November 1925 found David and Frieda Lawrence on the Italian Riviera, looking for sun, sea air, and health. The Lawrences were exhilarated by life in their rented villa, set amid olive groves and vineyards, with a view of the sparkling Mediterranean. The drab English winter couldn’t have been farther away.
But before long Frieda found herself irresistibly attracted to their landlord, a dashing Italian army officer, and the resulting affair served as the background for Lawrence’s writing: while in the villa, he turned out two stories, “Sun” and “The Virgin and the Gypsy,” both prefiguring Lady Chatterley’s Lover in their depiction of women fatally drawn to earthy, muscular men.
Built on the unpublished, and previously unexplored, letters and diaries of Rina Secker, the Anglo-Italian wife of Lawrence’s publisher, and featuring never-before-published letters from Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Villa reconstructs the drama of the tempestuous marriage, and the ways it fired Lawrence’s creativity. Along the way, Richard Owen offers a new accounting of Lawrence’s passion for Italy, tracing his travels along the coasts and islands and his deep engagement with Italian culture. This exploration of a little-studied, but crucial period of the writer’s life will be a must for Lawrence’s many fans.