THE CRIMSON BOOKSHELF REVIEWS
England My England, and Other Stories, by D. H. Lawrence. Thomas Seltzer, New York: 1922. $2.00
These stories are all constructed to portray one theme,--the human being on the rack; on the rack of physical pain, or anguish of the soul or unattained emotion. They illustrate a self-conscious passion, an examination of all of the details of human passion. In fact they constitute the very summary of all of the elements of the subjective.
"England My England", the first story in the book and the longest and the best, might just as well have been "China My China" as far as the author is concerned. When Lawrence is Cockney his Britticisms stand out; when he tells a straight story he has obviously his "special case" in mind. His people are tall physically; they have what for want of a better word we must call "aura". They vibrate. He says they do. Whenever Winifred looks at Egbert, even when animal love is all that remains, she reminds herself that he is a sort of electric person. "He is," as Lawrence would put it, "so terrificially present to her" (my quotes). His characters bite and scratch; themselves and one another. They cling and they smash. It is on the whole, a quivering scene. The men and women in it appear perfectly normal on the outside, perfectly British (or Chinese). But shortly the current is turned on and what happens is the story of "Tickets Please", where a man is almost torn to pieces by six girls with whom he has firted.
Mr. Lawrence writes brilliantly: his style is his own and it is rarely a dull one. His stories are not slovenly. Most of his characters are real at times. The plots are ingenious as in "Samson and Delilah" where an errant husband turns up unexpectedly after fifteen years. He has humour as in "Monkey Nuts".
But they are spoiled, ruined to the core, every one of them. Ruined by a cloying insatiable, pathological subjectivity. It is ghoulish and does not suggest the human, even the eccentric. And even Mr. Lawrence's ticket takers, and farmers and young country girls, are all of them stark mad, mad in an unpleasant rasping way. All of his characters have un-natural lights in their eyes, and their brains are pounding with agonies of an existence which they do not understand. All of this is cleverly written and may be what Mr. Lawrence is after.
On the jacket is quoted the following by a well known critic. "The most significant figure in English letters today probably one of the most important in the entire range of literature". This is pure tripe and Mr. Lawrence should not be made sport of in such a crass manne?
"Rope" a novel by Holwarthy Hall has recently been published by Dodd. Mead and Company.
A personal and critical biography of Camille Saint-Saens has been written by Watson Lyle, and will be published this month.
"The Golden Book of Modern English Verse" will be published next month with a preface by Lord Dunsany