GARNETT, Edward (1868-1937). Fourteen autograph letters signed, to T.E. Lawrence, mostly 19 Pond Place, Chelsea, 9 September 1922 to 2 November 1933. Together 30 pages, various 4to and 8vo sizes.
AN EXTRAORDINARY SERIES OF LETTERS IN WHICH GARNETT PROVIDES A CRITICAL STUDY OF LAWRENCE'S WRITING
The novelist, playwright and critic Edward Garnett was best known as editorial adviser to the publishers Jonathan Cape Ltd., who "discovered" Joseph Conrad, and encouraged numerous authors, including D.H. Lawrence and E.M. Forster. "Lawrence approached Garnett in 1921 and asked him to read the 'Oxford' draft of Seven Pillars. Garnett was impressed with the work, and wanted to help with its publication" (Wilson, p. 153). This important series is rich in literary content, providing Garnett's insightful critique of Lawrence's Seven Pillars and The Mint. His advice is both encouraging and critical, and while he describes Seven Pillars as a masterpiece, he points out where it needs work and suggests "...I can tell you where you need to be more of an artist..." In one letter he describes how Dostoevsky "emptied himself out" in The Brothers Karamazov, and suggests "if you got into the habit of emptying yourself out...we should have a book of the highest originality. Not one writer in a thousand writes frankly...there is a deeper self in you yet unexpected, and to be expressed artistically..."
In a letter dated 9 September 1922, Garnett offers advice on the abridgment of Seven Pillars, suggesting passages which should be shortened or retained, and describes the unique quality of Lawrence's work: "...your analysis of life may carry us further: there's a quality in your brain that suggests a new apprehension of things, or rather a very special apprehension of things that will be lost to us if you don't communicate it to us. And you can only do that by writing: by 'The SP' & by things to come..." Commenting on the improvement of the text, he tells Lawrence on 18 July 1927: "Yes, you immensely strengthened & perfected 'The Seven Pillars" by your continuous work on it. The final form is a very different thing from the double column 'Oxford' version...There is not doubt at all that 'The S. Pillars' now is a 'masterpiece'..."
After reading the manuscript of The Mint, an exuberant Garnett writes on 22 April 1925: "...Well, you've gone & done it this time! and knocked all your feeble pretences of not being a writer, etc. etc. into smithereens. I received this precious MS. on the 18th & read it very carefully in the next two days & the deeper I got the more delighted I was. It is a most perfect piece of writing. I call it a classic for there's not a word too much. It's elastic, sinewy, terse: & spirit & matter are the inside-out of its technique, perfectly harmonious throughout--inseparable as in all first-rate stuff..." He goes on to list which chapters he finds "faultless in feeling & in expression."
Several letters discuss sending the manuscript of The Mint to Trenchard, and his reaction: "...Trenchard hasn't the faintest idea of what a 'work of art' implies. He thinks that you simply 'put it all down'... Well you've done something 'very good' in the Mint. I told Trenchard it would revive the R.A.F.: but I don't think he grasped the idea at all..." See also lot 79.
Ten of these letters are published in Letters to T.E. Lawrence. (14)