Denby Dale: The Fleece Press, 2004. Limited Edition. Hardcover. This is The Fleece Press’ handsome, limited edition of Clare Sydney Smith’s The Golden Reign: the story of my friendship with “Lawrence of Arabia”. This volume is in pristine, as-new condition. This is a fine example of the quality of The Fleece Press’ production; featuring a blue cloth binding with a blind stamp of Lawrence’s initials (“T.E.S.” for T.E. Shaw), coordinating head and foot bands, and a paper spine label. The contents, printed on heavy coated paper, are generously illustrated throughout by photographs, many of which are here published for the first time. This copy is one of 500 printed.
Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935) found fame as instigator, organizer, hero, and tragic figure of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, which he began as an eccentric junior intelligence officer and ended as "Lawrence of Arabia." This time defined Lawrence with indelible experience and celebrity, which he spent the rest of his famously short life struggling to reconcile and reject, to recount and repress. First published in 1940, The Golden Reign provides a personal perspective on Lawrence’s enigmatic character through the revealing lens of friendship. In a state of nervous exhaustion following the First World War, his work on the post-war settlement, and writing and re-writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in 1922, Lawrence enlisted in the ranks of the R.A.F. under the name of John Hume Ross. In January 1923 his identity became public and he was discharged from the R.A.F., but allowed to re-enlist two and a half years later, this time using the surname "Shaw", under which he had meanwhile served in the Tank Corps. He remained an Aircraftman for much of the rest of his life.
The friendship about which the author writes in The Golden Reign was the product of Lawrence’s life as “Aircraftman Shaw”. The author, Clare Sydney Smith, was the wife of Lawrence’s Commanding Officer at Mountbatten. R.A.F. station Mountbatten, a peninsula in Plymouth Sound, Devon, was “one of the most enjoyable of Lawrence’s postings.” (Wilson, Lawrence, p.850). There is no doubt that Clare’s friendship and their trips along the coastline in Lawrence’s speedboat, the Biscuit, formed a considerable portion of Lawrence’s rare happiness at this time. One of Lawrence’s dear friends in the last years of his life, Clare wrote, “our accepting him, not as a personage but as a human being, made direct contact possible and laid the foundation for a friendship based on simple love and understanding, which he himself called “The Golden Reign”. Item #005010