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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his family


May 19, 1911

Letter just now (Father's and yrs. on Arnie's birthday): I am going to scribble a few lines about it at once, since if I put it off I don't know when it will be done. We are getting busier and busier: let alone the ordinary work on the mound I am photographing everything, and piecing up pots: and as well trying to repair a centrifugal pump-engine for our new Commissaire, who is a local gentleman. I don't know much about machinery, and nothing about centrifugal force: however it is going on. Cameras too are a nuisance: I have had to mend a shutter: (not mine). About letters: quite likely some of mine have dropped out (I have sent two lots of plans: of the palace steps, and of the site) some of yours certainly have: we can tell how irregular the post is by observing the gaps in the series of Thompson's newspapers: on average we get every other one. Then one always feels a letter in Turkey a sort of privilege - and at Biredjik (our post town) they cannot read Frank handwriting: we get all sorts of people's letters, including those of most of the missionaries in Euphrateria. This uncertainty must make you feel quite assured if a long time passes without news of me: for if an accident does happen you will get news by wire (from Consuls, who have your address) before my preceding letter has arrived. People don't disappear quietly in this country: we knew that Mr. Sayce was on the way (by rumour) the day he came, though he was driving direct from the station of Aleppo in a 3 horse chariot! And all the local people knew his history and reputation, a little inexactly perhaps, but that only to be expected. Therefore if you get no letters for a couple of months remember the Turkish post-office, and read something interesting instead The Agonists perhaps. I am most anxious to get a report on that.

Miss Thornton was at Sidon: I believe she is at either Beyrout or Safed now: I was introduced to her two years ago, when I was out here: but have forgotten her. But all Syria has heard of me;- and of us.

What is the dog's name? Wrote once to the Canon (Canon Christopher): will write again this week: but cannot give any account of the digs, for that is against the rules. Thompson will not say more about them in his letters than that they are continuing. I allow myself a little more licence in your letters: but do not say a word to anyone else. The drawings etc:- you will not allow into anyone's hands, who knows anything:

About Mr. Jane and Will. The longer he goes to him the better: if he goes at all. Mr. Jane is not a crammer, or a superficial historian, either of which would be Mr. Barker's opinion. But of course Will must agree with his tutor. Do let him beware of text-books, or of doing more than the minimum (which Mr. Jane can lay down) in subjects that do not appeal to him.

About Frank: he might go to India: but has he the remotest interest in such a life? he would get exploring and shooting in smaller places (Nigeria, Malaysia) without the ghastly social boredom of India - and cheaper. The pay, even of the regular army will soon be enough to live on, in the more modest regiments: the rates will be raised as the next reform.

In any case Oxford if he can: though unless he is an Engineer (well paid) it should be history and not mathematics. Has he considered what an officer is when he retires? the narrow specialization makes him quite unfitted for anything else: if it leaves him even with the tastes for it. This seems to me the fault in the matter. The military man is as much stamped with his mark as the schoolmaster or the clergyman. Of course Frank may not object to a certain finity of idea: but he will lose some of his originality in the mill.

I fear Father is right about us and our careers: but this idealist disregard for the good things of the world has its bright side. And to say that he had 5 sons, none making money, would be a glorious boast - from my point of view at least.

Very many thanks about the roof. It is very precious to me, as a remain of antiquity that cannot be replaced if destroyed: so I have an advantage over Richards who only feels artistically: I have two counts in my favour. Thompson only thinks scientifically out here. If a stone or a pot cannot be turned to use;- cannot be published as a thing that he has used or improved, it is worth nothing to him, though it may be a splendid piece of potting, or a magnificent relief. Yet to my mind the pleasure of a thing for itself is one of the best things we have. The personal element ruins them. Have found nothing this week except a Byzantine wall foundation, a scrap of lion-mane, and a Roman bronze coin. There goes £40! You are right that the place and our hopes in it collapsed suddenly: the afternoon that we dug down in our palace-court and found virgin rock 5 feet below. The digs might almost have been given up that night. Probably 3 weeks more. Am not going to carry more than my camera in my tramp.



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Source: HL 158-60
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 8 April 2006


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