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UNSOURCED REVIEW

 

 

There is a single review that is unsourced – indeed, it may be unpublished, as all we have is a photocopy of the original manuscript. If any reader can throw any further light on either, please contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with details.

 

The review, written anonymously by HW during his visit to New York in 1931, is of the boys' adventure story In Lawrence's Bodyguard, by Gurney Slade (1930; Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, $2.00), and is likely to have been published in an American periodical. The book was published that same year in UK by Frederick Warne & Co. Gurney Slade was the pseudonym of English writer Stephen Bartlett (1886–1956), best known for his children’s books and adventure novels. He wrote two other books about T. E. Lawrence: Led by Lawrence (1934) and Lawrence in the Blue (1936).

 

SLADE, Gurney: In Lawrence’s Bodyguard (Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York [1930])

 

 


 

A clean transcript of the review, incorporating amendments and deletions, is given below the photocopy manuscript.

 

 

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Please return Mss. to Henry Williamson, 544 East 86 Street, as each Mss is worth a bag of popcorn; or 12 Mss plus owl & autograph are worth a bowl of clams (oysters also born on the wrong side of the Blatlantic).

 

 

In Lawrence's Bodyguard, by Gurney Slade, (Stokes, 2$).

 

Reviewed by A Friend of 'T. E. Lawrence'.

 

 

In a short and admirable preface, the author of this Boys' Book says,

 

By his exploits in Arabia Lawrence has delivered himself into the hands of fiction writers for all time, and by weaving a few of the incidents of his campaign into the plot of a boys' book, I am only one of the forerunners of a mighty horde. My hope is that this book of mine may serve as a finger-post to "grown-up" non-fictional works, such as Lawrence's own record, "Revolt in the Desert", and Robert Grave's (sic) fascinating volume, "Lawrence and the Arabs", to both of which I am indebted.

 

It is immediately apparent from the book that Mr Gurney is a man of taste and sensibility, although not entirely knowledgeable. The hero is at school when the story opens. He is observed by Lord Carstanley during a game of rugger, and immediately afterwards is offered a job in Arabia, to find a certain stone stolen during a past excavation. He accepts, and the rest of the story recounts his adventures until the outbreak of the Great War, when, after serving Prince Feisal, he joins Lawrence's bodyguard. The story ends with the capture of Damascus, when a sadness  comes upon the bodyguard because Lawrence, at the climax of his life, slips away and leaves behind only vacancy and dream for those that had served him with all their vitality.

 

Mr Slade's taste & sensibilty are revealed in his reticent handling of the Lawrence material (a direct contrast to a certain American journalist-lecturer, by whose methods Lawrence was made to feel the greatest malaise) and in his obvious determination not to write sensationally. The boy hero Baxter appears to be derived from a dream of Lawrence, & is therefore genuinely a character of fiction. Lawrence as Lawrence in the book is a minor, or slight-appearing character, yet he dominates the book like snow-capped Everest seen from a remote distance. The book is in proportion, & merits our thanks for that. There are one or two unknowledgeable points, such as the dialogue between Headmaster and Carstanley, which is "most frightfully correct", except where the author tries to offset the stiltedness with colloquialisms which no Etonian ("We were at Eton together", says Lord C.) would use in normal conversation. (By the way, one of the best and most penetrating stories of school life the present reviewer has read is shortly to be published in the U.S.A. – Decent Fellows, by John Heygate – a unique transcription of a boy's experiences at Eton.)

 

There is one lapse which is to be deplored, although it is, alas, a commonplace of boys' fiction. The Turkish generals, visiting the Arabs before the Revolt, are described (by the impartial author) as "the pair of Turkish ruffians", and "at any moment the crack of a dozen revolvers might sound the death knell of the two Turkish desperadoes". Tut tut, Mr Slade. The campaign in Palestine was not so easy as that; nevertheless your book should be successful, for no boy will get the least glimmer of war's reality from it.

 

The style is a mixture of utter badness (as above) and commonplace but careful composition; the qualities of heroism, bravery (but not loyalty) are somewhat unreal. The hero, Baxter, (aged about 19) has a bullet cut out of his legs without wincing. He is a strong man, certainly; but a little too strong for his tender age. "I don't believe all the yarns they tell about me" Aircraftsman T. E. Shaw once wrote, in reference to the Lawrentian Legend. "The Arab business was a freak in my living: in ordinary times I'm plumb normal." Normal, yes; but only the morally strong arise to be normal after trial & error. Shakespeare was plumb normal. What a boys' book could be written on that theme – a boy struggling to be true to himself! Its author would probably be accused of corrupting the morals of Youth.

 

Henry Williamson

 

New York, Fall 1931.

 

 


 

 

 

 

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