two famous letters, one refusing the secretaryship of the bank of england, the other composed as an obituary at the request of robert graves
These letters are highly reflective, written when he was planning to leave the R.A.F., and pondering what to do. The secretaryship of the Bank of England had been offered him, through Francis Rodd, by the Governor, Sir Montagu Norman. His response was written 24 November 1934: “Will you please say NO, for me, but not a plain No. Make it a coloured No, for the Elizabethan of Herbert Baker’s naming [i.e. Norman] has given me a moment of very rare pleasure which I shall not tell to anyone, nor forget ...” Lawrence reflects upon his past life in the Air Force “I shall feel unutterably lost without my blue covering. Twelve years it has been, of engrossing work with very happy companionship for the off-duty hours. Few war-relics have been so fortunate as I in the aftermath ...” He looks forward to his retirement at Clouds Hill “I should be able to live at peace in my cottage, with all the twenty four hours of the day to myself. Forty-six I am, and never yet had a whole week of leisure." Included is a note by Dodd, explaining the circumstances in which Norman’s offer was made to Lawrence, and a letter by Sir Leslie O’Brian promising to “stop saying that the only job he [Lawrence] was ever offered was that of nightwatchman.”
The 4 February 1935 letter is a remarkable summation of his life. Graves had been invited by a London newspaper to write an obituary of Lawrence to be filed away for the future, at which point he wrote to Lawrence inquiring what to do about the request and asking whether Lawrence would like to do it himself. This letter is his response. On the possibility of a film about himself by Alexander Korda, “I loathe the notion of being celluloided ... The camera seems wholly-in place as Journalism; but when it tries to re-create it boobs and sets my teeth on edge ...” He reflects on the Air Force, making reference to his contribution to boat design, “Now not one type of R.A.F. boat in production is naval ... less weight, less cost, more room, more safety, more seaworthiness ... They cannot roll, nor pitch, having no pendulum nor period, but a subtly modelled planing bottom and sharp edges... I can (secretly) feel that they owe to me their opportunity and their acceptance...” Lawrence discusses his own inability to be an artist, “...I was then trying to write, to be perhaps an artist (for the Seven Pillars had pretensions toward design...) What I was trying to do was carry a superstructure of ideas upon or above anything I made... I was not made of your stuff. Artists excite me and attract me; seduce me. Almost I could be an artist: but there is a core that puts on the brake. If I knew what it was I would tell you, or become one of you.” “So I changed direction, right, and went into the R.A.F. after straightening out that Eastern tangle with Winston, a duty that fell on me, I having been part cause of the tangle ...one of the benefits of being part of a machine is that one learns that one doesn’t matter!”
The third is an undated note, meant to accompany a copy of his book, Lawrence assuring the recipient “This is not (and never will be) a signed copy of “Revolt in the Desert”: otherwise for sure yours would have been one. However for every time I regret the rule (as now) a hundred times I bless it.”
24 November letter published in David Garnett, Letters (1938), pp. 829-830; 2 February letter published in Malcolm Brown, T.E. Lawrence The Selected Letters (1989), pp. 519-522, copies of both of which are included in the lot, along with Jeremy Wilson, T.E. Lawrence (1988).
Together 6 pieces.
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