‘Sons and Lovers’
SIR: It is dismaying to read through the manuscript of Sons and Lovers in the facsimile edition and then to find Mark Schorer in his Introduction, and later Keith Sager (in the Times Higher Educational Supplement), approving Edward Garnett’s curtailment of the novel, which was undertaken mainly in order to conform to the prevailing publishers’ conventions about length. If, as seems likely, Lawrence let him do the job out of desperation – ‘It’s got to sell, I’ve got to live’ – what a pity he didn’t later reinstate all Garnett’s omissions – with one exception, perhaps, the abbreviation of Paul’s letter to Miriam in Chapter Eight: and can we be sure it was Garnett who decided on that? Some do little damage – the small cuts, for instance, concerning Paul and Miriam in Chapters Eight to 11 – but the deletion of over ten thousand words from the first seven chapters is a serious loss. This part of Sons and Lovers proceeds, not by the pursuit and analysis of themes, as with Lawrence’s later novels, but by the accumulation of realistically observed incidents. It achieves complexity through variety: cut down the one and you damage the other.
The cut portions that feature Walter Morel corroborate and enhance that sympathy for him generated by the few scenes in the published text which show him happy at his chores and cheerfully cooperative or tender with his children. For instance, on manuscript pages 61-2 he is washing in the scullery, shouting, ‘Shut that doo-er!’ and expressing his vindictive yet understandable discontent with his wife’s desire to get him out of the house, and on MS 77 he wants to hold and soothe Paul when he is ill – ‘It would have done the man good to be able to nurse his sick baby’ – and is hurt and made ‘afraid’ by the baby’s refusal (‘shaky psychology,’ comments Mark Shorer – unwarrantably, I think, for a sensitive baby might well react to tension in this way).
The omitted passages about Mrs Morel increase our respect both for her independence of mind and her sense of responsibility. On MS 58, Morel, egged on by one of his pals, shouts at her, ‘I’ll make you tremble at the sound of my footstep,’ and she ‘sat down and laughed till she was quite good-humoured and merry at the idea’. ‘Good-humoured and merry’ strikes a note that is all but absent in the published text. Immediately afterwards comes her realisation that Morel’s meanness with his money involves ‘taking his pleasure out of the lives of his children’, and this determines her to throw herself ‘on their side aginst him’. Here what is implicit in the published text is worked out in terms of her thought, which emerges from a dramatic context that gives it weight: as again on MS 52-3 (a passage Schorer calls ‘merely repetitious’), where we are told that ‘she had put her own living aside, put it in the bank, as it were, of her children,’ and we see her singing to Paul and ‘laughing with her rare warmth shining in her blue eyes, at the baby, worrying the tiny fingers with her lips’. In the manuscript (page 70) but not in the published text it is clear that she has lied to the neighbours as well as the children about how her face has been hurt (in the quarrel with Morel); and scenes like that in the alley with the ‘barm’ seller (MS 79-80) which elaborate on a few scenes in the published text enrich our appreciation of how she fits into her social setting.
More damaging are the cuts in the portrayal of William. The published text gives a summary of his boyhood and his adult character – ‘he was so jolly … had a quick, active intelligence’ – followed by detailed concentration on his visits home shortly before his death. He functions only as part of the general pattern, an example of potential disaster in store for Paul. In the full, uncut version, however, he is a vivid adolescent in his own right, robustly energetic, impatient, facetious and demanding (as in the scene with his evening pupils, MS 88), full of naive self-approval (boasting to Paul, for instance, about his ‘brawn’ and his ‘fine pair of legs’ – MS 94-5) and fond of dancing and girls – ‘following in my father’s footsteps’, as he says (MS 91). All this, developed with an indulgent irony that makes the portrait amusing not ‘insufferable’ (Sagar’s word for it), offers a striking contrast with Paul, one that illuminates the extra intensity and sensitivity of Paul’s development. The cut scenes not only show up the relationship between the two sons, of which there is practically nothing in the cut version, but also develop aspects of William’s relationship with his mother, of which there is all too little: from his pained self-identification with her when she has toothache in the second chapter (MS 52-3) to the facetiousness between them later, as when (MS 89-90) they joke about his ‘patchwork shirt’.
A parallel lost in the cuts exists between this scene and one between Paul and Mrs Morel deleted from Chapter Six (MS 177-8) where the banter turns not on the son’s self-concern but on their concern for each other. Mrs Morel insists on making Paul some rhubarb fritters and he objects because it tires her. He playfully insults her with ‘You’ve burned your face,’ and she retorts: ‘Then I shan’t ask you to look at me.’ ‘Foolishly flirtatious’ they may be, as Schorer says – but ‘repellent’? Most of the cuts in the scenes with Paul in Chapters Four to Seven diminish our understanding of his relationship with his background. His conversation with Fanny (MS 164) gives us a glimpse of his characteristic blend of detachment and sympathy operating in the factory setting. The cuts in the trip to Wingfield Manor in Chapter Seven (MS 241-2) deprive us of our only view of Paul joining in with his pals’ joking and horseplay, and those in the library episode (MS 227-30) of an insight into how ‘the youth knew everybody, and everybody’s history,’ how they know his (as the librarian’s remarks show) and how he dismisses them by reference to the ‘inner life’ he shares with Miriam, which ‘counted for everything’. That deleted scene reveals also in Miriam, more explicitly than in the published text, the spontaneous sensual aspect of her response to Paul – when she sees him ‘a flame came up in her that burned him too’ – as well as the spiritual exhilaration: ‘But to hear him talk was like life to her: like starting the breathing in a newborn baby.’ And it gives us Paul’s significant early conviction that there is a ‘proper way’ in life for each individual: ‘and if we go it we’re all right – and if we go near it. But if we go wrong, we die. I’m sure our William went wrong somewhere.’
Surely these passages ought to be reinstated where Lawrence had them in his final manuscript?
SIR: Your issue containing Norman Stone’s extraordinary obituary of E.H. Carr (LRB, 10 January) has just reached us on this side of the Atlantic, and we are sure that by the time you receive this letter other voices will have been raised in Carr’s defence. There is perhaps little that can be said in the space of a letter to counter the promiscuous distortions, half-truths and omissions Stone has chosen to perpetrate, and those with a closer knowledge of Carr’s life and career are better positioned than ourselves to discharge this responsibility. But, in any case, a blow-by-blow refutation of Stone’s finely calculated invective would be somewhat beside the point. For it is clear that the exercise has little to do with any genuine evaluation of Carr’s career, his historiographical achievement, or his place in 20th-century British intellectual history. It is certainly nothing at all to do with a serious critique of the monumental History of Soviet Russia itself. The intention is really quite different. It is, in the least honourable traditions of British intellectual politics, a cynical and mean-spirited hatchet job on a major committed intellectual whose reputation (much to the annoyance of his more conservative colleagues) extends far beyond the boundaries of the intellectual Left. All the familiar ingredients are there – character assassination, snide innuendo, knowing references to personal immorality, the slighting of scholarly achievements, the praising of early publications the better to denigrate the rest, the constant intimations of privileged personal knowledge (right down to what Carr did at infant school, believe it or not). Carr was even disliked by his parents (it is said). He was very mean (it is said). He was a wrecker of personal relationships (it is said). He was a cruel man (it is said). He misused his influence to harm whose he disagreed with (it is said). He was not a good teacher (it is said). Stone’s ‘review’ is staggeringly insensitive to the traditions of civilised discourse his institution supposedly upholds. It is as though the nightly routine of high-table gossip and parlour-room malice has spilled uncontrollably into the public realm. How Stone has the nerve to call Carr ‘mean’ and ‘cruel’, given the sustained nastiness of his polemic, is not the least remarkable thing about this unseemly affair.
It is so very easy to sink to this level of gossip-mongering malignancy, masquerading as intellectual toughmindedness, especially when the victim cannot respond. It is doubtless fortunate that Stone’s own life and career provide such a model of blameless personal and professional rectitude. But there are also serious historical and intellectual issues involved, which deserve not to be confused by Stone’s disingenuous obituary-cum-review. These have, of course, to do with the Russian Revolution and Carr’s contribution to our understanding of the Soviet Union, and indeed Stone devotes about two-thirds of his space to a discursive attack on Carr’s multi-volume History. Now buried amidst the general unfairness there are some useful observations – e.g. on Carr’s intellectual origins in early 20th-century progressivism, or his relationship with Isaac Deutscher in the 1950s. It is also true that the History’s view of socialist construction is mainly an administrative one, though one which is carefully informed by a detailed grasp of socioeconomic determinations. There is little social history of the kind which has recently permeated the thinking of the profession. In the end Stone is probably right in one of his general assessments: the work ‘is really to be seen as a study of how Great Power is made out of revolutionary origins’.
But otherwise, Stone’s article is a mélange of inaccuracy and uncontrolled prejudice. Much of this we don’t need to take seriously, like the references to style and long paragraphs or to Richard Pipes’s lack of respect (it is said) for the quality of Carr’s scholarship. Some of the criticisms are irrelevant, like Carr’s omission of the Revolution’s social prehistory. As Stone should know, the project originated as a single-volume study of the post-Revolutionary order, and the three volumes of The Bolshevik Revolution retained their character as a scene-setting introduction to the main concern, which was to be a study of the years after 1923. Given the imposing dimensions of the History as it eventually took shape (stigmatised by Stone as ‘gigantomania’), it hardly seems reasonable to demand a detailed treatment of the period before 1917. Other criticisms are simply bizarre, given the History’s actual contents. Stone says there is no discussion of politics in the first volume of Socialism in One Country, which leaves the reader no means of understanding how Stalin could defeat the various oppositions: yet half of Volume II (Chapters 11-19 of the overall work, some 250 pages) is devoted to exactly this question, stressing amongst other things precisely the factor (local struggles for control of the party apparatus) which Stone taxes Carr with ignoring. Stone also says that Carr evaded the question of collectivisation, which is extraordinary given the contents of Volume I of Foundations of a Planned Economy (11 chapters, almost 300 pages of agriculture, quite apart from the concluding contextual discussion of the Five-Year Plan). The suggestion that this was really the work of R.W. Davies won’t hold water, as even a glance at Volume I of Socialism in one Country should confirm.
There are problems with the organisation of the History as a whole, it is true, and key events in the Civil War tend to disappear into the spaces between the individual sections of The Bolshevik Revolution. Yet Volume II of The Bolshevik Revolution remains the single best study of economic policy and its consequences in the first half-decade of Soviet power and has yet to be displaced as a source for this under-studied subject. It is often hard to abstract Carr’s general theses from his densely empirical analysis. But for those prepared to give the various volumes a careful reading, the task should not be too difficult and on the contrary is immensely rewarding. To an extent, this has to do with the improvised origins of the work (the unanticipated expansion of an introductory chapter to a single-volume work into a three-volume study in its own right), and it was not until Socialism in One Country that Carr paused to take stock. There, in Part I of Volume I, Stone will find four chapters and 200 pages of text which lay out as clearly as one could expect Carr’s view of the post-Revolutionary stabilisation. Chapter Three in particular (‘Class and Party’) is an extraordinary example of sustained analytical synthesis, which systematically confronts the political dynamism of the Bolsheviks with the structural inertia which constrained and distorted their actions. This, in conjunction with the previous chapter (‘The Changing Outlook’), is still one of the most sensitive accounts of the context which facilitated Stalinism (in the sense of ‘revolution from above’ and the policies implemented after 1928-29). This is the argument which is picked up in the concluding chapter of Volume II of Foundations of a Planned Economy (‘The New Soviet Society’) which Stone finds so inadequate. Now it is true that this dwells on contradiction, and for those who prefer their history to consist of tidy resolutions (as opposed to ‘the infinite complexity of the factors that determine the course of history’, as Carr put it in the aforementioned chapter of Socialism in One Country) this is bound to be uncomfortable. But then, since the nature of history is for Stone such a ‘boring subject’, impatience with complexity should not really surprise us.
There is a great deal more to say if Carr’s achievement is to be properly appreciated, and if the motivations of his detractors are to be properly laid bare. For the moment, however, we find two things particularly important. One is the extraordinary pioneering quality of the History. In the scope of his work Carr went where no one had gone before and where only a few have really gone since. He mapped the territory of Soviet history in the 1920s and delivered an agenda of questions which will be pursued for the rest of the 20th century. For a work begun three decades ago and brought to its conclusion with little recognition from the profession, in an ideological climate which until the later stages was hardly very propitious, this is not a small achievement. Secondly, whatever Stone claims, Carr’s analysis is now an indispensable starting-point for understanding the dynamics of Stalinism. At one level, his work is more straightforwardly about the stabilisation of a post-Revolutionary order (what Stone calls the making of Great Power from revolutionary origins). More subtly, it is a sustained exploration of the complicated relationship between political contingency (the rise of Stalin) and structural determinations (the constraints of Russian backwardness). Inscribed in that relationship was the castastrophic grandeur of the Russian Revolution, and E.H. Carr renders this more powerfully accessible than most other published works we know.
In the long run, we are satisfied that the virtues of Carr and his work – their own grandeur, in fact – will easily survive attempts such as Stone’s to besmirch them. In the short run, it is necessary to protest. Among ourselves we may differ in our interpretations of Leninism, Stalinism and, indeed, the whole Soviet phenomenon, but we feel ‘tempted to exclaim that no more useless’ diatribe has ever masqueraded as a review. Carr’s achievement will be with us long after his more misanthropic reviewers have been forgotten.
Geoff Eley, University of Michigan
William Rosenberg, University of Michigan
Moshe Lewin, University of Pennsylvania
Ronald Suny, University of Michigan
University of Michigan
SIR: The account offered by Mr Tam Dalyell MP (Letters, 1 April) of the Falklands crisis, which cheerfully awards the entire credit for repossessing the islands to Mrs Thatcher, is the very myth that the Conservative Party is now busy trying to pass off on the nation: that if any other party had been in office, the victory would never have happened at all. The Tories have decided to wrap themselves in a Union Jack, as in 1945, if only to distract attention from the failures of their domestic policies. He is perpetuating bad history as well as playing the Conservatives’ game for them. The task force was dispatched in April 1982 because Parliament, including the Labour and Alliance leaderships, publicly demanded it. What prime minister on earth could have denied a House of Commons so nearly unanimous? Mr Dalyell produces no evidence that any other party leader at Number Ten would have behaved otherwise, and the private conversation he permits himself to quote with the Leader of the Opposition demonstrates yet again how much common purpose there was at that time across the floor of the House. Mr Dalyell tells us he does not doubt the oppressive nature of the Argentine regime, but argues that ‘those Falklanders who elected to stay would have joined the privileged Anglo-Argentine community.’ The world will note with attention this instance, on the part of a Labour MP, of socialist realism, and its characteristic implication that tyranny is all right if you can do well out of it.
St John’s College, Cambridge
SIR: Re Ken Smith’s declaration of independence for Angela Carter (Letters, 1 April): Tom Paulin’s review dealt unfairly in not seeing its supposed object (Carter’s Selected Writings) steady, nor seeing it whole. Reid and then Raine – and Ashbery yet! – are wheeled in on the pseudo-rationale of sharing ‘a new form of the English sensibility’, ‘the new post-imperial sensibility’ and a ‘hedonistic egalitarianism’. Paulin claims to ‘believe absolutely’ in this link: that which cannot be proven must needs be believed or disbelieved. I believe each of the three versifiers invoked to be profoundly mandarin individualists (though Reid has copied Raine and Ashbery Stevens); Carter somewhat less so.
All right, Reid and Raine try to be witty, as does Carter: but she isn’t witty in the modes they update, of Anglo-Saxon riddles and the 17th-century Metaphysicals. Yes, she displays ‘a splendidly Mediterranean sense of joy’. But if she has to be said to ‘share’ this with anyone it’s more evidently related to D.H. Lawrence (for all that, yes, ‘she also battles sporadically with him’ – partly because of this) or even Forster – light aeons of sensuous imagination away from the parochial, insular (though so often truly unearthed), self-regarding Martians.
Isn’t one of her great gifts the fact that the writer she’s most like is herself, sharing her originality directly with her readers? Smith’s letter was called for – as this one is, in turn, by Paulin’s flip evasion of it – to contradistinguish her work from the more dubious qualities of these cross-breeds (Martians = flies-on-walls, cats-on-mats etc) which require such a contrivance of incestuous or esoteric extrapolation before they can begin to be enjoyed, let alone seen plain.