1922 – The Lawrences arrived in America and settled down in Taos at the invitation of
the ranch’s former owner Mabel Dodge Sterne (later Luhan). Lawrence’s
first visit to the ranch was in October.
1924 – The Lawrences began ownership, reconstruction, and residency at Kiowa Ranch,
adding two porches and a fireplace to the Homesteader’s Cabin. D.H. Lawrence
wrote stories and essays including St. Mawr, “The Princess,” “The Woman Who
Rode Away,” “Pan in America,” and “The Hopi Snake Dance.”
1925 – Lawrence recovered from illness at the ranch while writing the play David,
producing significant essays like “Art and Morality” and “Reflections on the
Death of a Porcupine,” and revising part of his novel The Plumed Serpent. Ranch
improvements included construction of the cowshed and the installation of
water pipes for irrigation.
1931 – Frieda Lawrence and Angelo Ravagli (on six-month visa) inspected the ranch’s
condition. Frieda began memoirs of her life with D.H. Lawrence.
1933 – Frieda began residency with Ravagli who constructed a new log cabin (present
caretaker’s cabin) in place of the “guest cabin,” which was torn down and
1934 – Frieda published her book on D.H. Lawrence, Not I But the Wind. . . , and
Ravagli built the Lawrence Memorial.
1935 – Lawrence’s ashes were transferred from France to the Lawrence Memorial at
1955 – Frieda deeded the ranch property to the University of New Mexico, on the
condition that 10 acres remain open to the public and used for “educational,
cultural, charitable, and recreational purposes.”
1956 – Frieda Lawrence Ravagli died and was buried at Kiowa Ranch near the Lawrence
Memorial. It has since been renamed the “D.H. Lawrence Ranch.”
SECTION 8: NARRATIVE STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE 1. Summary Statement of Significance
The D.H. Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico, is historically significant as the only residence the Lawrences ever owned. The property (formerly called Kiowa Ranch) also has the strongest association with the Lawrences compared to their other temporary lodgings in America. The Historic District meets National Register criteria A and B, in the area of literature, by representing Lawrence's foothold in America and relating directly to his contributions to American literature. An internationally acclaimed writer, D.H. Lawrence was especially known for his ability to capture the "spirit of place," and his vision of the American Southwest is best understood at the ranch and in its surrounding landscape.4 While he was living and working at the ranch during the mid 1920s, it provided the scenic beauty coupled with harsh conditions that fueled his poetic imagination for such stories as "The Princess," "The Woman Who Rode Away," and St. Mawr. His experience in the Taos area also inspired many poems and essays, in particular a series about Native American Indians (now all being collected in Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays). The Pueblo dances that Lawrence attended and the Indian spirituality he observed are also translated into several scenes of his "American" novel, The Plumed Serpent (1926), which he began to revise while at the ranch. The Kiowa Ranch years (1924-1925) were Lawrence’s most productive in America.
The Kiowa Ranch was the closest Lawrence would come to setting up his dream of a Utopian community called Rananim(5), a collection of like minded artists and intellectuals interested in working toward a new way of life to combat the despair of a post World War I materialistic and mechanistic world. His influence, therefore, contributed to the development of Taos as an artists' colony by drawing famous visitors to the area during his lifetime and after. Lawrence's candor and integrity, his unique and intimate writing style, his eye for detail, his love of nature, and his mystic philosophy are all qualities that continue to impress and have impact on a new generation of American writers and readers. Thus the Lawrence Ranch District is significant at both the state and national levels.
Although the restless Lawrence traveled twice again to Europe and was buried in Vence, France, his wife, Frieda, chose to return to the Kiowa Ranch soon after his death in 1930. Five years later Frieda had Lawrence's remains exhumed and cremated and his ashes brought back to the ranch. On a hill overlooking a view of the desert and the Rocky Mountains, she built the small memorial shrine to honor him (see Section VII) and later served as hostess to ranch visitors. She wrote her own recollections of her life with Lawrence, embodied in "Not I, But the Wind..." and Memoirs and Correspondence.6 And Frieda continued throughout the rest of her life to uphold Lawrence's reputation as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
2. Overview of Literary Standing
Lawrence has long been recognized in standard literature textbooks (like the Norton, Longman, and Oxford anthologies), and in hundreds of scholarly and critical books, as one of a handful of major English stylists of the early 20th century novel, often being grouped with James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, and Virginia Woolf. The influential British critic F. R. Leavis saw Lawrence as the supreme representative of the "Great Tradition" in the modern English novel, and the American scholar Harry T. Moore and his followers continued to cement Lawrence's place in the literary canon. Harold Bloom, one of today's leading critics, notes, "Lawrence at his strongest is an astonishing writer, adept at saying what cannot be said, showing what cannot be shown” (Bloom, D. H. Lawrence, 12). In the words of the latest Norton Anthology (2000), “Lawrence had vision; he had a poetic sense of life; he had a keen ear and a piercing eye for every kind of vitality and color and sound in the world, for landscape—be it England or Italy or New Mexico.” In addition, “His travel sketches are as impressive in their way as his novels,” for he “looked at the world freshly, with his own eyes, avoiding formulas and clichés” (Jon Stallworthy, Vol. 2, 2571). Jennifer Wicke’s introduction to Lawrence in the Longman Anthology places special emphasis on his New Mexico ranch experience and refers to him as “a comet in British literature, arcing across its skies with vibrant energy and controversy” (Vol. 2, 2504-2505). His important impact on poetry has also been voiced by many, including scholar Sandra Gilbert and poet Karl Shapiro, who comments, “I think every modern American poet is in Lawrence’s debt.”7 Lawrence--who has been linked with Walt Whitman, William Blake, and the Beat poets as a pioneer in style and theme--wrote nearly a thousand poems during his lifetime, eventually adopting a free verse form that allowed intuitive expression of the immediate present. Vivian de Sola Pinto remarks that Lawrence “said something in his verse that he could never have said in prose, and his best poems are among the most valuable and significant in the English language written in the twentieth century” (5). Cambridge University Press, which recently completed the most extensive three-volume biography of Lawrence, has been issuing as well the first scholarly edition of his works (currently over 25 volumes), including letters, novels, novellas, short stories, dramas, poetry, critical and philosophical essays, and travel sketches. He was a master in all of these genres and worked on all during his ranch years.
Lawrence societies have sprung up around the world to honor and study his writings, including the D.H. Lawrence Society of North America;8 and the national conference of the MLA (Modern Language Association)—the premier organization of literature teachers in America—contains an annual Lawrence session.9 The University of Texas, Austin, houses a stellar collection of his original manuscripts and paintings,10 and the State University of New York (Geneseo) produces the D.H. Lawrence Review, the leading journal dedicated solely to articles regarding Lawrence, his writings, and his circle of influence.11 One Lawrence first edition that sold for over $16,000 a few years ago is today listed at $25,000.12 Numerous film adaptations have been produced from Lawrence's works. Even on the Internet, his popularity has initiated two Lawrentian discussion group listserves and a host of websites.13 More than 10,000 people every year visit England’s D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum (located at his family's former residence, 8A Victoria Street in Eastwood) and tour its "Blue Line Trail" to see places depicted in Lawrence's early novels and to stop at the Visitors' Centre next door.14 In 1985 a memorial stone for Lawrence was unveiled in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, featuring his phoenix symbol and the words "Homo sum! the Adventurer" ("I am man! the Adventurer").
3. Background Biography
David Herbert Lawrence was born September 11, 1885, in Eastwood, England. He was the son of a coal miner, growing up amid domestic strife and the ugly environment of an industrial colliery town. In his youth, he often escaped to the beautiful countryside where he studied the local plants and flowers that would later take on symbolic meaning in his works. He spent many days at the neighboring Haggs Farm, developing a special bond with Jessie Chambers (Miriam of Sons and Lovers), who encouraged and critiqued his poetry, discussed books and philosophy with him, and helped him to grow intellectually. Due to these happy associations, farm life came to represent for Lawrence an idealistic lifestyle where humanity was intimately connected to the landscape.
Because he was a bright yet frail and sensitive boy, it was soon apparent that Lawrence was unsuited for work in the mines or factories. Encouraged by his mother, a former teacher, he began training to become a schoolteacher. He won a scholarship to Nottingham High School and later attended Nottingham University College where he earned a teacher's certificate in 1908. Lawrence then took a teaching position for Standard IV (or 4th grade) at Davidson Road School in Croydonand simultaneously worked on his first novel, The White Peacock (1911). Despite remarkable success as a teacher, early bouts of pneumonia, suspected to be tubercular, closed off that means of support and thus launched Lawrence full time into his writing career. What he lacked in hardiness, he made up for with his acerbic wit and powerful, rhythmic prose style. On the practical side, his mother taught him to be handy at household chores skills that would later benefit him in the rustic setting of the Kiowa Ranch.
Unfortunately, his beloved mother became ill just as he was gaining success from his writings. Lydia Beardsall Lawrence was a refined woman of Puritan values who doted on Lawrence. Marital discontent and reduced social standing (because of her marriage to a coal miner) resulted in her constant effort to propel the family back into the middle classes. Her painful death in 1910 created in Lawrence an emotional trauma that sent him reeling. Soon after, he suffered a major illness that almost claimed his life. Relations with his father continued to be strained. Arthur John Lawrence, a down-to-earth man, had little appreciation for intellectual pursuits. And yet Lawrence’s writing was drawing the attention of such notables as Ezra Pound, Edward Marsh, Amy Lowell, and Edward Garnett. He was being courted by both the Georgian poets and the Imagists. The editor of the English Review, Ford Madox Hueffer (Ford), after reading Lawrence's short story "Odour of Chrysanthemums" with its realistic portrayal of working class life, proclaimed him a "Genius."
It was during this transitional phase that Lawrence met the free spirited Frieda Weekley, who was married to one of his language professors. She was born in the garrison town of Metz, Germany, on August 11, 1879. She was of aristocratic German descent and a distant cousin of Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron" flying ace. Her father Baron Friedrich von Richthofen served as an officer in the Franco Prussian War, earning an Iron Cross, and later did bureaucratic work as a civil engineer. He indulged her wild "tomboy" ways and she became his adoring "daddy's girl." Frieda received her education in a Roman Catholic convent school in Metz and attended Hans Eichberg girls' finishing school near Freiburg for one year. She met her first husband, Ernest Weekley, in 1898 while he was on a brief vacation in the Black Forest of Germany. They married a year later when Frieda was only twenty and he, fourteen years older. She had three children with Weekley: Charles Montague, Elsa Agnes, and Barbara Joy. But she found her marriage to be empty and unsatisfying, Weekley to be staid and restrictive, and the English university sphere much too conventional.
Thus the relationship between Lawrence and Frieda developed quickly, and in 1912 they eloped to Germany. During their "honeymoon" period together, Lawrence put the finishing touches on his autobiographical novel, Sons and Lovers (1913), which was destined to become a modern classic. And he wrote his first collection of travel essays, Twilight in Italy (1916), inspired by their adventurous journey to Italy where they temporarily settled. Lawrence and Frieda were married in July of 1914 in Kensington after Frieda finally secured a divorce. In 1917 Lawrence published his third poetry collection Look! We Have Come Through! a chronicling of the struggle for harmonious relations with Frieda, as well as a celebration of love and marriage.
The elopement had caused a scandal, however, and Weekley refused to allow Frieda visitation rights to her children. This was to become a sore spot in the Lawrences' marriage, especially as Frieda never conceived children by Lawrence. But no children meant they were free to travel at whim without need to set down roots. This constant roaming provided Lawrence with a continuous flow of stimulation by way of new environments, cultures, people, and ideas to spark his writing. He never felt compelled to own property, even insisting that the Kiowa Ranch be put in Frieda's name.
The couple began to socialize with society's intellectual and literary elite: Herbert and Cynthia Asquith, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Richard Aldington and his wife H.D., Bertrand Russell, and E.M. Forster. However, Lawrence's next novel, The Rainbow (1915), was banned for its frank portrayal of sexual relations and opposition to the developing military-industrial society. They moved to Cornwall (followed by their new friends John Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield), where Lawrence wrote much of Women in Love (1920) but had trouble finding a publisher. World War I was raging; and Lawrence, judged unfit for military service and labeled a controversial writer, was now additionally accused of spying due to his choice of a German wife.
And so Lawrence entered his wandering phase alienated from his own country, he visited Italy, Sardinia, Ceylon, Australia, and the South Sea Islands but always he yearned for America. He'd read about the "Land of the Red Indians" from James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking books. The New World offered hope and tolerance to a man that had grown weary of Europe's mistreatment and misunderstanding of him. In a letter to Catherine Carswell dated November of 1916, Lawrence wrote:
I know now, finally:
a. That I want to go away from England for ever.
That I want ultimately to go to a country of which I have hope,
in which I feel the new unknown.
In short, I want, immediately or at length, to transfer all my life to
America. Because there, I know, the skies are not so old, the air is
newer, the earth is not tired. (Letters 3:25)
In preparation for a transfer of body and soul to America, he wrote a book of critical essays that would later become Studies in Classic American Literature (1923),which is considered one of the first serious analyses of American Literature examining such authors as Cooper, Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe. While in New Mexico, Lawrence rewrote the essays in a distinctly "American" style—snappier and punchier targeting the American market, which he believed held his future.
4. Lawrence in America
Arriving in San Francisco in September of 1922, the Lawrences took the train to Lamy Station (near Santa Fe), New Mexico, where they were met by their new hostess, the art patron Mabel Dodge (still Sterne at this time). She had previously sent the Lawrences enticing letters praising the pristine quality of Taos and including samples of Indian medicinal roots, aromatic herbs, and jewelry. Mabel had been attracted to Lawrence's writing, having read his travel book Sea and Sardinia (1921), and was hoping he would write similarly of the Southwest and its pueblo life. The Lawrences spent the first night at the Santa Fe home of the poet Witter Bynner, who later reported having been "drawn and held by their magnetism" that evening (Bynner 6). They then moved into an adobe house Mabel had built next to hers in Taos. Lawrence turned 37 years old the same day.
Mabel wasted no time in arranging for Lawrence to attend the Apache harvest festival at Stone Lake, New Mexico, and the San Geronimo festival at Taos Pueblo. His first impressions were turned into the articles, "Indians and an Englishman" and "Taos," both published in the Dial in 1923. Mabel also supplied Lawrence with details of her life and background for a semi biographical novel he was to begin and never finish. She arranged nightly gatherings of stimulating conversation and entertainment similar to those of her earlier Salon days in Greenwich Village. And she introduced Lawrence to the controversial Bursum Bill, enlisting his aid in the Indian cause over land and water rights. Thus Lawrence took an active role in U.S. politics with his article "Certain Americans and an Englishman," advocating the bill's defeat.
As Lawrence states in the opening lines of his essay, he had arrived in the Southwest "at a moment of crisis," and he sits down "solemnly" to study "the Bill" from beginning to "distant end" (18):
The Bursum bill plays the Wild West scalping trick a little
too brazenly. Surely the great Federal Government is capable of
instituting an efficient Indian Commission to inquire fairly and
settle fairly. Or a small Indian office that knows what it's
about. For Heaven's sake keep these Indians out of the clutches
Because, finally, in some curious way, the pueblos still
lie here at the core of American life. (New Mexico, 20)15
Prior to the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Native Americans were considered legal wards of the federal government. In a later poem entitled "O! Americans," Lawrence called upon U.S. citizens to display "noblesse oblige" toward the American Indian and culture, "the one thing that is aboriginally American." He says it is our "test" whether or not we can "leave the remnants of the old race on their own ground,/ To live their own life, fulfil their own ends in their own way" (Poems, 776, 779). But at the same time he was against sentimentalizing the "Red Men" or holding them back for the profit of artisans.
John Collier (U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1933 1945) lived next door to the Lawrences around this time. Together they had intensive discussions regarding the fate of the pueblos and the value of preserving ancient Amerindian religions with their instinctive wisdom and interconnectedness. Taos Pueblo scholar, William Wilbert, states that Collier was "thoroughly exposed to Lawrence's thoughts on the future of the native people of the Americas" and considers both men to be "prophets of American Indian restoration" (10, 1). Lawrence's concerns were poured into the prose of his "American art" while Collier's became political action. Collier's first initiative was to push through Congress the Indian Reorganization Act that granted cultural, religious, and economic freedom to all Native Americans and secured his reputation as "the best Indian commissioner in our nation's history" (Waters, 88). Collier also organized in 1940 the First Inter American Conference on Indian Life held at Patzcuaro, Mexico, with delegates from the U.S. (including Tony Lujan) and Latin America; and he became president of the Inter American Indian Institute. The fruit of Collier's interest in Indian welfare can be traced directly to the germ of these Taos discussions. When later asked about the Taos Indian perception of Lawrence, Collier replied, "The Indians liked Lawrence, and so he must have understood them." He told how a group of mourners from Taos Pueblo journeyed to Kiowa Ranch to pay tribute to Lawrence when they heard he was dead. Collier further commented that "Lawrence essentially was a gentle, kindly and unaggressive individual" and hence the Taos Indians "accepted him" (Nehls 2:199, 198).
Lawrence's voyage to America coincided with another point of crisis in his own career: the New York case against Women in Love brought by an organization called the Society for the Suppression of Vice. His American publisher Thomas Seltzer defended the novel and won. The resulting publicity helped promote Lawrence in the United States by increasing sales. Magazines, such as the Dial, Smart Set, Forum, and Poetry, also played a vital role in establishing his American audience. Smart Set had one of the highest circulation figures of the time among the literary avant garde. Forum was the first to publish Lawrence in America (1913) and later boldly accepted some of his more controversial pieces. Poetry published 27 of his poems between 1914 and 1923. As a primary outlet, the Dial consistently published Lawrence in a variety of genres 30 works and numerous reviews of his writing throughout the 1920s. Success in the illustrated "glossies" such as Vanity Fair, Travel, and Theatre Arts Monthly was a further boost to his career. The American market would eventually help substantially to lift the burden of financial worries that had plagued him in Europe. Lawrence was entering a prolific phase, and more works would be published overall during his American period than at any other time.16
Soon Lawrence was buying cowboy apparel, learning to ride horseback, and exploring the "high desert." The New Mexico landscape had a tremendous impact on him. He wrote in a letter to his sister Emily King dated March 31, 1925: "I really like this country better than any landscape I know the desert and mountain together" (Letters 5:228). However, his independent nature began to clash with Mabel's strong willed agendas; and Lawrence disliked the smothering aura of indebtedness. His creativity could not be ordered about; he felt too much under "the Wing" of Mabel (Letters 4:335 336).17 To preserve friendly relations, the Lawrences sought out other living arrangements.
At the beginning of November, 1922, they had a trial stay at Mabel's Flying Heart Ranch on Lobo Mountain, the same which they later owned and renamed Lobo, then Kiowa after the ancient Indians who had camped there. The idea was that if they liked it, they would pay Mabel rent. Lawrence reported in a letter, "It's a wonderful place, with the world at your feet and the mountains at your back, and pine trees" (Letters 4:334). Finding the ranch in poor condition, however, and with cold weather fast approaching, the Lawrences temporarily moved to the nearby Del Monte Ranch (owned by the Hawk family), where they entertained guests during the course of the winter: Lawrence's agent, Robert Mountsier; his New York publisher and wife, Thomas and Adele Seltzer; and the Danish painters, Knud Merrild and Kai Gotzsche, who lived all winter on the ranch. Lawrence enjoyed painting along with the Danes,18 creating illustrations and cover designs for his works, including his poetry book, Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923). This collection features such Southwestern poems as "Eagle in New Mexico," "Men in New Mexico," "Autumn at Taos" (Text Appendix 1), "The Red Wolf," "Mountain Lion," "The Blue Jay," "Spirits Summoned West," and "The American Eagle." Plans were also made for Lawrence's first visit to Mexico, which began in spring of 1923.
Along with Bynner and Willard "Spud" Johnson, Lawrence and Frieda toured Mexico from March to June, ending up in Chapala where Lawrence wrote Quetzalcoatl, the first version of The Plumed Serpent (see the published book-cover in Appendix Q). Thus the "American novel" Lawrence had envisioned writing was to be set in Mexico (Letters 4:457). Frank Waters, author of acclaimed texts about Pueblo Indians and reputed "Grandfather of Western Literature," comments: "Though the book was not laid in Taos, it transported Taos Pueblo and everything Lawrence had learned about its Indians to Mexico. It is all there their dress and customs, dances, songs, the very drumbeat" (87). Lawrence wrote, "It interests me, means more to me than any other novel of mine. This is my real novel of America" (Letters 4:457.)
Although the Lawrences wished to return to Taos and the ranch, the thought of another rough winter at high altitude was overruled by the lure of family and friends back in England. Still, Lawrence was reluctant to leave; and, after a quarrel, Frieda traveled on ahead with Lawrence following three months later.19 Once there, however, Lawrence loathed the dead and claustrophobic feeling of his postwar homeland.20 He soon began making plans for a return to America after completing his round of visits in Europe.
Lawrence called his friends together for a dinner at the Café Royal in London and asked them to join him in the adventure of making a fresh start in America. The invitation was reminiscent of his "Rananim" plan devised back in 1914, the name taken from a Hebrew song ("Rejoice") and related to a word meaning "green, fresh, or flourishing."21 Depression over the war, coupled with a low point in his career, had made Lawrence yearn for a "clean break" and a sense of community founded on "decency" to alleviate his feelings of isolation. In a 1915 letter to his Russian friend S.S. Koteliansky, Lawrence says, "We are going to found an Order of the Knights of Rananim" (Letters 2:252). He describes a flag that is to have a scarlet ten pointed star on a black background and sketches out a heraldic badge with his symbol of a phoenix rising from the flames. A metal plate with this same phoenix design would later hang on the Lawrence tree at the Kiowa Ranch, keeping alive the spirit of Rananim. However, the only friend from those gathered at the Café Royal who was sincerely committed to going with the Lawrences to the New World, was the Honorable Dorothy Brett, a gifted painter and daughter of the second Viscount Esher.
5. Ranch Life and Literary Works
They arrived back at Taos in March of 1924, and by May were hard at work on their own place. Mabel had decided to give the "Flying Heart" ranch to Frieda. The Lawrences insisted on giving Mabel, in return, the original manuscript of Sons and Lovers, valued several times over what the ranch was worth (see Appendix 2). Lawrence writes, "We were so pleased to see the ranch again. It still seems like a home" (Letters 5:39). Before their newly acquired ranch could be made livable, however, much repair work was needed. According to Professor John Worthen, "Lawrence threw himself into the work of it; it offered him a new challenge, a wholly new field to explore and master" (University of Nottingham website). Lawrence shows his excitement in a letter to Catherine Carswell, dated May 18 (Appendix 3):
Did I tell you Mabel Luhan gave Frieda that little
ranch about 160 acres up here in the skirts of the
mountains. We have been up there the last fortnight
carpenter, building up the 3 room log cabin, which was
falling down. We've done all the building, save the
chimney and we've made the adobe bricks for that. I
hope in the coming week to finish everything, shingling
the roofs of the other cabins too. (Letters 5:46)
The process of reconstruction is well documented throughout Lawrence's letters of the period. He makes requests for lumber (2 x 4s and 1 x 10s or 1 x 8s), tin tacks, hinges and screws, rope, putty and plaster, straw, paint (white and turquoise), brushes, trowels, and other tools which are brought by wagon or, as he says, "whenever anything is coming up, on wheels" (Letters 5:40). He frequently purchased materials from Gerson Gusdorf, who owned a general store in Taos. A June 6 "diary" entry logs initial expenditures of $217.65 in labor wages and an additional $245 in building supplies (Appendix R).22 In progress reports to Mabel,Lawrence writes: "The walls of Jericho (the log cabin) are re built, and chinked and chinked plastered outside, and inside end room." In another note: "We have washed and painted the other house looks a different place." And still another: "I've done one of the hardest days work in my life today cleaning the well. All the foul mud of the Thames and stank like hell. Now it's excavated and built in with stone, and the pipe sunk two feet deeper Lord, this is the week we promised ourselves rest" (Letters 5:42, 49, 51).
This time of intense physical labor gave Lawrence a brief break from writing. In the evenings the Lawrence party often relaxed with the Taos Indians that came to help with repairs. Their temporary camp was set behind the cabins and under the "hanging stars." Lawrence tells a correspondent, "we sit with the Indians round the fire, and they sing till late into the night, and sometimes we all dance the Indian tread dance. . . ." (Letters 5:67). Trinidad confirms that together they danced the "round dance" and the "eagle dance," among others (Clark, Dark Night, 39). During the days, Lawrence worked alongside the Native American workers in a spirit of camaraderie (see Appendix D). To his American publisher Thomas Seltzer, he says:
I'm glad I've got some money in the bank, to fix up this
ranch but I'm being very economical. Of course, once the
work is done, we shall spend very little. And naturally I
don't write when I slave building the house my arms feel
so heavy, like a navvy's, though they look as thin as ever.
bit heavy too. I hope later to be able to find someone
who might work the ranch and make a little living out of
it it could easily be done so that the place needn't be
abandoned in the winter. Taos is looking very lovely, full
spring, plum blossom like wild snow up the trails, and green,
green alfalfa, apple orchards in bloom, the dobe houses
almost pink in the sun. It is almost arcadian. (Letters 5:45 46)
And yet despite Lawrence's claim that no writing was getting done, he was working on at least one important piece called "Pan in America." It is an article that promotes active relatedness between people and their universe as opposed to the modern mechanical conquest of nature. In this way it parallels Lawrence's own hands on involvement with the ranch and its rugged environment. L.D. Clark, a leading critic of Lawrence’s American period, remarks, "At Kiowa Ranch the surroundings brought it powerfully home to Lawrence that in this western forest and in the local Indians, Pan was still Pan if unhappily fading away" (Clark, The Minoan Distance, 305). Lawrence envisioned the Greek god of forests, pastures, shepherds and flocks quite at home on the lonely property. Of particular significance was the "Lawrence tree," which the writer infuses with a "guardian spirit." According to scholar Keith Sagar, "Lawrence felt able to communicate with the savage spirit of place at the ranch most directly through the huge pine tree which stood just outside his door. In . . . 'Pan in America,' we see the landscape at last beginning to yield its meaning" (New Mexico, 39). (See Appendix 4.)
After five weeks, most of the major work was completed and the rooms modestly decorated with "serapes and Mexican blankets." Lawrence announces on June 7: "We've finished the hard work on the ranch here, and I'm hoping for a bit of leisure. I might even try a bit of my own work again" (Letters 5:55) A few days later he writes to Mabel: "Time passes quickly and quietly here I ride every day, if only for the milk. Brett has walked off to Gallina to try for fish. I began to write a story. Am getting used to this place and its spirit then one likes it" (Letters 5:56 57). The Lawrences and Brett were settling into the routine of life on the farm: tending the horses, chopping wood, fetching water, washing and cooking, writing and painting. To a managing editor at the Curtis Brown agency,23 Lawrence says of the ranch, "It's fine to look at, but not altogether so easy living in these wildish places. One feels dislocated sometimes. But soon I hope you'll get the atmosphere of the place, in a story" (Letters 5:58). The story which would best capture the essence of the Kiowa Ranch was his novella, St. Mawr, written at the ranch during this period.
St. Mawr is the story of Lou Witt, her cynical mother, and a magnificent but unruly horse named St. Mawr. The first half of the tale is set in England, where Lou becomes infatuated with and must possess this mysterious horse which adds a spark of passion to her bland and meaningless life. The end focuses on the American Southwest where Lou decides to buy a dilapidated ranch and commune with nature. Lawrence explores the stark duality of the beautiful, soul enriching grandeur of nature at large and the harsh, fierce and impersonal hardships of everyday living in the wilderness. The last twenty pages are filled with lavish descriptions of the Kiowa Ranch, its scenic vistas, and its history. The ranch is named "Las Chivas" in the story, meaning primarily "the goats" and relating to the ranch's past as a goat farm in addition to alluding symbolically to the goat god, Pan.24 The following scene shows Lou's first impression of the ranch as she is driven up by car:
They climbed slowly up the incline, through more pine trees,
and out into another clearing, where a couple of horses were
grazing. And there they saw the ranch itself, little low
cabins with patched roofs, under a few pine trees, and facing
the long twelve acre clearing, or field, where the michaelmas
daisies were purple mist, and spangled with clumps of yellow
'Not got no alfalfa here neither!' said Phoenix, as the
car waded past the flowers. 'Must be a dry place up here.
Got no water, sure they haven't.'
Yet it was the place Lou wanted. In an instant, her heart
sprang to it. The instant the car stopped, and she saw the
two cabins inside the rickety fence, the rather broken corral
hills, the solid uprise of the mountain flank: and getting
down, she looked across the purple and gold of the clearing,
downwards at the ring of pine trees standing so still, so crude
and untameable, the motionless desert beyond the bristles of
the pine crests, a thousand feet below: and beyond the desert,
blue mountains, and far, far off blue mountains in Arizona
'This is the place,' she said to herself.
This little tumble down ranch, only a homestead of a
hundred and sixty acres, was, as it were, man's last effort
towards the wild heart of the Rockies, at this point. (St. Mawr, 140)
Many of these passages from the end of St. Mawr evoke the rustic character of the Lawrence Ranch as it stands today.
Another important story from this same time frame was "The Woman Who Rode Away," based on a visit the Lawrences made with Mabel to the Arroyo Seco Cave not far from the ranch. Mabel had informed Lawrence of the cave's legendary history as a ceremonial place of ancient Indian sacrifice and how it was believed to be surrounded by evil spirits which the local modern day Indians feared. A thin waterfall that freezes in winter cuts across the mouth of the cave and its recessed altar platform. High on the back wall, a cave painting of a sun marks the position of sunrise during winter solstice. All these details combined to inspire Lawrence to write his mythic tale of a female Christ figure who naively allows herself (and the deadened white race she represents) to be ritually sacrificed in order to restore the Indian race (with its mystery and vitality) to power. It is a disturbing Poesque tale with a haunting climax. Despite the controversial ending, however, it remains an often anthologized short story and is considered by critic L.D. Clark to be "one of Lawrence's most powerful creations" (Minoan Distance, 309).
In August Lawrence made two more trips that resulted in significant pieces of writing. One was a trip to Hotevilla to attend the Hopi Indian snake dance festival. The other was a trip to Columbine Lake with Brett and the Hawks which would provide the setting for his well known short story, "The Princess." It is a tale of a pampered, aristocratic woman who, out of curiosity, rides off into the countryside to see its wildlife with her Mexican guide as escort and ends up being held hostage in a remote mountain cabin. By the time she is rescued, dementia has helped to reshape her memory of the experience. The story is also filled with lush description of the New Mexican landscape, the result of Lawrence's many horseback excursions in the Taos area. America was the only place he rode horseback, and horse riding quests figure prominently in his ranch fiction.
Lawrence always had a deep interest in ancient cultures, religions, and rituals; thus he attended many of the local Indian ceremonies. The spirituality he observed there was incorporated into current projects, such as The Plumed Serpent, as well as influencing later works like some of his Last Poems. During his second stay in New Mexico, he wrote several articles on Pueblo Indian dances which were eventually collected in Mornings in Mexico, brought out in 1927. Two of these, "Indians and Entertainment" and "The Dance of the Sprouting Corn," were written just prior to moving up to the ranch. The first essay received initial publication in the New York Times Magazine in October of 1924. The latter essay, including Lawrence's drawing of the corn dancers (Appendix S), was first published in the American journal, Theatre Arts Monthly (July 1924). Lawrence's long road trip to the snake dances in Arizona (mid August) produced two more articles a short satirical one called "Just Back from the Snake Dance Tired Out"25 and one of his masterpieces, "The Hopi Snake Dance."
Lawrence was particularly fond of his "Hopi Snake Dance" article and was careful to specify to his Curtis Brown representative that he preferred its length not be cut. Its first appearance was also in the Theatre Arts Monthly (December 1924), and it has earned the praise of both literary critics and noted anthropologists like Ruth Benedict. The essay offers an evocative description of the snake dancing spectacle taking place on the mesa tops. It also shows Lawrence at his best interpreting the symbolism of this Hopi ceremony in a "parched, grey country of snakes and eagles, pitched up against the sky" (New Mexico, 66). He treats his subject with respect while at the same time pointing out the contrast between the Indian priests' vision and the modern sentiment of the crowd of tourists gathered to watch:
And amid all its crudity, and the sensationalism which
comes chiefly out of the crowd's desire for thrills, one
cannot help pausing in reverence before the delicate, anointed
bravery of the snake priests . . . .
We dam the Nile and take the railway across America. The
Hopi smooths the rattlesnake and carries him in his mouth, to
send him back into the dark places of the earth, an emissary
to the inner powers.
To each sort of man his own achievement, his own victory,
cruelty is coiled in the very beginnings of all things, and
circle after circle creation emerges towards a flickering,
revealed Godhead. . . .
To the Hopi, God is not yet, and the Golden Age lies far
ahead. Out of the dragon's den of the cosmos, we have wrested
only the beginnings of our being. . . .
(New Mexico, 72)
Intermingled with the business of writing and publishing these literary works, modifications to the ranch were still underway. Besides the mending of corral fences, Lawrence was involved with the construction of major additions to the ranch property an adobe oven in front of the Homesteader's Cabin and two covered porches. He writes to his mother in law, the Baroness Anna Von Richthofen, about the first porch and oven:
Right now we're making a roof over the little verandah, in
front of the kitchen door with eight little pillars, pine
trees, and boards on top: very nice. It's almost done. You
know, too, we have an Indian oven, made of adobe. It stands
outside, near the kitchen door: built like a bee hive. . . .
I've made bread, and we've baked bread and chickens in the
oven: turned out very well. We can bake twenty loaves of
bread in half an hour in the oven. (Letters 5:62)
By October the Lawrences once again ventured south to Mexico (with Brett in tow) so that Lawrence could complete work on The Plumed Serpent. As he says in a note to E.M. Forster, it's "down to Old Mexico, to finish a novel, and see the gods again there. One can go no farther than one's blood will carry one. But there are worlds beyond worlds, and some sort of trail" (Letters 5:77). The trail would lead first to Mexico City and then on to Oaxaca, a small cultural center with a strong Zapotec Indian heritage and local color. The surrounding countryside, still suffering from the aftermath of revolution, was politically unstable and dangerous to travel in; but Lawrence was focused on the reworking of his novel and almost doubled its length over the next few months as he fleshed out characters and plot.
The novel deals with a revival of the Aztec gods, the "Quetzalcoatl movement," and attempts to reconcile ancient and modern ways of life by restoring a primeval connection with the cosmos. This new world order includes the pitting together, and hybrid mixing of, indigenous Indian and European cultures as part of the revitalization process aimed at restructuring social and personal relationships. Lawrentian scholar and editor Virginia Hyde states, "Despite containing authoritarian ideas, The Plumed Serpent is a pioneer in depicting interracial marriage, in the union between Kate and the Zapotec Indian Cipriano" (Introduction to The Plumed Serpent, xx). She goes on to say that while Lawrence had always been fascinated by the mingling of cultures, his portrayal of racial intermarriage at this time may have stemmed from his witnessing the real life relationship and subsequent marriage of Mabel Dodge to the Taos Indian, Tony Lujan (xxiii). The Plumed Serpent, which is considered experimental on a number of levels, is the last and most complex of his so called "leadership novels." By combining narrative prose with elaborate rituals and embedded songs and chants, Lawrence creates a whole mythology rich with religious symbolism that is also grounded in the everyday details of Mexican life, landscape, and history. Critic Arnold Odio remarks that through The Plumed Serpent and essays contained in Mornings in Mexico, Lawrence has "had a subtle if not direct impact on a type of [predominately Spanish American] novel which has been described as being sui generis: the novel of magical realism" (188). The Plumed Serpent took American literature into new realms by exploring our aboriginal roots and giving voice to the dispossessed Indian.
Immediately upon completion of this exhaustive mental outpouring, Lawrence fell deathly ill with a suspected combination of tropical diseases and influenza which ultimately triggered his tuberculosis. It was officially diagnosed as such for the first time, and Lawrence was given only a year or two to live. Following the doctor's advice for a climate of sun and dry air, the Lawrences arrived back at the Kiowa Ranch on April 6, 1925. Brett, who had returned earlier, was to remain down at the Del Monte Ranch with the Hawks, thus giving the Lawrences more privacy. The recovery was slow, as recorded in letters to friends and family (see Appendix 5). He writes to his sister:
Yes, I was awfully sick: malaria, typhoid condition inside, and
chest going wrong. Am much better but must be careful all summer
lie down a great deal. When the wild cold winds come, I just go
to bed. In the wonderful sunny days they are six out of seven
I potter about and lie on a camp bed on the porch. I don't work
yet, Trinidad and his wife Ruffina [sic] the Indians do most
it stands by the barn. Trinidad drives it in style. Now they are
busy, away at the Gallina canyon, about two miles off, building a
little dam and putting in pipes, to get the water out of the canyon
into our irrigation ditch, which winds round the hills to the
house. It's rather an expense. But we must have water on the land.
The addition of running water to the ranch allowed the Lawrences to plant a little garden. Lawrence was then in charge of keeping it and the field watered: "I go out every morning to the field, to turn the water over a new patch. So the long 15 acre field is very green, but the ranges are dry as dry sand, and nothing hardly grows. Only the wild strawberries are flowering full, and the wild gooseberries were thick with blossoms, and little flocks of humming birds came for them." (Letters 5:257).
The thought of his novel and Mexico brought back uneasy memories of illness, so Lawrence turned his attention to other projects. He began to write a biblical play called David (published in 1926 and first performed in 1927). In the play, Saul loses his power through disobedience to God's will. Likewise, Lawrence had always believed that illness and its consequences were partly the fault of the sufferer, a failure to recognize life's mistakes which wounds the soul. Cambridge biographer David Ellis remarks, "The advantage of this attitude was that, if a man was ultimately responsible for the illness, then recovery might also lie in his own hands" (261). The writing of David during Lawrence's convalescence at the ranch was perhaps therapeutic as well as being a testament to his dramatic skills and writing stamina. He also wrote several essays on the novel as art form and the purpose of art in general: "Art and Morality," "Morality and the Novel," and "The Novel." These articles form the core of a series of essays on literary theory and aesthetics conceived while in New Mexico.26 According to Ellis again, "these three pieces, written in May and June 1925, constitute one of the most impressive of all Lawrence's many replies to his detractors and have provided crucial concepts, as well as striking phrases, for which many literary critics have been heavily in his debt ever since" (250).
At this time, Lawrence was approached by Centaur Press to produce a book of uncollected essays. The title of the book, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays (1925), came from one of the new pieces he supplied for the collection and was partly inspired by his own experience with a porcupine at the ranch:
I noticed, riding through the timber, the porcupines are gnawing
the tips of the pine trees. I saw a huge one with all his bristles
up, the other evening, just in front of the house. Wish I'd killed
him. And I heard Aaron squealing and running to corral he's my
black horse, very nice and I found he'd got a little bunch of
porcupine quills in his nose. Had to pull them out one by one
with the pliers, and he hated it. (Letters 5:278)
Lawrence did later kill a pesky porcupine with a twenty two rifle and felt conflicted regarding this first hunting experience and the harsh necessity of killing as "part of the business of ranching: even when its only a little half abandoned ranch like this one" (Reflections, 354). For the essay collection, most of the material was either newly written or revised, and glimpses of ranch life are sprinkled throughout. Michael Herbert affirms in the Introduction to the Cambridge edition that the book was "a remarkable tribute to life on the ranch and to his own possession of that vividness and vitality stressed in all the essays" (Herbert, xli).
Of particular note is "....Love was Once a Little Boy," in which Lawrence talks about his newly acquired cow, Black Eyed Susan, and the mysterious connection between them. (See Appendix O for a historical photograph of Lawrence and the cow.) Brett documents Lawrence’s first milking of Susan after struggling to get the unruly cow into the corral: “[A]t milking time you go in cautiously with the bucket. We [Brett and Frieda] hide behind palings to watch. You talk to her, stroking her nose; then sit gingerly on the stool and begin to milk. . . . She stands as quiet as a lamb as the milk streams into the bucket.” (222). He states in a letter: "I seem to be forever milking. We have pulled down the old corral, and made a new smaller one out of the old lumber. Also reroofed the barn. . . . Now the lesser house is the dairy all cleaned up and nice" (Letters 5:268). Lawrence catalogues his other livestock as consisting of four horses, white and brown hens, a white cock, and a little wild rabbit that Trinidad had caught. He reports to his mother in law: "Frieda makes two pounds of butter a week!! Today we got as many as eight eggs!!!" (Letters 5:266). In describing their simple farm life to his publisher Martin Secker, Lawrence comments:
We are busy on our ranch just ranching. . . . Sounds idyllic, but
the cow escapes into the mountains, we hunt her on horseback and
curse her . . .: an eagle strikes one of the best hens: a skunk
fetches the eggs: the half wild cows break in on the pasture,
that is drying up as dry as pepper no rain, no rain, no rain.
It's tough country. (Letters 5:268)
By the end of May, Lawrence was recovered enough to begin the tedious work of revising his novel. He writes, "They have sent me the typescript of my Mexican novel I did so want to call it 'Quetzalcoatl', but they all went into a panic and they want the translation The Plumed Serpent I suppose they'll have to have it but sounds to me rather millinery" (Letters 5:254). With the name of the book established, revisions continued throughout June and into July. During this time Centaur Press published A Bibliography of the Writings of D.H. Lawrence by Edward McDonald. The list of literary accomplishments was already quite extensive and growing. McDonald's serious attention was one of the first in a long line of scholarly studies, leading to academic pilgrimages to the ranch made by young and old in the years to follow.
As autumn approached, the Lawrences' six month visa was coming to an end, and they packed up for another visit to England. Although they hated to leave the ranch they'd put so much hard work and care into, Lawrence was feeling nostalgic because of his close brush with death; and he was torn between the old world and the new. His sadness is expressed in this unknowingly permanent farewell: "It grieves me to leave my horses, and my cow Susan, and the cat Timsy Wemyss, and the white cock Moses and the place. . . . it's very wonderful country" (Letters 5:291). They left New Mexico on September 11, 1925 his birthday. It had been exactly three years since his arrival in America, and Lawrence would never again return due to his failing health.
Lawrence continued to yearn occasionally for his ranch and to write about his experiences in New Mexico.27 On a November evening of 1925 in the village of Spotorno on the Italian Riviera, he wrote an essay entitled "A Little Moonshine with Lemon." It was written specifically for Willard Johnson's special Lawrence issue of his magazine, Laughing Horse, that was published in April 1926. The essay gives a portrait of the uncharacteristically sentimental Lawrence comfortably having a glass of vermouth in the temperate Mediterranean on St. Catherine's Day, while dreaming of his American ranch in the snowy mountains where he would instead be drinking "moonshine":
not very good moonshine, but still warming: with hot water
and lemon, and sugar, and a bit of cinnamon from one of those
little red Schilling's tins. And I should light my little
stove in the bedroom, and let it roar a bit, sucking the wind.
Then dart to bed, with all the ghosts of the ranch cosily round
me, and sleep till the very coldness of my emerged nose wakes me
(Laughing Horse 13:3)
He derives some comfort from knowing the same moon shines on both him and the shut up ranch. Brett did return to Taos in June of 1926 and kept Lawrence informed of conditions there and saw that the horses were fed. In January of 1927 Lawrence writes to her, "I'd have loved to see the Christmas and New Year dances at the pueblo. I'd love to ride Poppy in a race with Prince. But there you are, 6000 miles, a pot of money, and a great deal of travelling effort lie between, to say nothing of New York. . . ." (Letters 5:629). This is to say nothing, too, of strict immigration officials who would have made such an attempt humiliating for the more and more obviously sick man. He also maintained contact with Mabel and dedicated Mornings in Mexico to "Mabel Lujan" since, as he explains, "to you we owe Taos and all that ensues from Taos" (Letters 6:36). And he wrote an article at Mabel's request called "New Mexico," which summed up his feelings toward the rugged and majestic Southwest: