Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to F. N. Doubleday
March 20, 1920.
Effendim (this is more formal than Effendi, and not servile like Effendina).
I expect Florida is now finished for you. I refrained from writing before, since your holiday ought not to be profaned. The Garden City book came to me correctly: what a beautiful place you have! It must be great fun trying to work there: do you go out and count the cedar trees instead, sometimes?
It gave me rather a shock to realise for the first time what a plutocrat you must be. However it doesn't matter, because I’m not a Bolshevik, merely a person who doesn't care sufficiently about money to try hard to make any. My father was kind to me, and spent none of the capital he received from his father... and unless I marry non-self-supporting wives or have children, all will be well with me. My present burst of labour is only to find enough cash to build myself a house.
However I won't talk shop: the book is in hand, and likely to remain there.
There are two little bindings by me, which might interest you, or your French artists, and when I have another fit of paper and string I'll send them across. One is a rarity, a Ricketts binding in pigskin: he usually kept to vellum, and was not very good at it. This, in white pigskin, on the contrary seems to me charming. The other is a rather florid piece of de Santy. He's stopped work, so I presume it is acquiring unearned increment: but I don't much like de Santy.
As for hand-made paper: it ceased during the war, but they are now beginning again to manufacture. If you print my Seven Pillars I'll send a ream across, and then we can pull a large paper copy for you and one for me. Or do you regard such parerga as Mr. Henry Ford regards 'outside specifications'?
I don't like bothering Kipling with my problems, and so have not kept up correspondence: perhaps if the thing is ever finished to my taste I'll ask him for the kindness of an opinion on doubtful points: but he must be very busy, and I'm not a literary artist. It would be like asking Sargent to advise on the colour of one's street door.
No I didn't see Bott afterwards. You know a Mr. Lowell Thomas made me a kind of matinee idol: so I dropped my name so far as London is concerned and live peacefully in anonymity. Only my people in Oxford know of my address. It isn't that I hate being known - I'd love it - but I can't afford it: no one gets so victimised by well-meaning people as a poor celebrity. Also now I'm trying to write, which is a trouble to me, and there are the books produced since 1914 for me to read. So that I'm too busy to care about meeting people.
You know, publishing Conrad must be a rare pleasure. He's absolutely the most haunting thing in prose that ever was: I wish I knew how every paragraph he writes (do you notice they are all paragraphs: he seldom writes a single sentence?) goes on sounding in waves, like the note of a tenor bell, after it stops. It's not built on the rhythm of ordinary prose, but on something existing only in his head, and as he can never say what it is he wants to say, all his things end in a kind of hunger, a suggestion of something he can't say or do or think. So his books always look bigger than they are. He's as much a giant of the subjective as Kipling is of the objective. Do they hate one another?
P.S. Please remind Mrs. Doubleday that her wishes last time were expressed in a margin: an afterthought of your pen: therefore I put my second sending of regard of the very kindest in the postscript. It is the most important part of the letter.
|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