Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Bernard Shaw
I've now been sacked from the R.A.F., as a person with altogether too large a publicity factor for the ranks:- and feel miserable about it. As a last resort I've written to Trenchard asking for another chance in some remote station, where there are no papers, and no one will have heard of me. The reply to this is still not come. I've only a few days' money, so will do something decisive soon.
Those letters have come back. Decent of the finder to notify you. I dropped them with my cheque book when the bank told me that I hadn't any more need of cheques. It wasn't rage or astonishment, but an agitation of mind which made me stuff them into a slit in my motoring overalls. The slit is a way to a pocket, not a pocket in itself. Also I haven't a motor, but a motor-bike. It goes 80 miles an hour, and is a perfect thing. I hope to eat it shortly... or rather, when regretfully I have to eat it, I hope it will last me for a very long while.
I've been wanting to tell you about the misfortunes of my proposed book: (if I remember rightly your first book also isn't yet published: my only score over you is that I haven't written a second): however:-
When the first foul shout about me came in the Daily Express I cancelled (or rather I refused to complete and sign) the contract with Cape for publishing an abridgement. Cape was furious.
My mind is like a lump of putty, so that a while later I was sorry to have cancelled it, and I began to think of publishing, not an abridgement, but the whole story, as you have advised. So I sketched to Cape the possibility of a limited, privately-printed, subscription edition of 2,000 copies, illustrated with all the drawings made for me by some twenty of the younger artists. Cape was staggered for the first moment, but then rose to it - suggesting half-profits, and a serial-issue of a quarter of it in the Observer, and American copyrights, and all the necessary decorations. It took the form of a beautiful contract, sent me to sign: and that very day I got my dismissal from the Air Ministry: and so I've cancelled it too.
The present position is that nothing is going to appear: and this is the most comfortable state of affairs, so far as my mind is concerned. Whether my body will cry out for more food after it's eaten my quite perfect motor bike, I don't know. Sufficient for the month, anyway: and it's been a bad month, for the R.A.F. was the most interesting thing I ever did (after the squalid difficulty of getting used to it) and I'll regret its loss for good.
Please give Mrs. Shaw my regards. I tried to call last week end.
|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