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Sensitive Awareness and Spurious Feeling: Lawrence the Reviser and Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Laurence Steven
p. 31-57

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1A strand in current postmodern criticism of Lawrence sees the search for coherent meaning in his work – especially his essays – as a dead end. Rather, such critics as Joan Peters say, we need to understand Lawrence rhetorically, and his writing – fiction and discursive prose -as engaging in postmodern performativity in response to situation. The catchword here is that Lawrence is a “provisional” writer. Paul Eggert, summing up this direction in criticism, says the central feature of Lawrence’s aesthetic is his “provisionality, the willingness to revise, rethink, renew – the temporariness of the textual medium which Lawrence’s every writing, however strongly worded, actually inhabited” (107).

2There are intriguing aspects of this perspective on Lawrence, and Lawrence does regularly assert the lack of absolutes, the inevitability of change, the need to loosen our will-controlled grip on life and enter the flow. And he does in his rhetoric often perform the concepts his essays discuss, and fly in the face of conventional reason. Yet for those who pay close attention to Lawrence’s revisions, simply assigning Lawrence to the category of postmodern, provisional, performative is not easy to do. Scholars of Lawrence’s work know Lawrence is a moral writer rather than an aesthetic one, and that he referred to himself as a religious man, and therefore a novelist, and in considering the revisions we see the moral dimension in full play. As Littlewood says, rightly, when we watch Lawrence revise we see “a man with a conscience trying to be more truthful about his most intimate experience […]” (“Lawrence…” 176). Our responsibility as critical readers of Lawrence is twofold: first, to recognize what is actually going on when he revises – that Lawrence is a truth seeker attempting to “say the real say” (“Preface” 252); and second, to take him to task when our “sincere and vital emotion” (“John Galsworthy” 539) tells us the writing is not true.

3If we approach Lawrence the reviser looking for a progression or evolution in his revision procedure over the years, we will end up reading him wrongly, in effect looking “for the old stable ego” in his work when he’s actually moving through something like “allotropic states” (Letter to Garnett, 5/6/1914; 2L 183). Allotropism, remember, is a chemical term describing “two or more forms that differ in physical and chemical properties but not in the kind of atoms of which they are composed” (Gage Canadian Dictionary). Lawrence’s use of allotropic states to describe what he’s up to with his characters offers us a way to approach him primarily as a moral reviser rather than an aesthetic or a performative one. Though the three versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, for example, manifest quite different characters, we still read them as unmistakably the work of D. H. Lawrence. Yet the unsettled critical discussion about them over the years registers that they are not all of equivalent quality. Though the moral-fable-cum-satiric Version 3 has Lawrence’s imprimatur as the one he published, some think Version 1 has a gritty realism which the later versions lost, while others (myself included) think Version 2 has a lyricism and heuristic sensitivity not felt to the same degree in V1 or V3. Regardless of the choice one makes, it is important to recognize that as critics we are not just opting for the version that pleases us most from the range offered by the Lawrentian generic repertoire, but are choosing the one which most clearly reveals D. H. Lawrence, and often, ironically enough, in spite of D. H. Lawrence. The critical choice is thus a moral one, in the spirit of Lawrence’s familiar “John Galsworthy” statement that a critic needs, fundamentally, to be “morally very honest.” J. C. F. Littlewood illustrates this forthrightly and succinctly when, in considering the revisions of The Prussian Officer stories, he concludes that the spring/summer of 1914 is the “first moment of which it is reasonable to say that [Lawrence] is now truly himself” (323).

4The increasingly clear fact that Lawrence was perpetually engaged in revising his work keeps before us the moral nature of critical engagement. Whether the circumstance we find him in is aesthetic or psychological, political or economic, the thrust to revise is moral, the desire to find the truth of his vision at the moment. Though the revisions manifest in a variety of ways, sometimes one version plus fragments, sometimes two versions or three or even more, the moves he makes almost any time he revises tend to reflect three patterns. A first version often depicts a conventional understanding of characters in a predictable, usually realist situation. Yet something will be there that doesn’t rest quietly within the conventions. Roland Barthes might refer to this something as a punctum that punctures the studium; Emmanuel Levinas might call it an irruption of the saying into the said. In the terms Lawrence uses in his “Introduction to Harry Crosby’s Chariot of the Sun,” a “slit” (255) appears in the painted umbrella that we raise between ourselves and “chaos.” Such puncturing once more reveals to Lawrence, on later examination, that the reality we take for granted – and that he took for granted in the earlier version – is a simulacrum, produced and maintained by convention. Consequently the second version will be symbolic and deeper, showing the characters (and author) being acted upon by feeling, intuiting, and eventually recognizing the punctum and probing it until they come through into a new and awe-inspiring and fearful and emotionally (and often culturally too) dangerous world.

5Yet, as Lawrence (and his characters) push into the new awareness, the world out of which they push – Lawrence as a historically situated writer and the characters as dwellers in a conventional, habituated simulacrum – is still the old one. There is a tangible pressure for change, in the author and the characters. In a good deal of Lawrence’s fiction at this stage of revision we find characters acknowledging that they have to wait for the change to come, that they can’t force it. But even as the characters determine to wait for their destiny to unfold what it has in store, their author is often impatient. Cognate works written between or alongside the second and third versions show Lawrence wrestling with the destiny in other genres: poetry, painting, and, significantly, discursive prose that ranges from letters, to analytic/expository prose, to prophetic declamation often in the same piece. When he returns to the original work for another go – often the third version, but sometimes still in the second – the move is toward abstraction: in some cases the distanced, satiric, often cynical and acerbic tone of the angry author, in other cases the abstraction of myth, where an alternate world is drawn up alongside the simulacrum, and in still other cases the abstractions of mental cerebration where discursive prose breaks into the fictional world. In any event, the revelations encountered heuristically within the fiction in the earlier (usually second) version become part of a program, are habituated. Lawrence the satirist mocks the inhabitants of the conventional simulacrum, ostensibly goading them to break through the veneer. Lawrence the mythmaker creates a revelatory space for his protagonist/s, sometimes a safe haven as in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, sometimes not as in “The Woman Who Rode Away,” and sometimes a netherworld limbo where the characters wait to get their own back, as in The Ladybird. Lawrence the discursive philosopher breaks into the fictional world to articulate the significance of the unfolding events, like a deus ex machina who cannot be held to account. The need to wait, which is often still there because the simulacrum won’t just go away, is accepted with cynical resignation. Lawrence’s latter years are problematic ones for him in this sense because the risk is that his own ideas, the recognitions he has had over and over, the recurrent perceptions that have turned into conceptions, have become habitual – they’ve become structures of thought and feeling which are conventional.

6The challenge is that the discoveries, the breakthroughs, largely happen in the fiction and poetry; that’s why for Lawrence the novel is “the highest example of subtle inter-relatedness that man has discovered. Everything is true in its own time, place, circumstance, and untrue outside of its own place, time, circumstance” (528). What’s happening outside the fiction, largely in the discursive prose, is that Lawrence is habituating the fictional “coming through,” rendering it into a form that conventional understanding can assimilate. Of course the irony is that, thus rendered, the discovery is lost, or hidden; it disappears from view. Thus, when Lawrence returns to his work (usually a third version) with the newly habituated understanding that he wants his characters to see, they often don’t or won’t, and Lawrence begins a frustrated hectoring. Yet this is an irony that Lawrence knows all too well. He regularly thematizes it, discursively, in the novels. Here’s a typical passage from the middle of John Thomas and Lady Jane, version two of Lady Chatterley’s Lover:

Life is so soft and quiet, and cannot be seized. It will not be raped. Try to rape it, and it disappears. Try to seize it, and you have dust. Try to master it, and you see your own image grinning at you with the grin of an idiot. […] One gesture of violence, one violent assertion of self-will, and life is gone. You must seek again. […] One can fight for life, fight against the grey unloving armies, the armies of greedy and bossy ones, and the myriad hosts of the clutching and self-important. Fight one does and must, against the enemies of life. But when you come to life itself, you must come as the flower does, naked and defenceless and infinitely in touch. (323)

7The stances Lawrence presents here – the embattled fighter against life’s enemies, and the defenceless toucher of life – are familiar in his work; I’ve suggested they are like allotropic states. The critical challenge is to be sensitive to the places where the battle against life’s enemies shades over into a fight against life itself. In certain places, at certain times, Lawrence destroys the village in his attempt to save it.

As is so often the case with him, Lawrence provides a critical benchmark for us when we consider his revisions as moral work:

It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. And here lies the vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead. Therefore, the novel, properly handled, can reveal the most secret places of life: for it is in the passional secret places of life, above all, that the tide of sensitive awareness needs to ebb and flow, cleansing and freshening.

But the novel, like gossip, can also excite spurious sympathies and recoils, mechanical and deadening to the psyche. The novel can glorify the most corrupt feelings, so long as they are conventionally “pure.” (V3 101)

8This passage is justly famous as one of modernism’s talismans in criticism of the novel. It would be at home in any number of Lawrence’s discursive essays, such as “Morality and the Novel,” “Surgery for the Novel –or a Bomb,” or, perhaps most comfortably, “John Galsworthy.” But of course its home is not in a critical context but a novelistic one – it’s from the third version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, though like other Lawrentian touchstones, it has broken away from its context and tends to float free, ready to be “deployed” theoretically in other critical situations. Placing it back into the novelistic context – the comparative context of Lawrence’s writing/revising the three versions of LCL – is illuminating. The moral dimension is clear in the dual directions the novel can lead us – toward the new, the secret places of life, and away from the dead and corrupt. Other qualities align with these positive movements: proper handling of the novel enables – and is – sensitive awareness; improper handling lacks such sensitivity; its movement is “conventional” only, its feelings therefore “spurious,” “mechanical” and “deadening.” Yet how is this passage clear to us? With the clarity of limpid expository prose – that’s what makes the passage a talisman. Yet, shouldn’t we pause at this point? Doesn’t that very discursive limpidity reinforce conventional prose rhetoric? Lawrence is telling us here, not showing us. Notice how easy it is for me to speak of this narrator as Lawrence. While the voice is materially in the novel – the talisman passage is book-ended by Connie Chatterley’s thoughts – its rhetorical force comes from outside the novel, commenting in the familiar tone of Lawrence the critic. Rather than our being led by the novel into new places, at this point Lawrence is telling us where to go. And we like it.

9I’ll return to the novelistic context of the talisman passage shortly, but first I’ll thicken the context somewhat by looking at Lawrence’s diagnosis of the solitary modern individual that we find in a cluster of writings through 1927, as he was finishing John Thomas and Lady Jane (version two) early in the year, and over the roughly eight month hiatus from the novel before beginning Lady Chatterley’s Lover (version three) in November or December 1927. I’m thinking of his essay on Galsworthy, written in February 1927, his essay called “The Individual Consciousness v. the Social Consciousness,” which was probably an early drafted part of the Galsworthy essay and written about the same time, his book on the Etruscan Places, based on a trip with Earl Brewster in the summer of 1927, his August 1927 review of Trigant Burrow’s book The Social Basis of Consciousness, his introduction to Verga’s Cavalleria Rusticana of September 1927, and of course the versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover itself. To summarize: Lawrence sees the solitariness of the modern individual as a matter of coming to self-consciousness, which entails being fragmented from the continuum of other people and the circumambient universe. Consequently the modern individual has an acute need for relatedness – rich human relationships. Such subtle human relatedness, however, is a matter of selflessness, insouciance – entailing a willingness to let oneself go. The challenge here is that as fragmented individuals we are terrified to surrender the self we have; we are selfish. There is a conundrum involved: to recognize and become aware of the need to surrender requires us to become self-conscious; it furthers the problem we’re already in, of fragmentation brought about by head knowledge. To moderns (and postmoderns) like ourselves actually letting ourselves go is a radical move; it means, to use Lawrence’s metaphors, throwing oneself on the flood; it means dying the death. It means a vertiginous step outside our known mental territory into the physical/emotional unknown. Thus our fear of fragmentation is compounded. So, Lawrence says, we seek assurance and relatedness by other means, by making our selves more so. We want insurance, and that comes with money; increasingly money and what he calls in V3 the quest for the Bitch Goddess of Success drives us and determines our goals. This leads in turn to our objectifying the world, seeing it as at our disposal, a resource to insure our selfhood. An effect of this drive for security through mammon is that the world is stripped of its mystery, its spirit.

10Such is Galsworthy’s problem: his books, and his characters, have no soul – they are social beings whose standard is money, through to the core. The genuine individual is connected to the larger continuum, somewhere, deep down, and his or her human responsibility finally won’t bow to money. So thinks Lawrence. And that’s why his novels disturbed Galsworthy and others of the older generation, and frankly why they continue to disturb us, as well as enliven us and give us hope. They are a moral/aesthetic critique, often going so far as to be an affront, to our modern, real world. He says that what you and I as educated, savvy, pragmatic modern individuals see as reality, just isn’t so. It’s a lattice-work of conventions holding chaos at bay, or in the strikingly Nietzschean metaphor from his April 1928 introduction to Harry Crosby’s Chariot of the Sun, mentioned earlier, Lawrence says our reality is just a painted umbrella, which we’ve forgotten we’re holding up. It’s a dream, as Connie Chatterley thinks in V3, or rather, “it was like the simulacrum of reality. […] No substance to her or anything – no touch, no contact” (V3 18). The role of the poet or novelist is to bring us into sensitive awareness of the umbrella, to enable us to recognize the “back of presented appearance” (“Introduction to These Paintings” 579), to “inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness,” and thus to “lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead” (V3 101).

11Yet despite this awareness of the “simulacrum of reality” beginning to surface toward the end of V2 of LCL, being articulated during 1927 in the gap between V2 and V3 in the essays just mentioned, and being incorporated in V3 in the passage just quoted, the major change we see in V3 is an excising of the excess of realism – the passional, intuitive, spontaneous, swooping and circling, ebbing and flowing of sensitive awareness; the mystery of touch – and the reduction to a realist image, under the domination of ideas, the mental consciousness. V3 functions as a moral fable in the tradition of Silas Marner and Hard Times, as Squires and others have pointed out, but far from undermining realism, the fable lends itself to an allegorical rather than a symbolic/heuristic reading, where the allegory ironically reinforces the simulacrum by taking it as real. Lawrence has preconceived goals, and the progress of the novel is predictable. It falls into conventional patterns; there are no surprises, beyond perhaps the taboo words and the explicit sex, which, as Lawrence rightly says in A Propos, might shock the first time, but not after that. These shocks are superficial only; they don’t force the novel out of the path Lawrence has laid down for it.

12Lawrence’s revisions over the three versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover show this dynamic at work, and show where Lawrence is able to enact both the relatedness that rises to sensitive awareness, and the spurious emotion, will-derived, that intervenes in relatedness. The latter is often Lawrence’s satiric rendering of those he referred to as social beings, but is also often Lawrence himself intruding into the narrative when the time is not right – putting his thumb in the pan.

13Before considering sensitive awareness and spurious feeling through Lawrence’s treatment of the theme of contact as it emerges near the end of V1, is embodied in V2, and is sidelined in V3, I wish to return to the talisman passage on sympathetic consciousness I began with to tease out the implications both of its appearing in the novel, and where it appears in the novel.

14The passage appears in V3 when Lawrence sets up Mrs. Bolton’s “talking Tevershall” as an object lesson in how the novel can lead into new life, away from things gone dead, or can corrupt the reader’s sympathies, reinforcing spurious feeling. He shows Mrs Bolton’s gossip as leading us away from the creative relationship staring us in the face in Tattie Allsop and Willcock. Bolton cynically outlines the 53 year old Tattie Allsop’s marriage to the 65 year old Willcock after her dominating father dies, and laments the problems with older people these days who don’t act with propriety. Yet, Tattie and Willcock have done just that, in Lawrence’s understanding of what’s proper. They have seized the moment and let themselves go, and in so doing have created a new thing – their love relationship, their marriage. The outward form of “marriage” has an organic connection with their beings. Mrs. Bolton, in the name of convention, misses that, despite her having experienced it in her relationship with Ted, her husband who has died. By showing Mrs Bolton improperly handling her story – missing the “subtle inter-relatedness,” the kairos, the continuity of reality that emerges in the moment, “the truth of time, place, and circumstance” as he calls it in “Morality and the Novel,” Lawrence shows us how he properly handles his novel.

15But, as I intimated earlier, we need to reflect about what kind of “showing” Lawrence is engaged in with this Bolton episode. In effect we need to ask what kind of novelist he is at this point. As I said a moment ago, the passage about leading our sympathetic consciousness combined with Mrs Bolton’s Tevershall talk is an object lesson. Lawrence satirically uses Bolton’s gossiping to make a discursive, expository point about how novels work. His use of the gossip is very well done, but it is finally an example used to illustrate method. The lead up passage is really an introduction, done in expository mode. Though bookended by Connie’s sensibility, the narrator’s voice here is the voice of Lawrence the teacher. Here is the full passage, in context:

Connie was fascinated, listening to her. But afterwards, always a little ashamed. She ought not to listen with this queer rabid curiosity. After all, one may hear the most private affairs of other people, but only in a spirit of respect for the struggling, battered thing which any human soul is, and in a spirit of fine, discriminative sympathy. For even satire is a form of sympathy. It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. And here lies the vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead. Therefore, the novel, properly handled, can reveal the most secret places of life: for it is in the passional secret places of life, above all, that the tide of sensitive awareness needs to ebb and flow, cleansing and freshening.

But the novel, like gossip, can also excite spurious sympathies and recoils, mechanical and deadening to the psyche. The novel can glorify the most corrupt feelings, so long as they are conventionally “pure.” Then the novel, like gossip, becomes at last vicious, and, like gossip, all the more vicious because it is always ostensibly on the side of the angels. Mrs Bolton’s gossip was always on the side of the angels. “And he was such a bad fellow, and she was such a nice woman-” whereas, as Connie could see even from Mrs Bolton’s gossip, the woman had been merely a mealy-mouthed sort, and the man angrily honest. But angry honesty made a “bad man” of him, and mealy-mouthedness made a “nice woman” of her, in the vicious, conventional channelling of sympathy by Mrs Bolton.

For this reason, the gossip was humiliating. And for the same reason, most novels, especially popular ones, are humiliating too. The public responds now only to an appeal to its vices. (V3 101)

16Lawrence (the narrator) says “even satire is a form of sympathy.” And he’s right. But consider where his satiric treatment of Bolton’s gossip leads our sympathetic consciousness. First of all we find ourselves, as Connie finds herself, listening to gossip. We probably don’t feel the slight humiliation that Connie does though, because unlike her we aren’t in the scene. In fact we are further distanced by Lawrence’s expository move; we are aware that we are being shown an example of a point he wants to make. So, while we sympathize with Tattie and Willcock against Bolton’s treatment of them, we are not given enough room to nurture a spirit of respect for their struggling, battered human souls that have finally found each other. Lawrence’s framing discursive mode leaves us outside looking in. Our sympathy for Tattie and Willcock, genuine as far as it goes, is a matter of mental awareness and could be diagnosed as “spurious.”

17We also might wonder what has happened to our sympathy with Mrs Bolton herself. In V3 Lawrence places her in a direct line of descent from the interfering housekeeper Nellie Dean of Wuthering Heights. But she didn’t start out that way. Her background is as a strong, highly sympathetic Lawrentian woman who married a Lawrentian man – in V1 she was in effect the awakened Elizabeth Bates from “Odour of Chrysanthemums,” 20 years after her husband was killed down pit. The fact that Mrs Bolton can act so conventionally and superficially in V3 despite “knowing” better is a function of Lawrence using her increasingly instrumentally through the latter part of V2 and in V3 rather than letting her develop all of a piece, or organically. He revises her into a gossipy, tricky traitor who informs on her fellow townsfolk to Clifford as she gradually becomes mistress of Wragby in place of Connie.

18Lawrence treats Clifford similarly. Early in V1 Clifford gains our sympathy by the generous way he releases Connie sexually, even though we agree with Connie that the situation for him was largely “theoretical.” But as V1 goes on Lawrence transforms Clifford into someone distinctly unlikable. And the transformation continues in V2 and V3. Clifford becomes an embodiment of the social being lacking organic connection to his circumambient world through his feelings. He lives in his mind, will and abstract spirituality. He becomes a master of the mines, as well as an aesthete. By V3 he is a disciple of the “Bitch Goddess of Success.” He is the epitome of spurious feelings. Connie’s father says of his writing: “There’s nothing in it. It won’t last” (V3 17), and the epithet applies to Clifford as well.

19Lawrence makes Clifford, in effect, a Galsworthy-like author and character both – a social being who can “keep up convention, but [who] cannot carry on a tradition” (“John Galsworthy” 543). And this is ironic because it is Clifford who brings this discussion into the novel at the point where he and Connie discuss who will inherit England. Lawrence gives Clifford the words, but his deeds – the books he writes and the authors he reads – show how conventional he is.

20From a certain satiric perspective, it is fitting that Clifford and Mrs Bolton are left in a perverse mother/lover/child tangle by the end of V3. Where else could they end up? Clearly Lawrence has intended his novel to lead our sympathy away in recoil from this thing gone dead. But critical opinion has been unsettled about Lawrence’s treatment of these battered human souls. The concern is not that such things shouldn’t be depicted, but that there seems to be a surplus of spite in the depiction – a feeling (the best word to use here, taking Lawrence’s lead) that Lawrence is enjoying the display of his own cruelty. And if so, aren’t we awfully close to the novel glorifying corrupt feelings? Not Clifford’s and Bolton’s, but Lawrence’s. Lawrence is clearly, like Mrs Bolton the gossip of conventional morality, on the side of the angels. We understand the import and intent of the depiction, and are meant to assume Lawrence’s satiric stance. But we balk. And the balking is the beginning of criticism.

21The problem, as Michael Squires identifies, is that “Clifford is psychologically motivated from the ‘outside,’ from a narrator whose bias prevents him from seeing […] Clifford’s […] unique identity as a human being” (59). While I can agree with Squires on this point, I have a harder time when he says that in V3 “Connie and Mellors are psychologically motivated from the ‘inside’” (59). In my view the mental awareness that manipulates Clifford instrumentally in V3 also affects the depiction of Connie and Mellors. To see this more clearly we need to look at the shift in presentation of the theme of “contact” over the three versions.

22Near the end of V1 (209, 211) Duncan Forbes focuses on the issue of “contact.” Yet the recognition is not one his character would have had, and it fits him uneasily. As Keith Sagar says, “At the end of the novel Lawrence is aware that he has not been able to do enough with communism, and makes a last desperate attempt to inflate its significance by putting his own hopes directly and quite inappropriately into the mouth of Duncan Forbes” (293). Here is the passage in question:

Do you know what I think the English really want? [. . .] Contact! Some sort of passionate human contact among themselves. And perhaps if the Communists did smash the famous “system,” there might emerge a new relationship between men: really not caring about money, really caring for life, and the life-flow with one another. (V1 211)

23Sagar is right to see this assertion as Lawrence’s rather than Forbes’, but his implicit dismissal of the view stated is problematic. The theme of contact, or touch, becomes the central one in version two, John Thomas and Lady Jane. Having it enter V1 near the end is not so much a matter of Lawrence’s desperation, but of his undergoing a significant revelation in a context that is inappropriate for receiving it. In an attempt to connect the new awareness more organically with the narrative world, he gives the revelation to Connie just five pages from the end:

What? What? The contact, the infinitely subtle living contact between her and him. The relationship. Duncan was right: it was the new contact that was the clue to life. She knew it now, now that it had suddenly broken off, and she felt herself like a dead limb, cut off from the body of life.[ …] she realized her mistake. There had been a holy thing, a living, flowing, intangible contact between her and the man. And tonight she, with her stupid arrogant will, and Clifford, with his baboon lips, had broken it. (V1 216-217)

24The more we study Lawrence’s revisions, the more we see Lawrence as a writer who realizes the import of his writing in the course of writing it; the conscious awareness of the revelation’s significance surfaces during and after the fact; Lawrence needs a second version in order to shape the emergent truth back into the context, creating an organic connection that can work didactically on the reader’s feelings from below, so to speak, to educate them into a “fine, discriminative sympathy” as the narrator says in V3 (101). We can also see, though, that often the revisionary shaping that takes place in second and subsequent versions, because it developed in hindsight and often in another mode of composition – expository essays, letters, poetry, etc – does not organically connect with the host work, but imposes on it or intervenes in it – interposing Lawrence in another allotropic state. And the lack of sympathetic, organic connection often means that the new knowledge or vision shaping the new version is will-controlled; mental awareness, and the engagement with the characters can be spurious.

25We can see the process at work in V1 and its transition to V2 and V3. By the point of Duncan’s revelation and assertion about contact, Connie and Parkin have developed an intimate and nourishing relationship on the level of their feelings, but on the mental level they are drifting further apart. Duncan acts as a bridge between them in the last part of the novel because Lawrence doesn’t know how to bring them together. The understanding of contact is a mental knowing, used in an expository fashion; it lacks organic connection.

26The biggest piece of evidence in V1 that the full importance of contact emerges as the novel proceeds, and that Lawrence isn’t in conscious moral/aesthetic control of the emergence, is that it is virtually absent in the lead up to Connie’s and Parkin’s first sexual encounter in V1, but not so in the other versions. In V1, from the beginning of the novel to the first encounter is roughly 14800 words, and within 500 words beyond the first encounter, they’ve had sex twice more, and Connie has had her revelatory orgasm, feels “lapped in a new womb,” and knows she “loved the man, loved him with all the depths of her body, and her body’s splendid soul” (38). This amounts to 31 pages in the Cambridge edition. In V2 it is 52,300 words to the first encounter and 58,300 to Connie’s revelatory orgasm, or 106 and 118 Cambridge pages respectively. And where in V1 the consequence of the orgasmic revelation is that she loves the man, in V2 she feels danger and fear at the change she’s experienced with and through this strange person. He is recognized as something outside her ken: “She had thought to take this man in the wood, and appreciate him, and be grateful for his service to her, all in the same range of emotion as she had known all her life” (342). But her habitual world is no more: “She was like a volcano” (342). The volcanic feelings erupting from within herself have an incalculable organic connection, whereas her emotions are conventional, social, and superficial; they are what Lawrence calls our “domesticated animals” (“The Novel and the Feelings” 756).

27In V3 it is 46,600 words to the first encounter, and 53,700 to her revelatory orgasm, or 94 and 108 Cambridge pages respectively, roughly 12 fewer pages to the first encounter than V2, and 10 fewer to the revelatory orgasm. And where in V1 the consequence is she loves the man, and in V2 that love changes to awe and fear of the transformation in her occasioned by this distinctly other person, in V3, though ostensibly holding onto the discovery of V2, she in effect reverts to the conventional contact of V1. Here’s the passage:

Another self was alive in her, burning molten and soft and sensitive in her womb and bowels. And with this self, she adored him, she adored him till her knees were weak as she walked. In her womb and bowels she was flowing and alive now, and vulnerable, and helpless in adoration of him as the most naïve woman.
“It feels like a child!” she said to herself. “It feels like a child in me.”
So it did. (135)

28That tiny coda from the narrator – “So it did.” – displays a confident if not complacent understanding of the process Connie has just undergone. Lawrence knows the import of the revelation, forensically. In fact we sense that what is looming large for Lawrence at this point is not Connie’s revelation so much as the theme of inheritance, the importance of the child – the question of who will inherit England – which plays so important a role in V3. Lawrence has it stand in opposition to the theme of mammon – the Bitch Goddess of Success – which dominates Clifford increasingly in V3. What we see here is that the revelatory moment has changed over the versions, from a conventional love, to awe and fear and uncertainty as habits are undermined, to adoration for the man who is the father of the mother’s child, certainly a return to a more conventional response. The deep feeling and sensitive awareness of V2 become the spurious emotion of V3 as Lawrence’s social/prophetic/satiric tone and rhetoric come to dominate the narrative stage.

29In the space remaining I will look somewhat more closely, to illustrate just how the treatment of “contact” changes, and why, in the lead up to Connie’s first actual meeting with Parkin, on her walk in the wood with Clifford. V1 opens very quickly, as if Lawrence is setting up a narrative thought experiment along the lines of “What would happen to the love relationship if a young, robust woman is given her sexual freedom by her thoughtful but crippled and sexually impotent husband?” Within four pages of the opening, Clifford has released her, and on the fifth page “The gamekeeper, Parkin, came out of the cross-path on to the riding. Constance released her husband’s hold” (11). Lawrence’s preparation of Connie for the encounter is limited to “Strange feelings surged in her” (11).

30In V2 it is not until chapter 3 that Connie and Clifford go to the park, after chapter 1 where Connie, settled at Wragby, begins to bend under the strain of her paralyzed life, and chapter 2 where her father Sir Malcolm tells both her and Clifford not to let her remain a demi-vierge. The day of the walk is described as “ghostly”; she feels “something mysteriously alive in the wood” (241); Clifford starts talking and the words intervene: “So many words! Oh god, so many glib words! And she had been sensing another mystery, in the wood” (242). Clifford goes on to say they haunt each other with their wills; she looks at his eyes: “they still held a strange power over her, in their pale, uncanny concentration. She knew they had power over her. And she knew she enjoyed it, or got a strange, unearthly thrill out of it. – She forgot now the other, silent feeling within the wood, that had been drawing her away from him” (243). Clifford then recounts what Connie’s father had told him about Connie becoming a demi-vierge, and then releases her to have an affair, after articulating that their marriage is on a more spiritual plane and can do without the “incidents” of sex:

“You’d keep the arm of your will round me all the time?” she said, with quiet acceptance that might contain a sting of irony.
“The arm of my will, if you like to call it such,” he said.
They were silent, both very much moved: and moved worlds apart from one another. (247)

As she and Clifford move apart, Parkin immediately appears out of the cross riding. At their meeting Lawrence reveals the connection between Connie and Parkin at a level of deep feelings, far below conscious awareness:

Constance, absorbed in a confusion of thoughts and emotions, met his glance almost without knowing it. She was hardly aware of him, being so much disturbed in herself by what Clifford had said. But the man’s watchful, hard eyes caught the unresolved trouble in the wide blue eyes of the young woman, and the unconscious spark of appeal. He felt the queer spark of appeal touch him somewhere, but he stiffened, and hardened his spine in resistance and in unconsciousness. He did not choose to be aware. (248)

31Over the next few pages Lawrence shows Connie thinking about Parkin, and then shows Parkin thinking about her. The narrative ebbs and flows between them, the thoughts and feelings of each tentatively defining the outlines of their relationship, their relatedness.

32In V3 the mysterious sense of life Connie had felt in the woods and that melted easily and naturally into the ebb and flow between herself and Parkin is gone. As well as changing his name to Mellors, Lawrence omits the gamekeeper’s interior perspective, taking him out of the to and fro, ebb and flow of the mostly unconscious rhythmic connection between them. Though Lawrence says that the “wood was [Connie’s] one refuge, her sanctuary” (V3 20), he qualifies the point immediately:

But it was not really a refuge, a sanctuary, because she had no connection with it. It was only a place where she could get away from the rest. She never really touched the spirit of the wood itself – if it had any such nonsensical thing. (V3 20)

33And when Mellors appears “he had frightened Connie, he seemed to emerge with such a swift menace. That was how she had seen him, like a sudden rush of a threat out of nowhere” (V3 46). Again, the connection that Lawrence’s prose in V2 had enabled us, with Connie, to intuit, is gone. Rather than inhabiting a simulacrum but having some deep awareness somehow of its falsity, and of a genuine reality somewhere, here we have a realistic gamekeeper scaring a realistic woman.

34The lengthier V2 reflects the significance that the appropriate moment has on the organic, hesitant, tentative, ebbing-and-flowing emergence of the contact between Connie and Parkin, out of unconscious depths and rhythms that connect them to each other in their circumambient world. While Lawrence does shape this tacit connection into the novel, the shaping is more than instrumental; it comes out of Lawrence taking a new attitude to his inspiration for the book – an attitude prepared to wait for the right time, the kairos moment in which the significance reveals itself. The opening pages of chapter 4 Lawrence refers to as Connie’s “evil days” (V2 255-6), when she approaches a nervous breakdown. Here her inability to break out of her insane space without assistance from outside it (254), mirrors Lawrence’s stance when he is on the verge of a new and deeper allotropic state. There is always an intuited sense of something drawing him on, but something he can’t articulate. A representative illustration comes from a March 1913 letter mentioning The Insurrection of Miss Houghton, which was “all crude as yet […] most cumbersome and floundering – but I think it’s great – so new, so really a stratum deeper than I think anybody has ever gone, in a novel. But there, you see, it’s my latest. […] nobody will publish it. I wish I had never been born” (1L 526).

35In V3 Lawrence is far less willing to wait for the contact to emerge. Whereas in V2 Connie and Clifford go on their walk into the woods and meet Parkin in Chapter 3, in V3 this walk and meeting with the keeper are in Chapter 5. Lawrence inserts before it the Michaelis episode in Chapter 3 and the cronies discussing a variety of ideas in Chapter 4. The introduction of Michaelis signals a change in emphasis for Lawrence. As Derek Britton says,

Michaelis is a type-figure, the principal motive for whose introduction into the novel, demanding extensive revisions of the early chapters of the book, was possibly to define the phallic sex of the keeper more clearly, through setting up an antithetical relationship with active mental sexuality. (246)

36I don’t doubt that Britton is right in his assessment of Michaelis’s role. But when the episode enters the novel at the expense, through revision, of the slow, careful weaving of the strands of contact between Connie and her environment and of Parkin within it, then we need to question the significance. Michaelis is a type – chosen to play a role in an argument. Though he is sexually active, he is not a dynamic character; Lawrence does not want one here. Lawrence wants to illustrate a point: that social beings who have no deep feelings but who live from their minds and wills, can’t love. Their emotions are spurious.

37Similarly with Chapter 4 where the cronies discuss love, marriage, Bolshevism, industrialism, and what a whole life means (but not “touch,” pace Squires, 31). In the space of 10 pages we get a spate of ideas bandied about by social beings, or in the case of Tommy Dukes, apathetic ones, with Connie sitting there primly, silently, stitching. Yet it ends thus:

Hate’s a growing thing like anything else. It’s the inevitable outcome of forcing ideas on to life, of forcing one’s deepest instincts. Our deepest instincts, our deepest feelings we force according to certain ideas. We drive ourselves with a formula, like a machine. (V3 39)

38Lawrence’s ostensible point in including such an idea-larded chapter, of course, is to show the irony of these cerebral social beings waxing eloquent on wholeness and sexuality. There is a certain sharp humour in the depiction. But further, Lawrence can have Tommy Dukes teach Connie about the ways of the world.

Michael Squires is of another mind about these insertions:

In version 3 Lawrence […] uses Sir Malcolm’s notion that Connie should “meet people” by introducing Michaelis and Clifford’s Cambridge friends into the narrative. Not simply expanding his materials, Lawrence coherently builds one version upon the other. […] he supplies Connie with a false sensual connection – Michaelis – in order to make more persuasive her discovery of genuine fulfillment later in the novel […] and he shows Clifford’s Cambridge friends intellectualizing sex when they visit Wragby. Thus the theme of illegitimate sex well controls the content of the scenes […] (32)

39The difficulty here is that the novelistic coherence and control that Lawrence gains by including Michaelis and the cronies at this early point is conventional. They become the negative side of a fictional argument to persuade Connie about fulfillment in which the keeper, revealed later, is the positive. Lawrence’s heuristic art, emergent in V2, is replaced by a didactic art which directs the show. The effect on the novel of inserting two instrumental chapters so early in the book, and before Connie has even met the keeper, is debilitating. They determine the direction. As the book moves forward, it does so on the tracks laid down by these illustrative/expository/satiric set pieces. Of course Mellors is going to be everything Michaelis is not; of course he does not force ideas onto life. Clearly, he is what Connie desperately needs.

40In V2, significantly, the cronies chapter is the 5th, and takes only “touch” as its theme rather than the spate of ideas of V3. In V2 this abstract discussion of “touch” comes only after Lawrence has woven Connie and Parkin into a relationship, in Chapter 3 where she meets Parkin, and chapter 4 where she sees him washing. Only in chapter 5 does the discussion turn abstract, with the cronies discussing contact and Dukes articulating the democracy of touch. And Connie contributes to the conversation, albeit not as much perhaps as we would like. When Connie says she can imagine nicer places than Wragby, Jack Strangeways smirks that she wants Scotch castles and Italian villas. She responds:

“No! Where one needn’t be desperate about owning anything. Where a bit of life flowed.”

“You’re quite right, Connie!” said Dukes, looking at her with his shrewd eyes. “A flow of life, and contact! We’ve never had proper human contact – and we’ve never been civilized enough. We’re not civilized enough even now, to be able to touch one another. […] The next civilization will be based on the inspiration of touch: believe me” (V2 276)

41Lawrence develops Connie’s sensitive awareness deftly here, with Dukes’ more abstract observation rising organically out of Connie’s life as we’ve seen it develop thus far. In V3, on the other hand, the discussion of the democracy of touch, arguably the theme of V2, is reduced to a few lines stuck into chapter 7. When Dukes mentions it, “Something echoed inside Connie. ‘Give me the resurrection of the body! The democracy of touch!’ She didn’t at all know what the latter meant, but it comforted her, as meaningless things may do” (V3 76). Even Lawrence’s tone is half cynical, slightly mocking. He hasn’t done enough work on Connie’s sensitive awareness, and the result is that he half wonders if her emotions might not be spurious. Actually, though, it’s Lawrence’s we find ourselves wondering about.

42Yet, Lawrence himself again enables us to find our critical bearings by directing us back to the novel as a form of sensitive awareness, emerging unconstrained by the author’s spurious mental awareness. In “The Novel and the Feelings,” which Sagar’s Calendar says was written in June 1925 (144-145), but which internal evidence places far closer to 1927/8 and the emergence of V3 of LCL, Lawrence speaks about the importance of educating ourselves in the feelings, “not by laying down laws and inscribing tablets of stone, but by listening” (759). How should we listen to the innermost feelings? “If we can’t hear the cries far down in our own forests of dark veins, we can look in the real novels, and there listen-in. Not listen to the didactic statements of the author, but to the low, calling cries of the characters, as they wander in the dark woods of their destiny” (759-760).

43I’ve only been able to glance here at some of the issues involved in considering Lawrence’s treatment of emotion through a study of his revisions. Suffice it to say at this point, that the wealth of material made available by the Cambridge Edition, at all stages of Lawrence’s writing process, and all periods of his life, gives us a remarkable opportunity to enter the flow of Lawrence’s sympathetic consciousness. To assume that the last version is the best, or the one we should regard as the real Lawrence, is to ignore the punctums that are prodding us at every point.

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Britton, Derek. Lady Chatterley: The Making of the Novel. London: Unwin Hyman, 1988.

Eggert, Paul. “C. S. Peirce, D. H. Lawrence, and Representation: Artistic Form and Polarities.” D. H. Lawrence Review 28. 1-2 (1999): 97-113.

Lawrence, D. H. The First and Second Lady Chatterley Novels. Eds. Dieter Mehl and Christa Jansohn. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999 [pbk 2001].

___. “Introduction to Chariot of the Sun by Harry Crosby.” Phoenix. Ed. Edward D. McDonald. New York: Viking, 1936. 255-262.

___. “Introduction to These Paintings.” Phoenix. Ed. Edward D. McDonald. New York: Viking, 1936. 551-584.

___. “John Galsworthy.” Phoenix. Ed. Edward D. McDonald. New York: Viking, 1936. 539-550.

___. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Ed. and with notes by Michael Squires. London: Penguin, 2006.

___. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Volume I, September 1901—May 1913. Ed. James T. Boulton, Cambridge UP, 1979.

___. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence: Volume II: June 1913—October 1916. Ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981.

___. “Morality and the Novel.” Phoenix. Ed. Edward D. McDonald. New York: Viking, 1936. 527-532.

___. “The Novel and the Feelings.” Phoenix. Ed. Edward D. McDonald. New York: Viking, 1936. 755-760.

___. “Preface to ‘The Collected Poems of D. H. Lawrence.’” Phoenix. Ed. Edward McDonald. New York: Viking, 1936. 251-254.

Littlewood, J. C. F. “Lawrence and the Scholars.” Essays in Criticism XXXIII (1983): 175-186.

___. “Son and Lover.” Cambridge Quarterly 4 (Winter 1969-1970): 323-61.

Peters, Joan Douglas. “Rhetoric as Idea: D. H. Lawrence's Genre Theory.” Style (Spring 2000)

Sagar, Keith. D. H. Lawrence: A Calendar of his Works. Austin: U of Texas P, 1979.

___. D. H. Lawrence: Life into Art. London: Penguin, 1985.

Squires, Michael. The Creation of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 1983.

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Laurence Steven, « Sensitive Awareness and Spurious Feeling: Lawrence the Reviser and Lady Chatterley’s Lover », Études Lawrenciennes, 43 | 2012, 31-57.

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Laurence Steven, « Sensitive Awareness and Spurious Feeling: Lawrence the Reviser and Lady Chatterley’s Lover », Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 43 | 2012, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2013, consulté le 18 janvier 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lawrence.83

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Laurence Steven

Laurence Steven’s primary area of research and teaching is 20th century literature and the intersections of literature, rhetoric, ethics, and philosophical hermeneutics. His special interests include representations of cultural encounter, the work of D. H. Lawrence in a variety of genres, and the literary culture of northeastern Ontario. He is publisher and editor of Your Scrivener Press, a regional small press with a mandate to serve the writers and readers of northeastern Ontario ( In addition to teaching in the Interdisciplinary Humanities M.A. in Interpretation and Values, he teaches in the English Department and in Laurentian’s Human Studies PhD program. One of his articles on Lawrence “Revising ‘The Spirit of Place’” has been published in Études Lawrenciennes 38 (Fall 2008): 231-255.

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