BOOK REVIEW / Lawrence's thrusts without the cuts: 'Sons and Lovers' - D H Lawrence; ed Helen Baron and Carl Baron: CUP, 70 pounds

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The Independent Culture
SONS AND LOVERS is dedicated to Edward Garnett, the reader for Duckworth whose editing of Lawrence's fourth and final version of the novel cleared the way for its eventual publication in 1913. In this scrupulous new edition, the dedication still stands, only here it has acquired an ironic tilt, for this full and unexpurgated Sons and Lovers restores, after 80 years, all the passages Garnett excised - cuts mostly designed to shorten a book he regarded as at least 10 per cent too long for the contemporary fiction market, or to snip out tufts of sexual explicitness.

The edition also reverts to the author's original punctuation, replaced ever since by the heavy Duckworth house-style, which at times radically altered the sense. The use of the dash is all-important, for example, in these ponderings of Miriam's: 'She saw what (Paul) was seeking; a sort of baptism of fire in passion, it seemed to her. She realised that he would never be satisfied till he had it. Perhaps it was essential to him - as to some men to sow wild oats.' Change that last sentence, as the Duckworth printers did, to 'Perhaps it was essential to him, as to some men, to sow wild oats' and Paul's desires are risibly (and illogically) lumped with those of the randy brigade, instead of carefully distinguished from them.

For the most part, Garnett's censorings seem touchingly coy by today's standards. He deleted the word 'natural' from 'He could smell her faint natural perfume' and substituted vaguer words like 'body' and 'limbs' for such anatomical pinpointings as 'thighs' and 'hips'. In the sexually charged bathing episode on the Lincolnshire coast, Paul here gets his first public chance to kiss Clara Dawes on 'the two white glistening globes she cradled' rather than on the less erogenous zone of 'her neck'.

As far as the erotic content of the novel goes, the one startling restoration occurs in the scene where Clara lends Paul her bedroom after he has missed his last train. He drowses and then, in Garnett's version, simply sits up and looks at the room in the darkness. In the original, we now find, 'he realised there was a pair of stockings on the chair. He got up stealthily and put them on himself. Then he sat still, and knew he would have to have her. After that he sat erect on the bed . . .' A touch ludicrous, perhaps, but the passage is also strangely suggestive, Paul's trying-on of the stockings both a prolepsis for his penetration of Clara's body and an effort to imagine what it feels like to be her.

The first three attempts at this novel had been called 'Paul Morel'. While composing the final draft, Lawrence hit on Sons and Lovers, its plurals indicating his concern to elaborate the early years of William, Paul's older and more energetic brother. In his famous defence of the novel, Lawrence described it as 'a great tragedy . . . the tragedy of thousands of young men in England'. Paul, he wants to show, is not a rare case of mother-domination, nor is it unusual that a son feels forced to repay his mother for her self-sacrifice by giving her his soul, to the point of having nothing left for other women but sexual passion.

The full force of William's role as the foreshadower of Paul has been weakened until now by Garnett's unnegotiated and drastic cuts. In Chapter III, he cancelled 320 out of 750 lines. Episodes that show how mother and son 'left each other glowing warm' and how, by the time Paul was born, 'already William was a lover to her' have now been reintroduced, fleshing out the psychological parallels between the siblings.

A1so published for the first time are some passages relating to women's rights (a conversation about equal pay; Mrs Morel's response to Paul's question, 'Did you want to be a man, mother?') and a four-page account of the weekly rendezvous between Paul and Miriam at the Bestwood subscription library in which Lawrence illustrates the common love of books that was insufficiently substantiated in the published text. The rows between Mrs Morel and her miner husband have been untrimmed so that the couple no longer reach boiling-point so abruptly, and the mother's isolation from the mining community is dramatised in several restored passages which show her interacting with locals.

The expurgated version has had its defenders and, if you were to judge from some of his letters to Garnett, you might feel bound to include Lawrence among them: 'You did the pruning jolly well, and I'm grateful. I hope you'll live a long time, to barber up my novels for me before they're published.' But Lawrence also wrote 'It's got to sell, I've got to live', and the present editors are surely right to interpret the compliments to Garnett as the resigned relief of a man who was desperately short of money.

While it would be vain to argue the vital importance of every restoration, it is significant that with The Rainbow, his next enterprise, Lawrence stood out against censorship and broke with Garnett, a decision he did not lament, even though the novel was suppressed less than two months after publication.

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