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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Robert Graves


I can't get up to London at present. It's out of bounds, because of a rumoured small-pox epidemic. What truth lies in that, I don't know. The streets of Farnborough are more full of election-posters than of newsboys: and it feels mean, somehow, to buy a paper, after one has run away in this obscurity, to escape politics... if it was to escape politics. I wasn’t like Coleridge: I haven't written any letters home (by the way, Comberback was a self-comment on his riding: odd creature he was!) for anyone: and the routine would be beastly, if there was any: but each day brings its breathless order and each night its breathless cancellation: so that I live in a whirl. It's an animal whirl, though, and my nerves have quieted under it, in a healthy way. I nearly went off my head in London this spring, heaving at that beastly book of mine. My conscience always pricks me for not sending it you: and yet I'm proud of having had enough strength of mind to keep it to myself. It makes me miserable and angry, and I feel it a thing unfit to show to honourable or happy people.

Honestly I couldn't tell you exactly why I joined up: though the night before I did (a very wonderful night by the way: I felt like a criminal waiting for daylight) I sat up and wrote out all the reasons I could see or feel in myself for it. But they came to little more than that it was a necessary step, forced on me by an inclination towards ground-level: by a despairing hope that I'd find myself on common ground with men: by a little wish to make myself a little more human than I had become in Barton Street: by an itch to make myself ordinary in a mob of likes: also I'm broke, so far as money goes, by an unexpected event. All these are reasons: but unless they are cumulative they are miserably inadequate. I wanted to join up, that's all: and I am still glad, sometimes, that I did. It's going to be a brain-sleep, and I'll come out of it less odd than I went in: or at least less odd in other men's eyes.

I'm stuck in Farnborough nearly indefinitely: unless small-pox ends. If it does I'll come to London or to All Souls', at Xmas for a week. Send me the Sybil poem, please.


Source: B:RG 22-3
Checked: jw
Last revised: 8 February 2006

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