'Pedro de Valdivia'

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Author: D. H. Lawrence
Editor: Dennis Poupard
Date: 1986
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 2,447 words

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[Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, and essayist who is noted for his introduction of the themes of modern psychology to English fiction. In his lifetime he was a controversial figure, both for the explicit sexuality he portrayed in his novels and for his unconventional personal life. Much of the criticism of Lawrence's work concerns his highly individualistic moral system, which was based on absolute freedom of expression, particularly sexual expression. Human sexuality was for Lawrence a symbol of the Life Force, and is frequently pitted against modern industrial society, which he believed was dehumanizing. His most famous novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), was the subject of a landmark obscenity trial in Great Britain in 1960, which turned largely on the legitimacy of Lawrence's inclusion of hitherto forbidden sexual terms. In the following excerpt from a review of Pedro de Valdivia, Lawrence attacks Graham for what he perceives to be Graham's numerous failings as a biographer and translator.]

[Pedro de Valdivia] will have to go on the history shelf; it has no chance among the memoirs or the lives. There is precious little about Valdivia himself. There is, however, a rather scrappy chronicle of the early days of Chile, a meagre account of its conquest and settlement under Pedro de Valdivia.

Having read Mr. Graham's preface, we suddenly come upon another title-page, and another title—“Pedro de Valdivia, Conqueror of Chile. Being a Short Account of his Life, Together with his Five Letters to Charles V.” So? We are to get Valdivia's own letters! Interminable epistles of a Conquistador, we know more or less what to expect. But let us look where they are.

It is a serious-looking book, with 220 large pages, and costing fifteen shillings net. The Short Account we find occupies the first 123 pages, the remaining 94 are occupied by the translation of the five letters. So! Nearly half the book is Valdivia's; Mr. Graham only translates him. And we shall have a lot of Your-Sacred-Majestys to listen to, that we may be sure of.

When we have read both the Short Account and the Letters, we are left in a state of irritation and disgust. Mr. Cunninghame Graham steals all his hero's gunpowder. He deliberately—or else with the absent-mindedness of mere egoism—picks all the plums out of Valdivia's cake, puts them in his own badly kneaded dough, and then has the face to serve us up Valdivia whole, with the plums which we have already eaten sitting as large as life in their original position. Of course, all Valdivia's good bits in his own letters read like the shamelessest plagiarism. Haven't we just read them in Mr. Graham's Short Account? Why should we have to read them again? Why does that uninspired old Conquistador try to fob them off on us?

Poor Valdivia! That's what it is to be a Conquistador and a hero to Mr. Graham. He puts himself first, and you are so much wadding to fill out the pages.

The Spanish Conquistadores,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420003494