LAWRENCE, T.E. Autograph letter signed ("TEL") to Hellé Flecker, [Bovington?], 5 November 1923. 3 pages, 8vo, with envelope, some minor soiling, envelope with large ink stain.
"I'M NOT WORTH MUCH MONEY APART FROM ARABIA, AND TO THAT I'LL NEVER RETURN"
Lawrence, characterizing himself as "am oppressed private, hating the army & being quite out of place in it, pens a revealing letter to the widow of James Elroy Flecker, describing the first production of Flecker's play Hassan. He criticizes the acting, citing that there was "no sense of style, & their voices were false," but he praises the power of Flecker's work: "and yet, and yet, the play came over & held not merely me but everybody else about me--everyone in the theatre, I think. It was conquest of mind over matter... and made me very proud of Flecker's strength..."
Most revealing are his final two paragraphs, which state his reasons for enlisting in the Army: "My joining up was quite direct & plain. I hate the semi-politics to which my Eastern efforts in the war had seemed to doom me: & to break away from them, to make myself quite independent of them & their glamour, I changed my name, & had consequently to begin rather low down. I'm not worth much money apart from Arabia: & to that I'll not return. I won't even make money by publishing my beastly book upon the war-period, because that's all of a piece with it. Wherefore I'm an oppressed private, hating the army & quite out of place it it: but growing more into my place & company, daily."
James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915) was Vice-Consul at Beirut. He and Lawrence had met in Beirut in 1911. Jeremy Wilson quotes from this letter in his biography of Lawrence, concluding from it that: "Hitherto Seven Pillars had been an investment which Lawrence could have turned at any moment into a personal fortune, simply by signing a publication contract. The subscription scheme would allow him to print Seven Pillars lavishly, but it would also deny him the book's earning-power. In future, if he wished to escape from the ranks, he would have to obtain money some other way" (Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia, New York, 1990, p.728).