Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett
[Postmarked London S.W.1.]
These things are matters of opinion, or of will, rather:- like your diagnosis of my obstinacy to ambition, conceit or idealism, which are earthly devilish and divine points of the same view. It's no good writing them: because letter-writing is a vice: and I'll wait to talk till you report that the last pillar is fallen.
It's no remedy or consolation for my lack of style to point to Dostoevsky in the same dock: it's partly why people prefer to read him in the English version. War and Peace I thought decently written on the whole. Of course not a miracle of style like Salammbo or the Moralités Légendaries: or like Doughty and Eothen and Idle Days in Patagonia. If mine had been simple stuff it wouldn't have mattered. It could have gone into the Hakluyt category as a good yarn: but it's elaborate and self-conscious: ambitious if you like: and that makes failure a discredit. It doesn't matter missing if you don't aim: thereby Lane's Arabian Nights is better than Burton's.
Don't call me an artist. I said I'd like to be, and that book is my essay in the manner of an artist: as my war was a decent imitation of soldiering, and my politics chimed well with the notes of politicians. These are all good frauds, and I don't want you to decorate me, for art, over the book in which I explode my legend as man-of-war and statesman!
It's feminine to have the last word: which comes in well here, since it apologises for an unnecessary letter, and will influence you to let the matter drop! Once more, many thanks for the trouble you are taking. It's obviously going to make the book pages better than it was: and I'm very grateful for any help. I can argue for ever: but when it comes to writing something out of my head!
|Last revised:||5 February 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