Early in 1915 D.H. Lawrence, the son of a coal miner but a rising novelist and the self-styled "priest of love," visited Bertrand Russell and his friends at Cambridge. He came away from Cambridge "very black and down," unable to bear the "smell of rottenness, marsh-stagnancy" there. He described this visit as "one of the crises in my life."
Ironically, it is the Cambridge University Press that is completing Lawrence's literary canonization. Since 1980, Cambridge has been publishing newly edited texts of Lawrence's works, including the novel "Mr. Noon," two-thirds of which had never been published. "Women in Love" and "Love Among the Haystacks" are the ninth and tenth volumes in the edition, with many more to follow.
Cambridge has also been issuing a new edition of Lawrence's letters. Lawrence ranks as one of the century's greatest and most voluminous correspondents. Though most of his 6,000 letters have been previously published, they are scattered in dozens of books and journals. The complete Cambridge "Letters" will fill seven volumes and total more than 4,000 pages.
Volume 5, covering 1921-1924, finds Lawrence at his most restless. He complains that his "heart and (his) soul are broken, in Europe," and he leaves Italy for Taos, by way of Ceylon and Australia. Feeling spurned by his native England, he wants to take root in the country that had become his major market. His journeys would also take him to New York City, Chicago, and Mexico City, and he spent September, 1923, in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Palm Springs. As the "old world gave way to a new," he felt renewed hope.
The best letters brilliantly and energetically evoke the world Lawrence traveled through. Ceylon is "like a prison over you: the palm trees and the noise and the sullenness of the forest." "Queer, grey, sad" Australia is "empty, and as if it would never be filled." The "steel rails in ribbons" of the streets of San Francisco are like "the path of death itself." Los Angeles is "silly," and all the driving around (in 1923!) made him "tired and vague." California "has turned its back on the world, and looks into the void Pacific." Consider it a compliment when the irritable Lawrence declares that California is "not so bad, in some ways."
Most critics consider "Women in Love," first published in 1920, to be Lawrence's masterpiece and one of the great modern novels. In this turbulent book, Lawrence passionately attempts to reinvent love in a dying, destructive world and also to imagine an intense new relationship between men.
The published editions of "Women in Love" have always been textually corrupt. Lawrence revised the novel extensively over four years, and many mistranscriptions entered the text. The original English and American publishers both nervously censored passages without telling Lawrence. A threatened libel suit also forced him to alter two characters and many details.
The newly edited "Women in Love" will not strike readers as dramatically different, but the novel has gained in freshness and immediacy. The fascinating restored passages make the novel bolder. Birkin walks around Halliday's flat "in a state of nudity," not "in white pajamas." As he rolls naked among the hyacinths and fir-boughs, he knows "where to plant himself, his seed:--along with the trees, in the folds of the delicious fresh growing leaves." Perhaps most striking is the deleted dialogue between Birkin and Gerald Crich, to whom Birkin has proposed a bond of blood-brotherhood. When Gerald argues that "there can never be anything as strong between man and man as sex love between man and woman" because "nature doesn't provide the basis," Birkin responds, "I think she does. And I don't think we shall ever be happy till we establish ourselves on this basis."
The Cambridge editions attempt to strike a balance between scholarship and popular accessibility. The text, presented clearly and readably, is of course the main feature. Most of the scholarly apparatus, including excellent notes, textual variants, Lawrence's 1919 "Foreword," and two early discarded chapters, are placed at the back. The introduction provides a valuable history of the novel's composition, revision, publication, and reception.
"Love Among the Haystacks and Other Stories" is a minor volume in the edition. It brings together the early stories that Lawrence did not collect in his first book of short fiction, "The Prussian Officer" (1914). Still, such relatively little-known stories as the title story, "A Modern Lover," and "The Old Adam" help demonstrate that Lawrence was the greatest 20th-Century British short story writer. These new Cambridge editions will help guarantee that he'll be around for a long time.