August 14, 2017
In the 1925 Los Angeles Evening Herald article, “The Clouded Past of a Poet” written by Ted Le Berthon, we recall that George Hodel did not want the Drama Critic to use his real last name, and provided him with the pseudonym, “George Morel.”
Earlier, in January of that same year, in the first publication of his magazine, FANTASIA, George, then the young publisher/editor had used the pseudonym, “Vernon Morel” in writing his dark poem, INFERENCE.
Though thinking it a bit curious, I had given the name no further thought, until last week, when I received the below Email from the accomplished novelist, film director, screenwriter, Allison Burnett.
Hi Steve, I just finished reading Most Evil, which I enjoyed immensely. I am sure you know this, but Morel is the surname of the hero of Sons & Lovers by DH Lawrence. I find it fascinating that your dad chose it as a nom de plume. As one who incested his daughter and impregnated a much older woman surely an intensely Oedipal bond with his mother must be suspected. Perhaps even a sexual one. Paul Morel in S&L is crushed by his mother’s smothering adoration. The rage that lives in the heart of an incested or over-loved son could sure fuel homicidal impulses.
Best, Allison Burnett
In fact, unfortunately, my literary knowledge did not extend to a reading of D.H. Lawrence’s, Sons and Daughters. Consequently, I was ignorant of the Morel connection until Allison’s informative communication. (However, I have just now ordered a copy of the classic, which will go to the top of my “To Read” list.
Mr. Burnett has unquestionably nailed it here. Clearly, George Hodel was making the direct association and identification of his poet pseudo-self to Lawrence’s character, Paul Morel.
D.H. Lawrence, age 21. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence published 1913
Originally titled, “Paul Morel” but changed by his editor/publisher.
“The first draft of Lawrence’s novel is now lost and was never completed, which seems to be directly due to his mother’s illness. He did not return to the novel for three months, at which point it was titled ‘Paul Morel.’ The penultimate draft of the novel coincided with a remarkable change in Lawrence’s life, as his health was thrown into turmoil and he resigned his teaching job to spend time in Germany. This plan was never followed, however, as he met and married the German minor aristocrat, Frieda Weekley, who was the wife of a former professor of his at the University of Nottingham. According to Frieda’s account of their first meeting, she and Lawrence talked about Oedipus and the effects of early childhood on later life within twenty minutes of meeting.” [Emphasis mine}
Again, this falls into the “you can’t make this stuff up” category.
Recall that the young George Hodel, obviously (albeit unconsciously) following in the footsteps of D.H. Lawrence, (who was 22 years his senior) attends Caltech University in Pasadena in 1923, at fourteen, has an affair with his professor’s wife, who becomes pregnant and their relationship breaks up her marriage. The woman goes East, has George’s child and he follows and proposes marriage. Her response, (unlike Freida’s to Lawrence) was to laugh in George’s face and totally reject him. “You’re just a child yourself, George. Get out of my life. I never want to see you again.”
I have no doubt that my father’s love-hate relationship with his overly domineering mother, Esther was certainly Oedipal, and odds are better than even that is was incestuous.
That George identified with Lawrence’s character Paul Morel to the extent of using him as the author pseudonym in his INFERENCE poem, and again as himself in the poet with a “Clouded Past” article, is no stretch of the imagination, rather, like all of George’s use of names—it was perfect.
P.S. In the 1943 L.A. Lone Woman Murder of victim Ora Murray recall that when George met her at the popular dance hall before inviting her out “on the town,” he introduced himself as “Paul,” a businessman down from San Francisco.”
See related earlier blog: