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Sons and Lovers.

Lawrence finished his fourth version of Sons and Lovers in November 1912 and wrote immediately to Edward Garnett, his friend and Duckworth's reader, vehemently defending his novel. Garnett insisted that the novel should be shortened and offered to undertake the pruning. Lawrence replied: 'I sit in sadness and grief after your letter, I daren't say anything.' He did not dare because he needed money; he could not afford not to have the novel published. Reluctantly he accepted the offer. Garnett removed over 2,000 lines of the manuscript (about a tenth of the whole) before sending the novel to the printers. When the proofs reached Lawrence he wrote: 'You did the pruning jolly well, and I am grateful. I hope you'll live a long time, to barber up my novels for me before they're published. I wish I weren't so profuse--or prolix, or whatever it is. But I shall get better.' Subsequently the manuscript disappeared for fifty years, and became available for examination only in the 1970s. It is a neat, legibly written manuscript with Garnett's cuts clearly marked. The question for the editors of the CUP edition was whether they should use the original, uncut manuscript as a base text for their edition. They state that the only principle guiding their choice was Lawrence's presumed preference. But which would he have preferred--the 'barbered' version, less prolix and revised by himself, or an unbarbered version in which substantial passages would be published unrevised because those passages had never been set up in proof? Carl and Helen Baron have decided on the second alternative. On balance they were probably right, although it is difficult not to believe that the possibility of establishing a new, unexpurgated copyright edition was attractive to the publishers for other than scholarly reasons. Consequently, the passages which Garnett felt were most redundant are restored for our examination. Mark Schorer, editor of the manuscript facsimile edition, made an early assessment of the cuts. 'Every deletion that Garnett made seems to me to have been to the novel's advantage. Nothing important is lost, ineptitudes disappear, and the novel emerges as tighter and more smoothly paced than it would otherwise have been.' To which Lawrence might have retorted that Garnett's critical judgements were those of an older generation yearning after concepts of form which he had already rejected. On the other hand, Garnett's interference was not unprecedented. Lawrence was always open to suggestions and proposed emendations from friends and other readers. He had raged against Heinemann for turning down the third version of the novel, but within days had decided to rewrite it, in the process making it 'heaps better'. His writing was for him a fluid living thing, always subject to revision as long as he had an opportunity to revise. We must be grateful for a scholarly edition of the novel while remembering that Lawrence would probably have been appalled at such precision. At least we can judge for ourselves. Garnett's cuts are mostly of rambling bits of social realism: the banter of self-important young men, William's semi-flirtations with his mother, scenes in the public library and brief exchanges in the family. A few phrases were omitted or altered because of censorship, coarse language being apparently as grave as (mild) sexual explicitness. The scenes between Paul and Miriam, even those between Paul and Clara were rarely touched. The painful intensity of the novel was never damaged. Over two hundred pages of appendices, explanatory notes, and textual apparatus must satisfy the queries of most readers (although this one confesses to being as dim as Miriam when it comes to Mr Morel's joke on p. 213). The notes provide much cultural information--not only the meaning but the social ambience of words and deeds--and there is a substantial glossary of dialect words. The Introduction provides a clear account of editorial decisions, useful commentaries on punctuation and on Frieda's contribution to the novel, and the customary section on 'Reception', a fascinating summary of prevailing prejudices. Several reviewers were worried by the morbid tone of the novel; none of them noticed the inconsistencies which Garnett's cuts had left, though they were there and have been there, unnoticed, ever since. How many readers have been puzzled by the fact that when Mrs Morel quarrels with Mrs Antony in Chapter 3, she is holding an empty mug at the beginning of the argument and one full of barm at the end? With this edition there is no such inconsistency; a vivid and touching episode of Bestwood life has been restored for our pleasure. Although the editors insist that critical judgements cannot be used as a basis for editorial decisions, it was the restoration of this little scene that justified for me their scholarly choice. KAREN MCLEOD HEWITT Institute of Russian and Soviet Studies, University of Oxford
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Author:Hewitt, Karen McLeod
Publication:The Review of English Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1994
Words:801
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