A new D H Lawrence manuscript has been discovered among a literary goldmine of Katherine Mansfield work acquired by Wellington’s Alexander Turnbull Library.
The 185-word piece is published for the first time today, in Britain’s Times Literary Supplement.
Turnbull published collections curator Fiona Oliver said the discovery could keep Lawrence scholars busy for years.
Since the author’s death in 1930, scholarship relating to his life and works was “prodigious”, and new finds were always being sought.
“In the context of such an active academic community, the probability of finding something new is so rare,” Dr Oliver said.
“The significance for the Turnbull is it shows our collections have international as well as national relevance.”
The discovery was made by Lawrence scholar Andrew Harrison, from Nottingham University, when he was looking through the library’s online catalogue.
He requested a copy of it and, when it was sent to him in England, he realised the handwritten manuscript had never been seen before.
It came into the Turnbull’s hands last year as part of six boxes of papers belonging to Mansfield’s husband, writer and critic John Middleton Murry.
A large number of Mansfield documents were among the papers.
Lawrence wrote the piece for Murry’s magazine, Adelphi, in response to an earlier piece in April 1924 called The Ugliness of Woman, signed by a “JHR”.
The author had wanted to explain why he sometimes found even beautiful women ugly, deciding it was because “in every woman born there is a seed of terrible, unmentionable evil”.
Dr Harrison notes that Lawrence took the punt that the author was John Hall Rider and goes on to chastise him for his misogyny.
Lawrence blames “a certain nasty lust in him, like when a coyote smells fresh meat and howls hideously outside the camp fire”. Dr Harrison argues the manuscript’s main interest “lies in its unusually blunt and explicit articulation of Lawrence’s opposition to an abhorrent form of sexism”.
Dr Oliver noted there was some irony in the fact Lawrence was arguing against misogyny while using misogynistic language.
“Part of the fascination and criticism of Lawrence is his complex attitudes towards sexuality and gender – and this piece will fuel the debate.”
The find would also invite debate about why the first part of the manuscript was written in two sections, one on a small scrap of paper, then continued on a full sheet; why Lawrence changed pens; and why the piece never made it into Adelphi.
David Herbert Lawrence was born in 1885 into a working-class family in the coal-mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.
Achieved infamy through his 1928 novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was banned – though widely available – in Britain until 1960 due to its frank talk of inter-class sex, and its unprintable words.
Married German aristocrat Frieda, a distant relative of Manfred “Red Baron” von Richthofen.
The couple were friends with Katherine Mansfield and her husband, John Middleton Murry.
Though often linked to the Bloomsbury group of writers in London, Lawrence was not generally considered part of their number. He once reportedly referred to members of the group as “little swarming selves”.