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ELT 44 : 2 2001 First & Second Chatterley D. H. Lawrence. The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. xl + 689 pp. $130.00 CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS has achieved another major success in its definitive editions of the prolific work of D. H. Lawrence, with the publication of The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels, edited by Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn. These earlier versions of Lady Chatterley's Lover, of course, have been available for some time as individual texts: version 1—as The First Lady Chatterley—since 1944 and version 2—as John Thomas and Lady Jane—since 1972. Surely their publication together in this handsome single volume will encourage Lawrence enthusiasts to ponder compelling comparisons between these early versions and perhaps to speculate further on the relevant development of Lawrence's life, art, and doctrine through all three examples of a project that became for him a consuming and palimpsestic saga. Indeed, the duration and intensity of his preoccupation with this novel is unusual even for Lawrence, a writer who often produced his best long fiction through consecutive rewritings, from beginning to end, of a completed manuscript. The strength of this Cambridge volume consists in its meticulous outline of the genesis and development of the two early versions, including an impressive, sleuthful determination of the dates that frame the composition of each version and of the impinging circumstances in Lawrence's life and emotional condition that bear upon his obsessive work on this novel. Among the provocative topics in the editors ' introduction is their frank acknowledgement of the difficulty in establishing a precise dating of the two extant manuscripts, with particular reference to the point at which the first version was finished and the second begun. Such ambiguity is related to the fact that Lawrence moves between each version in a virtual blur of writing activity; his struggle with this work, in effect, was so intense that "he was revising version 1 and rewriting it as version 2 almost simultaneously and as soon as he had finished version 1." The work originally conceived as a novella , an increasingly frail Lawrence still managed to write the two versions in sixteen months of sustained creative effort. This effective momentum was prompted, no doubt, by the nostalgic power of his final visit in the fall of 1926 to Eastwood and the Midlands, a trip that is reproduced , in part, in version 2 when the lovers go to Eastwood and poign238 BOOK REVIEWS antly observe the increasingly violated landscapes of Lawrence's boyhood. In addition to the customarily intelligent sub-sections in the Cambridge-Lawrence series concerned with basic issues of composition, publication, reception, and texts, this edition includes—as an appendix —a clarifying map and attached narrative under the heading of "The Novel's Geographical Setting and the English Midlands," in which the editors convincingly demonstrate "the fact, equally true for all three versions , that for all the novel's verifiable realism as to places and localities, Lawrence has created an imaginary landscape, closely rooted in the impressions of his formative years, but at the same time transformed into a symbolic and in many ways archetypal setting for his 'novel in the Derbyshire coal-mining districts.'" Yet such an important point about Lawrence's creative imagination is not pushed to its necessary conclusion, and it is in this context that I must register some objection to the strangely unevaluative approach taken by the editors on the three states of the novel. That is, there needs to be a more probing and comparative consideration of the profound differences in technique and achievement among the texts. I have long believed that some of the growing praise today in Lawrence studies for the first two versions is not unrelated to the increasing prominence in the academy of politically correct notions of gender and class—as if the explicit emphasis on the sexual birth of Connie in Lady Chatterley's Lover is as problematic to some commentators as the prominence of the ideology of class in the two early versions is meritorious to others. In short, the tone of uncommitted judgment in this volume...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 238-241
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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