D.H. Lawrence: A Manuscript Mystery

Last fall, I wrote a piece called “Carl and Edith Weeks: Book Smugglers” about many of the extraordinary works of literature that Carl and Edith purchased for their library, at a time when possession or transmission of said works was banned because they were considered indecent. D.H. Lawrence featured strongly in that narrative, and as a result of the Weeks Family’s foresight, the D.H. Lawrence collection is among the most exceptional components of the Salisbury House Library.

Lawrence was an Englishman, but he spent the final seven years of his short life self-exiled in New Mexico with his wife, Frieda. He died in 1930 at the age of 45 from complications associated with tuberculosis, his health likely also eroded by his long legal and moral battles against allegations of obscenity in his works. Carl Weeks corresponded with Frieda Lawrence following her husband’s death, while still collecting his works, and as a result, the Salisbury House Library still contains one of the world’s most complete collections of signed and first edition D.H. Lawrence works, plus some amazing one-of-a-kind letters, manuscripts and other documents.

The original Weeks Family research we have been conducting via an Historical Research Development Program grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa recently divulged some fascinating correspondence from the mid-1950s between Carl Weeks and Senator Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico regarding the Lawrence collection. The Senator and Carl had met at a social function, and Carl apparently described some of the highlights of his D.H. Lawrence collection. Upon his return to his office, Senator Anderson wrote Carl a fairly impassioned letter stating his belief that Carl had a moral obligation to either bequeath the Lawrence collection or allow it to be sold upon his death, so that it could return to New Mexico, where Senator Anderson believed it belonged, for posterity’s sake.

The men traded correspondence on the matter for almost two years, with Carl occasionally noting that he was still taking the Senator’s offer under advisement, while offering instead to return a backpack that had once belonged to D.H. Lawrence, which Carl had never opened, and whose contents he wanted properly “psychoanalyzed” once it was opened. The final piece of correspondence from Carl came in 1955 — in which he noted that he had sold all of Salisbury House’s collections to the Iowa State Education Association, and that Senator Anderson would have to deal with them henceforth on the matter if he wanted the Lawrence collection to move back to New Mexico. Score one for Carl. We do not know if the Senator pursued the matter further, nor do we know what was in, nor what happened to, the mysterious backpack.

This leads me (tangentially) to another D.H. Lawrence mystery, this one involving his 1923 poetry collection, Birds, Beasts and Flowers, of which we have an original galley proof hand-edited by Lawrence himself. Here is the final page of the proof, featuring the closing lines of a poem titled “The American Eagle:”


Final page from galley proof of “Birds, Beasts and Flowers,” hand-edited by D.H. Lawrence.

This page is among the most heavily edited ones in the manuscript, and it seems that after he completed the edits, Lawrence must have decided that it was too messy or complicated for his editor and publisher to follow, so he inserted the following page into the galley, immediately after the one shown above:

Hand-written D.H. Lawrence edits of the closing lines of his poem "The American Eagle," inserted into the galley proof of "Birds, Beasts and Flowers."

Hand-written D.H. Lawrence edits of the closing lines of his poem “The American Eagle,” inserted into the galley proof of “Birds, Beasts and Flowers.”

It’s a dramatic reworking of the poem, and since this poem is the last one in the book, it creates radically different closing experiences of the collection, one fairly sardonic or bleak (“are you the goose that lays the golden egg? / which is just a stone to anyone asking for meat /  and are you going to go on forever / laying that golden egg / that addled golden egg”) and one almost bordering on the whimsical (“was your mother really a pelican, are you a strange cross? / can you stay forever a strange half-breed cock on a golden perch? / young eagle? / pelican boy? / you are such a huge fowl! / and such a puzzler!”).

If one reads “The American Eagle” as being symbolic of the United States, could this later edit represent a softening of Lawrence’s views on imperial/capitalistic America after spending time in New Mexico, presumably experiencing the United States in a warmer fashion than he might have when his primary experience of our Nation was being branded obscene by its government? I’m not a Lawrence scholar, but it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to make such an assumption.

Since the hand-written version follows a mark-up of the original printed galley’s version, it seemed obvious to me that it was the final “official” version of the poem, and therefore the only one which I should find online when I searched for the complete printed text of “The American Eagle” and Birds, Beasts and Flowers.

But it’s not . . . because both versions of the poem can be found online, with the original version being more frequent than the hand-written version. Here’s a cite of the darker one and here’s a cite of the lighter one, appearing in two different anthologies.

So somehow both versions entered into the Lawrence canon, at some time or another, and that’s where my research takes me a dead end (so far), since I cannot find information indicating when or where Lawrence edited, authorized or published a second edition. He only lived seven years after the original Birds, Beasts and Flowers was published, so it’s a fairly narrow window, most of it spent in New Mexico.

I’m still poking around to see if I can figure this one out, so if you know any D.H. Lawrence buffs or experts who might be able to shed some light on how this manuscript came to be published in two versions, I’d be happy to have you point them our way!


Hand-written note on the back of the galley proof set in the Salisbury House Library, circa sometime between 1923 and 1930.

Incongruous Poetry: The Scallop

I frequently write poems about creepy crawly things that you aren’t supposed to write poems about. My body of work includes sonnets to lampreys and to slime molds, doggerel about luminous squid, poignant paeans to microscopic volvox, and all sorts of other rhyming ickiness. I recently found another Critter Poem that I’d forgotten about, so I’m glad to be able to copy it into my Poetic Bestiary. Here ’tis, for your own amusement: “The Scallop.”

Such a wonder, this bivalve, this mollusk: the scallop!
His name means “a shell” in Old French.
Though his adductor muscle looks soft (like a polyp
surrounded by snot, in a generous dollop)
to break it, you’ll have to apply quite a wallop
with hammer, or tong, or a wrench.

Such a wonder, the scallop! His eyeballs amazing,
of lovely cerulean blue,
that don’t help him with mating or fighting or grazing
or swimming or sitting or homestead appraising
or sleeping or waking or even hell-raising.
In fact, I don’t know what they do.

Such a wonder, the scallop! No quahogs, no oysters,
compare with his beauteous grace.
Where his neighboring bivalves sit still, as in cloisters,
the scallop is mobile and feels free to roister,
rambunctiously swimming. He bumbles! He boisters!
He sneers at those stuck in one place!

Such a wonder, the scallop! (I said “he,” forgive me,
I’m sorry for being so crass,
since a scallop can be a she, then she can be a he,
or she can be a he, before she be’s a she,
or be a she-he, or he-she, it’s hard to see
which is which, sans boobs and ass).

Such a wonder, this bivalve! I love him! The scallop!
Alive at sea, or deep in sauce!
And I mean that, I do, it is no mere codswallop,
nor something I’d say to impress some hot trollop.
(To check my integrity, people you’d call up
might include my mom, or my boss).


1. I’ve just finished reading KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money by JMR Higgs and I enjoyed it tremendously. The book ostensibly attempts to explain why Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond of the early ’90s arch pop group The KLF burned one million U.K. pounds on the remote Scottish island of Jura in 1994. Cauty and Drummond themselves have both expressed bafflement over their actions in the years since their fortune went up in smoke. Needless to say, it’s hard to explain and justify such an overtly iconoclastic act, and I heartily applaud Higgs for an audacious feat of research, interpretation and writing as he manages to crunch the JFK assassination, the Illuminati, Doctor Who, actors Bill Nighy and Bob Hoskins, post-punk bands The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen, graphic novelist Alan Moore and scores of otherwise unlikely characters and events into a compelling narrative that actually withstands Wikipedia fact-checking. If you like mulling over popular conspiracy theories and the dark forces behind them, then this book is definitely worth your while.

2.I had not laid eyes on arguably the best known painting in the Salisbury House permanent collection — Joseph Stella’s The Birth of Venus — until yesterday afternoon, as the massive, florid 1925 painting has been on an American tour since before I was working at the House. It was a delight to finally see this amazing work removed from her storage crate yesterday, and today to help get her restored to a spot on honor in the Great Hall, where the family who built the house originally displayed this important hyper-modern painting. Here’s a tease of what Venus looked like as we eased her back into her place; that’s me on the left on the scaffolding, doing my small part to make sure she was safe and secure, back at home, at last.

Hanging "Venus," Salisbury House Great Hall, February 2013.

Hanging “Venus,” Salisbury House Great Hall, February 2013.


I was very active on Facebook from 2008 to 2011, but then The Destroyer blew up my account there, dropping all of my friends, likes and connections, leaving only the Indie Albany Group (which also blew up) and then the Indie Moines Group. When I decided to re-active my personal Facebook profile last week, it really bugged me when I went back in time and saw all of the dead links to old Indie Albany pages, as well as the live links to a certain Albany newspaper whose name shall not be mentioned here, because they keep my words in the public domain against my expressly stated desire that they delete them. So even though I know that virtually no one is going to go back in time to look at those updates, I felt that a full clean up was in order, because I am tidy and obsessive that way.

Thing is, though, that Facebook does not really want you to delete your back pages, so they do not provide any convenient way to batch edit that which has been posted before. So it took me about six hours to go back, post by post, through my entire Facebook account, to delete the things that I wanted deleted, leaving my profile and time line with only those links, notes and connections that I would want there if I had created the entire page in February 2013.

Since I was a prolific poster during my first foray in Facebook, this means that a whole lot of stuff went “poof” into the virtual ether as I vigorously slammed the “delete” button again and again and again. So in recognition of this corpus of lost work, I post my 50 favorite deleted status updates below, allowing you to experience in a pure, distilled version just how annoying-to-amusing it was to have been one of my 700+ Facebook friends back in the day. Proceed at your own risk . . .

  1. I shaved my head again today. Because life is so much easier when shampoo and soap are the same thing, and you don’t need to own a hair brush.
  2. Theory: Hardcore is Ayn Rand for boys who don’t like to read. Discuss.
  3. Did the Times Union win “Best Times Union” in the Times Union‘s “Best Of” poll again this year?
  4. After the rapture, all your breakfast are belong to us.
  5. 18 holes at Winding Brook Country Club today . . . . Slicey Lostballs rides again!
  7. The Cowboys are 1-4 and the Yankees are done for the season. The Universe is a good place to live in tonight.
  8. I have no idea who these Jon and Kate people are, nor why I see them every time I log onto any major news/public website. As best I can figure, all they did was have a litter of puppies and cheat on each other. Why is this news?
  9. In the 44 Stanley Cup finals since 1968, 19 titles have gone to Original Six teams, 15 titles have gone to the eleven franchises added in the ’68-’75 expansion, eight titles have gone to the four World Hockey Association (WHA) franchises that were merged into the NHL, while only two titles have gone to the nine franchises added in ’92-’01. Can we just move the WHA franchises back to their original markets, and write off that ’92-’01 expansion as an expensive mistake?
  10. Why does Albany’s Hipsteroisie care more about chickens in backyards than they do about education, transportation, public health, absentee landlords, and street safety? Is it because hens are generally cuter than cops and teachers and bus drivers?
  11. I was sitting in IHOP eating all-wheat pancakes when the Talking Heads song “(Nothing But) Flowers” came on the stereo, and I found myself thinking: “This may well be the worst song ever written, arranged, recorded and released.”
  12. Oxymorons: jumbo shrimp, minor crisis, old news, instant classic, conspicuous absence, Academy Award Winner Sandra Bullock.
  13. I think the world would be a much, much, much better place if Jane’s Addiction would just GO away, and STAY away. Thank you.
  14. Mean grows The Bumble, Oh.
  15. Eric: “Why am I a crank??” Marcia: “Because you have strong opinions about too many topics.”
  16. I am awe-inspired afresh every quarter when my new issue of “The Journal of The International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association” arrives. Riveting reading. Great graphic design. Aces.
  17. Dear FOX Sports TV, Please, please, please retire the stupid football robot. And also Jimmy Johnson. Signed, Grateful Football Watcher.
  18. I lost my harmonica, Albert.
  19. I just finished watching Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” What a stupid, artless, pointless, needless piece of marketeer-driven codswollop, one of the worst movies I’ve ever sat through. I’m not sure I can forgive Tim Burton for this one. I know that Lewis Carroll can’t, since they even botched and truncated the magnificent “Jabberwocky” poem.
  20. I am making Turkey Tetrazzini out of leftover Thanksgiving white meat, but I know that THE BROOD is going to be gnawing the dark meat off the bones tonight, regardless.
  21. Accounting is a science. Budgeting is an art.
  22. Taking a benadryl at 9 AM on a work morning = BAD IDEA.
  23. JES lives in a capital I. In the middle of the desert. In the center of the sky.
  24. We ate at Reykjavik’s finest traditional Icelandic restaurant last night. Minke whale, puffin and foal (horse veal) were on the menu, though (alas) fermented ammonia shark was not.
  25. My father and I both went through our 20s being told we looked like Tommy Smothers. I’m reading a bio of the Smothers Brothers now, and learn that their dad was from the Winston-Salem, NC area . . . the same area that my dad’s dad was from. I wonder if we’re cousins?
  26. I can now plug an iPod into the car stereo. This is the official death knell of the CD collection accordingly.
  27. Uh oh . . . Capitals take a 3-1 series lead over the Rangers. For a lifelong Caps fan, there are few more terrifying situations than a 3-1 lead in the first round of the playoffs . . .
  28. I always liked Goofy Grape better than Choo Choo Cherry, although Rootin Tootin Raspberry wasn’t bad either.
  29. Okay, I declare spring in Albany to be a bust. Again.
  30. Fragment from an old music review: “There are only three contemporary vocalists more annoying than Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, and all of them are members of the Beastie Boys.”
  31. Revive the dying vine, restore the ruling line, then contemplate the whims of fate, until the next decline.
  32. I have put 197 songs by COIL, Throbbing Gristle and Butthole Surfers on his iPod Shuffle. There will be many dramatic commutes over the next couple of weeks as a result.
  33. I am trying to catch up with the spirit of the age.
  34. My inner monologue sounds uncannily like Nathan Explosion.
  35. I am trying to figure out how to get Marcia to like Napalm Death, so I can put them on the family iPod play list . . . . . hmmmmm . . . . . .
  36. I can’t decide how I feel about one of my student board members greeting me with “Hey, dog” as we passed in the hallway.
  37. I just listening to Alice Donut’s cover of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” which replaces Black Francis’ vocals with a trombone solo. It’s the best Pixies cover ever, for people like me, who don’t actually like the Pixies.
  38. I am having a Uriah Heepathon tonight. Because . . . . well, just because.
  39. I get mad at people who think the walrus says “koo koo ka-choo”. It’s “goo goo g’joob,” dammit!!!
  40. I am off to Binghamton. I hope the mud is in blossom!
  41. I practice conservation of friends: when new friends are created, old friends must be destroyed.
  42. Be careful what you ask for, because I just might make a spreadsheet.
  43. I am raising intellectual self-indulgence to an art form.
  44. The most convincing proof of institutional racism in the NFL is the fact that Norv Turner has been hired to coach three teams in the league.
  45. I have been listening to a lot of grindcore and jazz lately. When you put them in the same iTunes playlist, magic happens . . . they totally go together like peanut butter and bearing grease . . .
  46. The female-to-male ratio on the dance floor tonight was about 8 to 1 when “Don’tcha” by the Pussycat Dolls played. I really felt let down by the local chapter of Team Testosterone.
  47. I had to turn off Napalm Death tonight, because the child said “It makes my insides hurt.”
  48. I wonder when people stopped understanding which music you mosh to, and which music you don’t.
  49. I think “fantod” is a magnificent word.
  50. I am cooking up a pot of Allen’s White Hominy. Please . . . try to contain your jealousy.

Oh, and the title of this post? I meant to type “Shorts” as a place holder, but my typographical error seemed somehow more fitting. I don’t know why.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s “Liber Florum”

As we approach our 1,500th like on the Salisbury House Facebook Page, I decided to look for something in our library dating from around 1500 A.D. to mark the occasion. I found something beautiful, though a bit confusing: the book in question had been re-bound in more modern boards at some point with the title “Flores” and the date “1534” on its spine, neither of which reconciled to anything I could find in our databases or online. With a little bit of research, I discovered that what we actually have in the library is called “Liber Floru[m] Beati Bernardi abbatis Clareualle[n]sis,” and it was published in 1499. It’s a magnificent book, made more special by extensive marginalia throughout the text, including an end-note with the date 1534 in it, which perhaps contributed to the erroneous date in the new binding. Here are some shots of pages within this text, with explanatory notes gleaned from my research. As always, you can click each image to enlarge for more detail.

Cover page of “Liber florum Beati Bernardi abbatis Clareualle[n]sis” by St. Bernard of Clairvaux printed by Philippe Pigouchet in 1499. Pigouchet was a prolific printer who began printing around 1487. There are more than 150 known titles of his work surviving. He excelled at printing Horae (Books of Hours), of which there are more than 90 titles survive. The title of the Salisbury House book appears above Pigouchet’s illustrated mark, which features a fur-covered Adam and Eve!

This is the first text page of the Salisbury House Library’s edition of St. Bernard’s “Liber Floru[m].” St. Bernard had died over 300 years earlier, so this is a long posthumous edition of his words and wisdom. Our copy is filled with hand-written marginalia, some seen here at the bottom of the page.

A central page from “Liber Floru[m]” of St. Bernard of Clairveaux. The book was printed with movable type on a press, and it contains hand coloring at the start of each section and sentence.

The final page of St. Bernard’s “Liber Floru[m],” with an inscription at bottom in Latin dated November 1534.

Inside the back cover of “Liber Floru[m]” is an amazingly beautiful hand-written section with hand-coloring. The symbols atop the Latin words would most likely indicate that this was a text to be chanted. Any Latin scholars willing to translate for us?

Five Statements, Five Questions III

Continuing where this and this left off . . .

1. Marcia and I sadly had to attend her brother’s funeral last week after he passed away from complications associated with influenza. Do you get a flu shot every year?

2. While in Minneapolis for the funeral, we checked into our hotel and were assigned to a fully ADA accessible bedroom, from which we asked to be transferred, immediately. Was it wrong for the hotel to give us that room, rather than saving it for someone who actually might need it?

3. I consider Television Personalities’ song “Closer to God” to be among the most harrowing, soul-wrenching pieces of music I’ve ever heard. What do you listen to when you want your soul to be wrenched?

4. Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending was the best of the small number of fictional books that I read in 2012. What contemporary novels would you recommend to someone (like me) who doesn’t read much fiction?

5. I once lost 30 pounds in 30 days through fasting, weird eating and over-exercising. What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done in the name of good health?