The following was written and translated into English by Emile Delavenay
Visitors to Vence often enquire from the Mairie about Lawence's grave
and his last days in Vence. They are often referred to E. Delavenay, Hon.
Prof, University of Nice, who filed at the town hall in 1981 a paper relating
the essential facts. This has now been updated in the following form.
D.H.LAWRENCE AT VENCE (6 February-2March 1930)
D.H.LAWRENCE, born in 1885 at Eastwood (Nottighamshire), at present merged with other towns under the name of Broxtowe district, was the son of Arthur John Lawrence, a coal miner, and of Lydia Beardsall.
Towards the end of his wandering life, he had been staying at Bandol since October 1929 when Dr Andrew Morland, the English lung specialist, examined him and persuaded him that his long-neglected tuberculosis required urgent care. On his advice Lawrence moved on 6 February to the sanatorium called AD ASTRA at Vence, where he was examined and attended by Doctor Madinier. As the news spread that his life was in danger; H.G. WELLS, and the AGA KHAN, called on him, and the American sculptor Jo DAVIDSON made a model of his bust. He did not take kindly to life in the clinic, and left it on March 1st for the Villa ROBERMOND, where he died the next day, in the care of his wife Frieda von RICHTHOFEN, of the English writer Aldous HUXLEY and his Belgian wife Maria NYS.
Burial and exhumation
LAWRENCE was buried in the old Vence cemetery on a March 1930. His remains were exhumed in March 1935 in the presence of Mrs Gordon CROTCH, an English resident, and incinerated at Marseille on March 13. A wooden box holding a sealed zinc container in which were his ashes, was then delivered, together with the appropriate transatlantic transport authorization by the Prefecture, dated 14 March, to the former captain of Bersaglieri Angelo RAVAGLI, at that time the factotum and lover of Lawrence's widow. His mission was to take the ashes to Taos (New Mexico) in "a beautiful vase" specially ordered by Frieda for this purpose. The ashes brought to Taos by RAVAGLI in grotesque cicumstances were cast by him into the concrete slab of a "shrine" which he built at the KIOWA ranch at San Cristobal near Taos.
When Baron de HAULLEVILLE and his sister-in-law Rose NYS-de HAULLEVILLE (who knew Ravagli through the Huxleys) were Ravagli's guests atTaos, Ravagli after partaking from a bottle of bourbon, confessed late one night to having dumped the box and ashes between Marseille and Villefranche (where he was due to sail on the Conde di Savoia), so as to avoid the expense and trouble of transporting them to the USA. When in New York he collected Frieda's vase, mailed "to be called for" from Marseille, and put into it some locally procured ashes which he took to Taos.
Reading material on this subject: Jeffrey ROBINSON, "The D.H. Lawrence tombstone mystery", International Herald Tribune, 12 November 1976.
That article induced baron de Haulleville to write a letter to Robinson, fully quoted in: Emile DELAVENAY, "A Shrine without Relics?", in The D.H. Lawrence Review , Volume 16 Number 2, pp 111-131, written in 1984 after an interview in Vence with de Haulleville when he came to look after the grave of his brother the poet, who died at Saint Paul de Vence in 1941.
The Villa ROBERMOND, later called the Villa AURELLA, was demolished and on its site is now a small apartment house, Le Saint Martin, on the Chemin de Clairefontaine, Quartier de Saint Donat, off the road to Grasse. Of the original villa there only remains part of the old entrance gate, under a metal arch. A memorial plate sent by the Broxtowe district council was unveiled on the garden wall in 1985 for the centenary of LAWRENCE's death.
A tombstone decorated with Lawrence's emblem the Phoenix, designed in seashore pebbles by the Veneois Dominique Matteucci, was saved after the exhumation by Mrs CROTCH, who kept it many years in Vence then moved it to England. It was ultimately rescued by professor Vivian de SOLA PINTO and taken to Eastwood.
The above information is from professor Emile DELAVENAY, Universite de NICE, the author of D.H.Lawrence, l'Homme et la Genese de son Îuvre: Les Annees de Formation, 1885-1919, Klincksieck, 1969. English edition: D.H.Lawrence, the Man and his Work The Formative Years , Heinemann (London) and University of Southern Illinois Press, (Carbondale).
See also his article "Les derniers jours de Lawrence a Vence en 1930" in the Vence journal Tout Va Bien, no 4, 15 avril-15 juin 1980.
There is no reason to doubt HAULLEVILLE's story. HAULLEVILLE ROBINSON