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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!


Source: DG 359-60
Checked: jw
Last revised: 5 February 2006

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