Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett
20. XI .22.
I have laboured greatly, in a week which confined me to camp, fulfilling a fire-picket: for I am still an Ethiopian so far as my conduct-sheet goes. The results are on their way to you, in a bulky envelope, lent me by our gracious King.
I wonder what you will think of them. I haven't numbered or dated the chapters, or indexed them, or divided them into books: because - perhaps you will think my work on them too lenient or too drastic, and scrap the pile. The total is about 160,000 words. I've taken out more than I expected, when I began it. The camel-charge is mutilated, for reasons of self-respect. The death of Farraj is taken out, because it looked awkward, hanging in the air, where you had kept it. You kept it only because it was a purple patch: but I think purple patches endurable only in the midst of lumps of dough. Most of the rest stands. I feel the transition from the winter war to the expedition against Damascus to be rather abrupt: but that's because of the strain we went through in the intermediate period which seemed interminable to me, and some of whose longueurs I successfully passed into print. But for the public I'm sure the abridgement will be better than the full text. Your cuts have the effect of speeding up the action in a remarkable fashion.
I found myself utterly unable, in this environment, to make those alterations which my calm moments tell me are necessary to achieve style.
You will laugh at the vanity of an author, who read the whole surviving text from end to end last night, and got up from the reading with a sense that the barrack room was gone dead quiet. It was half an hour before outside things came home to me once more. I wonder what I would think of the work, if I read it again in 1940? It is certainly uncommon, and there's power sensible under its peculiarly frigid surface.
I recant my judgment of Lady into Fox. It's remarkable. By the way isn't it unusual that literary power should carry on from generation to generation like that. He's the third, isn't he? Yet, to my scholar's taste, The Twilight of the Gods is more attractive.
Farnborough is three quarters prison, so that I can't yet say when I can get up. I'm hoping to find a regular means of dodging up to London, as from Uxbridge. In a few days, insh'allah: and I shall hope to find you recovered.
By the way, enclosed with the text is a draft preface, saying what I would have said. You will cut some of it, and add more: and then we will have to think which of us shall sign it: if you decide that this mutilated trunk is fit to exhibit.
I'm rather proud of having achieved any sort of revision, in circumstances as distracting as ever encompassed a writer.
I fancy Uxbridge may work into a 30,000 work [sic] sketch of the Maggie sort.
|Last revised:||18 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