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T. E. Lawrence to Noël Coward


Dear N.C.

I was at the second night, and wondered to see how perfectly the finished product went. Just once it slipped, when she drew the curtains and the daylight took 20 seconds to come! Yet I'm not sure that the bare works you showed me that afternoon were not better. For one thing, I could not tell always when you were acting and when talking to one another. So I would suggest my coming to another rehearsal, only there seems nothing to prevent these plays of yours running for ever, and so you probably will never write any more.

Gertrude Lawrence is amazing. She acts nearly as well as yourself. I was sorry for the other two. They were out of it.

The play reads astonishingly well. It gets thicker, in print, and has bones and muscles. On the stage you played with it and puffed your fancies up and about like swansdown. And one can't help laughing all the time: whereas over the book one does not do worse than chuckle or smile. For fun I took some pages and tried to strike redundant words out of your phrases. Only there were none. That's what I felt when I told you it was superb prose.

You'll be sick of letters about it, so I'll shut up. Yet I had to tell you how much delight it gave me.


T. E. Shaw

Note: Lawrence had seen Coward's play Private Lives

Source: DG 702
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 1 February 2006

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