New Mexico revisited

In 1924 Lawrence and Frieda went back to New Mexico and in exchange for the manuscript of Sons & Lovers they acquired the Kiowa Ranch from Mabel. The manuscript was estimated (by Frieda) to be worth about $50,000 at the time. The couple were not alone on their travels however. They were accompanied this time by “Brett” who was a Viscount’s daughter. Dorothy Brett filled two roles. She gave them some diverting company, which seemed necessary to their relationship,but mainly she was Lawrence’s companion during their stay in New Mexico. She donned man’s trousers and assisted him in renovating the three cabins at Kiowa before they could all move in. She was freed from all the cloistering stuffiness of English society and essentially reinvented herself as a kind of frontierswoman or Annie Oakley. She carried a dagger in her boot, and was adept at shooting rabbits and catching fish to help feed them all.

Part of the reason for revisiting America was to get away from Europe where Lawrence thought Frieda had developed a relationship with Jack Murry, the erstwhile partner of Katharine Mansfield who had since died, and former lover at least of Brett, who had been pregnant with his child, although she subsequently lost it. Such a tangled weave of relationships was spun by the Lawrences and their friends and acquaintances!

The other reason for going back to the US was to check on the progress of Thomas Seltzer, his US publisher who had been rather quiet of late. With US taxes due to be paid, and having enjoyed a period of relative financial stability, Lawrence had a fear of running out of money, and was anxious to take steps to ensure that that did not happen. So off they went to America to ensure his American payments were paid up to date. They sailed on the Aquitania on 5 March 1924, which must have been a very cold voyage indeed!

Lawrence found Seltzer on the brink of financial ruin, and Lawrence himself had no money in the bank. Much of his money had been spent on Frieda’s trip to England and Germany, on her relations and on parties such as the supper party they hosted at the Cafe Royal in December 1923.

The Lawrences now lived an economical existence, living off their own fruit but having no water to plant out their garden at such altitude they had to buy vegetables locally.

Whilst here Lawrence wrote the story The Woman Who Rode Away. It is thought to be loosely based around Mabel Dodge Luhan. Mabel and Brett disliked each other enormously, possibly each recognising competition.

Over the next winter they spent some time in Mexico in a small town called Oaxaca, where Lawrence spent his time revising his book Quetzalcoatl, reshaping the female character to resemble Brett more than Frieda. But Lawrence, recognising a situation before it happened asked Brett to move on under her own steam, leaving Frieda and him alone.

Then a spell of great ill health ensued for Lawrence.

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