The friendship between Lawrence and Williamson began as a result of the literary critic, Edward Garnett, sending Lawrence a copy of the proofs for Henry Williamson’s “Tarka the Otter.” Lawrence read it and replied to Garnett on January 20, 1928. Garnett then sent Lawrence’s letter to Williamson, a letter that held both praise and criticism for “Tarka.” In that letter, Lawrence revealed his own view of himself as a writer. [From Lawrence’s letter to Garnett, January 20, 1928, in “T.E. Lawrence Correspondence with Henry Williamson, ed. Peter Wilson (Castle Hill Press, 2000)] The full text of the letter with explanatory notes is included. “Tarka was in itself an achievement…He [Williamson] will realise, if you send him this letter, that I'm not a verbal artist: but a fellow who thought for a long time about writing, and then found (not too late) that he couldn't do it. Yet sometimes I fancy that it isn't the success that teaches best, but the half-failure… I shouldn't have written so much about the book if it was not, in my judgement, particularly worth writing about. If I might hazard a general opinion it is that the otter-subject did him much harm. All his good stuff clusters in the sidelines of the book. ….” Williamson then wrote to Lawrence in response and in this April 2,1928 letter, Lawrence respond’s to Williamson directly and so begins a life long correspondence. Lawrence typed the first page of his letter with a purple ink ribbon, which has faded, noting that he hates typewriting. He switches to pencil on verso for the second page. He discusses his job in the RAF, then further on discusses Williamson's book, "Tarka" and references his own "Seven Pillars." The typed portion ends with Lawrence writing about his Arab "business". "The Arab business was a freak in my living; and if I did the worders they ascribe to me, then, it was wholly by accident, for in normal times I'm plumb ordinary...." The hand written pencil portion begins, "I wonder what you will do about money. Tarka will not have made much...." This leads into his thoughts about writers that include references to Dickens, Tolstoy, and Balzac. He signs, "T. E. Shaw." The letter comes with a reprint from the Lawrence and Williamson correspondence, pages 46-48.
Condition: The paper is evenly sunned, however the typed portion has faded substantially towards the bottom of the page and shows through somewhat on verso. The hand written portion on verso in pencil is clear and in good condition.In “T.E. Lawrence By His Friends,” Williamson is quoted as saying that upon reading the first sentence of Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” and comparing it to a sentence “of the same visual essence” in his “Tarka the Otter,” that having read that opening sentence he “knew Lawrence of Arabia… I knew we saw many things alike. Perhaps he was the friend I had always longed for with whom even words would be superfluous.” [See: on line archive T.E.Lawrence By His Friends].