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Jessie Chambers and Stage II
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Jessie Chambers and Stage II

During October Lawrence's publisher, Heinemann, began pressing him to promise that 'Paul Morel', which Lawrence said was "half done", would be finished "for March" (no. 323). But when he turned to it again, he must have despaired of breaking through the block he had developed towards it during the summer, for instead of completing it, he suddenly decided to send the unfinished manuscript to Jessie Chambers and ask her opinion of it (E.T., 190).

Relations between Lawrence and Jessie were very troubled during this period, and indeed were effectively at an end six months later. They had barely been in touch since they had met at the time of Mrs Lawrence's funeral in October 1910 and quarrelled about Lawrence's recent engagement to their mutual friend, Louie (E.T., 183-184). Lawrence had sent Jessie a complimentary copy of The White Peacock on its publication in January 1911, in gratitude for her help in writing it (E.T., 189), but he left her to discover from another mutual friend, Helen Corke, that he had started an autobiographical novel (E.T., 190) which was bound to contain reflections on his relationship with herself. It was through Helen Corke that Jessie met Lawrence again at this time: for it cannot have been by chance that he and Helen Corke both took their guests—his brother George, and Jessie, respectively—to the same performance at the Savoy Theatre in London on Saturday 7 October 1911.

What Lawrence then sent Jessie, therefore, "some time" after this meeting, (E.T., 186), was The Paul Morel Manuscript now at H.R.C., together


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with the opening and latter pages which are now missing. Jessie had played a crucial rôle in Lawrence's first publications, both by sending his poems to the English Review (E.T., 156-159) and by "nursing" his first novel, The White Peacock, into existence (she records with some pride his tribute: "I its creator, you its nurse.") (E.T., 189). But in writing The Paul Morel Manuscript Lawrence had sought not only to exclude her but to replace her in her rôle of confidante and adviser with his fiancée, Louie Burrows, his engagement to whom Jessie had disapproved: "I told him he had done wrong to involve [Louie] in the impasse of our relationship" (E.T., 183-184). Therefore, even if Jessie felt it a pleasure or at least a welcome duty to respond to Lawrence's appeal for comments on his novel, she must to some extent have been predisposed against the manuscript.

Twenty years later she included a critique of it in her memoir, E.T., which would be the sole account of this draft in existence had The Paul Morel Manuscript not been preserved; but now her description can be read in conjunction with the original document itself.

In a strongly written paragraph she summed up its inadequacies: its deadlocked, "story-bookish" plot (a word she had used of the first draft of The White Peacock), and its "tired writing" which convinced her that Lawrence "had had to force himself to do it" (E.T., 190-191; cf. 116). Her phrases have an uncanny resonance with the remarks quoted above that Lawrence had made in his letters to Louie as he wrote this manuscript. And yet her judgements are not so pervasively true as her emphases would have them: much of the surviving manuscript displays Lawrence's characteristic vitality.

More importantly, it is now evident that her account then continues with some curiously inaccurate statements: for, passing over in silence the father's manslaughter of Arthur in order to home in on Lawrence's treatment of "the mother's opposition to Paul's love for Miriam", Jessie wrote (E.T., 191):

In this connection several remarks in this first draft[17] impressed me particularly. Lawrence had written: 'What was it he (Paul Morel) wanted of her (Miriam)? Did he want her to break his mother down in him? Was that what he wanted?'
And again: 'Mrs Morel saw that if Miriam could only win her son's sex sympathy there would be nothing left for her.'
In another place he said: 'Miriam looked upon Paul as a young[18] man tied to his mother's apron-strings.' Finally, referring to the people around Miriam, he said: 'How should they understand her—petty tradespeople!'

Not one of these is an exact quotation from The Paul Morel Manuscript. This cannot be explained by the possibility that Jessie was quoting from parts of the manuscript now lost, for the central chapters devoted to Paul's relationship with Miriam have survived. The sentences that correspond most closely with Jessie's "quotations" are:


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He did not know what he was saying. Perhaps he wanted Miriam to rise and conquer his mother in him. There is no telling. (Ms. p. 268)
If once Miriam was able to win Paul's sex sympathy and service, then he was lost indeed to his mother. (Ms. pp. 245-246)
She told herself that he resented the maternal authority, that it irked him to be so tied to his mother, that he longed to be with her, Miriam. (Ms. p. 253)
Miriam roused mistrust in everyone who misunderstood her: and as she was always misunderstood by colliers' and petty tradesmen's wives, she had a poor time of it. What were the women to think of a girl who was deferential, humble, almost pleading towards them, who yet had a haughty contemptuous soul in reserve, . . . (Ms. p. 329)

How did this baffling discrepancy arise? There are three possible explanations: either she wrote this entirely from memory, or she used very brief notes made at the time, or she was inadvertently quoting from notes she later made of the Stage IIIa manuscript, the whole of which she read. The latter two alternatives are rendered doubtful by Jessie's declaration in a draft of her memoir: (Delavenay, 710) "I had to make a new start in life . . . So I found it was necessary to break every link that had bound us together, and I destroyed as far as I possibly could every line of his writing. I burned all the letters that I had kept, and even tore the fly leaf out of several books where he had copied poems for me." However, she may have failed to destroy everything or have saved, for example, a diary containing reflections or notes which she was able to turn to when writing her memoir.

Too little of Stage IIIa survives to rule out the possibility that her quotations accurately represent sentences Lawrence had written there, but in the few remaining passages with which her "quotations" do have some correlation, the wording is even less close than that of the passages in Stage II. They are[19]:

Mrs. Morel soon began to perceive the power that Miriam had over her beloved son, as Miriam well knew it herself. Only Paul himself was ignorant of it. Then began a struggle between the mother and the girl for the possession of the boy's soul.
Miriam herself was angry with him for being at the beck and call of everybody. She loved him, he loved her, of that she was sure. But he would not acknowledge his love. He was inconsistent, and on some very vital points, quite childish, she said.

When the equivalent passages in the published form of the novel are looked at,[20] it is clear that Lawrence developed the Stage II versions of them


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with a certain consistency in each revision: he steadfastly moved away from the suggestion that Miriam could win Paul's sex sympathy. This makes the third explanation of the discrepancy the most implausible. If, on the other hand, Jessie's "quotations" from Stage II represent the way in which she remembered at the age of forty-four something she had read at twenty-four, the gist of the sentences that had struck her had been transmuted in her memory into explosive and impatient formulations with the passage of time. In view of the fact that, as I explain below, the manuscript was only in her hands for two weeks, or at most just under a month, it seems to me marginally less likely that she would have developed sufficient familiarity with these passages to carry them in her memory for twenty years, and rather more likely that she had kept some sketchy notes. That would also give her the confidence to offer her sentences as quotations, since they would then be at least anchored in the key words which she had jotted down at the time.[21]

Jessie did not write comments in the margins of The Paul Morel Manuscript as she did later in some parts of the next draft, perhaps because she knew Lawrence intended to rewrite it—or because she was not driven by it to the degree of anger and distress that was provoked in her by the next draft. But it must have been she who pencilled (non-punctuational) brackets around Lawrence's description of Miriam as a "woman who exists only to plunge herself into the mystical dark of life" (p. 246)[22] perhaps as a description she intended to challenge. In her memoir, however, she indicates that her reply consisted of more general comment and advice: (E.T., 191-192):

As I read through the manuscript I had before me all the time the vivid picture of the reality. I felt again the tenseness of the conflict, and the impending spiritual clash. So in my reply I told him I was very surprised that he had kept so far from reality in his story; that I thought what had really happened was much more poignant and interesting than the situations he had invented. In particular I was surprised that he had omitted the story of Ernest, which seemed to me vital enough to be worth telling as it actually happened. Finally I suggested that he should write the whole story again, and keep it true to life.

Lawrence may not have been expecting such radical advice, but, as Jessie explained to the French scholar, Emile Delavenay (670): "He took me at my word, and entirely recast his novel. He included also the story of our household, which I had not suggested." She did not specifically ask Lawrence to set the figure of Miriam in a portrait of the Chambers's home, but that was the


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effect of her insistence "true to life". Her concern in pressing for that seems to have been a desire for Lawrence to see, as she did, that the death of Ernest would prove a portent for Bert, too, should he prove equally unable to overcome his "strange obsession" with Mrs Lawrence (E.T., 192).

I am pressing her remarks to conclusions which she deliberately—or delicately—resisted in her memoir (E.T., 192-193). She wrote of The Paul Morel Manuscript: "The elder brother Ernest, whose short career had always seemed to me most moving and dramatic, was not there at all. I was amazed to find there was no mention of him" (E.T., 191). She had forgotten the William of this draft, who appears to represent Ernest as a child, and whose name Louie had occasionally had to correct from "George" (the actual name of Lawrence's other brother). This oversight is not as strange as her failure to mention the Arthur of this draft. The astonishing climax of the plot, in which the son's vituperations of his father whip Walter Morel into such a blind rage that he hurls a poker at his son, and kills him, would be the first thing that most readers of this manuscript would mention in a summary. Jessie must have known the true basis for the story; presumably she found Lawrence's use of it melodramatic, or was not interested in his exploiting alternative narrative ploys for developing his subject. Her emphatic "no mention" of Ernest was related to her emphasis on his "short career": by comparison with the death of Ernest, which rendered his life-story "moving and dramatic", "poignant and interesting" and "vital", she must have found the death of Arthur "story-bookish" (the sentences about Ernest quoted above follow immediately upon the use of that word).

Jessie's silent amazement at Lawrence's fiction of the death of a "brother", and the focus it gave to her advice, produced a radical and thought-provoking change in the novel. In the revision, the father is no longer the agent of his son's death, and the hatred for the father shown in Stage II thereby loses its central vehicle; the college boy is no longer represented, nor are the bitter denunciations with which he had whip-lashed his father.