Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The things you find in books

Fantasy, fake, or unused design?
I added the coloured area to the graphic
for security reasons, just in case...
To Kyri with thanks, from your friend, John. A preview...

Strange things are happening to do with my "Lawrence of Arabia" research.Two Saturdays ago, I was thrilled to see a parcel at my door from the bookseller in England where I had ordered the 1937 first edition of T. E. Lawrence by his friends, Ed. A. W. Lawrence. Thrill turned to anger rather quickly when I opened it to find the 1954 abridged version. I immediately sent the following email to Abebooks where I had ordered the book:

"It was the 1954 abridgement and totally useless for my research. I could have bought a paperback edition of that for only a few dollars. What was sent was essentially worthless: ex library stamps and less than good condition it is of no value to a collector and only the 1937 edition has what I need for my research. It has thrown my research completion schedule off, because I have now had to order another copy from another seller. I am out money spent and will have to devote more time and money to return the damned thing. I will also have to explain the reason for the delay in completion to my readers 
I am not a happy customer."
Ten minutes later I got a reply from Abebooks saying that a refund had been initiated, and thirteen minutes after that I got the following reply from the actual bookseller:

"Thank you for your email. We are very sorry to learn that your book was not as expected.
The problem should have been noticed at the time of processing your order, and acted upon. Please accept our sincere apologies.
Unfortunately, we do not have a suitable alternative copy in stock at the moment to offer you as replacement. On this occasion a full refund has now been issued via Abe. Please keep the copy in hand with our compliments or dispose of it as you see fit.
Abe should notify you shortly that your account - if already debited by them - has been credited.
We hope that you are able to find another copy on the marketplace and are not put off ordering from us again in the future."
I decided to donate the book to the Calgary Women in Need Society (WINS) who have a thrift shop about a block from my home, and just before walking over there with the book together with its original receipt with my personal information cut off, so they could value it for resale, I sent the bookseller a thank you note informing them of where the book would go, and reassuring them that they had not lost a customer. Apart from the delay in getting the book it was a WINS/win situation (sorry, could not resist). The refund was for both the cost of the book and my postage charges and was $68. 91. Because of differences in the exchange rate since I first ordered the book, I actually made nearly six dollars profit.

The replacement book was ordered from a booksellers in New Zealand and cost me (with postage) $101.01 It was also in better condition, and it was listed as first edition, second impression (June 1937). I noticed that this seller was charging reasonable prices so that the extra shipping costs from New Zealand would not deter international buyers. A wise decision.

Before I finished writing yesterday's post, I checked the expected delivery date of the book from New Zealand and saw that is was April 15th which would add another month to my projected start of my series on T. E. Lawrence, so I announced today's post thinking of apologizing for the delay.

Not long after I finished the post, my dog wanted to go in the back yard and when I opened my door I saw a parcel from New Zealand. It had taken only nine days from when I had ordered it to get to western Canada. I have been waiting a month for something to arrive from California. If that was strange in itself, it was nothing to the strangeness I saw when I unpacked the very carefully packaged parcel and opened the book. Below is a photograph of the half-title page and its strange bookplate that had been laid down (pasted) onto the page. the photo is a bit blurry on the right side because of the curvature of the page. (my "security graphic" now added to the image).

The bookseller's ad had only said "private bookplate on the half-title". The bookplate was more than idiosyncratic: for a start it appeared to be a bookplate of T. E. Lawrence, but the book was a memorial to him produced by his brother with Jonathan Cape, T. E.'s friend and publisher (who also has a contribution in the book). Second, T. E. was since 1927, legally, T. E. Shaw. Although many still called him T. E. Lawrence, he had long abandoned that name. He used John Hume Ross when he first enlisted in the Air Force in 1922; enlisted as a private in the Tank Corps in 1923 and he kept that name when he  re-enlisted as an aircraftman in the Royal Air Force until he changed it to T. E. Shaw. (quite a come-down from "Colonel Lawrence")

In a letter to Robert Graves (who also has an entry in the book) of 28th June, 1927, he says:

"I took the name of Shaw because it was the first one-syllabled one which turned up in the Army List index; the Adjutant General's secretary told me I mustn't use my former name: so I consulted the sortes . Later a deed-poll was made out, so the change is legal. Don't mention any of the other names (Ross etc.) which I've held temporarily."
George Bernard Shaw, writing to O. A. Forsyth-Major on the 27th May in that same year and basing it on what T. E. had told him (perhaps in a more colourful manner) said:
"His assumption of the name Shaw had nothing to do with me. When he was enlisting he gave a name which happened to be that of the officer who was on duty at the time. He remonstrated, knowing quite well, of course, that the name was an assumed one. Lawrence then decided to open the telephone directory at random and take the first name of four letters his eye glinted on. This was Shaw; and so he became T. E. Shaw. (Bernard Shaw Collected Letters, Vol 4. p. 465)
T. E. gives a different motive for the officer's remonstration in a letter to Ralph Isham (another friend) on the 22nd  of November:
 "I chose Shaw at random. The recruiting Staff Officer in the War Office said I must take a fresh name. I said 'What's yours?'. He said 'No you don't'. So I seized the Army List, and snapped it open at the Index, and said "It'll be the first one-syllabled name in this"."
What Shaw said, exactly, and how he signed his name depended a lot on his attitude to the other party: He would commonly refuse to reply to fan letters addressing him as Colonel Lawrence, yet would use that name if he deemed it important in writing to a military/political person he wanted to convince. He had allowed subscription payment cheques for The Seven Pillars of Wisdom to be made out to T. E. Lawrence. He had a talent for assuming the nature of his personal environment; for being "one of the guys", a common introverted intuitive behaviour. Harold Orlans, in T. E. Lawrence: Biography of a Broken Hero uses "vainly" in reference to Lawrence's name change, and seems to think that the choice might have been due to GBS or his wife Charlotte, but a random name change is a rejection of a former name, and there can be no doubt whatsoever, that T. E. had spent most of the rest of his life, since Arabia, in rejecting the image of "Lawrence of Arabia" and of T. E. Lawrence. His most likely reason being, not that he was, in reality, a bastard and the name "Lawrence" had been assumed and given him by his parents, but that he felt a moral dilemma in promising to his Arab friends what he knew that the British Government was promising only as a convenient propaganda ploy. Introveted intuitives are also authentic in their feelings. He often avoided the problems by signing "T. E." alone.

So, if we assume that the choice of a bookplate is a personal matter and we know that at the time indicated on the bookplate by the use of the RAF (and all Commonwealth Air Forces) Latin motto: Per Ardua Ad Astra ("Through adversity to the stars" or "Through struggle to the stars"), he was trying very hard to separate himself from his former life, then the use of the imagery and of his monogram "TLE" becomes hard to reconcile. If the bookmark is a fan invention, the imagery is pointed but the RAF motto and certainly the monogram form is at odds. His fans, to this day refer to him as T.E.L. and his time in the RAF is certainly not of the greatest importance to them. T. E. refers to the motto in The Mint where he quotes Nobby, one of the men (my expletive deletion):
"Well, I don't care a bugger. Per ardua ad asbestos. What does that mean? All together after me "F[...] you, Jack, I'm fireproof."
I can find no mention or image of this bookplate on the web. If some reader of this blog knows its history, then please share it with me. T. E. wrote that he did not use bookplates but would sometimes write his initials in pencil on the corner of the flyleaf. The Clouds Hill bookplate was used posthumously for the books in his library and any such books now fetch a huge sum. The circumstances of it coming to me in a book coincides with Kyri finding the document written by T. E.'s RAF friend B. V. Jones, in a first edition copy of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It is very strange: the things you find in books. I needed the book because of B. V. Jones entry for it which does not appear in the abridged version. I wanted to see if the quotes he gave of Lawrence had been published before. One of them he also gave in "Friends":
"He said that he was happy at Miranshah, and spoke wonderfully of the beauty of the nights and the brilliance of the stars. It was a place, he said, of magnificent silence and a great peace"

But my favourite, and one I find very revealing, does not. That so much of what Jones tells, also appears in the biographies leads me to believe that it might well be unpublished. But you will have to wait for that...  In the meantime here is a preview of a (very small) part of one of Jones' two handwritten documents (circa 1960) that is on my desk as I write this:

John's Coydog Community page

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