In November 1922, Lawrence finally got his hands on a copy of Ulysses thanks to Thomas Seltzer. He presumed the book was a loan and was offended when he discovered Seltzer had bought it for him. ‘Please charge them to me, or I feel uneasy[i].’
A week later, Lawrence confides ‘I am one of those people who can’t read Ulysses. Only bits. But I am glad I have seen the book, since in Europe they usually mention us together – James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence – and I feel I ought to know in what company I creep to immortality. I guess Joyce would look as much askance on me as I on him. We make a choice of Paola and Francesca floating down the winds of hell.[ii]’
Virginia Woolf was more scathing of the modernist masterpiece, writing in her diary that it was ‘an illiterate, underbred book it seems to me: the book of a self-taught working man, and we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, and ultimately nauseating[iii]’
Lawrence was finding Mabel Dodge Sterne nauseating on account of her overbearing personality. The only solution was to move on to one of her other properties, ‘a little abandoned ranch… about 16 miles from here – on the Rockies foothills – Lobo[iv]’. Robert Mountsier, who was planning a visit, had hurt his hand. Lawrence doesn’t have much sympathy, warning he best ‘be better’ as ‘we shall have to chop much wood[v]’. However, bad weather meant he had to delay his plans to move further into the abyss.
Despite the set-back, he was clearly glad to be in New Mexico and enjoyed an uncharacteristic splurge on clothing, all detailed meticulously: ‘I actually wildly bought a pair of Justin’s Cowboy boots – 20 dollars – but very nice. You should see me – cowboy hat, good one, $5: sheepskin coat – $12.50 – corduroy riding-breeches, very nice, $5.’[vi]’
This seems quite the indulgence, particularly given he had only received a cheque for eight dollars that month for his submissions to Poetry, A Magazine of Verse[vii]. In terms of other writing, he was working through edits on Studies in Classic American Literature. However, his correspondence with Mabel Dodge Sterne was so strained it was reduced to lists of points, the first three of which begin ‘I don’t believe’[viii].
Fortunately, he was provided with another escape route courtesy of Alfred Decker Hawk (1862 – 1950) who lived with his wife Lucy and their daughter Elizabeth at the Del Monte Ranch, about two miles from Mable Dodge Sterne’s Lobo Ranch. They would be the Lawrence’s landlords on the 1000-acre ranch through the winter of 1922. Accompanying them were two impoverished Danish painters, Knud Merrild (1894 –1954) and Kai Gøtzsche (1886-1963).
‘The news at the moment is that we are leaving Mabel Sterne territory,’ Lawrence informs Mountsier, ‘it is unbearable’. And once more he’s fallen on his feet. The ranch is there’s for $100 until March and includes meat and milk. The Hawk’s had about 100 cattle and the Lawrence’s would have access to three or four horses[ix]. He would get to put his cowboy boots to good use.
One thing that is strikingly evident in Lawrence’s letters is how supportive he is of fellow artists and how much influence he exerted over all areas of his published work[x]. Just as he fought to have Jan Juta’s painting included in Sea and Sardinia, so to he begins pitching on behalf of Merrild, who would go on to produce designs for Kangaroo, Studies in Classic American Literature and The Captain’s Doll – all of which were bought by Seltzer, though he would only go on to use the latter.
His final letter of November is to Tony Luhan, Mabel Dodge Sterne’s future husband, whom he thanks profusely ‘for letting us live in your house’. There is even the offer of an olive branch, ‘come over soon with Mabel and see us at Lobo[xi].’
- [i] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2660)
- [ii] Letter to Mr. Wubberhorst (L2654)
- [iii] VW Diary 2, p 188-89
- [iv] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2646)
- [v] Letter to Robert Mountsier (L2647)
- [vi] Letter to Robert Mountsier (L2647)
- [vii] Letter to The Editor, Poetry, A Magazine of Verse (L2648)
- [viii] Letter to Mabel Dodge Sterne (L2649)
- [ix] Letter to Robert Mountsier (L2659)
- [x] For more explicit example of this see Annalise Grice. DH Lawrence and the Literary Marketplace: The Early Writings. (2021, Edinburg University Press).
- [xi] Letter to Tony Luhan (L2661)