Traditional Drama Forum - No.8 ISSN 1743-3789 September 2003

An Enjoyable Christmas: A Prelude [Notes]
[by David Herbert Lawrence]

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The Question of Authorship

You may ask; if this short story was written by D.H.Lawrence, why does it say "by Jessie Chambers" in the title block? Well, the author really was Lawrence, but the confusion arose from a cunning ruse he hatched in the autumn of 1907 that went slightly awry.

At the time, Lawrence was a student at University College Nottingham. He was an aspiring, but as yet unpublished author, and like all students, in need of cash. A local newspaper - the Nottinghamshire Guardian (1907) - ran an annual Christmas story competition, offering a prize of £3 cash plus publication of the winning story. There were three categories - (1) A Legend, (2) An Amusing Adventure, and (3) An Enjoyable Christmas - but the rules stipulated that "No competitor will be awarded more than one prize." They also required entries to be submitted under an assumed name. This would enable the judges to publish candid remarks on the losing entries without causing undue embarrassment to the authors. The closing date was Saturday 9th November 1907.

Lawrence decided to enter three stories. To get round the rules, and triple his chances, he submitted one story under his own name, and asked his friends Jessie Chambers and Louie Burrows to send in the others under their names. Jessie submitted A Prelude to a Happy Christmas under the pseudonym "Rosalind". It is known that Lawrence asked Louie to write out the story in her "own style" (which I take to mean handwriting style), so is probable that Jessie did likewise. Three stories in the same handwriting might have been spotted. He thought his own entry would win, but the one sent in for him by Jessie won first place instead. The judges commented on the story that "a simple theme was handled with a freshness and simplicity altogether charming" (H.T.Moore, 1951, p.51).

In order to maintain the subterfuge, the winning entry had to appear in the newspaper under Jessie's name. In fact it appeared under her full name and address, rather than the Nom de plume. Nonetheless, this was Lawrence's first work to appear in print.

Perhaps because he feared that his deception might become public knowledge, Lawrence appears to have been embarrassed by his story. In a letter to May Chambers, Jessie's sister, he denied the rumours about his authorship that were reported to be circulating in his home town of Eastwood (J.Worthen, 1987, p.xxiii). Even in 1924, by which time he was a well-established author, he was reticent in admitting that his first publication had appeared in a provincial newspaper under a nom de plume, and expressed relief that it had vanished without trace (Letter to Edward D.McDonald, dated 31st July 1924, quoted in J.Worthen, 1987, p.xxiii). However, the Chambers family, safely secluded in the countryside at Haggs Farm, was let in on the secret, and when the prize cheque arrived, made out to Jessie, her father duly cashed it for her and handed the money over to Lawrence saying, "Well Bert, it's the first, but I hope it won't be the last." (E.T., 1935, p.113)

Subsequent Publication

Lawrence went on to rework and publish the two stories that Lost. The story he had entered as himself - Ruby-Glass - was transformed into A Fragment of Stained Glass. This, and The White Stocking (submitted for him by Louie Burrows) were both published in his collection The Prussian Officer, and other stories (J.Worthen, 1983, p.xix). Not so the winning entry.

A Prelude, as it is known by English scholars, remained outside the Lawrence canon until nearly twenty years after his death, which was in 1930. However, Jessie Chambers did recount the episode in her memoirs of Lawrence published in 1935 (E.T., 1935, pp.113). This prompted P.Beaumont Wadsworth, a journalist at the Manchester Guardian to investigate further in the files of the Nottinghamshire Guardian during World War II. Having rediscovered the story, he republished it as a small book in a limited edition of 160 copies, along with a report of his investigations (P.Beaumont Wadsworth, 1949). This prompted the Nottinghamshire Guardian to republish the story in December of the same year, with the following note:

"In recent weeks the 'Nottinghamshire Guardian' published extracts from Mr. Beaumont Wadsworth's volume in which he established the fact that D. H. Lawrence's first printed work appeared in the Christmas 'Guardian' of 1907 under the true name of his friend and counsellor 'Miriam.' 'The Prelude' is now reprinted here with the original illustrations. Crossheads have been added."

("Jessie Chambers", 1949)

Some minor editorial changes and typesetting errors occurred with the text of the newspaper's 1949 reprint. A few paragraphs were split, while others were combined. The original title block was reproduced, and the illustrations, but reduced in size. Arguably the only significant change was that the original crossheads were removed, and replaced with new and differently placed crossheads. For those that may be interested, Worthen provides a full and detailed list of the differences (J.Worthen, 1987).

Because in literary terms, A Prelude is an uninspiring piece, it has not received much attention from researchers, and usually appears as little more than a footnote in the chronology of his life. As Jessie Wood (née Chambers) put it, "It is a sentimental little story, not at all important..." (Letter from Jessie Wood to Prof. Lutoslawski, dated 23rd June 1935, quoted in G.J.Zytaruk, 1979, p.113). It is often omitted from editions of his "collected" or "complete" short stories.

This online version of the text was scanned and OCRed from the 1949 newspaper reprint, but proof-read against the 1907 original.

Lawrence's Original Manuscript

The original manuscript of the story no longer exists. There is a typescript of the story in the archives of the University of Texas at Austin, bearing a note in the hand of Lawrence's widow Frieda Lawrence Ravagli (W.Roberts & P.Poplawski, 2001, p662). However, this was probably made by E.D.McDonald sometime between 1936 and 1949 (J.Worthen, 1987).

Although literary scholars have tended to give the title of the story as A Prelude, the title as it appears in the title block is in fact longer - An Enjoyable Christmas: A Prelude: "Sweet is pleasure after pain.....". There is no guarantee that this was the title used by Lawrence himself. In her account of the competition, Jessie Chambers gave the title as A Prelude to a Happy Christmas, but as she was relying on memory at a distance of twenty five years or more, she may or may not have been word perfect. It is possible that the editor could have added An Enjoyable Christmas to the beginning of the title, since this was the relevant category heading for the competition.

Lawrence was not in the habit of providing crossheads for his stories. It is not unreasonable therefore to assume that these were inserted by a Notts. Guardian sub-editor prior to publication. Consequently, no real sin was committed by the editor of the 1949 reprint when he deleted the original crossheads and inserted a new set.

Peter Millington


"Jessie Chambers" (1907) An Enjoyable Christmas: A Prelude: "Sweet is pleasure after pain..."
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 7th Dec.1907, pp.17a-e

"Jessie Chambers" (1949) An Enjoyable Christmas: A Predude: "Sweet is pleasure after pain..."
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th Dec.1949, pp.12a-e,9

Jessie Chambers (1965) D.H.Lawrence: A Personal Record by E.T.: Second Edition Edited by J.D.Chambers
London, Frank Cass, 1965

Harry T.Moore (1951) The Life and Works of D.H.Lawrence
London, George Allen & Unwin, 1951

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1907) [Title not known]
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th Aug.1907, p.1

Warren Roberts & Harry T.Moore [eds.] (1968) Phoenix II: Uncollected, Unpublished and Other Prose Works by D.H.Lawrence
London, Heinemann, 1968

Warren Roberts & Paul Poplawski (2001) A Bibliography of D.H.Lawrence: Third Edition
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-521-39182-2
[The first edition was published 1963]

E.T. [Jessie Chambers] (1935) D.H.Lawrence: A Personal Record by E.T.
London, Jonathan Cape, 1935

P.Beaumont Wadsworth (1949) A Prelude ... His first and previously unrecorded work. With an explanatory foreword dealing with its discovery by P. Beaumont Wadsworth. [With a portrait.]
Merle Press: Thames Ditton, 1949

John Worthen [ed.] (1983) The Prussian Officer and other Stories: D.H.Lawrence
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-521-24822-1

John Worthen [ed.] (1987) Love among the Haystacks and other Stories: D.H.Lawrence
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-26836-2

George J.Zytaruk [ed.] (1979) The Collected Letters of Jessie Chambers
D.H.Lawrence Review, Spring-Summer 1979, Vol.12, No.1-2
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