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26 February 2004
SHAW, George Bernard. Autograph letter signed ("G.B.S."), to T.E. Lawrence ("Dear Aurunshaw"), Conway, Wales, London, 4 January 1923. 7 full pages, 4to, in pencil.
READING LAWRENCE'S 'THE MINT' puts Shaw in mind of a colorful half-hour he once spent on a train full of reservists on their way to South Africa: "They were drunk; and when they were not yelling competitive descriptions of what they were going to do to old Kroojer (homosexual variations on the traditional torture of Edward II at Berkeley Castle) they were weeping on my neck about the wives from whom they had parted at Waterloo, leaving them resourceless...Your Depot experience was compressed into that half hour." Shaw published an account of that experience in The Clarion, "which fell short of your report in little except precise philological information." But was The Mint "a verbatim report for the archives" or "a work of art?" Shaw doubted it was the latter "unless you are prepared to rewrite a good deal of it with humor enough to make it bearable and decency enough to make it presentable, and then let Cape publish it on condition that he supplies also the 20 unexpurgated copies for the archives."
Shaw then provides a lengthy discussion of two scenes in The Mint that ought to be cut: "the military policeman's story of the dead child in the harlot's bed," not because it was offensive, but because it "smells of the lamp almost as rankly as the policeman smelt of the brothel. It is a purple patch; but it doesn't fit, and should come out." The other was his description of Queen Alexandra. "Need you savagely exult in her infirmities, and, as Lessing puts it, not only chop her head off but hold it up to show that there were no brains left in it?" he also criticizes Robert Graves's biography of Lawrence, which, Shaw writes, reduced "your exploits" to "a series of puerile atrocities."
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