Tuesday, 24 March 2009

28. John Thomas and Lady Jane by DH Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover could quite easily have been called John Thomas and Lady Jane: and in a sense, was called that: a variant of the text was published as John Thomas and Lady Jane in 1972.

The story is as follows.

Lawrence wrote three full-length versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover between 1925 and 1928. They are, in order of composition, The First Lady Chatterley (title chosen by Frieda Lawrence, published 1944), John Thomas and Lady Jane (published 1972) and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (the final, but first-published version, of 1928). On 9 March 1928 Lawrence wrote to Aldous and Maria Huxley about this final version: ‘Today [...] we took the MS of the novel to the printer: great moment. Juliette [Huxley] who read the MS and was very cross, morally so, suggested rather savagely that I should call it: ‘John Thomas and Lady Jane’. Many a true word spoken in spite, so I promptly called it that. Remains to be seen if Secker and Knopf will stand it.’ A week later Lawrence had had second thoughts, or rather had been persuaded to have second thoughts by his publishers, and had changed it to Lady Chatterley’s Lover. He wrote to Mabel Dodge Luhan on 13 March 1928: ‘Now I’m so busy with my novel. I want to call it "John Thomas and Lady Jane" ("John Thomas" is one of the names for the penis, as probably you know) but have to submit to put this as a sub-title, and continue with Lady Chatterley’s Lover: for the publisher’s sake.’ In the event it didn't even make it into the subtitle, and Lady's Chatterley's Lover got a title a little less outrageous than it probably should have.

The Letters of D. H. Lawrence: March 1927-November 1928
(ed James T. Boulton, Margaret H. Boulton, Gerald M. Lacy, 2002)

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