Fordingbridge, Hampshire: Castle Hill Press, 2004. Limited, full-morocco issue of the third English edition. Hardcover. This is the beautiful Castle Hill Press limited edition of parallel French and English texts of Lawrence's first published translation, Adrien Le Corbeau's novel The Forest Giant. Of a total edition of 352, only 40 were bound thus, in full red crushed morocco with blind-ruled borders on the upper board, enclosing central pine cone design in blind, spine lettered in gilt, turn-ins ruled in blind, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt, and housed in a red cloth slipcase. This copy is hand numbered “31” in red ink on the limitation page. Condition is magnificently fine, with no reportable wear or flaws.
Le Gigantesque was first published in Paris in 1922. Although the Acadmie Francaise awarded Le Gigantesque the Montyon prize, “the novel failed to bring the author the literary recognition he so much hoped for.” Even the English-language translation remained virtually unknown to modern audiences until this magnificent edition published by Castle Hill Press, the premier editors and fine press publishers of material by and about T. E. Lawrence, founded by Lawrence’s official biographer, Jeremy Wilson (1944-2017).
Lawrence’s translation is one of only two surviving translations by him (the other being The Odyssey of Homer) and Lawrence’s only surviving translation from French into English. Lawrence’s translation has been called “a far better work than the French original” that “deserves to rank among his most distinguished literary achievements.” (Jeremy Wilson) Adrien Le Corbeau was a pseudonym of Romanian-born author Rudolf Bernhardt. Like Lawrence, Bernhardt (1886-1932) died in his mid-forties.
Thomas Edward Lawrence's (1888-1935) experience during the First World War pivoted around his remarkable odyssey as instigator, organizer, hero, and tragic figure of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire; Lawrence began the war as an eccentric junior intelligence officer and ended as "Lawrence of Arabia." By contrast, “during the First World War Le Corbeau was ill with typhus, and this experience became the inspiration for his second published book, L’Heure Finale (1924).” He published just one other work (Le Couple Nu) before his death. Le Corbeau’s death came without the public and literary fame that Lawrence achieved, but about which he was perpetually conflicted.
Lawrence was given the work to translate “soon after his expulsion from the R.A.F. and re-enlistment in the Tank Corps in 1923. He appears to have been motivated by both a need for funds and by the wish to fill his free time.” (see O’Brien, A0094) Lawrence completed his translation of the novel in 1923, and it was published by Cape in the following year under Lawrence's pseudonym J.H. Ross. A second English edition, illustrated by the artist Agnes Miller Parker, was issued in 1935 (shortly after Lawrence's death). This Castle Hill Press edition is the third English edition.
For the Castle Hill Press edition, “the French and English texts have been printed on facing pages, which 'allows readers familiar with French to see that Lawrence's Forest Giant is a skillful re-creation of the work, rather than a straightforward translation.” This full-goatskin copy includes four additional plates of facsimiles which reproduce extracts from Lawrence’s 30 March – 13 September 1923 correspondence with Cape about the translation. Jeremy Wilson’s Foreword gives a history of the translation. This copy also includes, laid-in, a single sheet announcement about the forthcoming edition from Jeremy Wilson featuring an explanatory history of Lawrence’s translation printed in dense type filling both the recto and verso in two columns. Of interest, the announcement states that the edition would be “limited to 702 numbered copies”. Ultimately, only 352 were issued. Item #004785