Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to his family
Well here I am in Cairo again, for two nights, coming from Akaba via Jerusalem. I was in fortune, getting to Jerusalem just in time for the official entry of General Allenby. It was impressive in its way - no show, but an accompaniment of machine gun and anti-aircraft fire, with aeroplanes circling over us continually. Jerusalem has not been taken for so long: nor has it ever fallen so tamely before. These modern wars of large armies and long-range weapons are quite unfitted for the historic battlefields.
I wrote to you last from Azrak, about the time we blew up Jemal Pasha, and let him slip away from us. After that I stayed for ten days or so there, and then rode down to Akaba in 3 days: good going, tell Arnie: none of his old horses would do so much as my old camel.
At Akaba I had a few days motoring, prospecting the hills and valleys for a way Eastward for our cars: and then came up to H.Q. to see the authorities and learn the news-to-be.
Tomorrow I go off again to Akaba, for a run towards Jauf, if you know where that is. Mother will be amused to learn that they are going to send me to England for a few days in the spring, if all works well till then: so this is my last trip, possibly. Don't bank on it, as the situation out here is full of surprise turns, and my finger is one of those helping to mix the pie. An odd life, but it pleases me, on the whole.
I got that little cloak all well - many thanks; the Near East used to make all these wonderful things, but the interruption of trade routes and the call of military service hamper it now, and one's needs are every day more and more difficult to meet. I'm an Emir of sorts, and have to live up to the title.
I see Arnie is getting slowly up the obstacles of many exams. They are silly things, terrible to the conscientious, but profitable to the one who can display his goods to effect, without leaving holes visible. As real tests they are illusory. So long as you can read good books in the languages they effect, that's enough for education: but it adds greatly to your pleasure if you have memory enough to remember the why and wherefore of the waxing and waning of peoples, and to trace the slow washing up and down of event upon event. In that way I think history is the only knowledge of the easy man. It seems to me that is enough of didactic.
Mr. Hogarth is here in Cairo, acting as our base of information. He is one of the people whom the Arabs would have great difficulty in doing without. The blank in knowledge when he goes back to England is always great. Pirie-Gordon is coming out, to write popular articles on the Arab war for the home papers - so soon you will know all about it. Secrecy was necessary while the fight was a life and death one in the Hejaz: but since the opening of Akaba the stress has been eased, and today we are as comfortable as any front. As public sympathy is desirable, we must try and enlist on our side a favourable press. Arnie will be content, but must take it as said that it was quite impossible before. This show of ours began with all against it, and has had first to make itself acceptable to the elect. They converted, we can afford to appeal to a wider circle. It is not much use trying, with a J pen, to tell you how we are going to do it.
Many thanks to Father for investing that cheque of mine. When I stay out in Arabia for months on end I spend comparatively little, for the Government buys my camels, and the Sherif pays the men. I have only clothes (cheap things Arab clothes) and personal presents to pay for. On the other hand, when I get to Cairo I have many commissions, from Arab sheikhs, for things they want - and if they have been useful, or will be useful, they get them free of charge! My acquaintances are legion, or the whole population from Rabegh to Deraa, and the burden correspondingly heavy. However they have just raised my pay, by pushing me up the roll of Staff appointments. I'm now called a G.S.O.2.
The French Government has stuck another medal on to me: a croix de guerre this time. I wish they would not bother, but they never consult one before doing these things. At least I have never accepted one, and will never wear one or allow one to be conferred on me openly. One cannot do more, for these notices are published in the Press first thing, and to counter-announce that one refused it, would create more publicity than the award itself. I am afraid you will be rather disgusted, but it is not my fault, and by lying low and simply not taking the things when given me, I avoid ever really getting them. This letter should get to you about Christmas time, I suppose, as few mails have been sunk of late. That will mean that you are getting at least fortnightly letters from me, which should put off any anxiety you might otherwise feel. Mr. Hogarth of course hears of me every few days, so that his information is much fuller than anything I can ever give you.
I'm in the proud position of having kept a diary all the year 1917 to date. It is rather a brief one, consisting only of the name of the place where I sleep the night of each day: and the best thing about it is the disclosure that ten successive nights in one place is the maximum stop in the 12 months, and the roll of places slept in is about 200. This makes it not astonishing that my Arabic is nomadic!
I hope Arnie is getting on with his army subjects. It would be a useful thing to know how to drive a car, but judging from the papers there must be fewer cars in Oxford than in Akaba. He should keep an eye on the illustrated papers soon. They are going to get an occasional photograph from us, to help keep the Sherif (and Feisul above all) before the public eye. The Arab Bureau have about 500 excellent prints, and so the selection may be a good one. Some of them you will probably have already had, as I remember sending you some of the best. I'm also sending you a sheet of Hejaz 1 piastre stamps. You said you had not received any of this value. These are of course 1st edition, and are worth a good deal more than you would expect! Lady Wingate gave them to me, for of course it is impossible to find them anywhere for sale.
Here endeth this letter.
|Last revised:||9 January 2006|
T. E. Lawrence chronology
1888 16 August: born at Tremadoc, Wales
1896-1907: City of Oxford High School for Boys
1907-9: Jesus College, Oxford, B.A., 1st Class Hons, 1909
1910-14: Magdalen College, Oxford (Senior Demy), while working at the British Museum's excavations at Carchemish
1915-16: Military Intelligence Dept, Cairo
1916-18: Liaison Officer with the Arab Revolt
1919: Attended the Paris Peace Conference
1919-22: wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1921-2: Adviser on Arab Affairs to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office
1922 August: Enlisted in the Ranks of the RAF
1923 January: discharged from the RAF
1923 March: enlisted in the Tank Corps
1923: translated a French novel, The Forest Giant
1924-6: prepared the subscribers' abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1927-8: stationed at Karachi, then Miranshah
1927 March: Revolt in the Desert, an abridgement of Seven Pillars, published
1928: completed The Mint, began translating Homer's Odyssey
1929-33: stationed at Plymouth
1931: started working on RAF boats
1932: his translation of the Odyssey published
1933-5: attached to MAEE, Felixstowe
1935 February: retired from the RAF
1935 19 May: died from injuries received in a motor-cycle crash on 13 May
1935 21 May: buried at Moreton, Dorset