Lawrence, D. H. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays

By Cushman, Keith | D.H. Lawrence Review, Spring-Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Lawrence, D. H. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays


Cushman, Keith, D.H. Lawrence Review


Lawrence, D. H. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. Ed. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Pp. lxxii + 370. $125 (cloth).

Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays, superbly edited by Virginia Crosswhite Hyde, brings together all of Lawrence's essays about Mexico and the American Southwest. The core of this Cambridge Edition is Mornings in Mexico, his "little book of Red Indian and Mexican essays" (5L 635), published by Secker in 1927. Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays adds ten essays that Lawrence wrote between 1922 and 1928 to the eight essays of the original Mornings in Mexico. The seven Appendixes include another short essay (a bit more on that later), some early fragments and an early version of "Pan in America," Hyde's detailed account of Mesoamerican and Southwestern American myth, history timelines (from before 10000 BC to 1924), and maps. The Explanatory Notes occupy eighty-two pages; the Textual Apparatus fills another thirty-eight pages.

Mornings in Mexico is probably the least-known of Lawrence's four travel books. The book begins with "Corasmin and the Parrots," "Walk to Huayapa," "The Mozo," and "Market Day," the four gracefully evocative essays capturing everyday life in Oaxaca that he wrote between the end of 1924 and early 1925. The book's elegant title has always been confusing because the three ambitious essays that follow--"Indians and Entertainment," "The Dance of the Sprouting Corn," "The Hopi Snake Dance"--are about native American ceremonial dances in New Mexico. "A Little Moonshine with Lemon"--in which Lawrence "reminisces in Italy about the Kiowa Ranch in New Mexico"--concludes the original Secker volume. Surprisingly, Lawrence had doubts about Mornings in Mexico when Martin Secker first proposed the collection: "Do you really think those essays are good enough? It seems to me they are rather half baked, some of 'em" (5L 575). But eight days later Lawrence asserted that the "essay book sounds all right. I know that all of them are really good--except, it might be, 'Indians and Entertainment'" (5L 580).

"American and Native American themes prevail" in the ten rather diverse essays that fill out Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. In "Certain Americans and an Englishman" Lawrence criticizes the controversial Bursum Bill, which would have allowed settlers to homestead on Pueblo lands in New Mexico. "Indians and an Englishman" offers an additional response to Southwestern Indian ceremonial dancing. "Taos" is a scrappy sketch made up of three discontinuous sections. "Au Revoir, U. S. A.," "Dear Old Horse, A London Letter," "Paris Letter," and "Letter from Germany" are all brief, rather breezy essays published in Laughing Horse. The fairly well-known "Pan in America" emphasizes the "conflict between romantic 'pantheism', especially as developed in American Transcendentalism, and the native spirit of place." "See Mexico After, by Luis Q." is Lawrence's relentlessly unfunny, rather embarrassing recasting of an essay by the young Mexican writer Luis Quintanilla. "New Mexico," written in France at the end of 1928, is one of Lawrence's loveliest late essays. New Mexico was "beautiful, God! So beautiful!"--and in New Mexico "the Red Indians" gave him "a sense of living religion," something he had failed to "get ... from Hindus or Sicilian Catholics or Cinghalese." Lawrence declares that "New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had."

In my opinion the brief, intriguingly cynical "Just Back from the Snake Dance" should be the eleventh additional essay in the body of Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays. Hyde's "supplementary note" describes the three-page essay as "an early version of 'The Hopi Snake Dance'"--which is sixteen pages long--but also acknowledges that "Just Back from the Snake Dance" is indeed "an independent creation. …

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