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Haggs Farm AGM 2019

Updated: Jul 8, 2019


At the recent Haggs Farm Preservation Society AGM in May, Dr David Mitchell of Scarthin Books, Cromford gave a fascinating talk on DH Lawrence’s time at Mountain Cottage on the Via Gelia near Middleton and its influence on his short story Wintry Peacock.

A precis by Philipa Coughlin is given below:

David began by outlining how Lawrence and Frieda had come to move to Mountain Cottage in spring 1918, after having to leave Zennor because of the reports regarding suspected spying and Frieda’s nationality. Lawrence’s sister Ada had secured the rental and paid for a lease for a year. The cottage, built over the Goodluck Mine, is just outside Cromford but is tricky to get to (although one of our members had just that morning driven by it!) but Lawrence took to the place with his usual enthusiasm, especially with his love of landscape and nature. He called the valley in which it was situated “exactly the navel of England!” Lawrence immersed himself into country life on arrival: “The world is a queer place. I set potatoes and mow the grass.”

David then went onto discuss and show the area which formed the backdrop to Lawrence’s short story ‘The Wintry Peacock’ which is part of the ‘England, My England’ collection. Possibly linked to a classical tale including Hera it mentions Tible as the main farming village in which a property has some peacocks. It seems obvious the place is based on the nearby village of Ible, which Lawrence could well have walked to from Mountain Cottage and a property, Home Farm, which apparently did have peacocks! David retraced and photographed the walk the main character in the story takes when he meets the young wife concerned to learn whether her husband returning from the war has been “up to no good” with a woman in Belgium and asks him to translate a letter. A fascinating re-reading of the story in the context of how Lawrence as a writer would frame his characters (often real people) within a natural setting that was well walked and known to him personally.

The talk made us all want to immediately head off into Derbyshire to see these places! And our thanks must go to David for bringing such knowledge and enthusiasm to the subject.

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