Resting Your Eyes: Sir Walter Scott’s “Kenilworth” and D. H. Lawrence’s “Kangaroo”

You mat wonder why I bought this Heritage Press copy of Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth ($3.50).  I haven’t read Scott in years, and I did not particularly want to read it.   The illustrations by Clarke Hutton are charming but that’s not the reason, either.  The thing is, these oversized books have crisp pages and biggish print. After reading a 19th century reference book with small print cover-to-cover, I need to rest my eyes.

Anyway, Kenilworth is billed as a “historical romance.”

“I love ‘hist-roms,’ ” I said to my husband.


“Jean Plaidy.” He disapproves of Jean Plaidy on account of the covers, but I do enjoy her novels about the Borgias and the Tudors.

Before I started Kenilworth, however, I decided to read some D. H. Lawrence.  I declared not long ago that he is my favorite writer.  So I curled up with  a small red 1960 hardback copy of his 1923 novel Kangaroo, which I bought  for $6.50.

It is not Lawrence at his best.  Last summer I reread Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent and found it silly and surreal.  Well, Kangaroo is more of the same.  In The Plumed Serpent, set in Mexico, Don Ramon, a wealthy Mexican landowner, founds an Aztec cult and claims he is the god Quetzalcoatl:  one of his goals is to drive Christianity out of Mexico.

In Kangaroo, set in Australia, a man named Kangaroo wants ” to be with men who are sons of men, not sons of women.  “Man that is born of woman is sick of himself.  Man that is born of woman is tired of his day after day.  And woman is like a mother with a tiresome child:  what is she to do with him?  What is she to do with him? –man that is born of woman.”

This has been going on for pages now.

And then Kangaroo talks about ant-hills.

“But the men that are born like ants, out of the cold interval, and are womanless, they are not sick of themselves. They are full of cold energy, and they seethe with cold fire in the anthill, making new corridors, new chambers–they alone know what for. And they have cold, formic-acid females, as restless as themselves, and as active about the ant-hill, and as identical with the dried clay of the building. And the active, important, so-called females, and the active, cold-blooded, energetic males, they shift twig after twig, and lay crumb of earth upon crumb of earth, and the females deposit cold white eggs of young. This is the world, and the people of the world. And with their cold, active bodies the ant-men and the ant-women swarm over the face of the earth.”

I love Lawrence, so I will finish this.  But do you see why I need Kenilworth?

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