27 January 2019
In January of 2004, the D. H. Lawrence Ranch was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) at the National level, which means the property is eligible for National Landmark Status.
This singular achievement was made possible by two scholars–Tina Ferris and Dr. Virginia Hyde. On January 2, 2019, we lost Dr. Hyde.
As many in the D. H. Lawrence literary community mourn her passing, I am taking this opportunity to do something long overdue—to recognize her important contribution to the history of the property.
The application process for the NHRP is arduous and time-consuming. The proposal took more than five years to complete and was complicated by the proximity of the two authors to the site. Neither lived anywhere near the D. H. Lawrence Ranch. Neither served as faculty at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Virginia Hyde worked from her office at Washington State University and Tina Ferris contributed from her home in the greater Los Angeles area. They worked not for recognition or recompense but simply to serve the greater good. And, so they have.
(BTW: I don’t believe Georgia O’Keeffe was frightened every moment. That’s the sort of hyperbole that the Misfit indulged in at the end of Flannery O’Connor’s story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Do you remember the concluding line of the story? The misfit has just shot the grandmother, and he speaks this line over her body:
The project began in 1998, in the early years of e‑mail. In fact, one of the oldest messages on my UNM e‑mail account is from Dr. Hyde. I looked it up earlier today and note that it was posted at 9:48 p.m. on a Sunday evening in July of 2000. Virginia wasn’t taking the summer off, the weekend off, or even the evening off. Instead, she was writing to enlist my help in completing the measurements for some of the historic buildings as well as the distances between them. This information was necessary for Section 7 of the narrative. (The proposal makes for fascinating reading and is available at the website for the D. H. Lawrence Society of North America.)
Virginia had been patient with me. This wasn’t her first message. I was overdue in sending her the necessary measurements. But in completing the task, I had met with all manner of obstacles. The caretaker for the Ranch, Mr. Al Bearce, was entirely opposed to the project. More than once, he threatened to call the Highway Patrol and have me booted off the property. But he wasn’t the only problem.
Virginia references another issue in her message: “We do very well understand some of the factors that make this work difficult, such as the mice that would certainly give me pause just as you say!”
Gently, she goes on to recommend a measuring tape that will speed up the job: “Sears sells a 100-ft.-reel tape for $16.00, and no doubt there are cheaper brands, too. We’d also suggest that it might be handy to print out this sheet and to write replies on the back.” I did as she asked and am proud to have made a tiny contribution to this large and lasting achievement. And, I am grateful that doing so brought me briefly into the life of Dr. Virginia Hyde.
She taught for 34 years in the English Department of Washington State University. She authored The Risen Adam: D. H. Lawrence’s Revisionist Typology (Penn State UP) and edited the Cambridge critical edition of Lawrence’s Mornings in Mexico and Other Essays (Cambridge UP, 2009). In total, she authored or edited six books, guest-edited literary journals, and published dozens of essays in journals and books, including the MLA “Teaching Authors” series.
She will be missed by many. But, at the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, the loftiest of the pines and the slightest of the mice whisper their gratitude and welcome her spirit.