Softcover, 216 pages
Birds, Beasts & Flowers!
poems by D. H. Lawrence
“In his poetry Lawrence sloughs off clichés and deploys a fresh language––new wine for his new bottles. His best poems . . . like Cézanne’s best pictures . . . promise much that was still to come, much that is still to come. Like no other poet of his century apart from Pound, Lawrence remains insistently, insultingly, undeniably contemporary, a demanding enabler whom writers follow as often to perdition as to a promised land.”
––Michael Schmidt, Lives of the Poets
D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930) made a contribution to poetry that, in the words of Louise Bogan, “can now be recognized as one of the most important, in any language, of our time.” Birds, Beasts & Flowers!, his first great experiment in free verse, was published when he was thirty-eight. This Black Sparrow edition re-sets the text in the format of the first edition (New York: Thomas Seltzer, 1923) but restores several “indecent” lines suppressed by the original publisher. The cover reproduces Lawrence’s original jacket art in full color.
“Birds, Beasts & Flowers! is the peak of Lawrence’s achievement as a poet. . . . Like the romantics, [his] starting point in these poems is a personal encounter between himself and some animal or flower, but, unlike the romantics, he never confuses the feelings they arouse in him with what he sees and hears and knows about them. The lucidity of his language matches the intensity of his vision; he can make the reader see what he is saying as very few writers can.”
—W. H. Auden
Hardcover, 158 pages
Memoir of Maurice Magnus
by D. H. Lawrence
edited by Keith Cushman
Maurice Magnus was to D. H. Lawrence what Joe Gould was to Joseph Mitchell: a fascinating, almost comically well-educated ne’er-do-well, small and red-faced and strutting, who, once he was introduced to the writer, began crossing his path unexpectedly yet regularly, usually looking for a handout, and quickly turned from an amusing, affectionate acquaintance into a stalking menace, “a mongrel,” “a vampire,” “a curse.” He was also a literary inspiration: Lawrence told Catherine Carswell that his memoir of Magnus, written in 1922, was “the best single piece of writing, as writing, that I have ever done.”
Magnus was an American, a snob, a mooch, a onetime manager of Isadora Duncan, and a collector of celebrities who often said that “one only has to know the right people.” He was also a man of great intelligence and feeling who saw the world the way an artist does––although the only art he ever truly mastered was the art of conversation. Lawrence met him in Florence in late 1919; they were introduced by a mutual friend, the writer Norman Douglas, for whom Magnus was a kind of secretary and errand boy. Magnus was then writing a book he called Dregs, a bald and undistinguished account of his years of service in the French Foreign Legion. He was also deeply in debt, hounded by his creditors and only one step ahead of the Italian police. He turned to Lawrence for entertainment, pocket money, literary advice, and shelter––indeed, for every sort of charity and comfort. In the end Lawrence, unwilling to be anyone’s guardian, turned him away. In mid-1920, friendless and with the police closing in on him, Magnus fled to Malta, where, alone in a rented room, he poisoned himself, leaving little behind but his manuscript.
Partly as a way to assuage his guilt, partly as a way to “pay the gentleman’s last debts, if no others,” Lawrence took it upon himself to find a publisher for Dregs. He also undertook a kind of prose portrait of Magnus as an introduction to the work. The memoir is a remarkable piece of literary portraiture, telling us as much about the author as his subject; it was also Lawrence’s sole attempt at biographical writing. Lawrence is alive to both the comedy and the pathos of his relationship with Magnus, a man who struggled to become what he imagined himself to be––an artist––and failed miserably. “But it he was a scamp and a treacherous little devil,” Lawrence concludes, “he also had qualities of nerve and breeding undeniable. He faced his way through that Legion experience, royal nerves dragging themselves through the sewers, without giving way. Let us be just . . . and wish him peace.”
Illustrated with 12 pages of black-&-white photographs. Includes “D. H. Lawrence and Maurice Magnus: A Plea for Better Manners,” a pamphlet written and published by Norman Douglas in 1925, and Lawrence’s reply to Douglas in the New Stateman for 20 February 1926.
Softcover, 304 pages
Letters to Thomas & Adele Seltzer
by D. H. Lawrence
edited by Gerald M. Lacy
For seven years (1919–1926), Thomas Seltzer was one of New York City’s most influential small publishers, a compact engine of the coming modern movement. Born in Russia in 1875, he was a proponent of progressive politics and experimental writing, a founding editor of The Masses, and the first editor in chief of the Modern Library. At Thomas Seltzer Inc. he translated Tolstoy and Gorky, edited Chekhov and Turgenev, and published Henry James and Stefan Zweig. Most important, he championed D. H. Lawrence at a crucial period in his literary development, publishing the first U.S. editions of The Rainbow, Women in Love, Sons and Lovers, Aaron’s Rod––twenty titles in all. Lawrence trusted him, enjoyed his intelligence and can-do spirit, and became warm friends to both him and his wife, Adele, who was very much a partner in Seltzer’s business.
Lawrence’s letters to the Seltzers––here numbering 135––were posted from Sicily and Mexico, often together with affectionate postscripts from Lawrence’s wife, Frieda. There is much here about Lawrence’s reading (“Ulysses wearied me: so like a schoolmaster with dirt & stuff in his head: sometimes good though: but too mental”) and about Mexico and the Mexican people (“Mazatlan is very like the South Seas Isles in quality, as remote & soft & senusuous . . . and the natives very like islanders . . . the Pacific blue-black in the eyes & hair, fathomless, timeless”). But these are personal letters only in the margins: most are strictly business, artist to publisher, and concerned with the content, marketing, and design of Lawrence’s books.
It was a beautiful partnership––at least until 1924, when Seltzer was dragged before the courts for publishing Schnitzler’s sexually candid Casanova’s Homecoming. Defending himself against the Comstock Laws nearly bankrupted him, and as his financial situation darkened and he caved in under legal pressures, his relationship with Lawrence became sadly strained. In the end, Lawrence moved to Knopf, with some regret: “It was neither your fault nor mine. It’s just that neither of us is in line with modern business. I don’t intend to be, but you can’t be. It’s not really in your nature; you’re not tough enough. I can afford not to succeed––but you, being in business, needed to. Which makes me very sorry things went as they did. . . . Why didn’t they turn out nicer?”
“When D. H. Lawrence wrote that God created Seltzer a little publisher, he was being critical of Seltzer’s pretensions but also suggesting, by implication, the value of littleness––which is to say, the values of personal taste and judgment. Seltzer’s career stands as an instructive illustration of the individual element in publishing in the 1920s, and of the strengths and weaknesses of being little.”
––G. Thomas Tanselle
Illustrated with 34 pages of black-&-white photographs, and with a biographical essay by Alexandra Lee Levin and Lawrence L. Levin, a Seltzer/Lawrence bibliography, and detailed editor’s notes
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