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Book Reviews, 32:2, 1988 LAWRENCE'S WOMEN IN LOVE D. H. Lawrence. Women in Love. David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Cloth $79.50 Paper $24.95 There was a time when D. H. Lawrence was thought of as the prototypical formless writer, an itinerant seer whose frenetic pen dashed off whole novels in a matter of weeks and could not be troubled with the tedium of revision. Surely the ongoing publication of the Cambridge Edition of the Letters and Works of Lawrence lays to rest whatever vestiges of this myth might have survived the appearance in recent years of the Chatterley novels, which showed that even a dying Lawrence insisted on completely rewriting-not revising-his novel three times. Indeed we now know what an inveterate rewriter he was. Given the opportunity, he would virtually create a work anew each time he took it up, a practice which played havoc with his publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, who were ofttimes sent substantially different works under the same title. Both circumstance and a precept dictated the peripatetic Lawrence's practice of re-seeing a work of fiction. But as the volume under review demonstrates, Lawrence's imaginative commitment to the project originally known as "The Sisters" was, even for an habitual rewriter, astonishing. Lasting for nearly eight years and six more or less complete versions, the project became literally too big to contain in a single book. Lawrence began what he first thought of as a potboiler in midMarch 1913, while he and his wife-to-be Frieda were living at Gargano. He struggled with "The Sisters," discovering it was difficult "to find exactly the form one's passion . . . wants to take." Before completing the 296-page manuscript in June 1913, he had sloughed the potboiler idea and decided that the novel would concern "the problem of today, the establishment of a new relation, or the readjustment of the old one, between man and woman." A six-page fragment, perhaps a revision of the ending, is all that survives of this first draft. It offers a scene involving Gerald Crich, Gudrun Brangwen, and Herr Loerke, and concerns which man will marry Gudrun who is pregnant by Gerald. In other words, this initial version apparently focused on several of the characters and situations which were to become the subject of Women in Love, published in 1920. After a summer of travel, Lawrence began the second version, "Sisters II," in August 1913. Again he experienced difficulty and complained of proceeding "like a somnambulist." He wrote to his editor Edward Garnett explaining how different the new work was from Sons and Lovers, "in another language almost." By the 256 Book Reviews, 32:2, 1988 following January he had sent Garnett the last installment of the 380page manuscript. The eight-page fragment which has survived shows that at this stage Lawrence was still dealing with contemporary characters and events which would, mutatis mutandis, reappear later in Women in Love. (This fragment, along with the one from the first version, will be printed in the Cambridge edition of The Rainbow, edited by Mark Kinkead-Weekes.) In early February Lawrence was already launched on a new version, retitled "The Wedding Ring," in which he explored the family background of the Brangwen sisters, recounting the courtships and marriages of their parents and grandparents. This long (600-page manuscript ) version was finished by mid-May 1914 and soon prepared for submission to publishers in England and the United States. By now Lawrence believed sufficiently in the new work to defend it against criticism; it was at this time (5 June 1914) that he wrote his famous letter to Garnett explaining the revolutionary principle of his novel: its attempt to depict the "psychic . . . [or] non-human" forces in humanity undergoing "allotropie" variations of "the same single radically-unchanged element." Notwithstanding these bold words, "The Wedding Ring" was returned by Methuen in August 1914, an event auspiciously coinciding with the beginning of the First World War. Earlier, his American agent's reader, Alfred Kutter, wrote a report criticizing the novel's excessive bulk, the "rambling" portions dealing with the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 256-259
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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