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lawrence : surf bathing, illawarra, 1923 

D.H. Lawrence : Surf and Surf Bathing, Illawarra, 1923.

Lawrence, D.H.:
M. Secker, London, 1923.

Open Library
Internet Archive

D.H. Lawrence wrote the novel Kangaroo over several months in the winter of 1922.while staying at Wywurk (Why-work) , on the coast at Thirroul, south of Sydney.
Named as Coo-ee in the novel, the house is the earliest Australian bungalow to show the influence of the Californian Mission style of architecture.
Mostly noted for its political themes, the work has some briel accounts of surf-bathing and some excellent descriptive passages of the Australian landscape, particularly the coast and seashore.

wikipedia: D.H. Lawrence
wikipedia: Kangaroo (novel

Page 7

There was a little round summer-house also, with a flat roof and steps going up.
Somers mounted, and found that  from the lead-covered roof of the little round place he could  look down the middle harbour, and even see the low gateway, the low headlands with the lighthouse, opening to the  full Pacific.
There was the way out to the open Pacific, the white surf breaking.
A tramp steamer was just coming in, under her shaft of black smoke

Page 21

 He and Harriet took numerous trips in the ferry steamers to the many nooks and corners of the harbour.
One day their ferry steamer bumped into a collier that was heading for the harbour outlet or rather, their ferry boat headed across the nose of the collier, so  the collier bumped into them and had his nose put out of joint.
There was a considerable amount of yelling, but  the ferry boat slid flatly away towards Manly, and Harriet's excitement subsided.

It was Sunday, and a lovely sunny day of Australian winter.
Manly is the bathing suburb of Sydney, or one of them.
You pass quite close to the wide harbour gate, The Heads, on the ferry steamer.
Then you land on the  wharf, and walk up the street, like a bit of Margate with  sea-side shops and restaurants, till you come out on a promenade at the end, and there is the wide Pacific rolling  in on the yellow sand : the wide fierce sea, that makes all the built-over land dwindle into non-existence.
At least  there was a heavy swell on, so the Pacific belied its name  and crushed the earth with its rollers.
Perhaps the heavy, earth-despising swell is part of its pacific nature.

Harriet, of course, was enraptured, and declared she could not be happy till she had lived beside the Pacific.
They bought food and ate it by the sea.
Then Harriet was chilled, so they went to a restaurant for a cup of soup.
When they were again in the street Harriet realised that she hadn't got her yellow scarf : her big, silky yellow scarf that was so warm and lovely.
She declared she had left it in the eating-house, and they went back at once for it.
The girls in the eating-house the waitresses said, in their cheeky Cockney Australian that they " hedn't seen it," and that the "next people who kyme arfter must 'ev tyken it."

Anyhow, it was gone and Harriet furious, feeling as if there had been a thief in the night.
In this unhappy state of affairs Somers suggested they should sit on the tram-car and go somewhere.
They sat on the tram-car and ran for miles along a coast with ragged bush loused

Page 22

over with thousands of small promiscuous bungalows, built of everything from patchwork of kerosene tin up to fine red brick and stucco, like Margate.
Not far off the Pacific boomed.
But fifty yards inland started these bits of swamp, and endless promiscuity of "cottages."

The tram took them five or six miles, to the terminus.
This was the end of everywhere, with new " stores "that is, fly-blown shops with corrugated iron roofs” and with a tram-shelter, and little house-agents' booths plastered with signs” and more "cottages"; that is, bungalows of corrugated iron or brick” and bits of swamp or " lagoon" where the sea had got in and couldn't get out.
The happy couple had a drink of sticky aerated waters in one of the "stores," then walked up a wide sand-road dotted on either side with small bungalows, beyond the backs of which lay a whole aura of rusty tin cans chucked out over the back fence.
They came to the ridge of sand, and again the pure, long-rolling Pacific.

  '' I love the sea," said Harriet.

" I wish," said Lovat, " it would send a wave about fifty feet high round the whole coast of Australia."

" You are so bad-tempered," said Harriet. " Why don't you see the lovely things ! "

" I do, by contrast."

So they sat on the sands, and he peeled pears and buried the peel in the yellow sand.
It was winter, and the shore was almost deserted.
But the sun was warm as an English May.

Harriet felt she absolutely must live by the sea, so they wandered along a wide, rutted space of deep sand, looking at the "cottages " on either side.
They had impossible names.
But in themselves, many of them were really nice.
Yet there they stood like so many forlorn chicken-houses, each on its own oblong patch of land, with a fence between it and its neighbour.
There was something indescribably weary and dreary about it.
The very ground the houses stood on seemed weary and drabbled, almost asking for rusty tin cans.
And so many pleasant little bungalows set there in an improvised road, wide and weary — and then the effort had lapsed.
The tin shacks were almost a relief.
They did not call for geraniums and lobelias, as did the pretty Hampstead Garden Suburb "cottages."

Page 23

these latter might call, but they called in vain.
They got bits of old paper and tins.

Yet Harriet absolutely wanted to live by the sea, so they stopped before each bungalow that was to be let furnished.
The estate agents went in for abbreviations.
On the boards at the corner of the fences it said either " 4 Sale " or " 2 Let."
Probably there was a colonial intention of jocularity.
But it was almost enough for Somers.
He would have died rather than have put himself into one of those cottages.

The road ended on the salt pool where the sea had ebbed in.
Across was a state reserve — a bit of aboriginal Australia, with gum trees and empty spaces beyond the flat salt waters.
Near at hand a man was working away, silently loading a boat with beach-sand, upon the lagoon.
To the right the sea was rolling on the shore, and spurting high on some brown rocks.
Two men in bathing suits were running over the spit of sand from the lagoon to the surf, where two women in "waders," those rubber paddling-drawers into which we bundle our children at the seaside, were paddling along the fringe of the foam.
A blond young man wearing a jacket over his bathing suit walked by with two girls.
He had huge massive legs, astonishing.
And near at hand Somers saw another youth lying on the warm sand-hill in the sun.
He had rolled in the dry sand while he was wet, so he was hardly distinguishable.
But he lay like an animal on his face in the sun, and again Somers wondered at the thick legs.
They seemed to run to leg, these people.
Three boys, one a lad of fifteen or so, came out of the warm lagoon in their bathing suits to roll in the sand and play.
The big lad crawled on all fours and the little one rode on his back, and pitched off into the sand.
They were extraordinarily like real young animals, mindless as opossums, lounging about.

This was Sunday afternoon.
The sun was warm.
The lonely man was just pushing off his boat on the lagoon.
It sat deep in the water, half full of sand.
Somers and Harriet lay on the sand-bank. Strange it was. And it
had a sort of fascination.
Freedom! That's what they always say.
"You feel free in Australia."
And so you do.
There is a great relief in the atmosphere, a relief from tension, from pressure.
An absence of control or will or

Page 24

The sky is open above you, and the air is open around you.
Not the old closing-in of Europe. 

Page 39

They left at sunset.
The west, over the land, was a clear gush of light up from the departed sun.
The east, over the Pacific, was a tall concave of rose-coloured clouds, a marvellous high apse.
Now the bush had gone dark and spectral again, on the right hand.
You might still imagine inhuman presences moving among the gum trees.
And from time to time, on the left hand, they caught sight of the long green rollers of the Pacific, with the star-white foam, and behind that the dusk-green sea glimmered over with smoky rose, reflected from the eastern horizon where the bank of flesh-rose colour and pure smoke-blue lingered a long time, like magic, as if the sky's rim were cooling down.
It seemed to Somers characteristic of Australia, this far-off flesh-rose bank of colour on the sky's horizon, so tender and unvisited, topped with the smoky, beautiful blueness.
And then the thickness of the night's stars overhead, and one star very brave in the last effulgence of sunset, westward over the continent. As soon as night
came, all the raggle-taggle of amorphous white settlements

Page 86

Through the open seaward door, as they sat at the table, the near sea was glimmering pale and greenish in the sunset, and breaking with a crash of foam right, as it seemed, under the house.
If the house had not stood with its little grassy garden some thirty or forty feet above the ocean, sometimes the foam would have flown to the doorstep, or to the steps of the loggia.
The great sea roaring at one's feet!

After the evening meal the women were busy making up beds and tidying round, while the men sat by the fire.
Jack was quiet, he seemed to brood, and only spoke abstractedly, vaguely.
He just sucked his pipe and stared in the fire, while the sea boomed outside, and the voices of the women were heard eager in the bedrooms.
When one of the doors leading on to the verandahs was opened, the noise of the sea came in frightening, like guns.

The house had been let for seven months to a man and wife with eleven children.
When Somers got up at sunrise, in the morning, he could well believe it.
But the sun rose golden from a low fume of haze in the north-eastern sea.
The waves rolled in pale and bluey, glass-green, wonderfully heavy and liquid.
They curved with a long arch, then fell in a great hollow thud and a spurt of white foam and a long, soft, snow-pure rush of forward flat foam.
Somers watched the crest of fine, bristling spume fly back from the head of the waves as they turned and broke.
The sea was all yellow-green light.

And through the light came a low, black tramp steamer, lurching up and down on the waves, disappearing altogether in the lustrous water, save for her bit of yellow-banded funnel and her mast-tips : then emerging like some long, out-of-shape dolphin on a wave-top.
She was like some lost mongrel running over a furrowed land.
She bellowed and barked forlornly, and hung round on the up-and-down waves.

Somers saw what she wanted.
At the south end of the shallow bay was a long, high jetty straddling on great tree-trunk poles out on to the sea, and carrying a long line of little red-coal trucks, the sort that can be tipped up.
Beyond the straddling jetty was a spit of low, yellow-

Page 87

brown land, grassy, with a stiff little group of trees like ragged Noah's ark trees, and further in, a little farm-place with two fascinating big gum-trees that stuck out their clots of foliage in dark tufts at the end of slim, up-starting branches.

Page 92

The sea's edge was smoking with the fume of the waves like a mist, and the high shore ahead, with the few painted red-roofed bungalows, was all dim, like a Japanese print.
Tier after tier of white-frost foam piled breaking towards the shore, in a haste.
The tide was nearly high.
Somers could hardly see beyond over the white wall-tops of the breaking waves, only on the clear horizon, far away, a steamer like a small black scratch, and a fantastic thread of smoke.

Page 98

The other three had disappeared from the sea-side.
Somers walked slowly on.
Then suddenly he saw Jack running across the sand in a bathing suit, and entering the shallow rim of a long, swift up wash.
He went in gingerly and then threw himself into a little swell, and rolled in the water for a minute.
Then he was rushing back, before the next big wave broke.
He had gone again by the time Somers came to climb the cliff-bank to the house.

They had a cup of tea on the wooden verandah.
The air had begun to waft icily from the inland, but in the sheltered place facing the sea it was still warm.
This was only four o'clock — or to-day, five o'clock tea.
Proper tea was at six or half-past, with meat and pies and fruit salad.

The women went indoors with the cups.
Jack was smoking his pipe.
There was something unnatural about his stillness.

*' You had a dip after all," said Somers.

" Yes. A dip in and out."

Page 160

Somers went to the edge of the grass to be near the sea.
It was raving in long, rasping lines of handissing
? breakers not very high ones, but very long.
The sky hung grey, with veils of dark rain out to sea, and in the south a blackness of much rain blowing nearer in the wind.
At the end of the jetty, in the mist of the sea-wind's spray, a long, heavy coal-steamer was slowly toiling to cast loose and get away.
The waves were so long and the current so strong, they would hardly let her turn and get clear of the misty-black jetty.

Under the dark-grey sky the sea looked bright, but coldly bright, with its yellow-green waves and its ramparts of white foam. There were usually three white ramparts, one behind the other, of rasping surf : and sometimes four.
Then the long swish and surge of the shoreward wash.
The coast was quite deserted : the steep sand wet as the backwash slid away : the rocks wet with rain : the low, long black steamer still laboured in the fume of the wind, indistinctly.

Somers turned indoors, and suddenly began taking off his clothes.
In a minute he was running naked in the rain which fell with lovely freshness on his skin.
Ah, he felt so stuffy after that sort of emotional heat in town.
Harriet in amazement saw him whitely disappearing over the edge of the low cliff-bank, and came to the edge to look.

He ran quickly over the sands, where the wind blew cold but velvety, and the raindrops fell loosely.
He walked straight into the fore-wash, and fell into an advancing ripple.
At least it looked a ripple, but was enough to roll him over so that he went under and got a little taste of the Pacific.
Ah, the fresh cold wetness !
— the fresh cold wetness !
The water rushed in the back-wash and the sand melted under him, leaving him stranded like a fish.
He turned again to the water.
The walls of surf were some distance off, but near enough to look rather awful as they raced in high white walls shattering towards him.
And above the ridge of the raving whiteness the dimness of the labouring steamer, as if it were perched on a bough.

Of course he did not go near the surf.
No, the last

Page 161

green ripples of the broken swell were enough to catch him by the scruff of the neck and tumble him rudely up the beach, in a pell-mell.
But even the blow did one good, as the sea struck one heavily on the back, if one were fleeing; full on the chest, if one were advancing.

It was raining quite heavily as he walked out, and the skies hung low over the sea, dark over the green and white vigour of the ocean.
The shore was so foam-white it almost suggested sun.
The rain felt almost warm.

Harriet came walking across the grass with a towel.

"What a good idea ! " she said.
"If I'd known I'd have come. I wish I had."

But he ignored the towel, and went into the little wash-place and under the shower, to wash off the sticky, strong Pacific.
Harriet came along with the towel, and he put his hand to her face and nodded to her.
She knew what he meant, and went wondering, and when he had rubbed the wet off himself he came to her.

To the end she was more wondering than anything.
But when it was the end, and the night was falling outside, she laughed and said to him :

"That was done in style.
That was chic.
Straight from the sea, like another creature."

Page 169

He left off kicking himself, and went down to the shore to get away from himself.
After all, he knew the endless water would soon make him forget.
It had a language which spoke utterly without concern of him, and this utter unconcern gradually soothed him of himself and his world.
He began to forget.

There had been a squall in the night.
At the tip of the rock-shelves above the waves men and youths, with bare, reddish legs, were fishing with lines for blackfish.
They looked like animal creatures perching there, and like creatures they were passive or darting in their movements.
A big albatross swung slowly down the surf : albatross or molly hawk, with wide, waving wings.

The sea had thrown up, all along the surf-line, queer glittery creatures that looked like thin blown glass.
They were bright transparent bladders of the most delicate ink-blue, with a long crest of deeper blue, and blind ends of
translucent purple.
And they had bunches of blue, blue strings, and one long blue string that trailed almost a yard across the sand, straight and blue and translucent.
They must have been some sort of little octopus, with the bright glass bladder, big as smallish narrow pears, with a blue frill along the top to float them, and the strings to feel ■with — and perhaps the long string to anchor by.
Who knows ?
Yet there they were, soft, brilliant, like pouches of frailest sea-glass.
It reminded Somers of the glass they blow at Burano, at Venice.
But there they never get the lovely soft texture and the colour.

The sky was tufted with cloud, and in the afternoon veils of rain swept here and there across the sea, in a

Page 170

changing wind.
But then it cleared again, and Somers and Harriet walked along the sands, watching the blue sky
mirror purple and the white clouds mirror warm on the wet sand.
The sea talked and talked all the time, in its disintegrative, elemental language.
And at last it talked its way into Somers' soul, and he forgot the world again, the babel.
The simplicity came back, and with it the inward peace.

Page 203

The morning was one of the loveliest Australian mornings, perfectly golden, all the air pure gold, the great gold effulgence to seaward, and the pure, cold pale-blue inland, over the dark range.
The wind was blowing from inland, the sea was quiet as a purring cat with white paws, becoming darkish green-blue flecked with innumerable white flecks like rain-spots splashing the surface of a pool.
The horizon was a clear and hard and dark sea against an almost white sky, but from far behind the horizon showed  the mirage-magic tops of hazed, gold-white clouds, that seemed as if they indicated the far Pacific isles.

Page 358

The storm went on, black, all day, all night, and the next day the same, inside the house as well as out.
Harriet sulked the more, like a frenzied sick tigress.
The afternoon of the third day another abatement into light rain, so Richard pulled on thick boots and went out to the shore.
His grass was a thin surface stream, and down the low cliffs, one cascade stream.
The sea was enormous : wave after wave in immediate succession, raving yellow and crashing dull into the land.
The yeast-spume was piled in hills against the cliffs, among the big rocks, and in swung

Page 368 

He fled away to be by himself as much as he could.
His great relief was the shore.
Sometimes the dull exploding of the waves was too much for him, like hammer-strokes on the head.
He tried to flee inland.
But the shore was his great solace, for all that.
The huge white rollers of the Pacific breaking in a white, soft, snow-rushing wall, while the thin spume flew back to sea like a combed mane, combed back by the strong, cold land-wind.

The thud, the pulse of the waves : that was his nearest throb of emotion.
The other emotions seemed to abandon him.
So suddenly, and so completely, to abandon him.
So it was when he got back from Sydney and, in the night of moonlight, went down the low cliff to the sand.
Immediately the great rhythm and ringing of the breakers obliterated every other feeling in his breast, and his soul was a
moonlit hollow with the waves striding home.
Nothing else.

Page 369

And in the morning the yellow sea faintly crinkled by the inrushing wind from the land, and long, straight lines on the lacquered meadow, long, straight lines that reared at last in green glass, then broke in snow, and slushed softly up the sand.
Sometimes the black, skulking fin of a shark.
The water was very clear, very green, like bright green glass.
Another big fish with humpy sort of fins sticking up, and horror, in the green water a big red mouth wide open.
One day the fins of dolphins near, near, it seemed almost over the sea edge.
And then, suddenly, oh wonder, they were caught up in the green wall of the rising water, and there for a second they hung in the watery, bright green pane of the wave, five big dark dolphins, a little crowd, with their sharp fins and blunt heads, a little sea-crowd in the thin, upreared sea.
They flashed with a sharp black motion as the great wave curled to break.
They flashed in-sea, flashed from the foamy horror of the land.
And there they were, black little school, away in the lacquered water, panting, Richard imagined, with the excitement of the escape.
Then one of the bold bucks came back to try again, and he jumped clean out of the water, above a wave, and kicked his heels as he dived in again.

Page 381

The sea too was very full.
It was nearly high tide, the waves were rolling very tall, with light like a menace on the nape of their necks as they bent, so brilliant.
Then, when they fell, the fore-flush rushed in a great soft swing with incredible speed up the shore, on the darkness soft- lighted with moon, like a rush of white serpents, then^-^re ,^ slipping back with a hiss that fell into silence for a second, Cjcc^^'
leaving the sand of granulated silver.

Page 395

the raving yellow water, in great dull blows under the land, hoarsely surging out of the dim yellow blank of the sea.
Harriet looked at it for a few moments, shuddering and peering down like a sick tigress in a flood.
Then she turned tail and rushed indoors.

Garry Shead: The Wave (1992)
Also see:
Appendix :
the wave in art
Shead, Garry (1942- ) : The Wave (1992)
Oil on canvas board, 91 x121 cm    Private collection.

From The D.H. Lawrence Paintings, a series of works based on D.H. Lawrence's Australian novel Kangaroo (1923) and his time writing the novel at Thirroul, NSW.

Lawrence, his wife Frieda, the cottage Wyewurk, the Norfolk pines and the rugged coastline feature in most of the series.
One of the other thematic symbols of the series, a large kangaroo, is absent from this work.

The Lawrence works were initially encouraged by Shead's contemporary, Brett Whitely, and in 1973 they produced a diptych Portrait of D.H. Lawrence, see Grishin, page 51.
Brett Whitley (see above) committed suicide at Thirroul in 1992.

The wave image is reminiscent of Hokusai's Under the Wave (1825).

Grishin, Sasha : Gary Shead and the Erotic Muse
Fine Art Publishing,  St Leonards, Sydney. 2001.

Davis, Joseph: D.H. Lawrence at Thirroul
Imprint, William Collins, Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1898.

Lawrences and friends, Wywurk, 1922. (page 150)

Postcard, 1922, showing the beach below Wywurk,
looking north.

Below Wywurk, looking south. (both page 152)

Lawrence, D.H.:
M. Secker, London, 1923.

Thomas Seltzer, New York, 1923.

Open Library
Internet Archive

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Geoff Cater (2016) : D.H. Lawrence: Surf and Surf Bathing, Illawarra,1923.