The Envy and Spite of Intellectual Life

D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

“There was a gorgeous talk on Sunday evening, when the conversation drifted again to love.

‘Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in kindred something-or-other’

— said Tommy Dukes. ‘I’d like to know what the tie is…The tie that binds us just now is mental friction on one another. And, apart from that, there’s damned little tie between us. We bust apart, and say spiteful things about one another, like all the other damned intellectuals in the world. Damned everybodies, as far as that goes, for they all do it. Else we bust apart, and cover up the spiteful things we feel against one another by saying false sugaries. It’s a curious thing that the mental life seems to flourish with its roots in spite, ineffable and fathomless spite. Always has been so! Look at Socrates, in Plato, and his bunch round him! The sheer spite of it all, just sheer joy in pulling somebody else to bits…Protagoras, or whoever it was! And Alcibiades, and all the other little disciple dogs joining in the fray! I must say it makes one prefer Buddha, quietly sitting under a bo-tree, or Jesus, telling his disciples little Sunday stories, peacefully, and without any mental fireworks. No, there’s something wrong with the mental life, radically. It’s rooted in spite and envy, envy and spite. Ye shall know the tree by its fruit.'”

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One thought on “The Envy and Spite of Intellectual Life

  1. frederick anderson

    So much of Lawrence was well said, but I believe Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the last of his meaningful works, and I did wonder, reading it all those years ago, if TB had finally reached his brain. As for the murder of love at the hands of intellectual hubris, though, I do see substance there. And Alcibiades as a disciple ‘dog’ of Socrates? I have to get my head around that one! Back to Plutarch!

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