To know intense joy without a strong bodily frame, one must have an enthusiastic soul.—George Eliot, 1872
When Connie went up to her bedroom, she did what she had not done for a long time: took off all her clothes and looked at herself naked in the huge mirror. She did not know what she was looking for, or at, very definitely, yet she moved the lamp till it shone full on her.
And she thought, as she had thought so often, what a frail, easily hurt, rather pathetic thing a human body is, naked; somehow a little unfinished, incomplete!
She had been supposed to have rather a good figure, but now she was out of fashion: a little too female, not enough like an adolescent boy. She was not very tall, a bit Scottish and short; but she had a certain fluent, down-slipping grace that might have been beauty. Her skin was faintly tawny, her limbs had a certain stillness, her body should have had a full, downslipping richness; but it lacked something.
Instead of ripening its firm, down-running curves, her body was flattening and going a little harsh. It was as if it had not had enough sun and warmth; it was a little grayish and sapless.
Disappointed of its real womanhood, it had not succeeded in becoming boyish and unsubstantial and transparent; instead it had gone opaque.
Her breasts were rather small, and dropping pear-shaped. But they were unripe, a little bitter, without meaning hanging there. And her belly had lost the fresh, round gleam it had had when she was young, in the days of her German boy, who really loved her physically. Then it was young and expectant, with a real look of its own. Now it was going slack, and a little flat, thinner, but with a slack thinness. Her thighs, too, they used to look so quick and glimpsey in their female roundness, somehow they too were going flat, slack, meaningless.
Her body was going meaningless, going dull and opaque, so much insignificant substance. It made her feel immensely depressed and hopeless. What hope was there? She was old, old at twenty-seven, with no gleam and sparkle in the flesh. Old through neglect and denial, yes, denial. Fashionable women kept their bodies bright like delicate porcelain, by external attention. There was nothing inside the porcelain; but she was not even as bright as that. The mental life! Suddenly she hated it with a rushing fury, the swindle!
She looked in the other mirror’s reflection at her back, her waist, her loins. She was getting thinner, but to her it was not becoming. The crumple of her waist at the back, as she bent back to look, was a little weary; and it used to be so gay looking. And the longish slope of her haunches and her buttocks had lost its gleam and its sense of richness. Gone! Only the German boy had loved it, and he was ten years dead, very nearly. How time went by! Ten years dead, and she was only twenty-seven. The healthy boy with his fresh, clumsy sensuality that she had then been so scornful of! Where would she find it now? It was gone out of men. They had their pathetic, two-second spasms, but no healthy human sensuality that warms the blood and freshens the whole being.
Still she thought the most beautiful part of her was the long-sloping fall of the haunches from the socket of the back, and the slumberous, round stillness of the buttocks. Like hillocks of sand, the Arabs say, soft and downward-slipping with a long slope. Here the life still lingered hoping. But here too she was thinner, and going unripe, astringent.
But the front of her body made her miserable. It was already beginning to slacken, with a slack sort of thinness, almost withered, going old before it had ever really lived. She thought of the child she might somehow bear. Was she fit, anyhow?
She slipped into her nightdress and went to bed, where she sobbed bitterly.
From Lady Chatterley’s Lover. In 1959, three decades after Lawrence’s eleventh novel was first published in a private edition, a New York court officially overturned a ban on its sale in the United States. Lawrence, the decision argued, wrote “with a moving tenderness which is compelling, once our agelong inhibitions against sex revelations in print have been passed.” The next year, the book was brought up on obscenity charges in Britain. Penguin, the book’s publisher, won the case and sold all 200,000 copies offered on the first day of sale.