A rare fantasy story by the great author D H Lawrence.

SHORT STORY REVIEW – D. H. LAWRENCE – A FRAGMENT OF STAINED GLASS 1914 In The Prussian Officer & Other Stories. Various editions.

One of Lawrence’s oddest stories, with a rare touch of fairy story fantasy fiction included. This reads like one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales albeit in modern English.

The story itself is a fragment, related, in a story surrounding the main tale, by a vicar with a slight body disfigurement and a tendency towards mild sarcasm that makes him unpopular with many of his parishioners. In his spare time he is an amateur social archaeologist, compiling a history of England & faith. He relates a story to a dinner guest about a fragment he has found, relating to a stained glass window in the ruins a nearby Cistercian Abbey.

The window displays a demonic devil trying to get into the church, which has given the monks within much cause for alarm.  The story the vicar relates seems to shed some light on the image.  It concerns a wicked man who bitten by a village horse in the 15th century beats it to death. Chastised by the villagers for his excessive reaction, he burns down their barn and becomes an outlaw.

He seduces a farm girl who joins him on his Bonnie & Clyde like crime spree, and they are outlaws, though the girl is afraid of wolves. 

Their last crime is against a fairy creature the man kills, stealing a bloodstone believing it will ward off the wolves. As he and the girl fight for possession of it, the wolves move in on them.  Here the fragment ends, and the vicar tells his guest that he still thinks the couple go on to live happily ever after. The guest seems more incredulous. 

There is a sense that the Vicar has made up the entire story and this is a parody of the Gothic fragment tales and revival of happy ever fairy stories of the writer’s period. Ultimately though, the story goes nowhere and doesn’t even explain the window picture. It’s a fun and curious story but not one of Lawrence’s best.

The full story is available here http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301501h.html#C04

Arthur Chappell

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