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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his family


Carchemish

June 8, 1911

Have just heard from Mr. Hogarth that we all go on till August: that is splendid news, though it probably means no second season. He writes that Will called to see him but found him engaged: he will write to The Times in the next few days, but the Coronation press of news may hold if off till afterwards.

I will reply to Will's letter of the 18th since it is the only letter I have had lately: rather a gap just now! If he studies European history from the French point of view it will be fresh and valuable.

Place-names are against the Teutonic element in E. Britain and also the little stories we have from Gildas etc. of the methods of the actual conquest. There was not overmuch welcoming. Had Britain accepted the Celtic church it would still be Catholic: do you really expect a history don who is abstract and constitutional-political to understand the mysteries of tattooing and the origin of the impi? I have recently read an attack on Chaka as only the reorginiser of the Zulu system.

The literature clause has been put in operation two or three times (I had leanings therewhither myself). Of course the ordinary history man thinks it a joke: but you would be safe with Mr. Hutton and Baskerville among your examiners: they are above the common scientific stock. In case I forget later, Baskerville is a quite exceptional man, rich, not a student, passionately fond of wandering in Italy and France. The more of such geography (especially physical) and mild architecture you could work in the better. Political poems are the only things not dry in history: do you call Piers Plowman dull? or Renard? and if you can read history and Bertrand together you would not dream of following Ezra Pound. If you touch Renaissance France read a little Rabelais (especially L'Ile Somnante in book 5) between Villon, Rabelais, and Ronsard (with Clemend Marot) you get the flesh and blood side of the Renaissance. The Scaligers don't touch.

What is a nympholeft? It sounds like a sort of newt: don't use these words: your letter on the whole needs a chastening of Bunyan, and perhaps Addison. Don't reply and say they are not alike.

I left my special subject (the Crusades) till the last two weeks of the last term. It was mostly done while the examination was actually in progress in three all-night sittings: Special subjects, if you know all but the facts are a matter of simple cram. I should certainly not recommend doing it (except to know your ground, if it is territorial) before the last term: or the term before the last, leaving the last for revision. If it is a matter like the Crusades two or three weeks are more than enough. Other subjects have more to read: but always read something that throws a side-light on the set authorities (i.e. I didn't touch them till I had read the Armenian Chroniclers, William of Tyre, and the gestes). You are going to too many lectures. The English Constitution did not develop out of Domseday Book. If you imbibe all Mr. Barker's lectures thereon, you will not be able to see it didn't. But it takes three terms to do so: give him up after the first term: you get nothing new from him, because it mostly comes from Pollock and Maitland (which don't read) and besides everybody goes there, so it is no use repeating anything he says: everybody else does. A.L. Smith is an institution: he delivered those lectures on Aristotle the year before his eldest daughter was born, and since then he has polished their style, while new interpretations and texts have passed over his head. He is an excellent joke, but you will get more out of Mr. Barker's book in ten minutes: Mr. Jane is very good on Aristotle. Don't make the mistake of over-much political science. I went astray on Utopia and Campanella and Harrington on S. Augustine:- and forgot Maine, whose errors I had to evolve out of Mill's political economy when the paper appeared. There is only one paper on polit. Science, though classical dons forget that in their joy at finding a common ground between Greats and History... do treat Aristotle historically; and Hobbes as a joke. Wakeling of B.N.C. is very useful (schools point of view) on Hobbes: and amusing too. Oman is a monument: and one doesn't need to look at such things over long. Hewlett certainly has the courage of his convictions: but he is not a Greek, but an Italian of the early Renaissance: the time when they believed in Pan. I went to see Brazenhead. It may be another early work: one felt (in New Canterbury's) that one had not all the story there.

I can't imagine a man writing on Ch. Gaillard without reading le Breton: and to the Stubbs! It was a gross insult to the society. I fancy there are echoes of the siege in Reynard the fox. Atkinson is to be admired: did he know you were there? No one knows how the outwork at Gaillard was breached: I fancy (against V. le Duc) that the angle tower was mined over the filled up moat: or that the moat was later made larger.

Mustn't argue over Chandos at this distance: but the Prince was not a [word illeg.] (cf. his conduct in home politics). Of course Chandos was a sort of general: he knew how to win a fight, but he dissipated the energies of the English, and was a good deal responsible for the collapse. The Prince fell away at the end with that illness of his. A friendly (or at least neutral) Pyrenees was essential to Gascony: which excused downfall of Trastarnare. What did Chandos do in Aquitanie but make Bordeaux disaffected, and the seigneurs all out of hand. The Prince found his hardest work crushing the independent lords.

Digging is not good: though we have a fair bag of photographs for our book. Professor Petrie seems a most exciting individual: no regularity but disorder continual. Homer result curious: perhaps the dear old philologists regard a unitary theory as an exploded one: but there will always be the fight of art and science over it. What on earth personal news is to write? I shave three times a week, and yesterday darned a hole in a sock - nothing more: remember we are only existing, and digging. No more over than that Thesis: let it grow a little worthy dust. Richards thinks little of everything else: I fear a great reaction of disgust when our first book is out. He is not fully prepared for its badness. Rabelais here: Plough Inn a scandal.

 

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Source: HL 164-7
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 28 January 2006

 



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