My Days With Frieda Lawrence

Commentary, August 1998; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).


It was a lovely place, that ranch, near (but not at) the top of a mountain a few miles from Taos, New Mexico, and so inaccessible that no one was likely to come upon it inadvertently. My wife and I spent our honeymoon at the ranch in 1951, when Lawrence’s widow Frieda still owned it, although she no longer lived there. We were alone, except when Frieda and Angie would come up from Taos for lunch or dinner; Angie was Angelo Ravagli, the model for the gamekeeper Mellors in Lawrence’s most famous novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928), and soon to become Frieda’s husband. Alone, my wife and I could sit on the wooden steps of the “big house” and look over the sagebrushed desert spread out below us, with the Rio Grande visible-and in that clear air almost always visible-in the distance. And we could walk for hours along the crude aqueduct the Indians had constructed to carry water to the ranch and to the concrete swimming pool (built by Angie) in which we could swim, naked as jaybirds. It was a perfect place for a honeymoon.

The ranch had been owned by Mabel Dodge, a pretentious New Yorker with lots of money who came to Taos, married a local Indian named Tony Luhan (whom I never heard utter a word), and settled in to become a patroness of the arts. The Lawrences acquired it from her in exchange for the manuscript of Lawrence’s early masterpiece, Sons and Lovers (1913). I do not know what Mabel did with the manuscript, but Frieda, sole proprietor after Lawrence’s death in 1930, left the ranch to the University of New Mexico, which, as the story in the Washington Times informs us, has allowed it to “decline from asset to eyesore.”

American Enterprise Institute