LAWRENCE, T.E.--SASSOON, Siegfried (1886-1967). An archive of correspondence comprising 17 ALSs and 2 ANs from Lawrence to Sassoon, 1919-1935, and 10 ALSs from Sassoon to Lawrence, 1923-1934, along with two black and white photographs of Sassoon. Together 43 pages, 4to- 12mo sizes.
"SEVEN PILLARS IS DAMNED INTERESTING....DAMN YOU, HOW LONG DO YOU EXPECT ME TO GO ON REASSURING YOU ABOUT YOUR BLOODY MASTERPIECE? IT IS A GREAT BOOK, BLAST YOU."
A fascinating cache of letters that reveal an intense personal and literary friendship. Sassoon, and the other surviving war poets, were an important source of emotional and literary reasurrance for Lawrence's battered psyche: "S.S. I'm very wearied of all living. You may now have read enough of [Seven Pillars] to judge. Is any of it worth while? I mean worth hanging on, either to do better, or to recollect that past work in a kind of peace?...Should I let R. G. [Robert Graves] read it? I've felt that it was a horrible book, & would hurt his artistic sense: so he has never seen it...The talk with you & Blunden gets better & better. The occasional oasis prevents one forgetting the desert, which otherwise daily use would make ordinary...I hate the army with a very lusty hatred: but to meet your sort often would turn me into a literary debauchee, so its perhaps as well that I live in barracks: but it's a weary life."
On 26 November 1923 Sassoon shares his excitement over Seven Pillars: "When R. Graves told me (bicycling along a road in August 1921) that you'd written a hell of a good book, I was incredulous. (In those days you were, to me, a myth which I mistrusted.)...I am a lazy, desultory reader, & I abhor small type. How can you explain my 25 days sustained interest, except by admitting that the Seven Pillars is damned interesting?...Damn you, how long do you expect me to go on reassuring you about your bloody masterpiece? It is a GREAT BOOK, blast you. Are you satisfied?, you tank-vestigating eremite. And thank all gods, heathen deities, fetiches, Theocracies, interecssors & Immanuels for a man who can write a good book & doesn't sell it for his soul to a pimp of a publisher!" Lawrence was delighted but still confessed to lingering doubts about "whether the book can be good, intrinsically....Only judgments like yours & Shaw's can give me any rest upon the point."
In the 1934 letter signed "A. Fly," Sassoon describes the ebb and flow of his own literary productivity: "After Sept. 1933 complete silence set in; but thank heaven I have done quite a lot of verses in the past 2 months--several of which seem likely to be added to 'Vigils' when I reprint it." Lawrence delighted in "Vigils": "I can feel the solidity of the war-anger and the peace-bitterness under the felt, as it were, of these poems." He also sent Sassoon some unpublished and "mildly obscene" material in 1930. "Dip into it and lay it aside if it is too earthy for you."
On 1 November 1934, Sassoon invites Lawrence to his wedding, and a year later rejoices in married life: "This exquisite happiness seems like my war bonus--(the biggest ever awarded)...I very much want you to see her." Lawrence reciprocates in December 1934, announcing his retirement from the RAF and inviting the Sassons to his cottage: "my cottage of cottages. How ownership biasses judgment..." He hopes the Sassoons "will roll down to my cottage some day...complete with buns and thermos flask, for tea: or rather, to give me tea. I aim at having no food in the place."
The work of other famous war writers is never far from their minds. "I am glad Owen is to be reprinted," Lawrence tells Sassoon in November 1930. "I have your editions, of course. Probably Blunden has dug up more. I hope Owen will be made no worse, if so. Better he could hardly be. They were perfect of their sort. He had not your peculiar heart-rendingness: but nobody has. It is like the last voice in the world." They even shared light-hearted commiserations about the aging process, with Lawrence consoling Sassoon with the wise counsel of "the old woman" who said, "Ah well, there is only this world and the next, and then we shall be through it all." Together 29 items. (29)