Lawrence won’t tolerate tolerate bullying, even by kindness. Could this be the excuse he needed to move further away from people and begin Rananim?
It didn’t take Lawrence long to fall out with Mabel Dodge Sterne. The griping starts in September but becomes more pronounced over the following months. Until then, she’s sent an 11-point list of questions to get their proposed book collaboration under way[i]. Lawrence must have been feeling very direct on the 6 October as Robert Moutsier also gets a similar-sized list of questions[ii].
Lawrence has a lot of literary business to sort out and is ‘willing to make revisions of all sorts[iii]’ to Kangaroo though is adamant the autobiographical ‘Nightmare’ chapter must remain[iv]. E.M. Forster would describe this as ‘the most heart-rending account of non-fighting that has ever been written.[v]’ There’s ownership rights over Sons and Lovers to deal with, an article written against the Bursum Land Bill[vi], and he writes his first poem in America, ‘Eagle in New Mexico,’ which will be added to Birds, Beasts and Flowers. Yet he still finds time to help others, sending Mountsier a ‘translation of a Dutch classic, Max Havelaar’ by an Australian he met. ‘Do something with it if you can, will you?’[vii]
Although he has ‘a gay little adobe house on the edge of the desert, with the mountains sitting under the sun’ and visits ‘hots springs’[viii]’ and rides every afternoon ‘till sundown[ix]’ along the sage-brush desert with Frieda, life is far from perfect. There are no egg cups, something Mountsier is able to procure[x]. Mountsier is sent very specific instructions on how to visit them with options and routes that would put Google Maps to shame.[xi] He is also provided with a food budget that recommends a 75-cent meal at a nearby hotel[xii]. If he does turn up, Lawrence requests he ‘bring me a couple of gold ten-dollar pieces and three or four five dollars, from the bank: for the servants at Christmas.[xiii]’
Lawrence expresses his frustration through his definitions of freedom, which is ‘a tension like a stretched bow, which might snap[xiv]’ He complains that he doesn’t ‘breathe free[xv]’ and that in America ‘people charge at you like trucks coming down on you – no awareness’ and you have to ‘dodge aside in time’ and although this causes a yearning for the ‘mildness of Europe’ he can’t help but like the place too[xvi]. But there’s always a back-up plan. He confides to Witter Brynner, the poet who put the Lawrence’s up during their first night in Sante Fe, that if he ‘find(s) neighbours here oppressive’ he can always escape to Mexico[xvii].
October brings sad news with the death of Sallie Hopkin. She would be buried ‘down Church Street’ in Eastwood near his own family. Lawrence offers condolences to his good friend Willie Hopkin on the 25th while acknowledging ‘one uses words to cover up a crying inside one.[xviii]’ It is also at the end of the month that he begins plans to move further away from Mabel Dodge Sterne who ‘arranges one too much’. He ‘won’t be bullied, even by kindness’[xix]’ But it is her kindness that enables a possible escape in the form of the Kiowa Ranch, roughly 20 miles away. It’s in a pretty-bad state but can be remedied with a bit of love and hard graft and possibly transformed into ‘a central farm.[xx]’Could this be the Rananim he had been dreaming of?
- [i] Letter to Mabel Dodge Sterne, 6 Oct 1922 (L2621)
- [ii] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 6 Oct 1922 (L2622)
- [iii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer, 7 Oct 1922 (L2623)
- [iv] Letter to Thomas Seltzer, 16 Oct 1922 (L2627)
- [v] In Bill Goldstein, The World Broke in Two, Henry Holt, 2017. p.290.
- [vi] ‘Certain Americans and an Englishman’ pub New York Times Magazine, 24 Dec 1922. This would later appear in Dial, 1xxiv (Feb 1923 p:144-52.
- [vii] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 25 Oct 1922 (L2635)
- [viii] Letter to Amy Lowell, 19 Oct 1922 (L2631)
- [ix] Letter to William Hopkin, 25 Oct 1922 (L2633)
- [x] Letter to Robert Mountsier 27 Oct 1922 (L2637)
- [xi] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 16 Oct 1922 (L2628)
- [xii] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 18 Oct 1922 (L2630)
- [xiii] ibid
- [xiv] Letter to Harriet Monroe, 4 Oct 1922 (L2620)
- [xv] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 18 Oct 1922 (L2630)
- [xvi] Letter to Amy Lowell, 19 Oct 1922 (L2631)
- [xvii] Letter to Witter Bynner, c. Oct 1922 (L2619)
- [xviii] Letter to William Hopkin, 25 Oct 1922 (L2633)
- [xix] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 28 Oct 1922 (L2638)
- [xx] Letter to Bessie Freeman, 31 Oct 1922 (L2643)