One of the highlights of my summer was escaping to Maine for a good week-long vacation in August. Part of the trip included a visit to my grandparents in their new home on the coast. And one of the highlights of this highlight was pouring over piles of my grandfather’s old books as he emptied the contents of an old barrister’s bookcase onto the sofa. We flipped through them, talked about their points, their oddities, their marginalia, their stories. I reveled in some of the gems in the collection. Before I left, he had packed up a large stack of them into a bag for me to take home and add to my collection. Yet again, I’m proud that the core of my collection is built around my grandfather’s books.
This week’s book is one of the volumes he gave me during this trip. The book is the novel The Lost Girl by English writer and critic D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930). It was published in 1920 by Martin Secker of Number Five John Street, Adelphi, in London. According to the colophon on the verso of the final page of text, the book was printed by The Dunedin Press, Limited, of Edinburgh. This copy is the second issue of the first edition (there were three issues of the first). Subsequent to Secker’s 1920 publication of the book, it was republished by Secker in 1930 and again in 1934 and by Heinemann (also of London) in 1936 and 1955. An American edition, published by Thomas Seltzer of New York, appeared in 1921. Translations in Italian, German, French, Swedish, and Romanian all appeared in the forty years after its first publication in English.
The book is bound in the publisher’s original camel brown cloth, with gilded title and borders on the spine and blind tooled borders on the front and back boards. The paper is a fairly heavy stock, now slightly faded, with mesh rather than chain-lines; the edges of the pages are often rough-cut. Each page measures 12.5cm x 19cm. Pagination runs from the half-title recto through the last page of text -371; running titles present the title of the book on the verso of each opening and the title of the chapter on the recto. Two somewhat stained blank flyleaves begin and end the volume.
Like many mass-produced books of the period, the gatherings are actually slightly out of line with each other, giving the bottom edges of the paper a very uneven appearance. Interestingly, some of the leaves within gatherings that were meant to be cut short were accidentally left full by the binder, but the dent in the paper where it was meant to be trimmed can still be seen. The collational formula is 8o: [#] [A8]-2A2 [π]; $1. The first, second, and third issues of the first edition of this book seem to be fairly similar in their assessed values, at approximately $40 to $100.
In general it is in good condition, with some slight bumping to the corners of the boards, slight fading of the paper in places, and a bit of a separation forming in the spine between gatherings B and C (p. 32/33). Evidence of past readers or owners is scarce. On the inside of the back cover is a bookseller’s sticker for The Holliday Bookshop of New York, which specialized in importing English titles to the United States; the shop opened at 10 West 47th Street (the address given on this sticker) in 1920 and moved to 49 West 49th Street in 1925. Given this, my suspicion is that Holliday was the point of original sale when the book was new. Some reader has marked a few places with a thick gray pencil (the colophon and a passage on p. 17), perhaps looking for bibliographic points. If this is the case, though, the annotator missed a considerably important one.
Pages 255/256 and 267/268 of the book, though integral to their gatherings, were actually “tipped in” -- bibliographic parlance for inserting a loose page, usually along the inner margin (the “gutter”), by pasting a narrow part of its edge to an adjoining page that is bound in to the book. This method is often used to insert illustrative plates, maps, errata, and other addenda to books that have already been printed and (often) bound. In the case of the 1920 edition of The Lost Girl, these tipped-in pages -- added by the publisher to correct a press error in the initial run of the issue -- are one point that the copy is not the first first. Another point is the text on p. 242, beginning “‘What do you want?’ said Cicio, rising...” (transposed with the first first’s “Miss Pinnegar went away into the scullery...”). Finally, the publisher took liberties with Lawrence’s text, making two unauthorized revisions on pp. 45 and 223; these appeared as cancel pages, tipped in, in the first first, but by the second issue were included with the primary printing. (As with so many unauthorized publisher “revisions”, these alterations actually became confused with Lawrence’s original and appeared in the standard text of the novel for many years.)
The Lost Girl was Lawrence’s sixth novel and won for him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction when it appeared in 1920. Coming off the success of his 1913 Sons and Lovers, Lawrence was living in Germany when he began writing a book tentatively titled The Insurrection of Miss Houghton. After getting about two hundred pages into the draft, he abandoned the attempt. Following World War I, while in self-imposed exile in Italy (a “savage pilgrimage”, as he called it, to escape persecution by English moralists who decried his fiction’s critique of industrialism and puritanism), Lawrence was able to track down and recover his manuscript. After making some revisions and improvements (and changing the title to The Lost Girl), he finally saw it to the press in November 1920. Because of the odd place it occupies in Lawrence’s career -- note quite the early breakthrough novels nor the later, short-form “leadership” novels (as Eunyoung Oh calls them) -- the book is often overlooked. More recently, however, critics have begun to recognize its importance as a piece of transitional fiction both in the oeuvre of this important author and in the history of English literature.
The following is from Fiona Becket’s The Complete Critical Guide to D. H. Lawrence:
The Lost Girl (1920) began as Lawrence’s attempt at an English novel of provincial life written at an ironic distance from those by his contemporaries, Arnold Bennett...and John Galsworthy.... The period of composition of The Lost Girl, however, in the end straddled the writing of The Rainbow and Women in Love. It was put to one side in 1913 as “The Insurrection of Miss Houghton”, and not taken up for seven years when Lawrence rewrote it. The experience of writing The Rainbow and Women in Love in the interval was telling. If the beginnings of The Lost Girl are in what Virginia Woolf calls in “Modern Fiction” the style of the Edwardian materialists, its revision demonstrates the effects of Lawrence working through the Brangwen books and his “theory” of the novel, which anticipates some of his central themes to come. Unlike The Rainbow and Women in Love the tone of The Lost Girl is frequently satirical.
The novel describes the fortunes of Alvina Houghton, a middle-class girl born and brought up in Woodhouse, based on Lawrence’s home-town of Eastwood. Tired of the limitations of her provincial life, Alvina challenges her family’s expectations both in her decision to work -- she becomes a maternity nurse -- and in her relations with men. Her way out of Woodhouse, and England, is made possibly by her marriage to Ciccio [in the novel this is spelled “Cicio”], a peasant from a village in the Abruzzi mountains, and one of the artistes in a touring “Red Indian troupe” called Natcha-Kee-Tawara, who perform in the local theatre. They leave wintry England for Italy, and the simpler, harder life of the peasant farmer. History overtakes them, however, and the book ends on the eve of Ciccio’s departure for the army and his promise that, on his return from the war, they will start a new life in America.
It has been noted that Alvina has a representative function in as much as she shares the dilemmas of Lawrentian women...who are “drawn to primitivist solutions.” Ciccio is laconic and uncultivated compared to the worthy but unexciting bachelors who have previously had claims on Alvina. Impersonal desire moves in him rather than romantic love or sentimental attachment, and it is this quality which makes him attractive to Alvina. The book is another step in Lawrence’s examination of the sexual relations between men and women. In Ciccio, it also introduces the figure of the self-assured, non-intellectual male who gratifies his sexual needs and thereby, controversially, brings about the transformation of the “modern” woman. John Worthen comments on this, calling the novels which precede The Lost Girl “exploratory and painstaking”, in contrast to this new style of writing which is “brash, often comic, polemical and offensive.” (65-66)
The parallels between character and author are intriguing (the escape from England into Italy), but so too are the parallels between the story and this particular copy of the book. Was Cicio’s promise that he and Alvina would “start a new life in America” ever fulfilled? Because Lawrence does not say, the reader cannot say. But at least Alvina and Cicio’s story -- in the form of this copy of The Lost Girl -- did eventually make its way to the New World.