This was the standard which we had in mind when we opened The Lost Girl. We now go on to trace the strayings and stumblings of that mind as it came to the. conclusion that The Lost Girl is not an original, or a book which touches the high standard which we have named. Together with our beliefin Mr. Lawrence's originality went, of course, some sort of forecast as to the direction which that originality was likely to take. We conceived him to be a writer, with an extraordinary sense of the physical world, of the colour and texture and shape of things, for whom the body was alive and the problems of the
The Lost Girl body insistent and important. It was plain that sex had for him a meaning which it was disquieting to think that we, too, might have to explore. Sex, indeed, was the first red-herring that crossed our path in the new volume. The story is the story of Alvina Houghto~, the daughter of a draper in Woodhouse, a mining town in the Midlands. It is all built up of solid fabric. If you want a truthful description of a draper's shop, evident knowledge of his stock, and a faithful and keen yet not satiric or sentimental description of James Houghton, Mrs. Houghton, Miss Frost, and Miss Pinnegar, here you have it. Nor does tills summary do any kind of justice to the variety of the cast and the number of events in which they play their parts. But, distracted by our preconception of what Mr. Lawrence was to give us, we turned many pages of very able writing in search for something else which must be there. Alv4J.a seemed the most likely instrument to transmit Mr. Lawrence's electric shock through the calicos, prints, and miners' shirts by which she stood 9Urrounded. We watched for signs of her development nervously, for we always dread originality, yet with the sense that once the shock was received we should rise braced and purified. The signs we looked for were not lacking. For example, 'Married or unmarried, it was the same-the same anguish, realized in all its pain after the age of fifty-the loss in never having been able to relax, to submit.' Again, 'She was returning to Woodhouse virgin as she had left it. In a measure she felt herself beaten. Why? Who knows ..•. Fate had been too strong for her and her desires. Fate which was not an external association of forces, but which was integral in her own nature.' Such phrases taken in conjunction with the fact that Alvina, having refused her first suitor, wilted and pined, and becoming a midwife mysteriously revived in the atmosphere of the Islington-road, confirmed us in our belief that sex was the magnet to which the myriad of separate details would adhere. We were wrong. Details accumulated; the picture of life in Woodhouse was built up; and sex disappeared. This detail, then this realism, must have another meaning than we had given them. Relieved, yet a trifle disappointed, for we want originality as much as we dread it, we adopted a fresh attitude and read Mr. Lawrence as one reads Mr. Bennett-for the facts, and for the story. Mr. Lawrence shows indeed something of Mr. Bennett's power of displaying by means of immense industry and great ability a section of the hive beneath glass. Like all the other insects, Alvina runs in and out of other people's lives, and it is the pattern of the whole that interests us rather than the fate of one of the individuals. And then, as
VIRGINIA WOOLF IN Times Literary Supplement we have long ceased to find in reading Mr. Bennett, suddenly the method seems to justify itself by a single phrase which we may liken to a glow or to a transparency, since to quote one apart from the context would give no idea of our meaning. In other words, Mr. Lawrence occasionally and momentarily achieves that concenttation which Tolstoy preserves sometimes for a chapter or more. And then again the laborious process continues of building up a model of life from saying how d'you do, and cutting the loaf, and knocking the cigarette ash into the ash tray, and standing the yellow bicycle against the wall. Little by little Alvina disappears beneath the heap of facts recorded about her, and the only sense in which we feel her to be lost is that we can no longer believe in her existence.