London, Horbury & San Diego: Jonathan Cape Ltd., Rickaro Books, and Churchill Book Collector, 1925, 1935 & 2019. First, limited, numbered, and finely bound editions. Hardcover. This previously unrecorded 1925 autograph letter by T. E. Lawrence is accompanied by copy “50” of the 1935 British limited issue of Seven Pillars of Wisdom in which the letter was discovered, and the specially-bound copy "Number One” of the 2019 book about this letter.
Lawrence wrote this letter while posted to the Royal Air Force (RAF) Cadet College at Cranwell, where he completed the famous 1926 “Subscriber’s” or “Cranwell” edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This letter consists of 164 words in 22 lines on the blank verso of an RAF “Application for Mechanical Transport.” Four lines at the upper right read: “All this is my present name & | address. I’m one of the Cadets’ | slaves: not a cadet: God be | praised. Life is v. good, up here.” The body of the letter reads: “Dear Goslett | A bit slow in the reply: but better than last time, | I think. What? | Lowell Thomas? Curses on L.T. What? | Your bet with Makins will have to be declared “off”. They | sent me up here, to a fresh station, where I | have no leisure after the day’s work. So | my proofs only receive treatment on half-days | and Sundays: and then usually only if it | rains: for I love the road: and my bike. | Consequently the book will not be ready till the | new year: | You and Makins each get a copy of the complete | (but un-illustrated) text. Remember me to him. | Tell him Darracqs are slow (compared with my | Brough). Yet I’ll accept one of the three Brooklands | T.D.’s, if he will offer me one. It would do | for a run-about, when I felt lazy & peaceful.”
The letter is definitively in Lawrence’s hand, though both the upper right, ostensibly bearing a date, and the signature at the lower right, have been excised. A plausible explanation is the considerable monetary value of Lawrence’s signature – even as early as the late 1920s.
“Goslett” is Captain Raymond Goslett M.C. (1885-1961), “the supply wizard of Al Wajh and Al Aqabah,” a key figure in the Arab Revolt and wartime friend of Lawrence who inadvertently played a role in facilitating his fame. “Makins” is Arthur Dayer Makins, D.F.C., R.R.G.S., F.I.M.T. (1888-1974), a Royal Flying Corps flight lieutenant with X Flight in Arabia who after the war was associated with the motor trade. Lawrence cited both men in his acknowledgements for the 1926 subscriber’s edition of Seven Pillars and each was gifted a copy.
A remarkable First World War odyssey as instigator, organizer, hero, and tragic figure of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire transformed Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935) from an eccentric junior intelligence officer into “Lawrence of Arabia”. This indelible experience and celebrity, which he spent the rest of his short life struggling to reconcile and reject, to recount and repress, became Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The short letter is compelling. Lawrence references many of the disparate, competing threads that skeined his life – complicated feelings about fame, attempted retreat to the comparative anonymity of the RAF, personal conflict about publication of his literary masterpiece, the famous 1926 subscriber’s edition, love of motorcycles, the sensibility for comradeship that made him, however reluctantly, a leader of men, and even a glimpse of the personal peace he always seemed to want but seldom seemed to find.
A Fresh Station publishes an essay sketching Lawrence’s life writing and riding at Cranwell specifically through the prism of this letter. Of 150 numbered copies, "Number One”, so numbered and also signed by the authors, now houses and accompanies this letter. Alone among the 150 copies, “One” is bound by the Fine Book Bindery in blue-grey morocco (evoking the RAF) and housed in a custom cloth solander. Copy “50” of the limited 1935 UK issue of Seven Pillars, in which this letter was found, was published on 29 July, following Lawrence’s 19 May death from a motorcycle accident. This was the first time that Lawrence’s 1926 subscriber's text was available for sale to the general public. Item #004810