Tickets, Please!

It’s a slight shock, leafing through the 1919 volume of the Strand Magazine, to come across D.H.Lawrence’s Tickets, Please! among the melodramatic tales by Edgar Wallace and others.

D.H.Lawrence was by no means a writer you’d expect to find in the populist Strand. During wartime, with his German wife and reputation for dissent, he would certainly not have found his way there. The fact that this story is published there in 1919 is evidence for my theory that immediately after the War there was a brief period when editors as well as writers were willing to try an experiment.

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The editors certainly did him proud with an illustrator. For me, the girl in this picture captures exactly the spirit of Lawrence’s description:

The girls are fearless young hussies. In their ugly blue uniform, skirts up to their knees, shapeless old peaked caps on their heads, they have all the sang-froid of an old non-commissioned officer. With a tram packed with howling colliers, roaring hymns downstairs and a sort of antiphony of obscenities upstairs, the lasses are perfectly at their ease. They pounce on the youths who try to evade their ticket-machine. They push off the men at the end of their distance. They are not going to be done in the eye – not they. They fear nobody – and everybody fears them.

The story isn’t quite as Lawrence wrote it, though. John Thomas Raynor becomes John Joseph (John Thomas was originally Lawrence’s title for the story, so they changed that, too.)

I wonder about this bit of bowdlerisation. The sexual reference would only be noticed by someone who already knew the phrase, so it could not be accused of corrupting the innocent. Were they afraid that it might encourage those who already had a knowledge of lewd matters?

Or were they particularly sensitive because of Lawrence’s reputation as a pornographer? (The Rainbow had been prosecuted and an exhibition of his paintings raided.) If an innocent lady contributor has unwittingly given a character in a children’s story the name John Thomas, would they have felt the need to change it? Was there an editorial assistant whose responsibility it would be to explain such changes to pure-minded maiden ladies?

Or did the literary editor feel that the phallic nature of the character was clear enough anyway, without the obvious nudge of the name John Thomas? He may have had a point.

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