LAWRENCE, T.E. (1888-1935). Autograph letter signed ("T.E.S.") to his old companion-in-arms Major W.F. Stirling, about the background and authenticity of Seven Pillars of Wisdom and his recollections of his part in the Revolt, particularly the entry into Damascus, and his need to escape his own legend, Clouds Hill, Moreton, Dorset, 15 October 1924. 4 closely-written pages, 8vo.
"THE BOOK WAS THE RECORD OF ME IN THE ARAB MOVEMENT: & BEFORE THE END I WAS VERY WEARY, & MOVED IN A HAZE, HARDLY KNOWING WHAT I DID..."
A remarkable letter written to Maj. Stirling, in which Lawrence acknowledges receipt of a proof of Seven Pillars circulated to Stirling for fact-checking--especially with regard to their entry into Damascus: "My memory of the entry into Damascus was of a quietness & emptiness of street, & of myself crying like a baby with eventual thankfulness, in the Blue mist by your side. It seemed to me that the frenzy of welcome came later, when we drove up & down on inspection. Am I right or wrong? I'll alter this, on receipt of your reply, for you had more leisure to remember than I had."
In accepting Stirling's claim of a "lack of climax" in the book, Lawrence outlines his intentions in self-critical honesty: "Yes, I'm afraid that is partly intentional. The book was the record of me in the Arab Movement: & before the end I was very weary, & moved in a haze, hardly knowing what I did. Up to Deraa, perhaps, I fought: after that clearly the crisis was solved in our favour, & the last advance & entry into Damascus were almost formalities.....things which had to be passed through, but which required no grip or preparation. Didn't you notice that I was three-parts vacant then?...
"So far as it could be, it [Seven Pillars] reproduced the sight of my eyes, & the evidence of my senses & feelings. If people read it as a history:--then they mistake it. I'll strengthen my warming against such a line: but to reboil the final crisis to get it hotter & fitter to the dramatic demands of the Revolt:--no, that I can't do, since day by day, as the years pass, I hate & despise myself more & more for the part I played in it. Today my wish is to strip off from the yarn all the little decorations & tricks & ornaments with which I have made it ever-so-little exciting: so that the core of it should stand out as a disenchanting, rather squalid, experience."
He gratefully acknowledges Stirling for keeping the peace between "war-worn" Young, Joyce, & himself, and praises his "professional competence...which fed my whims & cured Young's warts. Lawrence continues, "You were an astonishing comfort to the close of the adventure. What a foul job it was. I don't want readers to 'enjoy this book.'" Before concluding he discusses H.G. Wells' response to Seven Pillars, and provides another burst of self-criticism: "H.G.'s verdict is extraordinarily interesting: I wish he would tell me what were the worse places, so that I could cut them out. The book is over long, & I don't like it, any part of it, much." (See lot 108 for a letter from Wells to Lawrence.)