The Plumed Serpent

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First US edition (publ, Knopf, 1926)
Cover by Dorothy Brett

The Plumed Serpent is a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published by Martin Secker in 1926. It was begun when the author was living at what is now the D. H. Lawrence Ranch near Taos in U.S. state of New Mexico in 1924, accompanied by his wife Frieda and artist Dorothy Brett.[1] The original working title of an early draft was "Quetzalcoatl", a reference to the cult of the plumed serpent in Mexico.


The novel has a contemporary setting during the period of the Mexican Revolution. It opens with a group of tourists visiting a bullfight in Mexico City. One of them, Kate Leslie, departs in disgust and encounters Don Cipriano, a Mexican general. Later she meets his friend, an intellectual landowner Don Ramón, and travels to Sayula, a small town set on a lake. Ramón and Cipriano are leading a revival of a pre-Christian religion and Kate becomes drawn into their cult.


Several critics have found a political and even fascist dimension to The Plumed Serpent. Literary critic Harold Bloom observes in his The Western Canon (1995) that Lawrence was writing as a "rather weird political theorist" in the book and calls it a "Fascist fiction",[2] while Anne Fernihough calls the novel "stridently ideological".[3] Marianna Torgovnick writes that the book "has been charged with protofascism" and that it "states its racialised theses quite clearly at times. It posts Lawrence's views, derived from theories circulating within his culture, of the fall and rise of races based upon energy and power. Lawrence's fear is specifically the fear that the white race will be supplanted".[4][5] Torgovnick believes that the book "advocates women’s slavelike submission to men and surrender of the drive toward orgasm" and that its "overblown prose" makes it easy to reject.[6]

Novelist William S. Burroughs stated that he was very influenced by The Plumed Serpent.[7]

Standard editions[edit]

  • The Plumed Serpent (1926), edited by L.D. Clark, Cambridge University Press, 1987, ISBN 0-521-22262-1
  • The Plumed Serpent (1926), ed. by L. D. Clark and Introd. Virginia Crosswhite Hyde, Penguin Twentieth Century Classics 1995 ISBN 0-14-018812-6
  • The Plumed Serpent (1926), Edited with an introduction by Ronald G. Walker, Penguin English Library, 1983
  • Quetzalcoatl (1925), edited by Louis L Martz, W W Norton Edition, 1998, ISBN 0-8112-1385-4 – Early draft of The Plumed Serpent

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Taos Summer Writers Conference
  2. ^ Bloom, Harold (1995). The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Riverhead Books. p. 408. ISBN 1-57322-514-2. 
  3. ^ Fernihough, Anne (2001). Fernihough, Anne, ed. The Cambridge Companion to D. H. Lawrence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-521-62617-X. 
  4. ^ Torgovnick, Marianna (1997). Primitive Passions: Men, Women, and the Quest for Ecstasy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 227. ISBN 0-679-43086-5. 
  5. ^ Torgovnick, Marianna (2001). Fernihough, Anne, ed. The Cambridge Companion to D. H. Lawrence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-521-62617-X. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Morgan, Ted (1988). Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 561. ISBN 0-8050-0901-9. 

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