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THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF NORRIS' MORAN Joseph R. McElrath, Jr. Florida State University Because Moran ofthe Lady Letty has appeared "minor" beside Frank Norris' McTeague and The Octopus, little close attention has been given it. Critics, in fact, have tended to dismiss rather than analyze Moran. A result is that biographers and historians have not had available information still embedded in its textual remains, data that reveal some significant personality traits and, in one set of altered passages, Norris' quite lively response to a major event in American history. The problem is that few readers have looked beyond the first-edition text of the novel, and no one has fully reported on the character of the work prior to the point at which it assumed its final form. The textual history of Moran is a bit more complicated than most. Norris wrote against weekly press deadlines for the first appearance, a January 8-April 9, 1898 serialization in the San Francisco Wave. The manuscript does not survive, and so this is the earliest textual form. The next step in textual transmission was marked paste-up of the Wave pages; and analysis of all of the data indicates that two lines of textual descent originated from it. L The first began with a further edited syndicate release set in type by S. S. McClure from the paste-up. This was used by the New York Evening Sun (May 4-19, 1898) and the Chicago Inter Ocean (August 22-September 4, 1898) for their serializations, and the editors of both papers introduced more changes. The second line of descent was created when Doubleday & McClure Co. used the paste-up to produce the first edition of September 17, 1898, which scholars have long viewed as the text. In choosing to use the Doubleday & McClure text (and the collected edition texts derived from it), Norris scholars may have selected the most authoritative version of Moran. There is no way to prove that any anterior form is superior; what were Norris' intentions after the Wave appearance and who, exactly, introduced all of the textual alterations are unknown. That debatable matter aside, though, the Wave version is worthy of close attention since it contains much of Norris in the winter and spring of 1898 and, even ifhe was responsible for all of the revisions, the unrevised readings tell much about the man at one point in his career. What the original Moran reveals, first, is that Norris was considerably less restrained on the west coast. Vulgar terms and crude expressions flow from the mouths of the three principal characters, mouths that were dramatically stopped in New York City. Scores of hells, damns, and Gods disappeared as Moran made its way east. Those uttered by the hero Ross Wilbur and the degenerate captain of the Bertha Miltner, Kitchell, 256Notes counted for little beyond nautical flavor. But Norris' most unique—or, bizarre—creation, Moran Sternersen, did suffer from the sanitizing treatment afforded her. After all, Moran was designed as a different kind of romantic heroine: larger and stronger than all of the males and capable of torture by means of grinding down an unfortunate's teeth with a file, Moran is a tatooed ruffian who enjoys a pony of whiskey on suitable occasions, such as breakfast. Much of the anti-romantic parody of the work depends on Moran speaking like what she is, a sailor. A typical dilution of her speech may be seen in the following:2 Wave Serial "Oh, to hell with you and your coolies. . . . Stand by. . . ." Newspaper Serials "Oh, get out. you and your coolies. . , . Stand by. ... First Edition "Stand by. ..." She was also deprived of many choice expressions such as "I'd take her through from hell to Hackensack " (p. 263) and "the schooner smells like a dead Jew'" (p. 112). Sometimes the Doubleday & McClure text was more finicky than the newspaper serials were. The newspapers allowed the portrait of Moran "wiping the whiskey from her lips" (p. 169) while the book demurred . But in other moments the book was more adventuresome. It kept two statements cut in the syndicate release, both of which insisted on Moran s virtue: "Her purity was the...


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