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

Further material: 'In the Archive'

I am at the McFarlin Library in the University of Tulsa. I am here to see a manuscript: a very long way from anywhere, it feels. The library pretends to be a European fortified manor house of the sixteenth century, with crenellations. Inside it is, of course, a modern building, with lifts and air-conditioning. I go the reading room, show my credentials, and am admitted to the oak-panelled reading room. The oak-panels look as if they came from . . . a European manor house of the sixteenth century. Perhaps they did.

They bring me the manuscript I have come to see. It is of a story by D. H. Lawrence called 'New Eve and Old Adam'. I have of course already seen a xerox of the story. I have also downloaded on to my own laptop a beautiful colour digital image of the manuscript, where I can zoom in and out again, focussing on every letter of every word.

But I have still had to come to Tulsa, to the McFarlin Library, and have the manuscript in my white-gloved hands.

The first lines are easy. They have the title. Lawrence first wrote 'Eve'. Then he added the word 'Renegade': 'Renegade Eve'. Then he crossed most of it out and wrote 'The New Eve and the Old Adam'. Then he crossed out bits of that and ended up with the title the story had when it was published: 'New Eve and Old Adam'. I don't need to be in Tulsa to see that.

What I have come to see is in line two of the story. I know Lawrence's writing well, and he first wrote

"I can't see it was so wonderful of you, to hurry home to me, if you are so tame when you do come."

A wife is complaining to her husband, as he sits in the room with her after returning from a journey. The interesting thing, however, is that the word 'tame' has been struck through and another word inserted: 'cross'. My xerox and my digital image have already been enough to show me that the word 'cross' is not in Lawrence's handwriting. It is the writing I know it well of his partner, not yet wife, Frieda Weekley. Frieda felt quite strongly that when Lawrence wrote about the woman in the story, it was really all about her. When she read that sentence, she felt she had the right to change 'tame' to 'cross'. She knew what she would have said. And she crossed out the word 'tame'.

But and this is why I have actually come to Tulsa that was not the only change made in the first three lines of the manuscript. In line one, another word has also been crossed through: 'maddeningly'. And in line three, the word 'bitingly' has also been deleted. I need to know who it was who deleted those words: Lawrence or Frieda?

And no xerox will help with that. Nor will even the most beautiful colour digital image. I need to look at the actual paper, under the strongest light and with the most powerful magnifying glass I can get, to see whether 'maddeningly' and 'bitingly' were crossed out in the same ink and in the same way as the word 'tame'. It's exactly like being a detective: I have to examine every tiny piece of evidence. Is the deletion in the same ink? Did the pen dig into the paper in the same kind of way, as the line was inscribed? Did it dig in deeply at the start and taper off, or did it dig in consistently? I know that Frieda deleted 'tame'. I have that line to compare with. Can I be sure that she also deleted 'maddeningly' and 'bitingly' as well?

I came to Tulsa to check: not only this, but this is a good example of what I have to do, at times, in an archive. I have turned over the page and looked hard at the back, too, to see if the crossings out were done so hard that they came through the paper, or at least marked it. I have looked at other examples of crossings out as well, throughout the manuscript, especially ones which I know to be Lawrence's own.

I have used my magnifying glass and handed it back, along with the manuscript, to the archivist who has provided me with my materials. I can now go and produce an edition of the story which contains the words which Lawrence used. Because I am confident that Frieda deleted all three words.

© John Worthen
March 2010

 

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