LAWRENCE, DAVID HERBERT (1885-1930, novelist and poet)
COMPLETE MANUSCRIPTS OF IMAGINATIVE WORKS BY LAWRENCE ARE EXTREMELY RARE: only one other has appeared at auction in the last thirty-five years and more (see next lot).
The two deleted trial titles and a number of cancelled words and phrases have not been published. One or two words were changed at a later date than this manuscript (for instance the word 'protectress' has been silently changed to 'protector'). Perhaps the most substantial change is from '...a fine, handsome, rather florid woman of forty' to '...a rather beautiful woman of forty, almost too full in blossom.'
'Delilah and Mr Bircumshaw' was first written in 1910 and was rewritten in Germany in June 1912. It was not published in Lawrence's lifetime and was first printed in the Virginia Quarterly Review, 1940, and subsequently in Phoenix II: Uncollected, Unpublished, and Other Prose Works by D.H. Lawrence, edited by W. Roberts and H.T. Moore, New York, 1959. Lawrence knew families named Bircumshaw at Ilkeston. An early manuscript fragment of the story in the Bancroft Library has been dated to c. 1909-1910. The present manuscript may be the one found in the desk drawer of Gerald Duckworth and returned to Frieda Lawrence by Curtis Brown (see Love Among the Haystacks and Other Stories, edited by J. Worthen, 1987, p. xlvi). Frieda Lawrence subsequently gave the manuscript to Christine Hughes, who appears with her daughter Mary Christine in Lawrence's 'Laura Philippine'.
Paul Poplawski and Warren summarise the story in A Bibliography of D.H. Lawrence:
'Mrs Ethel Bircumshaw, a former schoolteacher, has been married for four years to Harry Bircumshaw, a bank clerk and son of a country clergyman. She is small and sharp-witted with vivacious brown eyes; he is large and muscular but somewhat listless and sullen in manner; he seems to have little purpose in his life, and, because, as a consequence, he lacks true self-esteem, he has become something of a tyrant, bullying his wife - & beating their three-year old daughter - in order to assert a respected position in the house. The story, however, shows this churlish Samson having his locks clipped by his wife & her friend Mrs Gillatt, a slightly superior, old woman whom Harry has previously admired. In his presence, they discuss his performance in a church pageant, making fun of his appearance as one of the "Three Wise Men". He is silent and surly at this - he can cow his wife alone, but "he was afraid of two women" - and eventually leaves the room annoyed. The two women know that he will continue to listen to their conversation outside the room, and they now try to mollify his hurt pride by making flattering comments about him. But when they hear him going to bed [by the separate thud of his boots on the floor] still in a sulk, they go off to the kitchen where they can talk unheard. Here Mrs Gillatt expresses surprise at Harry's brutish behaviour ["Oh the brute! - the brute!! Well this has opened my eyes"], as previously she had seen only the "gentlemanly", public side of him: Ethel feels satisfied that she has made her husband look a fool in front of "this spoiled, arrogant, generous woman". Before she leaves [having declined bread and cheese for supper], Mrs Gillatt [suggests that she should not sleep with him that night and] tells Ethel not to take Harry any supper [making an unstated threat should she hear that Harry has touched the child again]. But Ethel knows she will have to continue to live with Harry, and, when she goes to bed, she brings Harry some milk and [meat] sandwiches. He pretends to be asleep, but she makes it clear that she knows this so that "another lock fell from his strength". Only when he believes his wife to be asleep does Harry throw the last of his pride to the wind and succumb to his hunger; but his wife watches him devour the food like a "strange animal" and she laughs to herself - before "a real scorn hardened her lips."'