London, Horbury & San Diego: Rickaro Books and Churchill Book Collector, 2019. First, limited, and numbered edition. Hardcover. This is the first, limited, and hand-numbered edition of an essay presenting a previously unrecorded letter by T. E. Lawrence. In 2018, the subject letter, penned in 1925 entirely in T. E. Lawrence’s hand, was discovered laid into copy “50” of the 1935 British limited issue of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Lawrence wrote this letter while posted to the Royal Air Force RAF Cadet College at Cranwell, where he completed the famous 1926 “Subscribers'” or “Cranwell” edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This letter consists of 22 lines written by Lawrence on the blank verso of an RAF “Application for Mechanical Transport.”
Lawrence remains a remarkably enigmatic figure. We investigate his character and his exploits though his published works - which span the WWI Arab revolt and life inside the inter-war RAF to crusader castles and ancient Greek translation to technical manuals on high speed boats - but it may be that Lawrence’s letters offer some of the clearest views. As this letter and the enfolding essay A Fresh Station suggest, the fragmentary candor and verities of Lawrence’s correspondence may best enable us to approach the animating spirit of this singular, complex, and multi-faceted person.
The letter is addressed to Captain Raymond Goslett M.C. (1885-1961), “the supply wizard of Al Wajh and Al Aquabah,” a key figure in the Arab Revolt and wartime friend of Lawrence who inadvertently played a role in facilitating his fame. The letter also references Arthur Dayer Makins, D.F.C., R.R.G.S., F.I.M.T. (1885-1974), 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 by name in his acknowledgements for the 1926 subscribers' edition of Seven Pillars and each was gifted a copy. Also referenced, pejoratively, is Lowell Thomas, to whom Lawrence owed the discomfort of both his fame and famous sobriquet.
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”. He spent the rest of his short life struggling to reconcile and reject, to recount and repress this indelible experience and celebrity. Integral to and emblematic of that struggle were both the writing of Seven Pillars of Wisdom and Lawrence’s retreat into the ranks of the RAF – both of course central to this compelling letter. In the short span of 164 words Lawrence references many of the disparate, competing threads that skeined his life – personal conflict about publication of his literary masterpiece, the famous 1926 Subscribers' 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. The title is taken from Lawrence’s own reference in the letter to Cranwell as “…a fresh station, where I have no leisure after the day’s work.” Of an edition of 150 hand-numbered copies, 149 are bound thus by the Fine Book Bindery in quarter cloth featuring navy spine and blue-grey boards evoking RAF colours, the spine printed in silver, the front cover bearing the initials Lawrence was wont to use at the time. The illustrated contents are printed by The Logan Press on 150 gm Logan Book Wove paper and include a full facsimile of Lawrence’s letter, as well as images of Lawrence, Goslett, and Makins. These new, hand-numbered copies are offered exclusively by the authors, proprietors respectively of Rickaro Books of England and Churchill Book Collector of America. Item #005932