When looking for a place to rent for their three-month stay in Australia, English writer David Herbert Lawrence, 36, and his German wife Frieda, 42, found this suburb to be less expensive—but definitely less glamorous—than nearby Sydney. They took this three-bedroom bungalow with a lovely veranda, on the beach outside Thirroul, even though they discovered the previous owner had named it “Wyewurk.” Probably because the house next door was “Wyewurrie.”
Lawrence had every intention of working. He started his new novel at the beginning of the month and is making great progress, sometimes as many as 3,000 words a day. With the title already decided, Kangaroo is turning out to be more autobiographical and more political than any of his others—and with a lot less sex.
Each day he sits at a big table looking out at the Pacific Ocean, turning the experiences he and Frieda have had since coming here, combined with political news he picks up from the Sydney Bulletin, into his eighth novel. David is incorporating the natural environment as well as the people they’ve met. Although he gives his two main characters a few more friends than he and Frieda actually have.
The ocean in front of Wyewurk
In the mornings while he is writing, Frieda is sewing and keeping house. In the afternoons, David reads out to her what he has written that day. Frieda writes to a friend,
the days slipped by like dreams, but real as dreams are when they come true.”
Of course, sometimes they fight. Or sulk. After all, it is just the two of them out in the middle of nowhere most of the time.
On afternoons like this one, with Frieda napping, David catches up on his correspondence. Earlier in the month he wrote to his American agent, Robert Mountsier, 34, to apprise him of his progress and request another $700 in U. S. royalties. He tells Mountsier he expects to leave Australia for America in early August with a completed manuscript in his luggage.
Now Lawrence is writing to his U. S. publisher, Thomas Selzer, 47, to assure him that this novel won’t have the same censorship problems of his previous ones, like Women in Love. He thinks Selzer, as a founder and former editor of the Socialist magazine The Masses, will appreciate the political nature of Kangaroo. He promises,
No love interest at all so far—don’t intend any—no sex either…Amy Lowell says you are getting a reputation as an erotic publisher: She warns me. I shall have thought my reputation as an erotic writer (poor dears) was secure. So now I’ll go back on it.”
Of course, he has promised Selzer this before.
In his office across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Selzer is writing to Lawrence’s agent, Mountsier, who is on vacation in Pennsylvania. The agent has been complaining about Lawrence’s slow sales, and Selzer has just paid for some advertising in the New York Tribune for Lawrence’s latest, Aaron’s Rod:
The work of a great genius and a bestseller. Love and Marriage in our day as Lawrence sees it.”
Logo of Thomas Selzer, Inc.
To impress the agent even more with their author’s reputation, he cites a new revue, The Grand Street Follies, currently playing in lower Manhattan at the Neighborhood Playhouse. In one scene, a young woman ignores her boyfriend while she is reading a book, saying,
Don’t interrupt me…I am in the midst of one of the most passionate passages of D. H. Lawrence.”
Selzer assures Mountsier,
This, they say, always brings the house down.”
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month I am talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.
In the fall, I will be talking about the centenary of The Waste Land in the Osher programs at CMU and the University of Pittsburgh.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.