Lawrence, T[homas] E[dward]
British explorer, intelligence officer, and writer (1888-1935). Autograph letter signed ("TE Shaw"). Clouds Hill, Moreton, Dorset. 15.10.1924. 8vo. 2 pp. With autogr. envelope. Includes TDS by G. E. B. Bromley-Martin, of the Bank of Liverpool and Martin, London (dated 22 Dec. 1924).
$ 26,793 / 25.000 €
To Whitney H. Shepardson of New York, who had inquired as to how he might obtain a copy of the "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" when the book was finally published: "The Prophet has sent me on your letter, with instructions to deal with it: - and I'm puzzled. Really you know you are foolish to want a copy. It's a thirty guinea book, of which so many copies are being sold as will meet the printing bills (about 120 copies perhaps) with some off-prints of the unadorned text for the twenty or thirty fellows who shared the campaign with me.
I can't give them 30-guinea presents: they can't buy 30-guinea books. So I want the subscribers to pay for my generosity in giving them free copies. The prime cost lies in the pictures (about 60, many in colour, at 10/- a print!) and the pictures are only an unjustifiable whim of mine. They have been done by British artists whom I liked, + who would work for me. Such a luxury book is for the idle rich. Mrs. Lamont is getting one. Huntingdon [!] + Pierpont Morgan aren't...! ... Do you feel justified in chucking away so much on an amateur production? The writing is pretentious, dull, hysterical, egotistical, + preternaturally long. No human being has ever been to the end of it [the 335,000 word ms.]. They return it, thumbed to about half way, with pretty speeches. So long as I hold it secret, the sight of it is a boast, so long it will be praised. Seriously, it isn't any earthly good. It costs as I have said, may be a year yet in printing, + is horrible in parts. Eleanor (beg her pardon, but that's her only possible name. The proper ones only indicate her wayward choice of parents etc.) would be sick over it. The thing will not be reprinted entire in my life-time: you suggest 'for a long time.' ... but the prospect isn't pleasing. There will be an American Edition, to secure copyright. Doubleday, probably. He has made a reasonable estimate. It would be printed at my expense, two copies for the Library of Congress, or whatever the show is, + eight for sale: + the sale price will be prohibitive, so that they will never sell, + the edition will never be exhausted, + no one may pirate! I suggest 10,000 dollars, but F.N.D. hasn't yet considered what is above-high-water-mark in U.S.A. Tell me, please, if you are knowing! If despite all faults (my most honest dissuasion puts people on sometimes!) you want a copy: then you'll have to send fifteen guineas, half price - E. will know the size of the extinct coin - to: Manager / Bank of Liverpool + Martins / 68 Lombard St. / London, E.C.3, payable to TE Lawrence, + 'Seven Pillars account' . Balance when you get the book. Let me strongly urge you not to. I have 90 subscribers, so there is no urgency - on the point of helping lame dogs! [...]". - When the book finally appeared in 1926, the cost of each copy to Lawrence was triple the selling price, and it was not until the fourth reprint of the 1927 abridgement "Revolt in the Desert" that his debts were paid off. As the included receipt shows, Shepardson was undeterred and duly transferred the £15. 15/- to Liverpool & Martins' (the last copy of the 1926 "Pillars" at auction commanded £30,000 at Sotheby's in 2009). - The U.S. businessman Whitney Hart Shepardson (1890-1966), educated at Colgate, Balliol (as a Rhodes Scholar), and Harvard, had served as aide to the State Department at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, where he may have met Lawrence. Between 1925 and 1927 he served as director on J. D. Rockefeller's General Education Board. A leading O.S.S. operative in WWII, he was the first London head of Secret Intelligence and remained with the organization soon to become the C.I.A. until 1946..