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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to R. V. Buxton


22. IX. 23.

Dear Robin,

Glad you are reading the thing. Please don't inhibit yourself from scribbling comments of an insulting sort in the margins, made especially wide for the purpose. Your praise makes my stomach warm: but your criticisms are really helpful: whether in the field of morality, belles-lettres, tactics, or just manners. Down with them while you can!

The 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' is a quotation from Proverbs: it is used as title out of sentiment: for I wrote a youthful indiscretion book, so called, in 1913 and burned it (as immature) in '14 when I enlisted. It recounted adventures in seven type-cities of the East (Cairo, Bagdad, Damascus etc.) and arranged their characters into a descending cadence: a moral symphony. It was a queer book, upon whose difficulties I look back with a not ungrateful wryness: and in memory of it I so named the new book, which will probably be the only one I ever write, and which sums up and exhausts me to the date of 1919.

S.A. was a person, now dead, regard for whom lay beneath my labour for the Arabic peoples. I don't propose to go further into detail thereupon.

Quelle vie qu'on mène ici!

About a private printing. A hundred copies could be plain-printed for £3 each: or 300 copies could be produced, with the fifty or sixty portraits I've bust myself upon, for £10 a copy. My hesitant mind slides between them uncertainly. The dear book would be a wonderful volume, in every sense except the writing. I wish my prose wasn't so academic. There is a literary-priggishness about it which sets an open-aired man's teeth on edge.

Have you read my account of the I.C.C. march? Please say honestly what parts of it, or of its tone, hurt your feelings. I was wrapped up in my burden in Arabia, and say things only through its distorting prism: and so did third parties wrong. It wasn't meant: just the inevitable distraction of a commander whose spirit was at civil war within himself.

E.

Source: DG 431-2
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 20 February 2006


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