October 27, 2015, by Kathryn Steenson
Purchasing Pansies: a new addition to the DH Lawrence collections
Manuscripts and Special Collections has recently acquired an important original typescript of D.H. Lawrence’s Pansies. The typescript was purchased by the University of Nottingham with assistance from the ACE/V & A Purchase Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries.
The title of the volume of poems has nothing to do with the flower of the same name as may be first assumed. Lawrence explained that he intended it to be “a bunch of pensées…a handful of thoughts. Or if you will have the other derivation of pansy, from panser, to draw or soothe a wound, these are my tender administrations to the mental and emotional wounds we suffer from”.
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the private printing and distribution of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lawrence’s mail was being intercepted by postal workers under instruction from Scotland Yard and the Home Office. During early 1929, two typescripts of Pansies being sent by Lawrence to his literary agent Curtis Brown were seized and confiscated on the grounds of indecency.
Lawrence was outraged by the seizure of his typescripts, and set about using the copy of Pansies still in his possession to create further enlarged copies. It was previously assumed that Lawrence typed three versions of Pansies, however the discovery of this hitherto unknown typescript proves that he typed it an incredible four times.
One of these typescripts was entrusted to his friend Rhys Davies to pass to the anarchist bookseller Charles Lahr to “smuggle” into England. The recently purchased typescript is accompanied by a handwritten letter from Lawrence to Lahr, to let him know his plans and asking him to keep the typescript safe.
It seems likely that the censors objected more to Lawrence’s introduction to the volume of poetry rather than any of the poems themselves, although the publishers Secker and Knopf did omit some of the more “obscene” poems from the enlarged version. Lahr published the first unexpurgated version of Pansies in August 1929.
Manuscripts and Special Collections now holds three of the Pansies typescripts. One is part of the W. Forster Collection acquired in 1998 and the other was bequeathed to the University of Nottingham by the book collector George Lazarus following his death in 1997. Our new typescript has just been catalogued and the surrogate copy can be viewed in our Reading Room at the King’s Meadow Campus. For more information about our D H Lawrence resources or any of our other holdings, please see our website or follow us on Twitter @mssUniNott.