Locating Lawrence: June 1923

In these monthly videos we are locating D.H. Lawrence 100 years ago via his letters. He is currently in Chapala putting the finishing touches to the first draft of what will become The Plumed Serpent...

‘On the hot afternoons one must have something to read[i]’ and so Idella Purnell is given a reading list to source that includes Soeur Philomene (1890) by the Goncourt brothers. Edmund and Jules Goncourt were unique siblings in terms of literary history in that they wrote all their books together and did not spend more than a day apart in their adult lives, until Jules’s death in 1870.

One thing Lawrence doesn’t want to read in his current home of Chapala is John Middleton Murry’s Adelphi magazine which he dismisses as ‘weak, apologetic’ and with ‘nothing to justify its existence.’ Ouch.  

‘Mexico is still much more fun’ than America because it is ‘much wilder’. This is evident by the ‘twenty soldiers’ who ‘guard’ the village meaning that Lawrence is unable to ‘walk outside the village for fear of being robbed or carried off by bandits[ii]’. He informs Knud Merrild that ‘with your revolver, gun and knife’ he would be ‘just right here[iii]’.   

Lawrence is determined to ‘get this novel off my chest’ before returning to Blighty and hopes to have a ‘first rough draft by the end of the month[iv]’. He considers calling it ‘Quetzalcoatl’ after the nature God quetzal – a rattlesnake covered in green feathers – but ever conscious of sales is concerned ‘will people be afraid to ask for a book with that name[v]’.

Adele Seltzer offers to send over some ‘tinned things’ to tide them over but there’s no need as ‘we have bought chickens that lay eggs and then we eat the chickens[vii]’ As he is doing well, Lawrence turns down repayment from S.S. Koteliansky as ‘at present’ we ‘have enough[viii]’. Best save that for when they invariably fall on hard times again.

He looks out for his friends in other ways too. He advises Frederick Carter, who has sent over a manuscript for what will later become The Dragon of the Alchemists, that ‘short pieces of the book’ could appeal to ‘magazines in New York’ and he can ‘arrange that if (he) wished[ix]’. Whereas he acts as a recruitment agent for Spud Johnson, pitching him as a possible ‘man clerk’ to Thomas Seltzer as ‘he’s very reliable and does good work[x]’.  

He ‘intends to leave[xi]’ Mexico and is ‘definitely leaving[xii]’by his next letter, but we’ve been here many times before with literature’s greatest ditherer. Wise to such antics, Catherine Carswell offers up a floor in her Hampstead home should he need it at some point.

Lawrence claims he doesn’t ‘really want to go back to Europe’ but has been forced to because ‘Frieda wants to see her mother[xiii]’ He would much prefer to go ‘round the world again, and try to do a novel in India or China[xiv]’ But the real problem with his current unrest is servitude; without physical work he has no purpose. ‘If we see a place we really like, we will have it and plant bananas – I am already very tired of not doing my own work[xv]’.

The winter of 1922 with the Danish artists Kai Gøtzsche and Knud Merrild was perhaps the closest Lawrence had got to Rananim and so they remain at the forefront of his plans. Therefore, a ‘little farm’ is thrown into the equation and if he can procure one, perhaps ‘you will both come down and help us manage it.[xvi]’ As for their own plans to travel and see the world, there’s no need. Lawrence has done so himself and advises, ‘the ‘world’ has no life to offer. Seeing things doesn’t amount to much’ instead ‘we have to be a few men with honour and fearlessness, and make a life together. There is nothing else, believe me.[xvii]’  

This is based on The Cambridge Edition of The Letters of D.H. Lawrence: Vol IV 1921-4.


[i] Letter to Idella Purnell (L2835)

[ii] Letter to Knud Merrild (L2836)

[iii] Letter to Knud Merrild (L2836)

[iv] Letter to Catherine Carswell (L2837)

[v] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2843)

[vi] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2843)

[vii] Letter to Adele Seltzer (L2841)

[viii] Letter to S.S. Koteliansky (L2840)

[ix] Letter to Frederick Carter (L2842)

[x] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2843)

[xi] Letter to Curtis Brown (L2838)

[xii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2839)

[xiii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2843)

[xiv] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2843)

[xv] Letter to Kai Gøtzsche and Knud Merrild (L2845)

[xvi] Letter to Kai Gøtzsche and Knud Merrild (L2845)

[xvii] Letter to Knud Merrild (L2849)

Locating Lawrence: May 1923

In these monthly videos, we are locating D.H. Lawrence 100 years ago via his letters. Mexico is not safe and never will be, he reasons. But at least they are not attached to money and possessions…

Lawrence has found ‘a little house…on Lake Chapala[i]’ which is a couple of hours away from Guadalajara. It has ‘trees and flowers… bananas in the garden’ and despite being hot is ‘not uncomfortably so’ meaning he is able to ‘live out of doors on the verandahs in very little clothing[ii]’. He can ‘read Spanish fairly well[iii]’ on account of living with a Spanish family and embraces the culture by requesting a copy of Bernal Diaz’s True History of the Conquest of New Spain – all five volumes[iv]

Frieda joins him at the beginning of the month and is delighted to have a base once more. But how long this will last is down to the temperament of her husband. ‘You’ll think I do nothing but change my plans,’ Lawrence writes to John Middleton Murry. ‘I can’t help it. I go out to buy my ticket to New York and Europe, then don’t buy it.[v]’ This may explain why he rents the house ‘by the month[vi]’. Various explanations are offered for his dithering. One is related to health ‘When I feel sick I want to go back. When I feel well I want to stay.[vii]’ Another is down to uninspiring correspondence, ‘when I get letters from Europe then I never want to go back.[viii]’But really his length of stay is determined by one thing, writing. ‘It will end, I suppose, in my staying as long as it takes me to write a novel.[ix]’ By the end of the month he has written ten chapters[x] of what will become The Plumed Serpent.

No matter how remote his location, Lawrence knows everything that’s going on elsewhere. Bibbles, the dog he was loaned during the Winter of 1922 has been returned to Ralph Miles[xi] and he knows that Mabel Dodge Sterne has just married Tony Luhan. Knud Merrild is instructed ‘Please write me the most interesting points of gossip concerning the event.[xii]’ Frieda is more empathetic towards Mabel, reasoning ‘she has failed somehow in her life, but then it is so easy to fail.[xiii]

Lawrence’s sympathies are with Thomas Seltzer who must be ‘snowed under’ dealing with the ongoing ‘Judge Ford business[xiv]’. His crime? Publishing ‘unclean’ books, one of which is Women in Love. Another concern relates to a very pedantic but helpful reader, Louis Feipel, who writes to inform Lawrence of typos in Sea and Sardinia, Kangaroo, and now The Captain’s Doll. Lawrence thanks him and promises ‘I will try to mend my ways…remembering your eye is on every dot[xv]

Mexico is not safe, and Lawrence is convinced it ‘will never be safe[xvi]’ Somebody tried to break in one night and so ‘we have a young man with a pistol sleep on the terrace outside the door[xvii]’ This means ‘I am not allowed to walk alone outside the narrow precincts of the village: for fear of being stopped, robbed, and what not. It gets awfully boring[xviii]’ This has the adverse effect of viewing everyone as a potential ‘rascal[xix]’ – not the kind of attitude you want when searching for Rananim.

But despite their various faults – ‘they are half civilised, half wild…are inwardly melancholy, live without hope, become suddenly cross, and don’t like to work’ – the Spaniards have a very redeeming characteristic they ‘are not greedy for money. And I find that wonderful, they are so little attached to money and possessions.[xx]’  


  • [i] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2809)
  • [ii] Letter to William Hawk (L2811)
  • [iii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2819)
  • [iv] Letter to Idella Purnell (L2825)
  • [v] Letter to John Middleton Murry (L2810)
  • [vi] Letter to Emily King (L2813)
  • [vii] Letter to Kai Gotzsche and Knud Merrild (L2812)
  • [viii] Letter to Earl Brewster (L2822)
  • [ix] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2819)
  • [x] Letter to Baroness Anna von Richthofen (L2834)
  • [xi] Letter to William Hawk (L2811)
  • [xii] Letter to Kai Gotzsche and Knud Merrild (L2812)
  • [xiii] Letter to Bessie Freeman (L2833)
  • [xiv] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2809)
  • [xv] Letter to Louis N. Feipel (L2820)
  • [xvi] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2819)
  • [xvii] Letter to Adele Seltzer (L2824)
  • [xviii] Letter to Adele Seltzer (L2824)
  • [xix] Letter to Adele Seltzer (L2824)
  • [xx] Letter to Baroness Anna von Richthofen (L2834)

Locating Lawrence: April 1923

In these monthly videos, we are locating D.H. Lawrence 100 years ago via his letters. After witnessing a bullfight and living with revolutionaries in Mexico, Lawrence wonders: Should I stay or should I go?

Lawrence was meticulous with money and ensured every debt was paid off and people were treated fairly. He sends his sister Emily £5 and enquires about the £10 forwarded to his father Arthur.[i] Likewise, Freida’s mother is sent £10 and £5 goes to her sister Else. Both families are treated equally. The Danish artists he spent the winter of 1922 with are informed ‘if ever you get really hard up, let me know at once.[ii]’ Money is to be shared when available.

Lawrence deals in specifics so you sense his frustration with Thomas Seltzer when he is told his royalties amount to about $4,000. ‘I don’t know what his ‘about’ means[iii]’ he complains to Robert Mountsier, his former American literary agent, but ensures he is paid his remaining commission.   

He is furious at the thought of being swindled by Mitchell Kennerley, who, despite relinquishing the contract and copyright to Sons and Lovers, is still selling unsold stock of the book. ‘You will only succeed by fighting: and fighting again’ he informs Seltzer ‘black their eyes[iv]’.

Managing his own literary affairs is challenging when always on the move. ‘When I get to a place where I can unload my trunks, I will let you have what contracts I possess[v]’ he informs Curtis Brown. Mexico City is an early contender for home. It’s ‘very American on the one hand, and slummy on the other: a rather mongrel town.[vi]’ He enjoys excursions out to the pyramids at Teotihucan which ‘seem to have risen out of the earth[vii]’ but is appalled at a bull fight[viii].     

Amy Lowell is informed ‘I would like to sit down and write a novel on the American continent. I don’t mean about it: I mean while I’m here.[ix]’ Some people go on holiday and sunbathe. Their tan evidence of their excursion. Lawrence follows a similar formula, except instead of lounging about, he writes a novel before he can move on. This is why he is able to dismiss previous locations. ‘Spit on Taos for me’ he informs Knud Merrild. ‘How glad I am I need not smell them anymore.[x]’   

He’s offered a house[xi] by Zelia Nuttall (1858-1933) an American archaeologist and author of numerous books on Mexican history. Lawrence would repay her by featuring her as Mrs. Norris in The Plumed Serpent.

Mexico is devoid of the snobbery of England with ‘so few pretences of any sort[xii]’ But it’s also unsafe. There are ‘soldiers everywhere’ and ‘nearly all the big haciendas and big houses are ruins[xiii]’. There is the constant danger of being ‘robbed or murdered by roving bandits and scoundrels who still call themselves revolutionaries.[xiv]

This may explain his rapid outburst to friends that ‘I’ve had enough of the New World[xv]’ and that he wanted to return to England because ‘what’s the good’ of being here ‘if one can’t live safely in the country?[xvi]

This discontent of not knowing where he really wants to be is summed up perfectly in a letter to Amy Lowell.

‘I hesitate here.[xvii]


  • [i] Letter to Emily King (L2782)
  • [ii] Letter to Kai Gotzsche and Knud Merrild (L2798)
  • [iii] Letter to Robert Mountsier (L2801)
  • [iv] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2773)
  • [v] Letter to Curtis Brown (L2795)
  • [vi] Letter to Nina Witt (L2772)
  • [vii] Letter to Nina Witt (L2772)
  • [viii] Letter to William Hawk (L2790)
  • [ix] Letter to Amy Lowell (L2796)
  • [x] Letter to Knud Merrild (L2779)
  • [xi] Letter to Bessie Freeman (L2777)
  • [xii] Letter to S.S. Koteliansky (L2775)
  • [xiii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2774)
  • [xiv] Letter to Kai Gotzsche and Knud Merrild (L2798)
  • [xv] Letter to John Middleton Murry (L2787)
  • [xvi] Letter to Kai Gotzsche and Knud Merrild (L2798)
  • [xvii] Letter to Amy Lowell (L2796)

Locating Lawrence: March 1923

In these monthly videos, we are locating D.H. Lawrence 100 years ago. In March he leaves New Mexico for Old Mexico and begins his next adventure. But will the spirit of this continent give him what he needs?

It’s time to leave the ranch and begin the next adventure. But first there’s lots of literary matters to sort out. Martin Secker wisely advises that ‘five Lawrence books will be as much as it is advisable to do in one year[i]’ and so delays publication of England, My England and Studies in Classic American Literature.  

Oliver Jenkins, editor of Tempo: A Magazine of Poetry, sends a gushing request for a poem and thanks Lawrence for the pleasure his work has brought him over the years before delivering the inevitable but: ‘Please understand that TEMPO is just starting and is not wealthy…[ii] Tempo would be published irregularly between 1921 and 1923 before being subsumed by Iarus[iii]. Lawrence understands what it means to have no money and instructs Seltzer to ‘fix a mild price for the poor dears.[iv]

Likewise, he feels obliged to help the Danes after spending the winter with them at the Del Monte Ranch. They had recently exhibited work at the Art Museum in Santa Fe, but this hadn’t translated into any sales. To make matters worse, Seltzer doesn’t seem keen on the artwork Merrild has produced for Birds, Beasts and Flowers and is instructed ‘if you don’t really want them, pay for them out of my money.[v]

After sacking Robert Mountsier, Lawrence must contend with his own literary matters. This mainly involves collating contracts for his various work and instructing Seltzer to ‘keep these very carefully till I come to New York and can arrange a safe-deposit for all my papers.[vi]

Lawrence is happiest when fully occupied and so once the literary admin is out of the way he requests a manuscript from Frederick Carter, a painter, etcher and scholar with an interest in religion and mysticism. Towards the end of his life, Lawrence would write the introduction to Carter’s Dragon of Revelation but for now warns, ‘I am more interested in the microcosm than in the macrocosm, and in the gates to the psyche rather than the astrological houses.[vii]

But his main focus is leaving America. Harriett Monroe (1860 –1936), the founding publisher and editor of Poetry, is off to Europe and Lawrence informs ‘I may be there in the summer. May meet you in London, Paris, Munich, Rome or Madrid.[viii]’ But for now, having ‘learnt quite a lot of Spanish’ he’s fixated on Old Mexico.

To get there, he takes part in a familiar routine which involves convincing himself that his current location is untenable. The USA is ‘terribly sterile, even negative. I tell you what, there is no life in the blood there. The blood can’t flow properly. Only nerves, nerve vibration, nerve-irritation. It wearies the inside of my bones. I want to go. Voglio andarmene.[ix]’  

Heading to another country presents numerous logistical considerations, information willingly shared with Witter Bynner and Willard Johnson, who will be joining him at some point. Of priority is avoiding the Easter rush as ‘hotels may then be crowded[x]’. When they do arrive in Mexico he is delighted ‘to get a little wine again[xi]’ after escaping prohibition. This was a nationwide constitutional law in America from 1920 to 1933 that led Jack Mahoney and WM Jerome to fear ‘everyday will be Sunday when the town goes dry.’  

Adjusting to the city is difficult. ‘I feel a bit shut in, after the ranch.[xii]’ This may explain why he feels uncomfortable in the American-run neoclassical Hotel Regis and so switches to the Hotel Monte Carlo, a smaller venture run by an Italian family. ‘The blood flows free again in the veins, not like the Land of Freedom, always in prison. All is quite peaceful, and nice, human folk: no human machines.[xiii]’ Imagine that as a trip advisor review.

Alas, it doesn’t take long for the blood to coagulate. ‘We’ve been in this city five days…I don’t like the gruesome Aztec carvings. I don’t like the spirit of this continent.[xiv]’ Things must be bad because England is back on the cards. ‘By July I ought to be in England. If you know a decent cottage or place to live, keep it in mind for me. Somewhere quiet. I don’t want people.[xv]

These posts are based on The Cambridge Edition of The Letters of D.H. Lawrence Vol IV. Edited by Warren Roberts, James T. Boulton, Elizabeth Mansfield.

  • [i] Letter from Martin Secker to Curtis Brown, 13 March 1923 (Letter of D.H. Lawrence, Vol IV. p.401)
  • [ii] Letter from Oliver Jenkins to DHL on 3 March 1923 (Letter of D.H. Lawrence, Vol IV. p.407)
  • [iii] See Alan. M. Wald. 1983. The Revolutionary Imagination: The Poetry and Politics of John Wheelwright and Sherry Mangan. University of North Carolina Press pp 79-80
  • [iv] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2745)
  • [v] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2745)
  • [vi] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2739)
  • [vii] Letter to Frederick Carter (L2743)
  • [viii] Letter to Harriet Monroe (L2741)
  • [ix] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2745)
  • [x] Letter to Willard Johnson (L2744)
  • [xi] Letter to Ada Clarke (L2763)
  • [xii] Letter to Knud Merrild (L2764)
  • [xiii] Letter to Baroness Anna von Richthofen (L2767)
  • [xiv] Letter to John Middleton Murry (L2769)
  • [xv] Letter to John Middleton Murry (L2769)

Locating Lawrence: February 1923

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)
  • [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)

Locating D.H. Lawrence: January 1923.

Lawrence’s first letter of 1923 is to reassure the artist Jan Juta, who illustrated Sea and Sardinia, that his literary agent Robert Mountsier is due to arrive on the 1st of Jan and he will bring a statement of sales for their joint venture. ‘We both get some money…but not a great deal.[i]’ And then a couple of sentences later he dismisses artists in Taos who ‘paint purely in terms of dollars.[ii]

Lawrence seems quite motherly about Mountsier when he first arrives, hoping the break will enable him to ‘settle down to ranch life and forget literary agency for the time being.[iii]’ But by the time he leaves on 28 January, Lawrence is glad to see the back of him. But more of that another time…

In terms of writing, lots of loose ends are starting to come together. The December issue of The Laughing Horse turns up which includes his review of Ben Hecht’s Fantazius Mallare: A Mysterious Oath[iv]. He’s not content to merely finish writing Birds, Beasts and Flowers but instead wants to know about the intended format of the book: What size it will be, what decoration it will include, all details of which he wants ‘exactly.[v]’ In terms of Studies in Classic America Literature, Seltzer is instructed ‘if you want anything altered or eliminated, tell me the page and line.[vi]’ Despite this productive period of writing, he is becoming increasingly frustrated with Martin Secker (1882 –1978) the London publisher who ‘I don’t trust[vii]’ because he isn’t publishing his books quickly enough.

When not writing and reviewing he’s busy working on translations[viii] of Giovanni Verga (1840 –1922) which would be published in the collection Little Novels of Sicily. Lawrence would have related to many of the themes in Verga’s sketches, not least the class struggle between property owners and tenants, evocative descriptions of the landscape and man’s changing relationship with it.  

All of this would be enough for most writers, but Lawrence is not like other writers. He wants to know more about the 1888 copyright laws between Italy and U.S.A[ix] and is pitching artwork on behalf of Gøtzsche to the Dial to illustrate his essay ‘Taos’ which would be published in March 1923[x].

Perhaps because he spent so much time focussed on literary matters, he expected his literary connections to help with domestic issues. Adele Seltzer is tasked with sending Frieda some underwear[xi].

The most interesting letter of January is to Thomas Seltzer which reports that Pips, a French bull terrier given to Lawrence by Mabel Dodge Sterne, ‘got well spanked – and so has gone to live with the Danes. There let her stay. She’s got no loyalty[xii]’ This incident would cause great controversy when Knud Merrild recounted it in his memoir A Poet and Two Painters. However, in 1937, on Lawrence’s birthday, there were letters of outrage to the editor of the local Taos newspaper[xiii] for daring to suggest Lawrence had been cruel to an animal. ‘I never saw him ill-treat anything except a teapot and some cups’ scalded Dorothy Brett. ‘Lawrence’s fits of rage were phenomenal’ wrote Spud Johnson but ‘I never saw him anything but gentle and affectionate’ with animals. And on and on the letters went.

The Danes offer good company in the evenings as ‘Merrild has a flute and Gøtzsche a fiddle[xiv]’ Eager to keep the vibe going, Lawrence requests Adele Seltzer send him a copy of The Oxford Song Book. At least up in the mountains, with Taos station 43 miles away, there are no nosey neighbours to report them to the police for singing suspicious lyrics, as had happened when the Lawrence’s lived in Cornwall during WWI.

Despite this, Lawrence continued to be the focus of gossip. Mabel Dodge Sterne had been telling the locals ‘I had to get rid of the Lawrence’s’. He is furious and vows ‘I will never see her again[xv].’ It is no wonder, then, that he wanted to embrace the solitude of the mountains while he could: ‘I want to be alone – as much alone as I am – while I am here[xvi]’.


  • [i] Letter to Jan Juta (L2689)
  • [iii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2691)
  • [iv] Letter to Willard Johnson (L2690)
  • [v] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2698)
  • [vi] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2694)
  • [viii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2691)
  • [ix] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2694)
  • [xi] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2698)
  • [xii] Letter to Thomas Seltzer (L2691)
  • [xiii] Newspaper cuttings in ‘Lawrence Vol. III’. Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
  • [xiv] Letter to Adele Seltzer (L2700)
  • [xv] Letter to Bessie Freeman (L2699)
  • [xvi] Letter to Mabel Dodge Sterne (L2695)

Locating Lawrence: December 1922.

On 1 December, the Lawrence’s moved to the Del Monte Ranch, a log cabin with four rooms and a kitchen. Nearby are the Danes in a three-room cabin. Lawrence had finally escaped the clutches of Mabel Dodge Sterne whom he acknowledges ‘was always nice – only somewhat blind to anything except her own way[i]’. Hmm, sound familiar.

He gossips away about her to his dear Schwiegermutter, ‘rich – only child – 42 year’s old – short, stout – looks young – has had three husbands…Has now an Indian, Tony, a fat fellow….hates the white world, and loves the Indians out of hate…We are still ‘friends’ with Mable. But don’t take this serpent to our bosom.[ii]

The new home required some D.I.Y and so Knud Merrild is instructed to bring some ‘indiarubber boots, the white ones $4.50 a pair… some fumigating stuff… two pieces of glass’ and ‘a pound of cheese[iii]’ To keep warm, the wife of Jerry Mirabal (aka the ‘famous Taos Indian’) is ‘tanning five skins for Frieda[iv]’.

‘It is snow here,’ he informs Mary Cannan ‘coyotes howl at night – sun very hot during the day. America makes one feel one has swallowed a rather big pebble.[v]

Now that he is living remotely, others are expected to come to him. First up is his publisher Thomas Seltzer ‘a nice tiny man[vi]’ who would publish seven of Lawrence’s books, soon to be followed by his American literary agent Robert Mountsier.

There are invites to go East and make a fortune doing a lecture tour of America, as Gilbert Canny and Hugh Walpole (1884 –1941) had done. Like Lawrence, Walpole was a prolific writer, producing at least one book every year after his debut novel The Wooden Horse (1901). But the literary circuit did not appeal to Lawrence.

Women in Love is doing well. ‘Has sold 10,000 in the cheap edition, 3,000 in the other[vii]’ and there’s always time to read books to review for The Dial[viii]. Once more he is supportive of other writers, such as Frederick Carter (1883 – 1967), whose manuscript he offers to submit to ‘a suitable publisher’ and then provides relevant journals he should read. Carter’s esoteric research would be published four years later as The Dragon of the Alchemists (1926). 

Lawrence has the simple life that he claims he needs – ‘Life has been just a business of chopping wood, fixing doors, putting up shelves, eating and sleeping[ix]’ with culture coming in the form of evening debates with the Danes and the Christmas dance at the pueblo to see the Taos Indians perform either the buffalo dance or the deer dance. But despite having everything he wanted, he’s not happy.

‘There is no inside life-throb here’ he complains to Catherine Carswell ‘all empty – people inside dead’. He claims to ‘truly prefer Europe’ and that even ‘the Indians are very American – no inside life’. The solution is simple: ‘I know now I don’t want to live anywhere very long’ and thus, a mere 17 days into his latest residence, he begins hatching new adventures. ‘I belong to Europe. Though not to England. I think I should like to go to Russia in the summer. After America, it appeals to me[x]

Although the reason for this mood has nothing to do with country or culture: ‘Am not writing here[xi]’   


  • [i] Letter to Thomas Seltzer L2667
  • [ii] Letter to Baroness Anna von Richthofen L2669
  • [iii] Letter to Knud Merrild L2664
  • [iv] Letter to Mabel Dodge Sterne L2665
  • [v] Letter to Mary Cannan, L2670
  • [vi] Letter to John Middleton Murry L2687
  • [vii] Letter to Mary Cannan L2670
  • [viii] Lawrence received a copy of Americans by Stuart Pratt Sherman. It would be published in the May 1923 edition of The Dial.
  • [ix] Letter to Mabel Dodge Sterne L2677
  • [x] Letter to Catherine Carswell L2682
  • [xi] Letter to Catherine Carswell L2682

Locating Lawrence November 1922.

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)

Locating D.H. Lawrence: October 1922

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)
  • [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)

Locating Lawrence: September 1922

Lawrence ‘arrived penniless’[i] in San Francisco with less than $20[ii] to his name. But not all was doom and gloom. Mountsier had sold The Captain’s Doll for $1000 to Hearst International – the most he would ever receive for a story – although they would later release it. Still, he was able to stay in the Palace Hotel which ‘was once a corrugated iron hut where the ox-wagons once unhitched’ but was ‘now a great building with post and shops in it, like a little town in itself’[iii].  

He knew that Taos would ‘cost next to nothing[iv]’ and so this was a good opportunity to help friends or pay off old debts. Eddie Marsh (1839–1915) was sent a cheque for £20 for the generosity he showed Lawrence in November 1915 – seven years ago![v]. In another life, Lawrence would have made an excellent accountant.  

After 25 days or so at sea, Lawrence was feeling ‘landsick’ and complained that ‘the solid ground almost hurts’[vi]. It didn’t help that San Francisco was so noisy, like ‘a sort of never-stop Hades’[vii]. Another headache was the suppression of Women in Love which Thomas Seltzer would successfully defend in the courts along with a couple of his other titles.

After a lot of dilly dallying, Lawrence was finally on his way to Taos on Friday 8 September. He knew the perils of another detour on route: ‘I simply daren’t stop off at Yosemite or Grand Canyon: feel I might drop dead if any more stupendousness assails me[viii]’.

Mabel Dodge Sterne had built the Lawrence’s a ‘lovely adobe house’ and they were both ‘quite overwhelmed[ix]’. But this comes at a cost. She wants him to capture life in New Mexico as he had done in Sea and Sardinia and immediately ships him off to see a dance at the Jicarilla Apache Reservation which would lead to the essay ‘Indians and an Englishman’.

Lawrence captured the American dream in a pithy phrase: ‘shove or be shoved[x]’. But at least the Americans were buying his books, and more importantly, bringing in the money. ‘If America will accept me and England won’t,’ he carped, ‘I belong to America’[xi].  

Their home was 30 miles or so from the nearest railway and accessed via a desert. Frieda could once more revel in the temporary thrill of being still, ‘boiling wild plums that the Indians brought us[xii]’ and making jam, naturally under Lawrence’s supervision. Lawrence could once more become a stranger in unfamiliar surroundings: ‘I feel a great stranger, but have got used to that feeling, and prefer it to feeling ‘homely’. After all, one is a stranger, nowhere so hopelessly as at home[xiii]’ he informed E.M. Forster.  

Then there was the dressing up. ‘You should see me in your white riding breeches, a blue shirt, a cowboy hat, and your white tie, trotting on a bay pony[xiv]’ he informed Earl Brewster.

The environment is often a good signifier of Lawrence’s mood and once it takes on a mystical quality, you know he’s intrigued. Towards the end of September he can feel ‘a curious grudge…in the very soil itself[xv]’ and suggests that if the Taos mountains were a woman she would be Thais[xvi], the prophetess who encouraged Alexander the Great to set fire to the palaces of Persepolis.

At the time, Lawrence was polishing off the proofs of Studies in Classical American Literature whereby he analysed each writer according to his personal set of values and circumstances. The same was happening again now. It was Lawrence who had a grudge. He had a grudge against Mabel Dodge Sterne for her kindness and hospitality, all of which he finds a bit oppressive, thus America is reduced to his specific set of circumstances: ‘everybody seems to be trying to enforce his, or her, will, and trying to see how much the other person or persons will let themselves be overcome. Of course the will is benevolent, kind, and all that, but none the less it is other people’s will being put on me like a pressure[xvii]’.  

For Lawrence, this negative individual and egoistic will ‘seems to be turned against all spontaneous life[xviii]’. And it’s for this reason that ‘America is neither free nor brave, but a land of tight, iron-clanking little wills, everybody trying to put it over everybody else, and a land of men absolutely devoid of the real courage of trust, trust in life’s sacred spontaneity.[xix]’ The Star Spangled Banner is more appropriately ‘Stripes of persecution[xx]’. And with that he declares he wants to return to Europe in the spring, that Italy has his heart, and confesses a slight bit of homesickness for England, ‘though I still feel very angry against it[xxi]’.

He knows that all of this travelling is ‘a form of running away from oneself and the great problems[xxii]’ and that perhaps it is his destiny ‘to try these places’ ‘to know the world[xxiii]’ all of which brings him back to a recurring solution: ‘Only the desert has a fascination – to ride alone – in the sun in the forever unpossessed country – away from man.[xxiv]


  • [i] L2578 Robert Moutsier
  • [ii] L2579 Mabel Dodge Sterne
  • [iii] L2580 Baroness Anna von Richthofen
  • [v] L2598 Edward Marsh
  • [vi] L2580 Baroness Anna von Richthofen
  • [vii] L2583 Robert Mountsier
  • [ix] L2594 Thomas Seltzer
  • [x] L2597 S.S. Koteliansky
  • [xi] L2600 Martin Secker
  • [xii] L2605 Anna Jenkins
  • [xiv] L2608 Earl Brewster
  • [xvi] L2612 Harriet Monroe
  • [xx] L2587 Amy Lowell
  • [xxi] L2616 Mary Cannan
  • [xxii] L2617 Catherine Carswell

Locating Lawrence: August 1922

It was finally time to say goodbye to Thirroul and the anonymous lifestyle that had served Lawrence well. He liked the simplicity of life in Australia, with the ‘wood and tin’[i] houses where life was ‘nice’ ‘so easy, and sunny’[ii]. His next stop is America where he suspects he will stay for ‘a month or two’[iii] with a detour via the South Sea Islands.

Katherine Pritchard provided Lawrence with a set of novels, poems and plays from the likes of Louis Esson (1879 – 1943) and Furnley Maurice (1881 – 1942) but he was unimpressed as ‘they all make me feel desperately miserable. My, how hopelessly miserable one can feel in Australia’[iv]. On a more positive note, Pritchard had sent him a copy of The Black Opal – the first of her mining novels – which he kept to read on the voyage.

His correspondence during August is relatively slim, with Katherine Mansfield receiving a one-word card from her birthplace Wellington that read ‘Ricordi’[v] which means remembrances. ‘How like him’ she informed her husband John Middleton Murry.

The Lawrence’s left on the RMS Tahiti on 10 August, a ship he described as ‘like a big boarding-house staggering over the sea’[vi]. And stagger it did, sinking in 1930 after propeller failure. He visits Rarotonga on the Cook Islands for the day and finds it to be a ‘lovely island’ that is ‘tropical almost but not sweltering’ and full of ‘great red hibiscus’[vii]. And although he is gushing about the flowers, the tropics and their ‘reptile nausea’[viii] aren’t for him. ‘These are supposed to be earthly paradises: these South Sea Isles. You can have ‘em.[ix]

Then it’s off to Tahiti for two days. The island may be beautiful but he’s disappointed with the town. Papeete is a ‘poor, dull, modernish place’[x] and angers him so much he fires off a series of xenophobic and racist rants. Compton Mackenzie is warned, ‘if you are thinking of coming here don’t. The people are brown and soft’[xi] whereas Mary Cannan is told ‘Papeete is a poor sort of place, mostly Chinese, natives in European clothes, and fat.’[xii]

Lawrence was a pigeon-chested workaholic who loved hard graft. Presumably, ‘soft’ ‘fat’ people offended his work ethic which may explain why he starts longing for Taormina, so he can once more admire the local peasants working bare chested in the garden, though they inevitably annoyed him too.

At Tahiti he has the misfortune to bump into a ‘Crowd of cinema people who have been making a film.’[xiii] This was Lost and Found on a South Sea Island (1923 dir. R.A. Walsh) and involves Captain Blackbird rescuing his daughter from warring natives on Pago Pago. Nice.  

Lawrence described the cinema people as ‘undistinguished’ and ‘common.’[xiv] This may be because he saw cinema as an emotional barrier that disconnected people from their feelings. ‘The pictures are cheap, and they are easy, and they cost the audience nothing, no feeling of the heart, no appreciation of the spirit[xv]’ he wrote a few years earlier in The Lost Girl (1920). Raymond Williams he was not.

But when we dig a little bit deeper beneath the moaning and insults, we get to the heart of the real problem. For 25 days he has been confined on a boat, albeit in first class, with 60 passengers and ‘one simply aches to be alone, away from them all’ as he had been in Australia. ‘To be alone, and to be still, is always one of the greatest blessings. The more one sees of people, the more one feels it isn’t worth while[xvi]’.

He would soon have his wish. A tiny cabin 8,600 feet above sea level awaited him in high up in New Mexico.    


  • [i] Letter to S.S. Koteliansky, 8 August 1922
  • [iii] Letter to William Siebenhaar, 2 August 1922
  • [iv] Letter to Katherine Pritchard, 6 August 1922
  • [v] Letter to Katherine Mansfield, 20 August 1922
  • [vi] Letter to Lady Cynthia Asquith, 20 August 1922
  • [vii] Letter to Earl Brewster, 20 August 1922
  • [viii] Letter top Mary Cannan, 31 August 1922
  • [x] Letter to Catherine Carswell, 22 August 1922
  • [xi] Letter to Compton Mackenzie, 22 August 1922
  • [xii] Letter to Mary Cannan, 31 August 1922
  • [xv] For an analysis of DHL’s views on cinema see Linda R. Williams (1993) Sex in The Head Visions of Femininity and Film in D.H. Lawrence, Taylor and Francis.
  • [xvi] Letter to Mary Cannan, 31 August 1922

Locating Lawrence: July 1922

He’s got no money, Ulysses is getting rave reviews, and Australia makes him feel like he’s fallen out of a picture and found himself on the floor staring back at the gods and men left behind in the picture. Welcome to Locating Lawrence, a monthly video based on Lawrence’s letters 100 years ago.

Katharine Susannah Prichard (nee Throssell) was a key figure in Australian literary history although Lawrence was not aware of the three novels she’d written when they corresponded on 3rd of July. She was also a founding member of the Communist Party in Australia, created in 1920, earning her the disparaging nickname of ‘The Red Witch’. Married to Hugo Throssell, a war hero awarded the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli, she proudly shared a newspaper clipping detailing the birth of their son, Ric. Lawrence observed ‘you are up and about wearing your little V.C like a medal at your breast’[i] Ric would also grow to become a writer as well as a diplomat, but his life would be marred by an unproven allegation that he was a Russian spy.

Design James Walker.

Lawrence confides to Prichard that there’s plenty to love about Australia and the fact he’s stayed for ‘three months in one place isn’t so bad’[ii]. But it’s a place he can never truly grasp as ‘I feel I slither on the edge of a gulf, reaching to grasp its atmosphere and spirit. It eludes me, and always would’.[iii] Once more he compares it to a Puvis de Chavannes painting, specifically ‘Winter’. But of most interest is Prichard’s rural life in Greenmount: ‘What do you grow on your land? My wife wants a little farm more than anything else, she says. But how should I sit still so long?’[iv]

He uses painting as a metaphor to S.S. Koteliansky to describe the peculiar impact Australia has had on him: ‘It is rather like falling out of a picture and finding oneself on the floor, with all the gods and men left behind in the picture’.[v]

Robert Mountsier is reminded twice in one paragraph that ‘I am now expecting your cable with the money’ as he is only able to get the Tahiti ‘if your cable money arrives’[vi] and that when he arrives in America ‘we will really sit still and spend nothing’[vii]. But he is aware of ‘the depressing accounts of sales’ with Sea and Sardinia selling 685 copies[viii] and Aaron’s Rod 3,000 copies[ix] – though he is keen to emphasise that this has nothing to do with Thomas Seltzer who ‘may be dodgy’ but ‘I believe he does his best.’[x]

Tortoises, 1921, Publisher’s Logo (Thomas Seltzer). Signature from “Best Russian short stories”, Thomas Seltzer, 1917. Superman comic.

Seltzer was Lawrence’s literary agent and helped bring him to an American audience, publishing his work between 1920 to 1923. Fighting censorship in the courts would eventually see his publishing company go bankrupt in 1923.

Lawrence reassures Mountsier that he only has two chapters left to complete Kangaroo and already his mind is focussing on the next location for inspiration (‘I should like, if I could, to write a New Mexico novel with Indians in it’[xi]). No wonder he is so averse to sitting still – his novels are born of perpetual momentum. It’s for this reason he must never get too settled. Thus, he confesses to Koteliansky, ‘If I stayed here for six months I should have to stay here forever.’[xii]

Mabel Dodge Sterne is updated with his desired living requests: ‘I wish we could settle down at – or near – Taos – and have a little place of our own, and a horse to ride. I do wish it might be like that.’[xiii]

Reading Lawrence’s letters, you can’t help but admire his incredible attention to detail. He is constantly wheeling, dealing and instructing. Robert Mountsier is informed that Kangaroo will be sent via the Makura on the 20th July and that he should have it typed up ready for him when he arrives in America so that he can go through it again.[xiv]  

In a letter to Mountsier on 17 July he enquires about a train strike in the USA (he is referring to the Great Railroad Strike that ran from 2 July to 14 September) and predicts ‘you will have bad Labour troubles in the next few years, amounting almost to revolution’. Seems not much has changed in 100 years. But Lawrence isn’t one for democratic solidarity, not when the unrest helps articulate his own frustrations with the public who have committed the cardinal sin of not buying enough of his books. ‘The ‘public’ that now is would never like me any more than I like it. And I hate it – the public – the monster with a million worm-like heads. No, gradually I shall call together a choice minority, more fierce and aristocratic in spirit.’[xv] Oh dear. 

Photo A.D. Forrester (1922)

He strikes a calmer tone with the Brewsters, his Buddhist friends. Achsah is informed that the name of their property in Thirroul – Wyewurk – ‘was as Australian humourism Why Work?’[xvi] The house next door was called Wyewurrie! Frieda has finished a Buddha embroidery and has now moved onto a vase of flowers. It sounds like domestic bliss. But these were difficult times. He was aware that he would arrive in Taos penniless and that this was all too familiar. But this would not stop him embracing a new experience and adding another language to his repertoire: ‘I am now going to start learning Spanish, ready for the Mexicans.’[xvii]

When he arrives in America, he will have time to read ‘this famous Ulysses’.[xviii] James Joyce’s modernist masterpiece had been published in Paris in February 1922 by Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company and was receiving rave reviews. But Lawrence suspects his own novel, Kangaroo, will not receive the same adulation. If anything, ‘even the Ulysseans will spit at it’.[xix]


  • [i] Letter to Katherine Throssell, 3 July 1922
  • [v] Letter to S.S. Koteliansky, 9 July 1922
  • [vi] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 7 July 1922
  • [vii] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 17 July 1922
  • [ix] Letter to Thomas Seltzer, 18 July 1922
  • [x] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 17 July 1922
  • [xii] Letter to S.S. Koteliansky, 9 July 1922
  • [xiii] Letter to Mabel Dodge Sterne, 17 July 1922
  • [xiv] Letter to Robert Mountsier, 17 July 1922
  • [xvi] Letter to Achsah Brewster, 24 July 1922
  • [xviii] Letter to S.S. Koteliansky, 9 July 1922