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Literary Locations #6: Victoria Crescent

John Baird
Thu 15 Nov, 2018

Where Bertie met Frieda, the future Mrs Lawrence.

It’s 1912 and D H Lawrence walks down Private Road in Mapperley Park. Turning up Victoria Crescent he locates his destination, the first house on his left, the home of his favourite professor, Ernest Weekley. A former student of Weekley’s at University College Nottingham, Lawrence has been invited for lunch after asking for assistance in finding work abroad as a language instructor. Only, the professor is not home. Instead, Lawrence is met by a boy.

“Ah, Mr Lawrence, we’ve been expecting you,” the boy may have said, leading him through to the rear of the house where his sisters and mother await. Mrs Weekley - “call me Frieda” – impresses Lawrence. Her beauty and foreignness surprise him and they speak with spontaneity, carelessness and directness. With her children upstairs, Frieda and Lawrence become close (rumour has it, very close). In Annabel Abbs 2018 book Frieda, she is captivated by the young poet, this stranger with the vim and spirit of a wildcat, and her hand is smoothing a lock of hair from his eyes as they notice Ernest Weekley appear in the doorway.

Before he leaves, Lawrence arranges a return visit for the following Sunday, to have Frieda check over his grammar, at a time when Ernest will be in Cambridge.

Back in Eastwood, Lawrence is unable to free himself from thoughts of Frieda, and posts her a letter. One line, unsigned, 'You are the most wonderful woman in all England'.

Frieda has been married for 13 years and, whilst extramarital liaisons are not new to her, she is aware that the adventure and future prescribed for her by Lawrence would mean leaving England, and leaving her children. They meet several times over the next few weeks, including a trip to the theatre. Accepting that she is throwing her life away if she stays in Nottingham, Frieda elopes with Lawrence, leaving behind her comfortable existence and three children. It is within a month of their meeting. She may be the daughter of minor German aristocrats but she is not wealthy, and her family make clear their opposition to the abandonment of her marriage and children for the love of a penniless poet.

Lawrence insists that she tell her husband about them but she repeatedly fails to do so. It is he that finally writes to his former teacher, declaring: ‘I love your wife and she loves me ...’.

Ernest Weekley divorces Frieda and in 1914 she becomes Mrs Lawrence.

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