THOMAS EDWARD LAWRENCE (1888-1935)
Five autograph letters signed ('R[oss]') to R.A.M. Guy ('My rabbit', 'Dear Rabbit', 'Dear Guy', 'Dear & poor miserable old thing'), 14 Barton Street, Westminster and n.p. [Bovington], 21 March - 8 July 1923 and n.d., together 10 pages, 4to. Provenance: Sotheby's sale, 22 July 1985, lot 287; the Spiro Family Collection.
'I WISH I WAS DEAD': NOSTALGIA FOR RAF DAYS. Written to an RAF friend in the early months of his unhappy period of service with the Royal Tank Corps, Lawrence's letters make no effort to conceal his dissatisfaction: 'I do no good here. Out upon the army & all its clothes and food & words and works. You in the R.A.F. are as lucky as I thought myself in the old days, & as I used to tell you'. In the same half-mocking, half-miserable tone, Lawrence describes his new accomplishments: 'I'm going to dazzle you ... with the perfection of my salute: while at slow marching! I march slower and slower: the whole camp agrees that my slow marching is slow. Though some idiots this afternoon were arguing as to whether it was marching. God help them, they are fools ...'; in a letter of 8 July 1923 he complains of incessant guard duty 'I wish I was dead ... the crowd here think I'm uppish & must be brought down. Consequence I swank intolerably'. The prospects of leave are only distant and conditional, and the letters decline or put off a number of meetings, in a letter of 27 March 1923 with an abrupt 'Won't do: this is a hush-hush place, in a desert, with no houses or pubs near. You can't come here'; but Lawrence expresses regret at not seeing Guy -- 'There are no rabbits here ... it would give me contentment to see your queer but jolly face again'. Some compensation is provided by the arrival of 'Brough' (his motorcycle), though not 'very fit yet, having only just been decarbonised'; an undated letter from London reports an offer of £135 for her -- 'Good price!'.
Lawrence had enlisted in the RAF in August 1922 under the name of John Hume Ross, but he was exposed in December of the same year, discharged, and re-enlisted in the Royal Tank Corps in March 1923 under the pseudonym T.E. Shaw; by August 1925 he had successfully engineered a transfer back to the RAF. Jeremy Wilson (Lawrence of Arabia, New York, 1990, pp.703-4) discounts the assumption by some commentators that there was a homosexual attraction between Lawrence and Guy, noting that 'Rabbit' and 'Poppet' (another name used by Lawrence in their correspondence) were Guy's 'ordinary service nicknames'. (5)