A lost D.H. Lawrence essay in which the famed author issued a major takedown to a misogynistic contemporary has been found in a library in New Zealand.
Dr. Andrew Harrison, an English professor at the University of Nottingham, discovered the essay while doing research in the online archive of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. The essay was buried among the papers and correspondence of John Middleton Murry, a writer and editor who was married to the New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield. Murry's papers were recently acquired by the library. Lawrence had written the 185-word essay in a letter to his friend Murry. It was never published, and its existence was unknown to scholars until now.
Lawrence wrote the piece some time in late 1923 or early 1924 in response to an essay published in Adelphi, a literary magazine Murry edited. That essay, which ran under the byline "JHR," was a viciously misogynistic treatise called "The Ugliness of Women." Its author argued 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."
Continued JHR, "No doubt, the evil growth is derived from Eve, who certainly did or thought something wicked beyond words."
Murry invited readers to respond to JHR, and Lawrence — a regular contributor to Adelphi — did so.
Lawrence argued that JHR was projecting, basically:
The hideousness he sees is the reflection of himself, and of the automatic meat-lust with which he approaches another individual...Even the most 'beautiful' woman is still a human creature. If he approached her as such, as a being instead of as a piece of lurid meat, he would have no horrors afterwards.
Meat-lust! The revolutionary idea that women are human! Advice about how to approach the opposite sex that would still work today! Point to D.H.
Unpublished D.H. Lawrence Manuscript Discovered, Revealing a Blistering Attack on 1920s Misogyny [University of Nottingham]