KNIGHTLEY, Phillip and Colin SIMPSON. The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia. London: The Pitman Press for Nelson, 1969.

Octavo (222 x 150mm), pp. [i]-ix (half-title, verso blank, title, imprint on verso, contents, plates, copyright note, acknowledgements, epigraph), [1]-293, [1 (blank)]. 8 half-tone plates with illustrations printed recto-and-verso, 2 full-page maps in the text. (Adhesive spot on margin of p. 54, causing small surface loss to facing plate.) Original black boards, spine lettered in metallic blue, illustrated endpapers, dustwrapper, not price-clipped. (A few light marks on lower edges of boards, dustwrapper slightly marked, rubbed and creased at edges causing very small losses). A very good copy. ProvenanceJeremy Michael Wilson (1944-2017, ownership signature on front free endpaper). 

First edition, second, corrected impression. An important biography, for which the authors were given access to Lawrence’s private papers by his younger brother and literary executor A.W. Lawrence: ‘[t]he year 1969 saw the appearance in book form of an earlier version of the text which had appeared in serial form in the Sunday Times (1968) […] [:] The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia. The foreign rights were readily snapped up. This book appeared in more translations than all other Lawrence books except, perhaps, Lawrence’s own Seven Pillars and Revolt. The book did not include quite all of the material contained in newspaper articles’ (O’Brien p. 381). 

The first edition of The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia was published in September 1969 and this second impression was published later in the same month. As O’Brien notes, there is a correction to the account of Lawrence’s funeral on p. 275, which read ‘Only one hymn was sung, Lawrence’s favourite, “Jesu, Lover of my Soul”’ in the first printing, but was corrected to ‘Only one hymn was sung, “Jesu, Lover of my Soul”’ in this second impression.

The present copy is from the library of the distinguished Lawrence scholar Jeremy Wilson, the editor of T.E. Lawrence’s Minorities (London, 1971), the author of the National Portrait Gallery catalogue T.E. Lawrence: Lawrence of Arabia(London, 1988) and the authoritative biography Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T.E. Lawrence(London, 1989), and the co-founder, with his wife Nicole, of the Castle Hill Press, which has published scholarly editions of works by Lawrence and the definitive series of Lawrence’s letters. As a historian, Wilson was sceptical about the biographical value of The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia, and felt that the authors’ lack of experience led to inaccurate or uninformed statements and interpretations, which ‘were presented with a tremendous veneer of research and authority’ (T.E. Lawrence’s Minorities; An Editor’s Postscript (Fordingbridge, 2006), p. 5).

O’Brien E302.


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