LAWRENCE, T.E. (1888-1935). 'Lawrence of Arabia'.
Fine Autograph Letter Signed ['T.E.S.' twice] to [Bertram] Thomas, 1 page folio (foolscap) in pencil with a postscript in ink, 14 August 1931. The reverse comprises the full original version of Lawrences's introduction to Bertram Thomas's Arabia Felix with authorial modifications, signed at the foot ('T.E.S.').
Bertram Thomas (1892-1950, explorer, Arabist and British official in the gulf) made in 1930 the first crossing of the vast desert of Arabia known as the empty quarter, travelling south to north from Dhufar on the Indian Ocean to Doha on the Persian Gulf, covering the distance on camel in fifty-eight days. He received many honours for this achievement including the founder's medal of the Royal Geographical Society and, after some lobbying by Lawrence, the Order of the British Empire. His account of the journey Arabia Felix appeared in 1932, and he wrote two further volumes on Arabia, Alarms and Excursions in Arabia in 1931, and The Arabs in 1937. The empty quarter was soon after crossed in the more difficult east-west direction by Harry St John Philby
T.E. Lawrence was a close friend, and agreed with some reluctance to write a preface for Arabia Felix although only on the grounds that he disapproved of prefaces in general. This is made clear in the letter which precedes the complete manuscript of his first version differing entirely apart from a few phrases from the final and longer printed version. It is therefore an entirely unpublished manuscript of Lawrence, previously apparently unknown. The letter is not to be found in either of the editions of Lawrence's letters, edited by David Garnett and Malcolm Brown.
'I have been in London three weeks working day & night to finish a pot-boiling tanslation before the fire goes out. By tonight I had worked myself so stupid that I could do no more. So I went to bed, but was too tired to sleep. So at 2 in the morning I turn on the light and write your preface, which is overleaf.
The postscript urges Thomas yet again to reconsider the question of a preface.
The whole of the verso of the letter is nevertheless occupied by Lawrence's first preface. The preface which eventually appeared, although signed 'T.E.S.' was fact revised to some extent by George Bernard Shaw.
'Before Thomas there was a clear place on the world's map where a sizable man could turn himself round in comfort twice or thrice like a dog, before sinking to rest - Southern Arabia, across which in small scale maps we used to write "Ruba-el-Khahi" [sic] to cover the blank paper, and in a larger scale add (Sand Desert) underneath in brackets to cover more.
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