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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to [E. T. Leeds]*


Akaba

Sept 24. '17

Dear Leeds,

I’m sorry, but I felt the usual abrupt beginning would be too much for your nerves, and that you would fall exhausted on to the floor [3 words omitted], without even a Turkish carpet to break the shock of my writing at last. What can have happened? I was pondering last night how for a year I had written no private letter (except to my people, and those don’t count, for my mails are sunk or censored!) and today I go and break the habit. Perhaps it's because it was a habit, and I'm getting old and stiff (not to say tired, for every year out in Arabia counts ten) and habits must be nipped in their shells.

I'm in Akaba for two days - that for me spells civilisation, though it doesn’t mean other than Arab togs and food, but it means you lunch where you dined, and not further on - and therefore happy. The last stunt has been a few days on the Hejaz Railway, in which I potted a train with two engines (oh, the Gods were kind) and we killed superior numbers, and I got a good Baluch prayer_rug and lost all my kit, and nearly my little self.

I'm not going to last out this game much longer: nerves going and temper wearing thin, and one wants an unlimited account of both. However while it lasts it's a show between Gilbert and Carroll, and one can retire on it, with that feeling of repletion that comes after a hearty meal. By the way hearty meals are like the chopped snow that one scatters over one's bowl of grapes in Damascus at midsummer. Ripping, to write about -

This letter isn’t going to do you much good, for the amount of information it contains would go on a pin's head and roll about. However it's not a correspondence, but a discourse held with the only person to whom I have ever written regularly, and one whom I have shamefully ill-used by not writing to more frequently. On a show so narrow and voracious as this one loses one's past and one's balance, and becomes hopelessly self-centred. I don't think I ever think except about shop, and I'm quite certain I never do anything else. That must be my excuse for dropping everyone, and I hope when the nightmare ends that I will wake up and become alive again. This killing and killing of Turks is horrible. When you charge in at the finish and find them all over the place in bits, and still alive many of them, and know that you have done hundreds in the same way before and must do hundreds more if you can. [Two lines omitted]

 

* E. T. Leeds did not wish David Garnett to reveal his identity. However, in 1988 this letter was published in full in Leeds p.112-14.

 

Source: DG 237-8
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 9 January 2006


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