D. H. Lawrence: The Man Who Lived

By Robert B. Partlow Jr.; Harry T. Moore | Go to book overview

The Works of D. H. Lawrence: The Cambridge Edition

MICHAEL H. BLACK

The Cambridge University Press expects to publish in 1980, the fiftieth anniversary of Lawrence's death, the first volumes of a complete edition of his works. The Cambridge Edition may fairly claim to be the first edition of the whole canon of a classic modern author, and has a particular interest for a number of reasons.

Scholars have known for a long time that Lawrence is being read in very unsatisfactory texts. But even the ordinary reader may come upon a misprint in his reading and pause over it. The obvious question--if I can see this incorrect reading, how many plausible but incorrect readings am I failing to see?--may then occur to him, and he may feel a justified unease. He does not expect this in a twentieth- century author. We all tend to think that in our own age the processes of first publication and reprinting should secure a text against corruption. But this is not so. It is a reasonable proposition that all important authors of the earlier part of the century now need a proper critical edition. The amount of corruption to be removed will vary. In Lawrence's case it is very great indeed.

The basic reasons for this are five. First, Lawrence was from his very first novel and far into his writing career subject to censorship or bowdlerization, because he was concerned with sexual relations in an era when this was a frightening topic. Sometimes he was consulted about such cuts and asked to collaborate; sometimes very small cuts were made without reference to him. Second, he was in his early works subjected to a different kind of editing by those who thought he was, by Flaubertian standards, "formless." Third, he was sometimes asked to tailor things to fit a particular periodical. These three causes mean that there are considerable portions of excised Lawrence waiting to be put back where they belong; fortunately we still possess many of them. Lawrence accepted some of these changes because from 1912, when he eloped with Frieda Weekley, he could live

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