Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to S. F. Newcombe
16. 2. 20
I owe you five letters! At first it wasn't worth while for you were reported to me in one week as at Aleppo, Azrak, Bagdad and Cairo: and then it became a habit.
However the arrival of a smaller (I hope not cheaper) edition is an occasion for a bookworm like myself. The editio princeps always has a special value: but in some cases (Shakespeare folios e.g.) new matter is embodied in the reprints, which give them a market reputation little, if any, less than original. At the same time collectors, and especially collectors of sentiment, always prefer the genuine article.
However Mrs. Newcombe will regard the graft as the first. These things, as Solomon quoted from Adam's table-talk, depend on the point of view. Please give her my heartiest congratulations.
Then about business. Of course Lawrence may have been the name of your absolutely favourite cousin or aunt, (observe my adroitness in sex), and if so I will be dropping an immodest brick by blushing - but if it isn't, aren't you handicapping 'it'? In the history of the world (cheap edition) I'm a sublimated Aladdin, the thousand and second Knight, a Strand-Magazine strummer. In the eyes of 'those who know' I failed badly in attempting a piece of work which a little more resolution would have pushed through, or left un-touched. So either case it is bad for the sprig, unless, as I said, there is a really decent aunt.
As for god-fathering him, I asked two or three people what it meant, and their words were ribald. Perhaps it is because people near me lose that sense of mystery which distance gives. Or else it was because they didn't know it was you - or at least yours. Anyhow I can't find out what it means, and so I shall be delighted to take it on. Everybody agrees it means a silver mug - but tell me first if his complexion is red or white: I wouldn't commit a colour-discord.
Give Rose my
love you will know what to say... something neat,
not too Newcomian. As for the rugs, please take any that seem worthy to
you. There were two Afghans in the Arab Bureau, and a big (and not bad but
thin) Shiraz, in the Savoy.
I have abandoned Oxford, and wander about town from a bedroom in Pimlico, (temporary, for Bethnal Green is nicer to the nose) looking at the stars. It is nicer than looking at Lord Curzon.
Please give Mrs. Newcombe my very best regards. How odd it must be having married you. Tell her my letter wasn’t fit for her to see.
Hogarth sends his warmest congrats. to all three.
Seriously I am changing my own name, to be more quiet, and wish I could change my face, to be more lovely, and beloved!
|Last revised:||24 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