Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Unknown sexist rebuttal by DH Lawrence discovered

A previously unknown article by literary giant DH Lawrence attacking a sexist piece of writing by an electrician, has recently been discovered in papers made available by Wellington's Alexander Turnbull Library.

The discovery, by Lawrence scholar Andrew Harrison of the University of Nottingham, came after significant new works by Katherine Mansfield, including a complete and previously unseen story, were found in the same collection of papers.

Turnbull's curator of New Zealand and Pacific publications Fiona Oliver said the Mansfield and Lawrence material was part of a large collection of John Middleton Murry papers purchased last year by the library.

"Murry was Katherine Mansfield's husband and both were friends of DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda. There are many letters and papers relating to the Lawrences among the papers," she said.

The previously unknown, and unpublished, article by Lawrence was a response to an article called the Ugliness of Women, which appeared in 1924 in the Adelphi magazine that Murry edited.

"The original article, by 'J. H. R.', who Lawrence identified as an electrical engineer named Mr Rider, was a particularly misogynistic piece, despite perhaps an intention to be tongue-in-cheek," Dr Oliver said.

"Mr Rider wanted to explain why he eventually found even beautiful women ugly and among other things, decides it was because 'in every woman born there is a seed of terrible, unmentionable evil'."

Lawrence's response was a strong attack on such sexist attitudes, Dr Oliver said.

He suggested that the ugliness in question lurked in Mr Rider's soul and concluded that, if Mr Rider were to approach women as human beings instead of "a piece of lurid meat" he would avoid the horrors he was experiencing.

Dr Harrison has just published an article, with a full transcript of the Lawrence piece, in the English literary paper, the Times Literary Supplement.

He said Lawrence's strong response showed his impatience with contemporary attitudes to sexuality.

Dr Harrison suggested the piece wasn't published because Murry may have considered the tone of the article too aggressive and potentially libellous for the pages of the Adelphi.

- APNZ

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