University of Virginia Library

Sons and Lovers is the autobiographical novel of an author whose biography has, since his death, rivalled his art in commanding the attention of readers and critics. The two years he spent writing his four drafts of the novel (October 1910 to November 1912) witnessed the most momentous events in his life: his mother ("my first, great love")[1] died, he left his teaching job for the risky experiment of living by his pen, he went to live out of England for the first time, and he began sharing his life with Frieda Weekley; he also brought to an end his long relationship with Jessie Chambers, and was engaged for fourteen months to Louie Burrows. The four drafts that he wrote in those two years bore witness to his efforts progressively to understand and face or evade the implications of those events while living through them.

Lawrence himself called the work "autobiography" (Letters, I, 490), but it was no simple record; by writing it he was examining a central life-problem that was Oedipal in character, and doing so not only before Freud's theories had made their impact on Europe, but also through the medium of the novel


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rather than the treatise or essay. His method of arriving at his conclusions was to renew his efforts at interpretation with each successive draft. Thus the sequence of drafts would show the steps by which he made progress in the uncharted territory of psychological self-analysis, and how he learned to reconceive the potentialities in the novel form for the purpose of such fictional-biographical exploration. The full drafts would therefore show more than developments in style, they would reveal how Lawrence brought into shape an innovative work of art; in addition, they would document his oscillations between one interpretation and another as he pondered the conflicting pressures in his personal history, and they would provide some insights into the emergence of his verdicts.

Echoes of a conflict between rival viewpoints linger on into the published novel in the recurrent tones of judgement, accusation and self-justification. This tendency of the novel to sound like a debate has been reinforced from without by the existence of Jessie Chambers's rival interpretation in her memoir, written after Lawrence's death.[2]

All these complexities cause the surviving early drafts to be the subject of a more intense and varied curiosity on the part of readers of the novel than many an author's "foul sheets" would necessarily be. But because each draft is so intimately bound up with Lawrence's life in those two years, it is not enough simply to read and compare different versions; we need to know as closely as possible when the surviving pages were written.

Alas, not everything has survived, but in addition to the complete final manuscript miscellaneous portions from previous drafts are extant. No serious attempt has been made to date these and discover how they all relate to each other.

The University of California published in 1977 a beautiful photographic facsimile of the Sons and Lovers manuscripts acquired in 1963 and held at the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, which include not only the final manuscript itself but some rejected sheets from earlier drafts.[3] The editor, Professor Schorer, labelled these sheets "Fragments" and divided them up at follows:

Fragment 1  Chapter I  pp.1-8 
Chapter II  pp.44-45,46a-49a,46-58 
Chapter III  pp.68-82 
Chapter IV  pp.83-85 
Fragment 6 is in fact a continuation of Fragment 5: no pages are missing between the end of chapter III on page 82 and the beginning of chapter IV on page 83. Professor Schorer registered his surprise (p.[3]) that Fragment 4 contained page-numbers also found in Fragment 5: the answer to this enigma


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is that Fragment 4 belongs to a different period of composition from all the other Fragments except the inserted pages 45, 46a-49a of Fragment 3.

Any reader of the facsimile of the final manuscript itself is bound to notice that it contains long and short sequences of varied paper, some sections of which have had their page-numbers altered once or even twice. Did these renumbered sections originally belong to earlier drafts? If so, which drafts? When were those passages written? How do they relate to the other, discarded, portions of drafts: the Fragments at Berkeley and the manuscripts now held at the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin?

It is strange that Professor Schorer made no mention of the latter, for they had been described in print (albeit not wholly accurately) by Harry T. Moore;[4] and they were the only Sons and Lovers manuscripts listed in the edition available to him of Warren Roberts's scholarly and authoritative A Bibliography of D. H. Lawrence.[5]

The University of Texas H.R.C. has held since the early 1960's a 271-page manuscript of an early draft which is there labelled The Paul Morel Manuscript; and in November 1980 the Center also acquired a twenty-three-page section from a draft written in Lawrence's hand but annotated with crititisms and revisions by Jessie Chambers.

It is well known that Lawrence tried to improve his progress with the writing of this novel by involving in the process of composition at several stages one of the main participants in the life-history recounted therein, Jessie Chambers. As a result she wrote for him biographical notes, and critiques of his drafts, some of which have fortuitously survived. The existence of her marginalia shows that she also wrote her objections and criticisms on the manuscript of the novel itself, and the result is a richly suggestive document. The acquisition of this manuscript completes the H.R.C.'s holding of the small selection of Jessie's written contributions to Sons and Lovers known to have survived. The others are three episodes and two commentaries, making six manuscript sections in all. It has never been satisfactorily established how these Jessie Chambers manuscripts (labelled the 'Miriam Papers' by Harry T. Moore[6]) relate either to each other or to the successive drafts of Sons and Lovers.

When my co-editor and I were pondering our microfilms of the surviving


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manuscripts in Cambridge, England, in preparation for a study of the originals in Berkeley and Austin, and wondering whether it would be possible to settle some of these unanswered questions, the significance dawned upon me of a remark in one of Lawrence's letters: "The 112 pages of Paul are pages such as this on which I write. Am I a newspaper printing machine to turn out a hundred sheets in half an hour?" Letters I, no. 264. Did Lawrence's expostulation contain a clue as to where the key to this jigsaw-puzzle might be found?

That letter, written on 9 May 1911 to Louie Burrows and now held at Nottingham University Library, was written on a 21-lined paper which had been torn off a pad with the aid of such large perforations that the sheet had acquired a markedly "serrated" top edge. These same features, 21 lines and a serrated top edge, appeared to be present also (as far as one could tell from a microfilm) in the first surviving pages, 72-165, of The Paul Morel Manuscript. Were some of these the pages Lawrence had been referring to in that letter? Did he regularly write letters on the same paper that he was using for his novel (and stories and poems)? If so, the letters, as physical documents, would provide a dated framework for reconstructing the history of the layered manuscripts and miscellaneous fragments that have survived.

Preliminary study of the holdings in the library of Nottingham University gave me reason to believe that some correlations would be revealed if we undertook as full a survey as possible of the relevant documents. Nearly all the extant letters written between October 1910 and November 1912 are now held in the Nottingham University and County Libraries, the H.R.C. at Austin and the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. Some comparison of manuscripts of the novel with letters could be made physically at Austin, but for identification of paper-types between the various library holdings some form of sufficient paper-description needed to be devised.

The comprehensiveness of James T. Boulton's The Letters of D. H. Lawrence Vol. I 1901-1913 permitted us the great convenience of referring to each letter by the enumeration in that volume (which also gave economical identifications between letters written on the same day and even to the same recipient). In the larger period September 1910 to May 1913, that we chose prudentially to cover, there are 402 items in Letters I (Nos 178-579). Of these, 83 are postcards and one was written on a concert programme; 6 survive only in typed copies and 27 as quotations in books, newspapers or private communications; a further 9 letters are in private hands; 7 are at UCLA[7] and one at the University of Indiana.[8] The remaining 268 original letters we examined


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and described for comparison with the paper-types found in the 882 surviving leaves of manuscripts of the novel.

In this article I report the results of the research, beginning with an account of the problems encountered, the methods evolved and the picture that emerged of Lawrence's habits in the use of stationary. The grid of descriptive questions we assembled reflects the range of paper-types being covered, and the terminology we settled for reflects the practical rather than theoretical emphasis of the task. Scholars engaged on similar projects, whether in relation to further manuscripts of D. H. Lawrence or to other authors, may perhaps benefit from the information and adapt the techniques described here.

Then, although a wide range of results flows from the precision in dating made possible by the paper research, this article is confined to explaining the chronology of composition and interrelations between the surviving portions of drafts in terms of paper-batches. This information is summarised in two tables at the end: they provide the essential factual foundations for readers of the California facsimile who wish to develop their observations about Lawrence's revisions.

Lawrence's statements in his letters give an outline composition history of Sons and Lovers as follows. It was written, in effect, in four stages: Lawrence wrote four drafts starting from the beginning each time and he conducted a separate, thorough revision of one draft; but he did not complete all these four stages. He wrote Stage I (unfinished) from October to December 1910; Stage II (unfinished) from 13 March to July or October 1911; Stage III he began on 3 November 1911 and continued until perhaps 19 November when he fell ill, and then after convalescing he began again sometime between 9 and 23 February 1912 and finished on 11 April 1912; on 3 May he took this IIIa manuscript with him to Germany, and Stage IIIb was a revision of this version carried out from 16 May to between 2 and 9 June 1912; in September he arrived in northern Italy where he wrote Stage IV from 7 September to 19 November 1912. The paper research modifies some of this outline as well as providing dates within which each sequence of paper was used.

After the completion of the manuscript stages, the novel was further altered during the ensuing months. First, the publisher's reader at Duckworth's, Edward Garnett, reduced its length by a tenth by crossing out passages throughout the final manuscript. Secondly, Garnett sent the edited manuscript direct to the printer, Billing and Sons in Guildford, where it was used as copy: the compositors introduced a few substantive variants and thousands of changes in punctuation. Finally, two rounds of proofs were revised by Garnett and Lawrence before publication on 29 May 1913.

The change of title from 'Paul Morel' to Sons and Lovers during composition is not perfectly reflected now in the labels by which the surviving manuscripts are known. From his very first mention of the novel in October 1910, Lawrence called it Paul Morel, and it was not until mid-October 1912, when he had written three-fifths of the final manuscript and only a month before he completed and despatched it, that he used the title Sons and Lovers.


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Therefore all the references in Lawrence's letters during those first two years, that is for almost all the manuscript stages, are to Paul Morel. But Paul Morel is the name now given at the H.R.C. to the 271-page manuscript (largely of Stage II) held there, and Professor Schorer (pp. [2]-[3]) suggested the title Paul Morel or PM3 for the Fragments at Berkeley. In this article Lawrence's uses of titles in letters will be quoted as they are printed in Letters I; 'Paul Morel' will be the form for referring to mention of the novel in the records for that period; The Paul Morel Manuscript will be used for the H.R.C. manuscript of Stage II; the "Final" manuscript for the complete manuscript of Stage IV, and "Fragments" for the discarded pages at Berkeley; the "section" of chapter IX for the twenty-three pages of a draft held at H.R.C.; the "remains" of Stages IIIa and b for the reconstruction of that draft from the surviving evidence; and "items" for the distinct manuscript sequences belonging to the so-called "Miriam Papers".