LAWRENCE, T.E. Autograph letter signed ("T.E.S.") to C.J. Greenwood of the publishing firm Boriswood Ltd., Clouds Hill, Moreton, Dorset, 5 April 1935. 2 pages, small 4to, slight fold creases.
LAWRENCE DEFENDS JAMES HANLEY'S NOVEL 'BOY' AGAINST CENSORSHIP: "MOST [WRITERS] ARE AFRAID OF THE WORD SODOMY. I WONDER WHY"
Lawrence first met Hanley in 1930. The following year Hanley sent Lawrence a copy of his new novel, Boy, which dealt candidly with homosexuality. "Hanley sent Lawrence subsequent novels for criticism while they were still in draft. Lawrence greatly appreciated his work, although the subject matter was often almost unpublishable" (Wilson, p. 307). In January 1935 Lawrence learned that Boriswood Ltd., the publishers of Boy, were being prosecuted for indecency by local police. "He sought to mobilize a protest of publishers [and a few writers, including E.M. Forster] against the police action and was still engaged in this effort when he was fatally injured [on 13 May 1935]" (John E.Mack, A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence, Boston, 1976, p. 404).
In this letter Lawrence writes to Hanley's publisher: "...Now about your case. It seems to me monstrous. To say that every publisher is at the mercy of the discretion of any Police Chief, at any time-why, it makes publication almost an impossibility. This altogether apart from the personal question of the penalties assessed upon your firm and your selves. They seem wholly disproportionate to Boriswood, but would be a fleabite to Macmillan, for example...It does not seem to me that the Author's Society has much right of entry. Hanley has not been involved (and will not savour being dragged in!) and that rather cuts E.M.F.[Forster] out of it. It would be a new thing for the body of authors to rush to the defence of a publisher: unless the body of publishers was also active in your defence and should call upon the body of authors to help. What chance is there of concerted protest by the governing body of Publishers? Not much, I gather. The big ones disregard the little ones.
"I saw E.M.F. while the case was pending and talked to him about it. He is one of the few writers who might care to lead an attempt to help. Most of them are afraid of the word sodomy. I wonder why. I thought it would be more effective if I tackled E.M.F. before rather than after judgment. A very subtle mind, that one. You are seeing him, you say: he likes Hanley's work (but not The Fury's!) [a 1934 novel] and will help, if he can. I do not know how much he weights with the Author's Society. I am so out of thing, after all these years...I feel...that your case is a dangerous one, an inroad on book-security. It ought to be the publishers who move, all the same. I wish [Jonathan] Cape [Lawrence's English publisher] was not abroad. He can mobilize the young ones and compel the old stodgers to move. Without him there is no courage in their ranks..." The judgment eventually went against the publishers, who were fined £400. Letters, ed. Garnett, no. 572.
Provenance: Middendorf; purchased from the Estate of Louis Dommerich, Greenwich, Connecticut, in March 1967 (who had acquired it from Goodspeed's Book Shop, apparently in 1943).