He was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, the son of a miner. With his mother's encouragement, he became a schoolmaster and began to write. In 1911, after the success of his first novel, The White Peacock, he decided to write full-time. In 1912 he eloped with Frieda Weekley, a cousin of the German war ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen and wife of Ernest Weekley, and a professor at Nottingham University.
Lawrence had made his reputation with the semi-autobiographical Sons and Lovers (1913). They returned to England at the outbreak of World War I and lived in an atmosphere of suspicion and persecution in Cornwall. In 1915 he published The Rainbow, an exploration of marital and sexual relations, and was horrified when prosecuted for obscenity. He left England in 1919, and after three years' residence in Italy, where he produced another exploration of sex and marriage, Women in Love (1921), he went to the USA, settling in New Mexico until the tuberculosis from which he suffered drove him back to Italy where his last years were spent.
He was again shocked by further prosecutions for obscenity over the private publication in Florence of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1928 and over an exhibition of his paintings in London in 1929. Lady Chatterley's Lover was not published in the UK in unexpurgated form until after a sensational obscenity trial in 1961.
Opinion is still divided over his literary worth but his effect on the younger intellectuals of his period is certain. His descriptive passages are sometimes superb, but he had little humour, and this occasionally produced unintentionally comic effects. His finest writing occurs in his poems, where all but essentials have been pared away, but most of his novels have an enduring strength.
His other major novels include Aaron's Rod (1922), Kangaroo (1923, reflecting a visit to Australia) and The Plumed Serpent (1926, set in Mexico).
His collected poems were published in 1928, and his Complete Poems in 1957. A Complete Plays appeared in 1965, and his other writings include vivid travel narratives, essays, works of literary criticism and two studies of the unconscious. Over 5,000 of his letters have been published (7 voles, 1979)