingmar Bergman, Cary Grant, Francis Ford Coppola, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Frederico Fellini, Woody Allen….

Taormina has always had about it that ‘glossy sheen of glamour’ that reflected the epithet ‘the pearl of the Mediterranean’. There is a large café plastered with photos and names of celebrity visitors. The grandest hotel in town, perched on a high point overlooking the sea at the far end of the town and next to the Greco-Roman theatre site, closed for the off season when we were there, is marketed as the place for the in-crowd and is redolent with luxury viewed even from the outside. In season Taormina hosts a dazzling array of cultural festivals, such as, film festival held for the past 60 years in the Greco-Roman theatre each June, the literary Tao Book festival each September, and the annual Tao Arte.

‘A nice big house at some distance above the sea’

Jill and I confidently set out on another bright sunny morning to find Villa Fontana Vecchia. Having read Lawrence’s description our expectations were fuelled : ‘a nice big house, with fine rooms and a handy kitchen, set in a big garden, mostly vegetables, green with almond trees, on a steep slope at some distance above the sea. It is beautiful, and green, green and full of flowers’.

We were armed with a local tourist map that to our delight showed a clearly marked Via David Herbert Lawrence further on up the hill just outside the old town walls. Surprisingly however, the map, which marked the locations of houses lived in by visiting celebrities and writers, carried no indication of Lawrence’s house. In any event, this promised to be a lot easier an assignment than trying to track down the farm outside Taos which we did find in due course, obligingly signposted by the University of New Mexico that now owns it; or his cottage in the small Cornish village of Zennor which eluded us completely; or indeed his rented house ‘Wyewurk’ on the clifftops above the beach at Thirroul on the south coast out of Sydney, that we did

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