Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to D. G. Hogarth
It's a difficult question you ask me. The Tanks are interesting, the company hardly tolerable, even to my stomach. There is an animal reek here which keeps me awake at night with horror that mankind should be like it: because I feel that we are the unnatural, and that Hut F.12 is the truth about human-kindness.
Contrast this with the R.A.F. (not Uxbridge: the exercise there was too severe for me) in which I was as contented as ever I had been: even my mind stopped working there: whereas here I lie awake nights on end, thinking about everything germane.
And why I enlisted? The security of it first: seven years existence guaranteed. I haven't any longer the mind to fight for sustenance. As you realise I've finished with the 'Lawrence' episode. I don't like what rumour makes of him - not the sort of man I'd like to be! and the life of politics wearied me out, by worrying me over-much. I've not got a coarse-fibred enough nature for them: and have too many scruples and an uneasy conscience. It's not good to see two sides of questions, when you have (officially) to follow one.
Exit politics (Irak candidates had no share in my disgust. Indeed I don't think I did badly, in sum.). There went most of my money value. Exit Lawrence: and there is most of the residue of my earning power gone. I haven't a trade to follow: and won't do the two or three things for which I'm qualified: hence I'm reduced to soldiering. You see, I'm 35 nearly: and that's too old to make a fresh start in a skilled business.
When I joined the R.A.F. it was in the hope that some day I'd write a book about the very excellent subject that it was. At that time I thought my Arab Revolt book very bad. Since then Shaw has turned my mind slowly to consider it good: and there's another ambition gone, for it was always in my hope to write a decent book: and if I've done it there seems little reason to do another. A pity, for my Uxbridge notes were good, and there was the making of a very good thing out of the life of a squadron. It will be a puzzle for my biographer (if I have one of those unprofitable things) to reconcile my joy in the R.A.F. with my disgust with the Army. The R.A.F. is utterly unlike this place: the men are so different, and their hopes and minds and talk. They weren't happy: it used to be said at Farnborough that I was the only happy man there... but they were essentially decent: and the going has been rather a jerk to me. I feel queerly homesick whenever I see a blue uniform in the street.
But for going back to the R.A.F. - there my hands are tied. Trenchard (in sacking me) offered me a commission. I said I couldn't take it: and begged to be left in: but he couldn't do it: asked me to take my discharge as final: and he's not a mind-changer, and I don't want to bother him with my personal whims. So I don't think there is any remedy.
You talk about Govt. money. I take it every week, so that I haven't any scruples: but I'm worth more than 3/- a day only in politics and Middle East, and there I don't play: and a temporary job at a high salary would only cart me worse than ever at the end. It's hard enough, now, to go poor again: and every year of money would make it far worse.
When I saw Amery he was thinking of coastguard or lighthouse for me: and the latter felt to me like so complete a withdrawal from the world as to enable me to publish that book and get the job over.
Now that notion has gone of course, and I propose to let the book blush unseen., After all, so long as I can keep alive in other ways, why bother with the unpleasant way?
I took the All Souls' money this year, and have spent it on pictures. I felt nervous at the length of time my drawings were taking, and anxious to end them quickly; and I distrusted my power of earning enough in the Army or R.A.F. to pay for the six or seven yet required.
As a matter of fact I am earning a little - translating a French novel just now: and Cape, the publisher, has written suggesting I do Mardrus' Arabian Nights into English for him. I'm willing - if unsigned - and that would bring me in the price of some more drawings.
There, that's how I stand: and I see no way out of it. It's good
that A. has got that thing at the end. He has wanted it persistently: and therefore presumably deserves it. I agree with you about hellenistic sculpture.
|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