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The Sons and Lovers Manuscript by Wayne Templeton
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The Sons and Lovers Manuscript
Wayne Templeton

In 1922, Mabel Dodge Luhan, having read Sea and Sardinia, and wishing to meet the author, implored the Lawrences for some time to visit her in Taos, New Mexico. When they finally arrived, they discovered in the sparsely populated desert a freedom from societal pressure and a simplicity which attracted them. Returning in March, 1924 after a year in Mexico and Europe, they decided to stay, if Mabel would sell them her Flying Heart Ranch. She wished to give it to them but Frieda, not wanting to accept favours from this woman, wrote to her sister Else in Germany for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers which Lawrence had stored there some years previously. This was presented as full payment for the ranch.

Mabel, not particularly thrilled by what she saw as a stack of partially illegible pages of a novel she had never read, and embittered by Frieda's antagonism, in turn presented the manuscript to her New York analyst, Dr. Abraham Arden Brill, as partial payment for services rendered. When he died in 1948 his son, Dr. Edmund R. Brill, inherited the treasure. Although this was apparently known to scholars, or certainly easily discovered, nearly fifteen years were to pass before anyone expressed interest in acquiring the manuscript. Finally, in 1963, after a series of negotiations, Mark Schorer purchased it for the University of California: Berkeley. The secretive manuscript was not yet available for scholarly analysis, however; another thirteen years passed before the permission necessary for publication was granted. In 1976, 63 years after its completion, the manuscript of Sons and Lovers was accessible. A new era of literary criticism involving this, the first truly successful of Lawrence's novels, had begun.

Lawrence conceived the novel in 1910. He mentioned in a letter to Sydney S. Pawling, 18 October, 1910,[1] that "Paul Morel [as it was then titled] will be a novel—not a florid prose poem, or a decorated idyll running to seed in realism, but a restrained, somewhat impersonal novel. It interests me very much. I wish I were not so agitated just now, and could do more." In this statement we see how subjective Lawrence was, and how transilient authorial intent can become. The novel is anything but impersonal; for the next two and a half years, until its publication as Sons and Lovers, Lawrence agonized over the manuscript. On 14 March, 1911 he wrote Helen Corke, "I have begun 'Paul Morel' again" (p. 239). Later that year he told Louie Burrows "I have just done one folio, a dozen MSS pages, of Paul Morel. That


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great, terrible but unwritten novel, I am afraid it will die a mere conception" (p. 258). In 1912 he finally completed a tentative draft and sent it to Jessie Chambers. On her recommendation he began the novel for the third time, and by that I do not mean revision; in the Lawrencean manner he disposed of each rejected manuscript and started completely anew. None of these earlier drafts are extant.

On 3 April, 1912 he informed Edward Garnett that "I shall finish my Colliery novel this week—the first draft. It'll want a bit of revising. It's by far the best thing I've done" (p. 381). But the revision was not easy. The novel "remains on my conscience" (p. 399), he told Frieda, and he revised with the "patience of a saint" (p. 405), but to little avail. "You don't think the quality of my work is going down, do you?" he asked Garnett (p. 439). He finished, and on 2 June, 1912 sent the revised manuscript to William Heinemann, who rejected it. Garnett, who was an editor for Gerald Duckworth, then read it and although he disliked the work, as a favour he suggested a rather lengthy list of advisable further revisions. Lawrence again reviewed his intentions concerning the novel, and again discarded the draft at hand. Having gained considerable objectivity—from Jessie Chambers, Garnett, and to a significant degree, Frieda, who was instrumental in his escape from the stranglehold of his relationship with his mother—he began a fourth draft. This time even the name was changed, to Sons and Lovers, and the writing finally proceeded smoothly. By the end of October Lawrence had "written 400 pages . . . [and] made the book heaps better—a million times" (p. 466). By the end of the year the novel was rewritten, completely revised, and by 3 March, 1913 the galley sheets had also been proofread and revised. The novel was published 29 May, 1913 by Duckworth, and received critical acclaim.

The manuscript itself is remarkably neat, the handwriting legible. Even words deleted (always by a single horizontal line) remain decipherable, as do emendations added between the lines in a smaller hand, sometimes with a finer nib. The only eccentricity of handwriting was Lawrence's tendency to leave "t's" uncrossed; such was his degree of neatness, however, that they were written without loops, so that they are never confused with "l's." Concomitant to this, the punctuation is conventional, and complete. The only calligraphic variation found throughout the manuscript, then, is the change in Lawrence's hand according to the control he was apparently exercising over the narrative generally. As he wrote, he revised in a simple, straightforward manner, usually in an attempt to overcome indecisiveness ("six rows of miner's dwellings" was changed to "six blocks"; "fished" to "pulled"; "Sheerness" to "Clathham" to "Sheerness"), or to straighten tangential curves in the narrative. The handwriting, as he pondered, uncertain as to the direction and complexity of character and plot, is small, careful, and the emendations frequent and often lengthy. As he progressed, becoming more sure of himself, the hand broadened: the words are larger, the style freer, the revisions less frequent, and involving words rather than lines or paragraphs. The pages begin to look cleaner.


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When he finished the final draft, Lawrence began revising in a different way, deleting lines in terms of the overall narrative, using his knowledge of what the characters and plot had become to change inconsistencies. In that process he deleted about 2,000 words. After completing his revisions, Lawrence sent the manuscript to Garnett, who deleted a further 15,000 words, using marginal parentheses and the letter "G" to indicate extent and source. This has been confirmed by his son David, who saw the manuscript and who was familiar with his father's handwriting and editing style. In the last step, Lawrence (and perhaps Garnett and Duckworth as well) revised the galley sheets: these I am calling "other emendations." By chapter, the variants are as follows:


Ms:  (longer emendations)  Ms:  Other 
Chapter  DHL  Garnett  emendations 
138  21  11  16 
73  11  19 
32  --  10 
38  15 
55  10  14 
82  27 
58  41 
54  13  34 
99  15  37 
10  80  14  59 
11  41  39 
12  50  10  46 
13  17  --  49 
14  12  --  26 
15  25  --  16 

These figures do not reveal everything, of course; each item represents variants as words, phrases, sentences, or in some cases even paragraphs, and in the case of Garnett's deletions, pages, rather than individual words. However, in a general analysis they are revealing. Lawrence's revisions, for example, tend to be shorter in the latter part of the manuscript: increasingly they become a matter of single words.

Lawrence's revisions in the manuscript differ from Garnett's in that they were attempts to refine the prose, whereas Garnett was concerned with condensing the narrative. Generally, Lawrence scrutinized his writing to delete repetitive or stylistically unsophisticated words, clichés, excessive adjectives, and so on. He had a tendency, for example, to use "ignominy" or "ignominious" and "nuisance" very often (the latter is particularly evident as a description by Mrs. Morel of her husband), and to use adjectives ending in "ingly": "scatteringly," "laughingly," "resoundingly." Most of these were expunged or emended.

He deleted other adjectives and adverbs as well, for reasons not immediately apparent, and effects not always successful. The first word in the


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phrase "small coal mines" was crossed out, for example; "great earth" was similarly changed to "earth,"
  • "beautiful clothes" to "clothes"
  • "furiously angry" to "angry"
  • "vulgar haste" to "haste"
  • "he said laughing" to "laughing"
  • "fingered wistfully" to "fingered"
  • "pretty young witch" to "young witch"
  • "winced violently" to "winced"
  • "musty smelling alley" to "alley"
  • "miserable feeling" to "feeling"
  • "brakeless bicycle" to "bicycle"
  • "shook playfully" to "shook"
  • "wild blue seagrass" to "seagrass"
  • "firm well-sprung body" to "body"
  • "fleshy petals" to "petals"
Some of these, notably those in the first column, are worthwhile deletions. "Furiously," for example, tends to be redundant; "pretty" can be construed as inappropriate; "violently" deemed needlessly synonymous. In the second column, however, we see revisions which are not effectual. By removing "musty smelling," we have only a commonplace alley. Similarly, a safe, nondescript bicycle, mere seagrass, an indifferent body, immemorable petals are all that remain.

In other word revisions we are left with a correspondent dissatisfaction. Again, compare the first column with the second:

  • "talked" was changed to "gossiped"
  • "stood" to "crouched"
  • "did not know" to "scarcely knew"
  • "cattle were turned in" to "cattle turned onto the eddish"
  • "submerged" to "slurred over"
  • "very refined" to "rather proud"
  • "new as red money" to "bright as copper and gold"
  • "discussion" to "argument"
  • "half a dozen steps" to "a little wooden flight of steps"
  • "room" to "cellar"
  • "looked" to "shone"
  • "whimpered" to "whispered"
  • "hate" to "warmth of fury"
  • "coldness" to "chill fingertips"
  • "thoroughly" to "nicely"
  • "walked" to "went"
  • "clambered" to "went"
  • "fished" to "pulled"
  • "barm" to "grocer" to "tradesman"
  • "wonderfully" to "very"
  • "passionately" to "absorbedly"
  • "flashed and struck" to "hit"
  • "hopped" to "ran"
  • "paralyzed" to "helpless"
  • "toddle" to "walk"
The emendations in the first list are effective; some are exceptional: "chill fingertips," "warmth of fury," and "whispered," which has changed the entire ending of the novel, spawning, in its wake, a spate of critical argument. But in the second column the changes are not impressive; they are in fact rather pedestrian. How, for example, is "nicely" an improvement over "thoroughly," or "went" over "walked," or "clambered"? I realize that simplicity, even starkness, in prose can occasionally enhance the writing, but in this case, coming as they do from a man whose style is so dependent upon, and acclaimed for, precision in detail, I find many of these revisions disconcertedly haphazard.

As puzzling are Lawrence's prolific manuscript deletions of qualifying adjectival and adverbial phrases:


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  • "from her father in contempt" reduced to "from her father"
  • "she said to herself" to "she said"
  • "she replied, very cold and distant" to "she replied"
  • "sat quietly, mocking" to "sat quietly"
  • "bitter with contempt" to "bitter"
  • "shouted Morel, jumping at once from his chair" to "shouted Morel"
  • "said the miner, crying unconsciously" to "said the miner"
  • "said Paul, with hearty satisfaction" to "said Paul"
Are these deletions justifiable? Certainly they were not performed for want of space, nor because the words were redundant ampliations of character, action or even motive. On the other hand, had they remained, they would have added, in the briefest of sketches, valuable insight into character and dramatic action.

Lawrence was more successful in his deletion of clichés and similarly unsatisfactory phrases, such as: "rolled with laughter," "in a cold fury," "embraced in an atmosphere of hate and rage," "make a man of him," "dead silence," "jaws of death," and "cut off your nose to spite your face." But even here he proved to be an uneven editor. In one place he deleted "sink through the floor," but in another he emended the phrase "he wondered at his mother's hardness" to read "he wanted to sink through the floor." And in another passage he added a pretentious and inappropriate phrase, changing "said the landlady with subtle sarcasm" to "the landlady looked at him de haut en bas."

Lawrence used dialect extensively in his "colliery novel," and in contrast with other kinds of revisions he was unusually careful in emending passages of dialogue so as to convey verisimilitude and appropriateness of character. For example, Morel's outraged statement "'You don't mean it!'" was changed to "'Tha niver says!'" not only because the latter is clearly the Nottinghamshire vernacular, but because Morel, an uneducated coal miner, never speaks out of dialect (as does, say, Mellors, in Lady Chatterley's Lover). Similarly, Mrs. Radford's "'A house wi' nothing but women in it's always three parts'" apparently seemed, even before the sentence was complete, to contain a metaphor unlikely to be coming from her, and was changed to "'A house o' women is as dead as a house wi' no fire.'" And when Baxter Dawes accosts Paul at one point, his threat was changed from "'I'll break every bone in your body'" to "'I'll settle your hash for a bit, yer measly little sniveller.'" Even if the emended phrase is less comprehensible, verisimilitude reigns, as when "'say another word'" became "'Ha'e much more o' thy chelp.'"

In the earlier part of Sons and Lovers, Lawrence was indecisive with proper nouns, as he strove to make the novel less autobiographical, and in some cases as he simply endeavored to create more appropriate names. Thus "Bardgate" became "Carston," "Sheerness" was changed to "Chatham," then "Southampton," then "Sheerness" again, "Croyton" to "Norwood," "Beach" to "Bottoms," and "Walker Street" to "Scargill Street." "Elizabeth" became "Gertrude," "Pembleton" was changed to "Pappleworth," "James" to "Edgar,"


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and "Frances Radford" to "Clara Dawes." In one place he made a significant error, referring to "Miriam" as "Jessie," the acknowledged source of the character. The mistake was discovered in the manuscript revision.

In other emendations, apparently to keep the novel and its characters consistent—that is, to avoid tangential or otherwise inappropriate material, such as aspects of character he wished to suppress or reveal later—"the two children were highly excited because" became "the two children were highly excited" (the next sentence then focuses on William alone); the second sentence was deleted in "He laughed rather boisterously. She found him very piquant taking"; and in the following passage everything after the first sentence was crossed out: "She pitied him. She really hated men, was born to despise and hate them for the temporal authority they possess. It was not in her to be a mate to any man." The woman is Clara, initially introduced as a radical suffragette, disdainful, cold, not at all likely to see Paul as a prospective lover. She softens, however, in the revised form, and is soon Miriam's replacement.

In the longer passages which Lawrence revised in the manuscript, it would seem that he spent more time working out what the weaknesses of the writing were, and how changes could be accomplished. The results, as the following reveals, tend to be competent and consistent with his intentions as we know them. In the first example:

She had his soul in charge. Like a sheep dog, she tried to keep him from straying. She barked in front of him, she fought with him. In two words, she turned the point of his own petty meanness back into himself. He could not endure moral suffering: it drove him mad.
She fought to make him undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfill his obligations. But he was too different from her. His nature was purely sensuous, and she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face things. He could not endure it—it drove him out of his mind. (Chapter I)
Not only did Lawrence eliminate a rather immature metaphor—carried to a ridiculous extreme: the staid Mrs. Morel barking—but the ensuing description of both characters in conflict is, in the revision, far more detailed and graphic.

In another passage, "One reaches out to God" was expanded (unusual for Lawrence) to read "the small frets vanish, and the beauty of things stand out, and she had the peace and the strength to see herself," and in a third, again emending from generality to specificity: "but she was afraid of herself when it came to simple common living, and happiness: there she felt wanting, or at least, there she deeply mistrusted herself" became "in renunciation she was strong, for she did not trust herself to support every day life. She was prepared for the big things, and the deep things, like tragedy. It was the sufficiency of the small day-life she could not trust" (IX).


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As with revisions, Lawrence's longer deletions, although very rare, are also more consistently successful. They sharpen the narrative, and intensify the drama through the elimination of redundant or heavy-handed or sometimes sentimental prose. In the following, a representative example, all but the last sentence was deleted.

No man can live unless his life is rooted in some woman; unless some woman believes in him and so fixes his belief in himself. Otherwise he is like a water plant, whose root is detached: floating still, and apparently flourishing upon a river of life, but really decaying slowly. Morel decayed slowly.

It was a great tragedy, and it is the tragedy of many a man and woman. The pity was, she was too much his opposite. (I)

Except for the third sentence—a wonderfully concise yet vivid summary of Morel—we can perhaps agree with Lawrence's decision to remove this rather tangential and abstract philosophizing.

As well as revising the manuscript, we know from letters to Garnett and others that in the early months of 1913 Lawrence received the galley proofs of his novel, from which he was able to determine the extent of Garnett's deletions, and on which he made a number of further emendations. In a letter to Arthur McLeod, 8 February, 1913, he wrote "I am correcting proofs of Sons and Lovers—it gives me the blues" (p. 513). On 18 February, 1913 he informed Garnett that he had "corrected and returned the first batch of Sons and Lovers [proofs]. It goes well, in print, don't you think . . . You did the pruning job jolly well, and I am grateful" (p. 517). By 3 March he had "finished and returned all the proofs of Sons and Lovers" (p. 522). These proofs are no longer extant, but we can determine the nature of Lawrence's revisions on them by comparing the revised manuscript with the first British and American editions (London: Gerald Duckworth, 1913; New York: Mitchell Kennerly, 1913). However, what is not certain is whether some of these variants were not also the result of further editing by Garnett, or even, as Mark Schorer suggests,[2] by Gerald Duckworth. In light of their indeterminable authorship, therefore, I will not discuss these other emendations.

In contrast to Lawrence, Edward Garnett, an acquaintance who became a close and lifelong friend, was clearly a more competent and consistent editor. He deleted those passages in the manuscript which interrupted the narrative in any way: by being redundant, abstract or philosophical, tangential to the main concerns of the novel, out of character, or simply sentimental or melodramatic. As most of these deletions are far too long to quote, I can only hope to give the reader an understanding of their specific nature by summarizing a few of the more significant ones. They are:


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  • 1. A paragraph describing the details of coal mining (I).
  • 2. A paragraph about William's unwillingness to help his mother by looking after his younger sister Annie (I).
  • 3. Most of three pages of manuscript concerning William's reaction to the new baby Paul, and a conversation between Mrs. Morel and a local minister (II).
  • 4. A page of manuscript concerning Morel's arrival during the minister's visit (II).
  • 5. A subsequent page of manuscript relating Mrs. Morel's success in undermining her husband's authority (II).
  • 6. A half page in which the Morels shout at each other, with little point, followed by a paragraph in which Mrs. Morel, waiting impatiently for her husband, promises herself to remain silent when he finally arrives:
    She did not trust herself, however. Time after time she had said the same, determined to refrain, and then her sudden anger had flashed out. She wished, with the loathing of weariness, that she might be spared seeing him when he came home. The reason she would not go to bed and leave him to come in when he liked—let any woman tell. (II)
    This was not deleted because of poor writing, nor because it is sentimental. The writing is rather forceful—strong and succinct—but the passage is misleading because Mrs. Morel never attempts to silence her criticism of her husband; her articulation of his faults is part of her power over him. Furthermore, the reference to her jealousy was aptly deleted, for it is completely out of character.
  • 7. A rather sentimental paragraph in which the infant Paul rejects his father's attention.
  • 8. Four pages relating William's experiences as a private tutor (III). One begins to see a pattern in some of these deletions: prolonged references to William and Morel were taken out, leaving the narrative more concerned with Mrs. Morel's alienation, and her growing relationship with Paul.
  • 9. Three pages of William's preparations for a dance, and a brief account of his French and Latin studies (III).
  • 10. A page in which William receives a love letter, and Mrs. Morel disapproves (III).
  • 11. A page in which Mrs. Morel tells Paul of her dissatisfaction with William, who is spending money on his girlfriend which she thinks is rightfully hers (V).
  • 12. Three pages of triviality in which Paul and his mother prepare for their first visit to the Leivers, followed by a half page in which Paul engages Miriam's brothers in adolescent introductory conversation (VI).
  • 13. A passage in which Mrs. Morel voices to Paul her dissatisfaction with William's announced intention of marriage. All such invectives will now be directed only against Paul and his lovers (VI).

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  • 14. A sentimental page in which Paul asks his mother if she ever wanted to be a man (VII).
  • 15. Four pages in which Paul, as would the reader, had the piece remained, becomes bored awaiting Miriam in the library (VII).
  • 16. A long abstract passage in which Paul and Miriam ponder the identity of "the bodily me" (VIII).
  • 17. A page in which Paul discusses religion rather pretentiously with Mrs. Leivers (IX).
  • 18. A half page of Paul pondering the concept of marriage (IX).
  • 19. Two pages of discussion concerning the Suffragette Movement (IX).
  • 20. Most of a very sentimental two-page letter from Paul to Miriam in which he contemplates the nature of love, marriage and fate, followed by a second letter, this one even more sentimental and quasi-philosophical. A segment from the first will exemplify Garnett's justification:
    When I talk to you, I do not look at you, often, for, can you understand, I do not talk to your eyes, though they are dark and fine, nor to your ears, hidden under a graceful toss of silky hair—but to your inside beyond. So I shall continue to do a whole life-time, if fate does not interfere. Do you see? And do you understand now why I only kiss you under mistletoe? Do you understand? and do I?—and is it better, think you? (IX).[3]
    And so on.

Although many of the segments which Garnett deleted justifiably deserved excise, others, when we read them in the manuscript, seem less deserving, for they add to our understanding of the characters and their relationships. Mrs. Morel's fiery kinship with her son, William, for example, by being toned down through deletion, is less flavoursome; in addition, that part of the mother revealed through the son becomes hazy as well, so that when she does erupt against him, we may wonder at the reasons for such intense anger and frustration. This counters Lawrence's original intention somewhat; in the letter to Garnett (14 November, 1913) in which he outlined the novel, he clearly wished the first filial liaison to be with William, and to be fully developed, so that when the elder son rejects the affair, Paul becomes his replacement. However, it is likely that Garnett recognized in Lawrence a reluctance to develop the first part, and rather than advocate further writing, he simply changed the focus. In doing so, he certainly played an important part in the creative process.

In fact, I think it would be fair to say that while Lawrence's critical ability—his objectivity—was improving (to the extent that he would produce, in his next two novels, virtual masterpieces of style and narrative control),


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that editorial capacity, which is completely satisfactory in very few writers, was at the time of revising the Sons and Lovers manuscript somewhat uneven and arbitrary. Some revisions are effective in sharpening the prose, making the scenes more graphic or dramatic, but others seem to impede this evolution of style. Changing "toddle" to "walk," for example, or "thoroughly" to the banal "nicely," seems to be an unconscious self-betrayal, and one wonders why Garnett did not exercise further editorial prerogative in these instances.

Nevertheless, Garnett, for his purposes, edited the longer passages masterfully and thoroughly. His deletions rather than Lawrence's emendations are what turned a pedestrian and at times problematical manuscript into a powerful, concise, and evenly developed novel. And certainly Lawrence himself, though reticent at first, perhaps from anger, certainly from frustration, finally recognized Garnett's competency as an editor. On 25 February, 1913, while working on the proofs, he wrote to his friend and colleague: "You did well in the cutting—thanks again" (p. 520), and when the novel appeared, it contained a dedication which read: "To Edward Garnett."



The Letters of D.H. Lawrence, ed. James T. Boulton (1979), I, 184. Subsequent references will appear within the essay.


See Schorer's "Introduction" to Sons and Lovers: A Facsimile of the Manuscript. (1977) for a discussion of the possibility that Duckworth did secretly emend the proofs.


A comparison of this excerpt with a letter which Lawrence wrote to Jessie Chambers, 28 January, 1908, provides an excellent example of the relationship between Sons and Lovers and the author's own life: "When I look at you," he wrote to Jessie, "what I see is not the kissable and embraceable part of you, although it is so fine to look at, with the silken toss of hair curling over your ears. What I see is the deep spirit within. That I love and can go on loving all my life" (Letters, p. 42).