Thursday, November 27, 2008
The Top 10 Replies of Lawrence of Arabia to his Editors
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence
Lawrence of Arabia's book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, is a classic. His replies to his editor's comments on spelling are also classics.
1. In his preface, T. E. Lawrence writes: Particularly it owes great thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Shaw for countless suggestions of great value and diversity:
and for all the present semicolons.
2. Q. I attach a list of queries raised by F. who is reading the proofs. He finds these very clean, but full of inconsistencies in the spelling of proper names, a point which reviewers often take up. Will you annotate it in the margin, so that I can get the proofs straightened?
A. Annotated: not very helpfully perhaps. Arabic names won't go into English exactly, for their consonants are not the same as ours, and their vowels, like ours, vary from district to district. There are some 'scientific systems' of transliteration, helpful to people who know enough Arabic not to need helping, but a wash-out for the world. I spell my names anyhow, to show what rot the systems are.
3. Q. Slip 1. Jeddah and Jidda used impartially throughout. Intentional?
4. Q. Slip 16. Bir Waheida, was Bir Wahheidi.
A. Why not? All one place.
5. Q. Slip 20. Nuri, Emir of the Ruwalla, belongs to the 'chief family of the Rualla.' On Slip 23, "Rualla horse', and Slip 38, 'killed one Rueli'. In all later slips "Rualla'.
A. Should have also used Ruwala and Ruala.
6. Q. Slip 28. The Bisaita is also spelt Biseita.
7. Q. Slip 47. Jedha, the she-camel, was Jedhah on Slip 40.
A. She was a splendid beast.
8. Q. Slip 53. 'Meleager, the immoral poet'. I have put 'immortal' poet, but the author may mean immoral after all.
A. Immorality I know. Immortality I cannot judge. As you please: Meleager will not sue us for libel.
9. Q. Slip 65. Author is addressed 'Ya Auruns', but on Slip 56 was 'Aurans'.
A. Also Lurens and Runs: not to mention 'Shaw'. More to follow if time permits.
10. Q. Slip 78. Sherif Abd el Mayin of Slip 68 becomes el Main, el Mayein, el Muein, el Mayin, and el Muyein.
A. Good egg. I call this really ingenious.