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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Mrs Rieder

Oxford Union Society

Sept. 26. [Postmark, 1911]

Dear Mrs. Rieder,

Your letter came last night: and I felt the need was desperate, but all the shops were shut. So this morning I rushed down, and sent off what I could:- a little Morris: a Doughty: and M. Audoux: you have probably read the latter: if so send it to your Jesuit friend, or to some other person who is starving for print. The Doughty is Adam Cast Forth:- you don't know this: and I like it immensely, whether you will remains to be found out. At any rate if it is a failure, it is a big one, and not unworthy of the man. It is out of print, or they think so; till I find out, or for ever, be content with the not-new copy on the way. I can vouch for its general cleanliness, and entire freedom from infectious disease:- since no one but myself has ever read it. I carried it once with me cycling, which battered it: that's all. The Morris is Sigurd and the early pieces: probably you know them. I haven't got, and couldn't find, any prose to hand immediately. Its nearly all in print, but has to be ordered. I must clear up the mystery of The Roots of the Mountains. Mother sent it, very late, by Parcel Post to Aleppo. It either has dropped by the way or it reached Aleppo after we left. All our stock (this, if it came, included) is locked up there, waiting next season, which is actually to come off thanks to D.G. Hogarth: good man that! However if the book is in Aleppo it's there. It was in a special type, which took 2 months to find. If I reorder it the chances are it gets to me at the end of November and by Xmas I am in Syria. It's not worth it, I think.

Now about Doughty's other books. Adam Cast Forth is on the way. I like it:- but I would never venture to maintain its cause too openly. I think it's the best thing he's done:- and no one will ever agree about that, I'm sure. Let's leave it; you will judge for yourself. It is short at all events.

The Cliffs. A patriotic drama: invasion of Britain by aeroplane, and eventual victory of ourselves, chastened into a national frame of mind. I haven't read it: and I don't think I want to: I should be too much afraid of bathos: and the author of Adam and Arabia can't afford to fail.

Dawn in Britain. I have read this. If you express a wish, I'll send it by return. It will fill up many blank evenings. Behold an epic in 6 volumes:- a stage from Greece to the North Pole:- a period of 500 years, from the sack of Rome by Brennus, to the siege of Jerusalem, and the departing this life of Joseph of Arimathea.

You'll see that the 'epic' has no unity: there is no hero; plenty of characters: heaps of incidents told all in 'great' style. There is very little in the book which is less than magnificent: but do you want so much magnificence? Just as you like of course. It could well be read in sections, for there is little coherence in the whole: you get Cassivelaunus, Caractacus, Boadicea: most Romans: a few Greeks, Tyrians, water nymphs: some perfect 'songs', semi-lyrical narratives in blank verse of twenty or thirty pages: these have nothing to do with the book and I mean to print them: they are perfect.

Do you want this book: I would like to send it you; immensely: but I am afraid it will only irritate you: remember Doughty goes his whole way along as he pleases: there is not the least concession to use or custom or authority: he calls it an 'epic' and presumably one has to do the same: but it is rather an imaginative history: of course it is meant to glorify things English, which with Doughty means not the Empire and The Times and the House of Lords but the language and 'Spenser and Chaucer traditions'. It contains about 33000 lines: all blank verse:- like Adam, but more regular.

Will you let me know what other books you or anyone else would like? Oxford is a good place for buying them: though the post is deadly slow. Those sent off today will be 3-4 weeks getting to Beyrout, and will stick there in the B.P.O. till the Press sends them on. No duty fortunately according to the P.O. If you answer this letter at once, I can send you another lot before the end of next month, and a third before I come out.

It wasn't really your letter which awoke me to the needs of you: Marie-Clare was on order, and came in the nick o' time: I felt a strong impulse for the last 3 weeks desiring me to write to you: but I am so slack. Doctors dispute over my carcase: they seem to agree that I mustn't go to E. again for 3 months: as a matter of fact I am very busy, for it is the pottery (O the despised pottery!) which is the reason of our second year's dig. I am in the seventh heaven or thereabouts as a result. You will be shortly going to Jebail: my salaams to Misses Aseen and Fareedah: the latter is going to have a letter 'The strange, marvellous and most wonderful adventures of an ancient book: written in the tongue of the Saracens, and purporting a discourse of a hermit in the Holy Land'. Miss Holmes is going to have a letter, please break it gently to her: I would not retard her recovery for the world. Her pottery is labelled 'early Phoenician': they ask for more....

My regards to Noël: burst a paper bag under his nose - for auld lang syne


Mother talks of writing to you: but not if I can help it! Isn't this polite? But really she probably will, only she is a werry bad correspondent outside ye Family.

Note: Marguerite Audoux, Marie-Claire, tr. J. N. Raphael, (London, Chapman & Hall, 1911).


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Source: DG 121-3
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 29 January 2006


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