LAWRENCE, T.E. (1888-1935). Autograph letter signed ("T.E. Lawrence") to General Gilbert F. Clayton, 14 Barton Street, Westminster, 15 August 1922. 1 page, 8vo, minor rust stain from paper clip on address at top.
"I WROTE A BOOK ABOUT THAT DOG-FIGHT OF OURS IN ARABIA"...IT IS NOT FIT FOR PRESENT PUBLICATION"
Colonel Gilbert Clayton (1875-1929) was appointed Director of Military Intelligence in Cairo in Autumn 1914. Lawrence worked under Clayton in the Military Intelligence Department and Clayton was one of the most important figures in Lawrence's career. Here, writing only two weeks before his enlistment in the R.A.F., Lawrence discusses Seven Pillars in his typical self-effacing manner: "I wrote a book about that dog-fight of ours in Arabia. It is not for present publication, partly because it's too human a document for me to disclose, partly because of the personalitites in it, partly because it is not good enough to fit my conceit of myself. The last is a weak point, but the first in my mind: though it is difficult to judge of one's own work. Hogarth is reading it, as an insurance against inaccuracies. You come into it: not very much, not as much as you should, but the thing is only a narrative of my private accidents. However you had a share in them, & that's why I'm writing you."
Lawrence requests a portrait drawn of Clayton for the book, and suggests William Nicholson for the job: "Kennington went East for me, & did about twenty Arabs: and I want about a dozen Englishmen to balance them. English people all look alike, in dress anyway: so to make an extra variety I'm out to have the dozen drawn by different artists. They include Newcombe, Alan Dawnay, Hogarth, Boyle (R.N.), Brodie, Bartholomew, & that sort of person. The best man I think to do you , if you agree to sit, will be William Nicholson...he's a very subtle & very talented person." Clayton followed Lawrence's suggestion, and the Nicholson portrait appeared in the 1926 subscriber's edition. "In the process of gathering illustrations for Seven Pillars, Lawrence was gradually becoming one of the most significant private patrons of contemporary artists of Britain" (Wilson, p. 675).