Unpublished DH Lawrence manuscript discovered, revealing a blistering attack on 1920s misogyny

11 Apr 2013 13:41:10.237
PA 111/13
An unpublished manuscript by DH Lawrence attacking a particularly abhorrent form of 1920s sexism has been discovered in an archive in New Zealand.

Dr Andrew Harrison, Lecturer in English Literature at The University of Nottingham, found the manuscript among the papers of John Middleton Murry, which were recently acquired by the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.

The 185-word piece is a response to a short article — ‘The Ugliness of Women’ — which appeared in the April 1924 number of the Adelphi, a monthly journal edited by Murry, to whose early volumes Lawrence was a major contributor.
Click here for full story
In ‘The Ugliness of Women’, ‘JHR’ (thought to be an electrical engineer named John Hall Rider) describes the horrified recoil he has always felt from beautiful women. He explains his strong response by arguing that “in every woman born there is a seed of terrible, unmentionable evil: evil such as man — a simple creature for all his passions and lusts — could never dream of in the most horrible of nightmares, could never conceive in imagination.” He asserts that the evil to which he refers in his article is “so subtle in expression that only a beautiful face can transmit it.”


JHR invited readers of the Adelphi to offer a better explanation for his revulsion from beautiful women; Lawrence took up this challenge with great enthusiasm, using startling imagery and strong words to make his point. Lawrence suggests that JHR’s disgust at women is created by his horror at the ‘slightly obscene desires’ they arouse in him, comparing JHR’s response to beautiful women to that of a coyote howling when it smells fresh meat.

Lawrence notes that “The hideousness he [JHR] sees is the reflection of himself, and of the automatic meat-lust with which he approaches another individual,” and he ends his riposte on an extraordinarily enlightened and forward-thinking note: “Even the most “beautiful” woman is still a human creature. If he [JHR] approached her as such, as a being instead of as a piece of lurid meat, he would have no horrors afterwards.”

The response was never published, probably because it was felt to libel JHR, but Murry may also have thought that it was too crude or savage for the Adelphi.

The piece (published for the first time in an article by Dr Harrison in the Times Literary Supplement, 29 March 2013) is thought to have been written in London between 12 December 1923 and 5 March 1924, during Lawrence’s brief return to Europe from Mexico.

“This is an important and timely discovery,” said Dr Harrison. “I hope that the short piece will cause people to question what they think they know about Lawrence’s attitude to women. It reveals Lawrence’s enlightened attitude to gender issues, and his acuteness in detecting and exposing sexist attitudes.”

                                               — Ends —

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter or find out more on our Press Office blog

Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Andrew Harrison, Lecturer in English Literature, The University of Nottingham, +44(0)115 846 6456; or Tara de Cozar, Internal Communications Manager, The University of Nottingham, +44 (0)115 846 8560.
  Tara De Cozar

Tara De Cozar - Internal Communications Manager

Email: tara.decozar@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8560 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

100 years of Sons and Lovers

Published Date
Wednesday 15th May 2013

Treasure trove of medieval manuscripts published

Published Date
Tuesday 14th December 2010

University celebrates links with famous literary son

Published Date
Friday 27th August 2010

Tweets from beyond the grave bring Ben Jonson to life

Published Date
Friday 5th July 2013

Echoes of slavery... the stately home connection

Published Date
Thursday 1st August 2013

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798
email: pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk