Lady Chatterley's Lover: Lawrence's 3 Versions

D.H. Lawrence wrote three versions of “Lady Chatterley's Lover.” The novel known by this title is the third version, the one Lawrence considered definitive and which he published at his own expense in March 1928, a few months before his death. The fact that these three versions exist is not in itself remarkable; it is Lawrence's method of writing them that is extraordinary in the history of literature.

His method was as follows: between each version, Lawrence would put the manuscript aside for several months and go on to something else. When he came back to his project, he didn't work from the previous manuscript to modify it, but entirely rewrote a second version. And later, he rewrote the third version as well. Therefore, certain plot points and circumstances are common to all three versions, but entire passages are not strictly similar and no dialogue is identical.

The characters themselves, the novel's four main characters–Lady Chatterley and her husband Clifford, the gamekeeper (whose name changes depending on the version) and Mrs. Bolton, Clifford's nurse–vary significantly from one version to another. As a result, we are dealing with three independent versions, each one coherent from the first page to the last.

The director discovered “Lady Chatterley's Lover” fairly late. He says: “Certain aspects of the book excited me, but in my view, it was impossible book to adapt, unless it were an adaptation so free that I wouldn't have dared to think of it. It must be said that “Lady Chatterley's Lover” (the third version) is pretty verbose, and in that respect, the book has aged badly. It's as though Lawrence, in view of his subject's eminently subversive nature and the censorship that he was anticipating, felt obliged to theorize the novel's thesis through his characters' voices: love is stronger than all class barriers.”

“Then I learned that there were two previous versions and that the second had been published by Gallimard under the title “Lady Chatterley et l'homme des bois” (published in English as “John Thomas and Lady Jane”). This version is simpler, more direct in dealing with its subject, less tortured. The book is more focused on the relationship between Constance and Parkin, the gamekeeper, and the two characters themselves are quite different. For example, here Parkin is a simple man who logically should have been a miner, but who chose to be a gamekeeper in order to escape life in society.”

“In “Lady Chatterley's Lover,” he is an ex-officer in the British Indian Army who has chosen to live as a hermit. His culture and origins make his relationship with Lady Chatterley less scandalous, however. In a way, intellectually, they are practically from the same world, which explains how they can discuss together what is happening to them.”

In “Lady Chatterley et l'homme des bois,” they don't discuss things, they experience them. Lastly, even more than in the final version, the story is literally overrun by vegetation. And the plant kingdom doesn't come in simply as a metaphor for the life force that brings the two protagonists together, but accompanies them constantly during their transformation. To me, that's the most beautiful thing about “Lady Chatterley et l'homme des bois,” the story of a love that is one with the material experience of transformation.