Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett
I'm overdue in writing, but have been inordinately worried. The R.A.F. have sacked me, for the crime of possessing too wide a publicity for a ranker: and as I'm as broke as usual the sacking is immediately and physically inconvenient. Also it's annoying to have worked myself up to the point of seeing much good and some thrills in barrack life, and then to be kicked out of it suddenly.
One result is that I'm unlikely to write an epoch-making book about man - or Englishman - in the ranks.
I should have written about The Breaking Point. I read it - and as you expected, the point of it missed me. I can't understand a fuss about such things. Marriage-contracts should have a clause terminating the engagement upon nine months notice by either party. I could admire its nervous writing, and the economy and power of the business: but its point lies so much in its content that it's nearly an impertinence to admire its other qualities.
Having been unequal to it myself, I tried it on the dog. In other words it went the round of B. block. There were debates about the four fires upon its subject, and these I found very interesting. On the whole opinion was liberal: though the dilemma of the book's close gives no scope for party feeling. The fellows treated it not as a work of art, but as a story of plain fact, and grew very keen following its track. Judged by their interest it should have drawn well as a play.
Lyeskov: did I write about him? He was fair to good. I liked the cruelty of the first story (The Sentry) more than the unnecessary harshness of some of the later ones.
Marie Grubbe is for return to you next time I come to London, if I do shortly. For the moment I'm rather at a loss for interest in anything. The motor-bike still runs like a dream, But I can't stay anywhere, for restlessness, and so haven't an address. I liked Marie Grubbe immensely: Nils Lyhne even more: both magnificent books.
Sidney Webb (on a sight of some pages) said that the Seven Pillars reminded him of Borrow (of whom he had read just as many pages). Any views?
Of course everything in connection with Cape and The Seven Pillars is over. I now feel that I was an ass ever to have dreamed of publishing anything.
|Last revised:||28 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