Philip Payton - D.H. Lawrence and Cornwall: In Search of Utopia

This talk is based on my forthcoming biographical study D.H. Lawrence and Cornwall: In Search of Utopia, to be published shortly by University of Exeter Press. The story is this:

Increasingly disillusioned with English industrial-urban society, an alienation exacerbated by the outbreak of the Great War, D.H. Lawrence decides he must quit England and build a utopian society elsewhere – his Rananim – of like-minded friends. Initially, he aims to settle in Florida. But he moves to Cornwall instead, believing the Cornish to be ethically and ethnically distinct from the English. He thinks Cornwall to be beyond England’s reach and immune from England’s ‘war spirit’. However, the arrival of Lawrence (and his German wife, Frieda) coincides with an upsurge of U-boat activity off the Cornish coast, and he is suspected of being a German spy. Consequently, he is expelled from Cornwall by the military authorities, his plans for utopia in disarray.

Philip Payton is Honorary Professor in the School of History at the Australian National University and Emeritus Professor of Cornish & Australian Studies at the University of Exeter. The author/editor of more than sixty books, his recent volumes include Vice-Regal: A History of the Governors of South Australia (Wakefield Press, 2021), Cornwall in the Age of Rebellion, 1490-1690 (ed.; University of Exeter Press, 2021), and More Than Miners: Cornish Essays from South Australia (ed. with Jan Lokan; Wakefield Press, 2023). He is currently completing Their Name Liveth for Ever More: A History of the Office of Australian War Graves for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Philip is himself a veteran, having served in the Royal Navy for thirty years, a dozen as a Regular and the remainder as a Reservist.

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Date & time

Thu 28 Sep 2023, 11am


RSSS Building, Room 6.71, Level 6, 146 Ellery Cres, ANU


Philip Payton

Event series


National Centre of Biography


Stephen Wilks
02 6125 2349


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