From Insurrection to Incoherence in D. H. Lawrence's The Lost Girl.

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Date: Spring-Fall 2018
From: D.H. Lawrence Review(Vol. 43, Issue 1-2)
Publisher: D.H. Lawrence Review
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 9,141 words

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When D. H. Lawrence left the manuscript of "The Insurrection of Miss Houghton" in Germany in 1913, he had no idea it would be seven years before he saw it again. This novel draft, which began as a narrative fragment called "Elsa Culverwell," would eventually form the basis of The Lost Girl, which Lawrence wrote and published in 1920. Many critics and scholars assumed initially that The Lost Girl was a bifurcated text, with roughly its first half having been written in 1913 and its second half written in 1920. This assumption was due to the striking contrast between the narrative style in the two parts and the fact that the second half featured observations and places related to Lawrence's post-1913 European travels. But scholars who studied the manuscript of The Lost Girl subsequently declared that Lawrence wrote the entire novel in 1920, using characters and situations from "The Insurrection of Miss Houghton" but not incorporating any actual pages from the "Insurrection" manuscript. (1)

This conclusion has led to a critical and scholarly acceptance of The Lost Girl as a coherent whole, a product solely of the Lawrence of 1920, despite the unusually long gap between the writing of the first draft and the resumption of work on the final draft. But the fact that Lawrence retained so many significant characters and situations from the earlier, 200-page draft means that, in actuality, The Lost Girl is an amalgam of the 1913 manuscript and the new material Lawrence wrote in 1920. As such, its older and newer aspects co-exist uneasily; the novel is replete with unresolved tensions. Critics and scholars who work from the premise that The Lost Girl is a textual whole not only miss or misread these tensions but they also tend to misunderstand how different the Lawrence of 1913 was from the Lawrence of 1920. Take, for example, the critical response to the character of Miss Frost, who was based upon an important person from Lawrence's youth, Miss Fanny Wright.

Fanny Wright (1854-1904) worked as a governess for the Cullen family of Eastwood but she also gave lessons to other young people in the community, including French lessons to Lawrence and music lessons to his sisters. Harry T. Moore describes her as "[o]ne of [Lawrence's] most valued friends at this time, one who helped him with his eternal and fatiguing lessons" (31). Lawrence's friend William Hopkin recalled that Miss Wright was "a very highly educated woman, and she spared no pains in helping Bert in his education--many times in after life he expressed his gratitude for what she had done"; she was someone "to whom he owed much" (Nehls 71). Her place in the community of Eastwood is evident in her obituary, which notes that the church was "filled with mourners, and business was suspended during the funeral procession" (qtd. in LG 364).

Lawrence used the Cullen household, which included Miss Wright and Miss Pidsley, a business supervisor, as the basis for fictional households in three works. In...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A639654806