25 September 2008
THOMAS EDWARD LAWRENCE (1888-1935)
Autograph letter signed ('T.E.S.') to [Dick Knowles], [Karachi], 7 December 1927, 2 pages, folio (the leaf separated into quarters at folds). Provenance: Sotheby's New York sale, 11 December 1984, lot 2782; the Spiro Family Collection.
'I HAVE NEVER BEEN REALLY ONE WITH MY FELLOWS': a letter of autobiographical reflection to a fellow RAF man. The first anniversary of his departure for Karachi brings back memories of earlier journeys: 'I was very unhappy at tearing up my roots, once more. The first time I left England, in 1905, was a dream of delight ... until the War cut short that development of me into a sort of Hogarth: a travelled, archaeological sort of man ... Hogarth was a very wonderful man'. Now he will be simply glad when his 'exile' is over, saving him from the 'perpetual temptation to cut loose again on some further project of my own: and I do not want to take off. Taxying is quite fast enough for so wing-crippled a duck'. Knowles's first experience of travel is to be savoured, however, as 'year-long meals of great richness'. Reflecting on his military life, Lawrence confesses that in five years in barracks 'I have never been really one with my fellows', and each time he has imagined settling into such a state ('like a rabbit into a burrow'), he is moved on: 'This may be my solitary misfortune (Graves suggests that I'm a unicorn) or it may be the common fate of man'; certainly, E.M. Forster seemed to feel the same. The letter ends with comments on Robert Graves's biography of him, taking issue with 'only' two incidents: the account of Curzon crying in the Middle East Committee ('not ... quite fair either to Curzon or to me') and that of the 1918 interview with George V, when Lawrence refused a decoration: 'I had never a notion of fighting the British in arms: nor was I quite as priggish as Graves makes out'.
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