Go to the home page for Odour of Chrysanthemums, a text in process

About the text

The characters

James (1851-1880) and Mary Ellen (Polly) Lawrence (1854-1895), Lawrence's aunt and uncle, were the basis for Elizabeth and Walter Bates. They lived in a cottage ('Vine Cottage') very like the one described:

"Mrs Holroyd" was an aunt of mine - she lived in a tiny cottage just up the line from the railway crossing at Brinsley"
Quotation from a letter D H Lawrence wrote about the 'country of my heart' to Rolf Gardiner on 3 December 1926. (La Z 4/2/9)

James Lawrence was killed by a fall of coal at Brinsley Colliery on 17 February 1880. There were two children at the time, Sarah Ann (born 1876) and John (born 1878). Their third child, Alvina, was born in July 1880 after her father's death.

Lawrence as a boy heard his grandmother say of James "Like a blessed smiling babe he looked - he did that". However, Polly's father was a labourer not an engine driver as in the story.

The text

Lawrence sent the original manuscript of ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’ to the English Review on 9 December 1909; it seems likely that the magazine’s editor Ford Madox Hueffer had first suggested that Lawrence should write a story drawing upon the working-class colliery life that he knew so well. A six-page manuscript of the story’s ending (published in The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, ed. John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 203-5) may well be part of the manuscript sent to Hueffer.

By 10 March 1910, the story was in print for the magazine: twenty-seven pages of page proofs survive at the University of Nottingham, and the original printed text was first published by James Boulton in 1969 as the Uncorrected proofs (1910).) Lawrence corrected the proofs in March, believing that the story would be published in May. Instead, in July 1910 the corrected proofs were returned to him, and he was asked to reduce the length of the story by five pages. In September, however, he was told that publication would still have to wait. In March 1911, Austin Harrison - now the magazine’s editor - asked for more changes. Lawrence heavily revised the old page proofs, but this time added eight manuscript pages to contain his new corrections (see Corrected proofs); his fiancée, Louie Burrows, wrote out a fair copy. Louie’s new manuscript was sent to the English Review and the story was published in June 1911 (see English Review (1911)).

In July 1914, for the volume publication, Lawrence inserted numbered divisions into the text and rewrote the ending yet again; in October, he corrected the proofs heavily. The story in its final form appeared in The Prussian Officer in November 1914 (see The Prussian Officer and Other Stories (1914)).

Information provided by John Worthen in "The Prussian Officer and other stories" (Cambridge University Press, 1983)


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