"Flame Into Being" was written on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of D. H. Lawrence's birth in 1885. Burgess traces Lawrence's life and offers critical commentary on all the major and most of the minor writings. Though he initially planned to discuss only a few of Lawrence's books, he found "that it was not possible to separate Lawrence's work from his life."
Burgess writes vigorously, concisely, and sometimes racily. He doesn't pretend to have original things to say, but he provides a lively account of his subject. "Flame Into Being" isn't a bad starting point for someone first coming to Lawrence.
Still, it's a rather condescending portrait. Burgess emphasizes Lawrence's driven, erratic, self-contradictory qualities. He makes him seem so out-of-control that it seems impossible that Lawrence could have written "Women in Love," "one of the 10 great novels of the century." Burgess' version of Lawrence is almost totally lacking in intellect and doesn't have any ideas of enduring value.
Burgess also makes mistakes. He seriously misinterprets Lawrence when he talks of love as a "fusion that dissolve(s) both persons involved," and he's dead wrong when he associates Lawrence with the notion of " 'good animals' that human beings ought to be." He doesn't have the details of a 1907 short-story contest quite right, and he erroneously talks about the gamekeeper in "Lady Chatterley" "marrying a lady" since no marriage takes place between Mellors and Connie. Mary Cannon should be Mary Cannan, P. R. Stephenson is really P. R. Stephensen.