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  • Lawrence's Mornings in Mexico
  • Peter Balbert
D. H. Lawrence . Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde , ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. lxxxi + 370 pp. $125.00

Cambridge University Press as part of its D. H. Lawrence series has published still another definitive and scrupulously designed [End Page 551] edition, Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays—a volume that also provides abundant primary and secondary source material on Mesoamerican mythology and history as well as accessible avenues for further cultural investigation by Lawrence scholars. The central text, Mornings in Mexico, remains one of Lawrence's most important collections of essays, and the talented editor, Virginia Crosswhite Hyde, provides a complete apparatus of indices, footnotes, maps, biographical timelines, chronological frameworks, and manuscript provenance to further establish the significance of Lawrence's provocative and lyrical essays on Mexico and the American Southwest, including his relevant preoccupation with such Indian tribes as the Lapotec, Mixtecca, Serrano, Apache, Hopi, and Pueblo. The Cambridge volume is innovatively designed as "the first critical edition of Lawrence's complete essays about Mexican and Southwestern Indians, both those published in 1927 as Mornings in Mexico, and the other essays Lawrence wrote about them during his American years." The virtue of this approach is that the edition, in its inclusive format, both confirms the consistency and incisiveness of Lawrence's relevant notions about a distinct "spirit of place," while it also documents the range of nonfictional rhetorical skills he uses to frame his edgy arguments and symbologies through the many years and essays encompassed by this ambitious volume.

Thus the book is hefty in its length and importance, with double the essays in all previous editions; it includes an early, undeveloped and intriguing draft of "Pan in America" that is published for the first time, as well as previously unpublished passages from other essays that further document Lawrence's intentions in the final versions. The various appendices and chronologies are substantial in scope, involving pre-Columbian Mexico, Peru, the Republic of Mexico, Oaxaca, and the Southwestern United States, including such special items as detailed 1920s maps of Oaxacan and Hopi villages, the Del Monte and Kiowa ranches, and Europe. The explanatory notes section is unusually comprehensive even by the high standards of the Cambridge Lawrence editions, and readers will particularly enjoy a useful glossary of selected Spanish and Indian terms that enhances the multilingual aspects of the essays. The volume also contains the customary full textual apparatus that illuminates the litany of Lawrence's revisions during his composition of each of the pieces collected by the editor.

Aside from the superb quality of Lawrence's essays, the most impressive item in this edition must be Hyde's fifty-five page introduction—a work of outstanding scholarly synthesis and analysis that reflects a [End Page 552] sensitivity to the doctrinal art of the essays as well as a shrewd awareness of Lawrence's impinging biography and his complex, often frustrating dealings with publishers, agents, and editors. The editor understands the essential notion that many critics have failed to perceive about Mornings in Mexico: that the essays achieve a delicate balance between Lawrence's reaction against a sentimental attitude toward the primitivism of the Indians and his admiration for the power and iconoclasm of their primitive beliefs within a dominant Western culture that increasingly privileges the mechanized and materialistic rhythms of modern life. The volume encompasses Lawrence's three periods of residence in New Mexico and three trips to Mexico; these separate periods in his biography document his secondary fascination with Mexico and his more persistent preoccupation with the symbol and fact of America throughout his career—seeing the United States at various times (depending on the vagaries of his mood) as potential utopia, convenient escape, and energetic incarnation of an anti-England.

Hyde intelligently organizes her introduction into seven discrete chronological segments so that the essays from Mornings in Mexico become subsumed within the linear framework of months and years that includes all the nineteen essays in the volume—ranging from "Pueblos and an Englishman," "Certain Americans and an Englishman," "Indians and an Englishman," and "Taos" (all written at Taos and/or the Del Monte Ranch...


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pp. 551-556
Launched on MUSE
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Will Be Archived 2021
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