Academic journal article Yearbook of English Studies

Towards a New Version of D. H. Lawrence's the Daughter-in-Law: Scholarly Edition or Play Text?

Academic journal article Yearbook of English Studies

Towards a New Version of D. H. Lawrence's the Daughter-in-Law: Scholarly Edition or Play Text?

Article excerpt

D. H. Lawrence's play The Daughter-in-Law, written in January 1913 but neither staged nor published in his lifetime, has been in print for more than thirty years.[1] It made a brief appearance on the stage in the middle 1930s as My Son's My Son, in a text revised and at times rewritten by Walter Greenwood; this version was performed in London and abroad. But the play then vanished from public view, appearing in print for the first time in The Complete Plays of D. H. Lawrence, published by Heinemann in 1965.

The middle 1960s was exactly the time, of course, when Lawrence was being rediscovered as a dramatist. A shortened version of The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd had been televised in 1961, and a London production of A Collier's Friday Night in 1965 had first focused attention on the possibilities that Lawrence's plays offered the theatre.[2] The volume of Complete Plays followed in December 1965, and The Daughter-in-Law was soon seen as the Lawrence play for which managements and directors had been looking. It was first staged early in 1967, and since that date has received hundreds of theatre performances.[3] Andor Gomme asserted in 1969 that The Daughter-in-Law was 'easily Lawrence's best' play and 'ought to be as well known as Sons and Lovers and the best Nottinghamshire stories':[4] its reputation as a stage play has gone from strength to strength. It has also been performed on radio and on television and has been reprinted many times. Heinemann brought out an edition of The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd and The Daughter-in-Law, edited by Michael Marland, in 1968; in 1969 Penguin Books included The Daughter-in-Law in their volume D. H. Lawrence: Three Plays, with an introduction by Raymond Williams. And while the Heinemann Complete Plays and the Marland edition have been unavailable for many years, the Penguin volume has been in print continuously since 1969: and has for that reason provided the script for almost every production the play has had since that date. Before addressing the subject of what kind of scholarly edition of the play should be available to readers and actors in the late 1990s, it seems appropriate to describe the play's troubled transmission down to its existing (and currently staged) text.[5]

The manuscript of The Daughter-in-Law (hereafter MS), written very quickly at Villa, near Gargnano, on the Lago di Garda in January 1913, is typical of Lawrence's play manuscripts: it was actually the sixth play he had written. It is lightly corrected, but generally clear and unambiguous.[6] It includes extensive stage directions, but is by no means at all points set out as a play ready for printing. The stage directions, for example, are not underlined, nor are they always conventionally positioned; their form is at times not that of a conventional play. Following the speech heading 'Mrs Purdy' on MS p. 12, for example, the comment follows: '(she has been a sympathetic and exclamative listener)'; possible, perhaps, in a Shaw play text, but unusual even there as a speech heading supplement. In the same scene, when Mrs Purdy arrives at the Gascoyne house, Lawrence shows himself in two minds about how to present a dialogue half on and half off stage. Mrs Purdy's first three speeches have the speech heading 'Mrs Purdy's Voice' (MS p. 4) while the person she is speaking to, Joe, is apparently (but not certainly) on stage: whether she eventually comes in because she is invited, or because she gradually works her way in, is a rather important question, unresolved in the text as it stands. Her fourth speech was originally also for 'Mrs Purdy's Voice', but was then changed to 'Mrs Purdy' and linked with the stage direction '(appearing -- a little fat red-faced body [. . .])', although that direction precedes the speech heading supplement '(giving way)' given to Mrs Gascoyne, who had orignally crossed the room towards the door, dripping-pan in hand, as if to attack the incomer in a bout of wild and violent farce reminiscent of the St George plays. …

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