The Symbolic Meaning: The Uncollected Versions of Studies in Classic American Literature

The Symbolic Meaning: The Uncollected Versions of Studies in Classic American Literature

The Symbolic Meaning: The Uncollected Versions of Studies in Classic American Literature

The Symbolic Meaning: The Uncollected Versions of Studies in Classic American Literature

Excerpt

D. H. Lawrence's most impressive book, after his major novels and his finest poems, is Studies in Classic American Literature, published in 1923. Earlier versions of parts of that work, the essays printed in full for the first time in the present volume, were written toward the end of the First World War, shortly after Lawrence had completed his greatest novel, Women in Love. He was at the peak of his ability and yet, after finishing the novel in 1916, he wrote little in the imaginative vein until after he left England late in 1919. In the interim, his creative energy went into these essays.

The war had from the first embittered Lawrence, who knew Germany and despised its militarism. On the other hand, he found that he could not support the British cause, and he resented the attempts of patriotic bullies, in the excitement of the moment, to force conformity upon everyone. Lawrence's position in England was all the more difficult because he had a German wife. When his novel The Rainbow was suppressed in 1915, the ostensible reason for the action was that the book was indecent, but Richard Aldington and others familiar with the circumstances at the time have suggested that there was a military influence in the suppression: in that autumn of 1915, British morale was low, and the heroine of Lawrence's story jeered at the uniform of her lover, an officer in the Boer War.

Whatever the cause, The Rainbow was taken out of circulation. Lawrence and Frieda had passports, and their passage to America was booked--America, toward which his thoughts had been turning, a country not yet involved in the war. When the authorities suppressed his novel, Lawrence believed that the English literary world was going to help him fight for it, and he postponed his westward journey. But nothing was done to help The Rainbow beyond the asking of a few questions in Parliament . . .

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