The Virgin & the Gypsy by DH Lawrence
As an A level student studying English Literature back in the 1960s, I found myself immersed in the rich offerings from DH Lawrence. I remember the set text on my syllabus was Sons and Lovers, but the national debate that had been raging over the Lady Chatterely trial, when Penguin had published the unabridged edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, only served to excite the interest in young testosterone-driven teenagers, who could easily secrete small Penguin copies into bags and pockets, and find some quiet corner to assuage their curiosity.
All of a sudden, semi-literate and reluctant readers found their interest stirred by the closely printed pages of the paperback, and dog-eared and well-thumbed copies were circulating amongst the masses until they fell apart from overuse. Of course, now in the 21st century, with all that we are exposed to by the multi-media, we wonder how we could have been so excited by such developments. But the Lady Chatterley trial was a key moment in literary history when literature that had formerly been labelled as ‘pornography’ (ie. the sort that you wouldn’t want your wife or servants to find in the house) was formally sanctioned as a serious art form. In other words, it heralded a new age………
The Virgin and the Gypsy is a novella from Lawrence’s later years, and was only discovered after his death, and explores the burgeoning sexual curiosity of a young country vicar’s daughter, Yvette, who tries to break the chains that have locked her into the conventional existence that she despises so much. Like many of Lawrence’s women, she is wilful and headstrong, and her attraction to a local gypsy causes her to strain at the leash. This short story is a powerful insight into Yvette’s struggle to break free from the Victorian mores and unforgiving rigidity of her upbringing.