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D.H. Lawrence uncovered...
April 2013

A previously unknown piece by celebrated literary giant D. H. Lawrence has been discovered in papers recently made available by the Alexander Turnbull Library.

The discovery, by noted Lawrence scholar Dr Andrew Harrison of the University of Nottingham, comes after significant new works by Katherine Mansfield, including a complete and previously unseen story, were found in the same collection of papers.

"The Mansfield and Lawrence material is part of a large collection of John Middleton Murry papers purchased last year by the Alexander Turnbull Library," said Dr Fiona Oliver, the Turnbull's Curator of New Zealand and Pacific Publications.

"Murry was Katherine Mansfield's husband and both were friends of D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda. There are many letters and papers relating to the Lawrences among the papers."

The previously unknown, and unpublished, article by Lawrence is a response to an article called the "Ugliness of Women" which appeared in 1924 in the Adelphi magazine that Murry edited.

"The original article, by 'J. H. R.', who Lawrence identified as an electrical engineer named Mr Rider, was a particularly misogynistic piece, despite perhaps an intention to be tongue-in-cheek," Dr Oliver said.

"Mr Rider wanted to explain why he eventually found even beautiful women ugly and among other things, decides it was because 'in every woman born there is a seed of terrible, unmentionable evil'".

Lawrence's response was a strong attack on such sexist attitudes.

He suggests that the "ugliness" in question "lurks" in Mr Rider's soul and concludes that, if Rider were to approach women as human beings instead of "a piece of lurid meat" he would avoid the "horrors" he is experiencing.

Dr Harrison has just published an article, with a full transcript of the Lawrence piece, in the English literary paper, the Times Literary Supplement. He contends that Lawrence's very strong response shows his impatience with contemporary attitudes to sexuality. He concludes that "few other writers in the 1920s could have focused so sharply or with such directness on the nature of male desire or its implicit objectification of women".

Dr Harrison suggests the piece wasn't published because Murry may have considered the tone of the article too aggressive and potentially libellous for the pages of the Adelphi.

"The discovery of this new piece of writing is extremely exciting", says Dr Oliver.

"We had a fairly good idea that the Murry papers might contain a wealth of such previously unseen material, which was one reason we were so keen to acquire it. Discoveries like this are likely to encourage researchers to delve even deeper into our collections."

The Alexander Turnbull Library (ATL), which is part of the National Library of New Zealand within the Department of Internal Affairs, is New Zealand's most important research library.

 
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