Each month we publish a visual essay exploring Lawrence’s movements one hundred years ago. The following is based on Volume IV of his letters.
You can always rely on Lawrence to be a bit dramatic and so if nobody wants his essay ‘The Future of the Novel’ Thomas Seltzer can ‘burn it[i]’. There was no need. It would find a home in the Literary Digest International Review in April. But perhaps he reacted like this because the censors did want to eradicate his writing. Women in Love had been selling well, but the New York Justice John Ford (1862 – 1941) wanted the ‘loathsome’ book withdrawn after discovering his daughter reading a copy. He’d do best to ‘leave the tree of knowledge alone’ warned Lawrence in a telegram that would be published in the New York Times. ‘The judge won’t succeed in chopping it down, with his horrified hatchet. Many better men have tried and failed.[ii]’
Up on the Del Monte Ranch in the Lobo mountains, Lawrence was loving life with his two Danish friends Knud Merrild and Kai Gøtzsche. The days were filled with hard graft, the evenings with song and conversation. Frieda informs her mother ‘Lawrence has a cold, chopped ice for hours in a frozen-over brook![iii]’
Gøtzsche had been painting Lawrence. He has his arms folded and looks like he’s in a grump. ‘They say it has got my get-rid-of Mountsier face[iv]’ And get rid of his American literary agent he did. This was mainly because Seltzer refused to work with him and because Lawrence felt Mounsier didn’t believe in him, ‘he was against me inwardly.[v]’ Mountsier had visited Lawrence at the ranch in December and was still in Taos, so Lawrence was able to tell him in person. However, Frieda reports that after doing this, Lawrence ‘took some sandwiches and went off’ and ‘I was left alone with him for lunch.[vi]’
It’s a productive period for Lawrence. He completes the proofs for The Captain’s Doll and The Fox and requests the proofs for The Ladybird. A complete manuscript of Birds, Beasts and Flowers is sent to Seltzer which ‘when you have time to read it you will agree it is a remarkable collection.[vii]’ And he must make time to read it because he wants to see ‘a perfect MSS (…) before I leave America. And I want to leave soon[viii]’ Concerned at the poverty facing ‘the Danes’ he wants Merrild to do the jacket.
John Middleton Murry is consoled over the death of his wife, Katherine Mansfield, who died on 9 January. Lawrence was pretty nasty to Mansfield which may have been partly because of his own ill health and the subsequent stigma attached to it. He views her dying at one point as a weakness, something she failed to control: ‘One must fight, or die, like Katherine.[ix]’ But he does attempt an apology of sorts: ‘I wish it needn’t all have been as it has been: I do wish it.[x]’ And to prove his sincerity, he instructs Seltzer to send Murry copies of three of his latest books[xi].
After a winter in the Lobo mountains, it’s time to move on again. Mexico is his next intended stop and so Seltzer is asked to send over a copy of Terry’s Guide to Mexico so that he can prepare. (Thomas Philip Terry, 1923) Bessie Freeman is asked whether she can provide useful introductions to ‘anybody nice[xii]’ and Spud Johnson is given a breakdown of travel costs so that he and Witter Bynner can join them.[xiii]
Frieda suggests the reason for their latest move being ‘Lawr wants to go to Mexico, he thinks he might write his American novel there – You know he would like to write a novel of each continent – if possible.[xiv]’
England may still be off the cards but there is a suggestion of a reconciliation. ‘At the moment I can’t come to England. Something inside me simply doesn’t let me. I mistrust my country too much to identify myself with it any more. And it still gives me a certain disgust. But this may pass.[xv]’
- [i] Thomas Seltzer (L2703)
- [ii] Thomas Seltzer (L2708)
- [iii] Baroness Anna von Richthofen (L2731)
- [iv] Thomas Seltzer (L2703)
- [v] Thomas Seltzer (L2707)
- [vi] Adele Seltzer (L2716)
- [vii] Thomas Seltzer (L2707)
- [viii] Thomas Seltzzer ibid
- [ix] S.S. Koteliansky (L2718)
- [x] John Middleton Murry (L27013)
- [xi] Thomas Seltzer (L2705)
- [xii] Bessie Freeman (L2728)
- [xiii] Willard Johnson (L2721)
- [xiv] Adele Seltzer (L2716)
- [xv] John Middleton Murry (L2733)