Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Bernard Shaw
14 Barton St.,
Dear Mr. Shaw*
First. Very many thanks for your kindness. I'll take advantage of it, though I'm sure you'd rather I didn't: and so the volume shall roll over to you at Welwyn in the middle of September. I told you how beastly it was to handle, so there's no fraud on that side of it: and as you say I'm privileged, I'll try it: though it's an unwholesome state to live in: and I don't think I won there by my own efforts.
Second. Publication. I'm sorry, but I don't want to publish it. It's good of you to think of Constable's. They would be willing to publish part of it. I don't think it's good enough to bother about doing that: and to publish it all would be impossible. As you are going to try to read it I'll leave that to your later judgement:- but you will be of my mind. If you aren't, I won't be of yours.
I'd like you to read it (so far one other person has seen it, besides myself, but I mean to show it to six in all)** partly because you are you: partly because I may profit by your reading it, if I have a chance to talk to you soon after, before you have got over it. You see the war was, for us who were in it, an overwrought time, in which we lost our normal footing. I wrote this thing in the war atmosphere, and believe that it is stinking with it. Also there is a good deal of cruelty, and some excitement. All these things, in a beginner's hands, tend to force him over the edge, and I suspect there is much over-writing. You have the finest cure for flatulence, and I have great hopes that you will laugh at parts of what I meant to be solemn: and if I can get at you before you have forgotten which they are, then I'll have a chance to make it better.
You'll be amused at my amateur method of getting help: and at my having a standard of work: but it’s the only book I'll write, and so I want it to be tolerable. You write a new one whenever you remember something not fully brought out in an old one! So as it's not going to be published, and as you say it will not waste your September time, and as it may be very profitable to me:- yallah as the Arabs say! And more thanks for lending yourself so kindly.
Yours very sincerely
T. E. Lawrence
My illustrious name has no letters after it. They offered me some, but I knew that I was just going to behave badly according to their lights, and so said 'no'. Whos Who next year will not have me in it, so I'd suggest your putting off its purchase six months. If you want to get my envelope just right the 'Colonel' should come off, since that's a sign that you know me. The Press use it.
* Ceremony: also A.D. and you are a great man!
** This reminds me of what Abraham didn't find in Sodom.
|Last revised:||1 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