FORSTER, Edward Morgan (1879-1970). Important series of 18 autograph letters signed to T.E. Lawrence, regarding Seven Pillars of Wisdom, The Mint, and other literary matters, Harnham, Monument Green, Weybridge, and West Hackhurst, Abinger Hammer, February 1924 to 4 May 1935. Together 50 pages, 4to and 8vo.
A FINE SERIES OF LETTERS FROM E.M. FORSTER TO LAWRENCE
Foster met Lawrence in 1921, and after reading Sassoon's copy of the 1922 'Oxford' edition of Seven Pillars he sought a re-introduction in 1923. "Lawrence was extremely grateful for Forster's detailed criticisms of Seven Pillars, and during 1924 Forster visited Clouds Hill on at least two occasions to help Lawrence with revisions of the text. By the time it was finished the two had become firm friends" (Wilson, T.E. Lawrence of Arabia [London, 1988], p. 153).
This series of letters spans their early re-acquaintance (the first from Feb. 1924), before Lawrence had selected Forster (along with Edward Garnett and Bernard Shaw) to edit Seven Pillars, through the end of Lawrence's life in 1935. In Forster's final letter to Lawrence, he invites himself to stay at Clouds Hill--the date of which followed Lawrence's untimely death by a week.
In the earliest letter to Lawrence, Forster modestly lays out his qualifications for the job: "...[I] have written some novels, also done journalism and historical essays; no experience of active life, no power of managing men, no Oriental languages, but some knowledge of Orientals..."
Although he had not yet finished reading through the work in its entirety, this six-page letter contains a lengthy and detailed critique of Lawrence's writing: "...Dividing literature into fluid and granular, you come into the latter class. It's not merely your subject matter that makes me say this. You do present (though you don't see) life as a succession of items which are organically connected but yet have some sort of intervals between them i.e. you give a series of pictures. I see people on camels, motionless, I look again and they are in a new position which I can connect with its predecessor, but is similarly immobile. There never can have been a Movement with so little motion in it!..." He goes on to praise Lawrence's scenery and pathos, but recommends Lawrence "should introduce more conversation" to counteract his static tendency. He concludes on a positive note, "You will never show it to anyone who will like it more than I do; its subject and incidentals suit me: also my critical sense never stops telling me its fine."
In a letter dated July 5, 1928 he compares Seven Pillars in his review of the newly published The Mint: "Summing up as such, I inform you that The Mint is not as great a work as The Seven Pillars either in colour or form; but it is more new more startling and more heartening than either the S.P. or anything else I've read..."
In addition to the critical advice to surrounding Lawrence's work, Forster writes of his own successes, mentions his meetings with his literary associates Sassoon, Shaw and Mrs. Hardy, as well as informs Lawrence that he is dedicating The Eternal Moment to him. The archive includes a number of letters that make reference to Lawrence's soldier friend 'Posh' Palmer, to whom Forster gave some financial assistance.
AN IMPORTANT CORRESPONDENCE CONTAINING SIGNIFICANT LITERARY CONTENT. Most of these letters have remained unpublished, with only twelve heavily abridged letters being included in Letters to T.E. Lawrence. (18)