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ELT: Volume 33:2, 1990 Aaron's Rod D. H. Lawrence. Aaron's Rod. Mara Kalnins, ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988. xliv + 353 pp. Cloth $75.00 Paper $24.95 VOLUMES OF THE CAMBRIDGE LAWRENCE continue to appear at infrequent intervals: a pace that seems inevitable with scholarly editions. As for the novels, only two of the major works, Women in Love and The Plumed Serpent, have been published to date, so that the impact of restored texts and the wealth of new supporting material has not yet been great on the study of Lawrence's longer fiction. However, the appearance of Aaron's Rod, with The Lost Girl and the complete Mr Noon already in print, opens to the world of Lawrence criticism for the first time an opportunity for thorough analysis of these three intertwined and never more than half-understood works. They belong to the only period of Lawrence's life when he was occupied alternately—one might almost say simultaneously—with the creation of three novels at once: and as we hardly need add, involved with living out the substance of the experience that went into their making. This was the period beginning with his expulsion from Cornwall and ending, in effect, with his departure for America: the period as well of the psychology books and, even more important, of the essays on early American literature as they stood up to the time when Lawrence left for the New World by way of the East. There is much to be discovered about how these essays helped in bringing the novels to pass, and about how these three novels constitute the first phase of Lawrence's next experiment in long fiction after completion of the cycle The Rainbow-Women in Love: an experiment that proceeded through Kangaroo and The Plumed Serpent, through the misnamed "leadership" period. Aaron's Rod, The Lost Girl and Mr Noon all set the questing spirit in motion toward America, and all of them seek what might better be called "mastery" than "leadership": mastery over the self and atonement with divine impulses, mastery among others through a natural, unforced aristocratic power. The "lost girl," Alvina Houghton, anticipates America as resurrection after the death of Europe in the Great War. Both of Aaron's temptresses are American, on his journey toward self-sufficiency or else acceptance of natural authority in a greater man, and his dream-vision of himself as pilgrim to a reborn land reveals the ancient lake-city of the Aztecs as goal. The unfinished Mr Noon, with its leap including metamorphosis of the hero from Part I to Part II, was perhaps to take another leap to the New 246 Book Reviews World after the never-written third part; at any rate Lawrence in a letter to his American agent, Robert Mountsier, declared that if he ever completed the novel it would have to be done in the States. Now wherever a deeper investigation of these novels may lead, one conclusion is soon likely to be evident: in these as in the next two novels to come, Lawrence was experimenting with romance, a form emulated from Hawthorne, Melville and Cooper. Confirmation of this attempt comes from Lawrence himself, again in a letter to Mountsier, from Australia: "I am going to try to write a romance." The result was Kangaroo. Mara Kalnins is a painstaking and judicious editor, as already demonstrated in her work on Apocalypse and the Writings on Revelation (1980), the first volume of the Cambridge Lawrence to be published—although on Aaron's Rod I disagree with one of her fundamental decisions, as I will explain shortly. The introduction to this novel goes deeply and clearly into a detailed reconstruction of context, composition, and reception of the work by the literary world on first publication: all this in accordance with the policy of the Cambridge editorial board to restrict introductions to matters of information. It is a wise policy. Critical discussion is soon dated, and the volumes of the Cambridge Lawrence, we trust, will be around for a long time. The explanatory notes fulfill admirably the functions of annotation, being particularly useful in identifying people, events and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 246-249
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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