[In the following essay, Lawrence declares Tomlinson to be not a travel writer, but a writer exploring what Lawrence calls “coasts of illusion,” meaning travel by mind and soul to a world uncorrupted by disillusionment.]
Gifts of Fortune is not a travel-book. It is not even, as the jacket describes it, a book of travel memories. Travel in this case is a stream of reflections, where images intertwine with dark thoughts and obscure emotion, and the whole flows on turbulent and deep and transitory. It is reflection, thinking back on travel and on life, and in the mirror sense, throwing back snatches of image.
Mr. Tomlinson's own title: Gifts of Fortune: With Some Hints to Those About to Travel is a little grimly misleading. Those about to travel, in the quite commonplace sense of the word, will find very few encouraging hints in the long essay which occupies a third of this book, and is entitled, “Hints to Those About to Travel.” The chief hint they would hear would be, perhaps, the sinister suggestion that they had better stay at home.
There are travellers and travellers, as Mr. Tomlinson himself makes plain. There are scientific ones, game-shooting ones, Thomas Cook ones, thrilled ones, and bored ones. And none of these, as such, will find a single “hint” in all the sixty-six hinting pages, which will be of any use to them.
Mr. Tomlinson is travelling in retrospect, in soul rather than in the flesh, and his hints are to other souls. To travelling bodies he says little.
The sea tempts one to travel. But what is the nature of the temptation? To what are we tempted? Mr. Tomlinson gives us the hint, for his own case. “What draws us to the sea is the light over it,” etc.
There you have the key to this book. Coasts of illusion! “There are other worlds.” A man who has travelled this world in the flesh travels again, sails once more wilfully along coasts of illusion, and wilfully steers into other worlds. Take then the illusion, accept the gifts of fortune, “that passes as a shadow on the wall.”
“My journeys have all been the fault of books, though Lamb would never have called them that.” Mr. Tomlinson is a little weary of books, though he has here written another. A talk with seamen in the forecastle of a ship has meant more to him than any book. So he says. But that is how a man feels, at times. As a matter of fact, from these essays it is obvious that books...