Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett
4. X. 23.
The Hudson's are sumptuous. How well the old man reads in them. The Shepherd has found two friendly readers already: yet I like better, much better, the memories of his childhood.
Wonderful that one man should have written that, and Patagonia, and The Purple Land, and Green Mansions: and I go about thinking that into his first book anyone not a born writer can put all that his spirit holds.
Hudson is hardly a born writer, either. Not for him that frenzied aching delight in a pattern of words which happen to run true. Do you know that lately I have been finding my deepest satisfaction in the collocation of words so ordinary and plain that they cannot mean anything to a book-jaded mind: and out of some of such I can draw deep stuff. Is it perhaps that certain sequences of vowels or consonants imply more than others: that writing of this sort has music in it? I don't want to affirm it, and yet I would not deny it: for if writing can have sense (and it has: this letter has) and sound why shouldn't it have something of pattern too? My sequences seem to be independent of ear... to impose themselves through the eye alone. I achieved a good many of them in Le Gigantesque: but fortuitously for the most part.
Do you think that people ever write consciously well? or does that imply an inordinate love for the material, and so ruin the art? I don't see that it should. A sculptor who petted his marbles from sheer joy in their grain and fineness would (pari passu) be better than a mere block-butcher. In scathing me for wasting my talent in an unproductive way you miss that I do it perversely and on purpose: that I came here to wipe out my inconvenient power of doing things at other people's bidding. Here they only bid me scrub floors or dig holes or move things material like mountains: and such ruck-jobs (while they irk very deeply) give me a wholesome secure feeling that I am harmlessly employed.
Of course it would be better to be benefiting humanity: but I don't see how I can, when I disbelieve in my own products. And better do nothing than make Gigantesques. I said in The Seven Pillars that I'd botch another man's work and better it: but would create nothing more my own.
More thanks for the Hudsons.
Robin Buxton (a humane banker) suggests 120 copies of The Seven Pillars, with all pictures, at perhaps £25 each, if that would cover charges. I feel tempted....
|Last revised:||23 February 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