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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to D. G. Hogarth


Tank-town
 Easter-day [April 1 1923]

Yesterday fatigues for us ran short at 10 A.M. (usually their ingenuity keeps us at it till near noon): so I leaped for my bike, and raced her madly up the London road: Wimborne, Ringwood, Romsey, Winchester, Basingstoke, Bagshot, Staines, Hounslow by 1.20 P.M. (three hours less five minutes). Good for 125 miles: return journey took 10 minutes less!

In London I went straight to the Alpine Gallery. John's thing of you is wonderful. Might have been drawn by a drunken giant, after eating a mammoth. I doubt whether he's ever done anything quite so strong before. Knewstub [I line omitted] thinks it's the height of John: and the critics have all been hit by it. That's wonderful, for on the other three walls are such portraits in oils as very few artists have ever been able to show.

Yours isn't beautiful: it's savage: but the performance of it is so masterly that one forgives the rudeness and splash of the chalk-work. Was he drunk? Anyway for once John has worked with his brakes off, letting everything rip. It is (as it should be) the biggest thing in my portrait gallery. What shall happen to it? John sends it to Barton St. when the show ends. It remains mine till reproduced, of course; I don't know if you'd like it in your house. One's Self-portraits are rather hard to live up to, I fancy. Besides Mrs. Hogarth won't like it.

I hope you'll see the show. The other things are mixed, but the average is surpassing. The big composition is almost mad. I felt my eyes dancing with it, and preferred to look at Mme. Suggia, who is just a great portrait. It's good that John should boast such a middle age.

The wall with you in its middle is all spotted with drawings of me in various incarnations. One looks like a budding sergeant…. it's a pity Trenchard didn't see it before he decided to sack me.

Don't like the Army. It's so unlike the R.A.F. No feeling for it in the ranks. Everyone is here because he is broke, and they want nothing and hope nothing from their service, except food, pay, and little work. In the R.A.F. people talked of their technical jobs, and of flying, and of the future of the air, half their time.

.L.

No leave from here till August, and uncertain then. So won't reappear yet, unless I buy out, which on one head I'd be glad to do.

I should have said that I bust the bike, just outside camp. Ran over a broken glass bottle at speed, burst front tyre, ran up a bank and turned over. Damage to self nil; to bike somewhat. There goes my power of breaking bounds!

Source: DG 406-07
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 19 February 2006


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