Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Sydney Cockerell
It's a choice between Sassoon and Squire? Well, let the poet win: I'd always put poets first, and men afterwards. In sending it to S.S. will you ask him to return the copy to you after reading? Then you can send it on to Squire. If my memory is straight yours is a black-leather copy, not ill-tooled, though a little too assertive for the very squalid text of its contents. S.S. will not hold it over-long if he knows that you intend it for another after him. Your discretion is complete, and accordingly you will know whether to tell each that the other is, or is about to, read it.
'A tremendous masterpiece'... no, you are wrong there. It's not a masterpiece, for it lacks form and continuity and colour: άχρωματος άσχηματιστος - and it is not tremendous, for it can be no bigger than my petty self. Hysterical, curious, a human document: those are its proper adjectives.
My view of Doughty? But I like him too much (or his books, rather) to start an analysis: you see the analysis proceeds always on its own rails, beyond your control, except to set a bound to: and my instinct forewarns me that in my sketch of Doughty would be much criticism. His greatness is achieved by limiting himself and his judgement, so that he is few-sided and confident in himself. A fuller man would be more modest in attempted performance. D's moral pride is betrayed by the scale of his works' designs. It is the man less than great who dares to write greatly. D. holds no multiplication of characters in him: he is a man rather than a universe.
There is a prospect (Hogarth can tell you more) of a private edition of my book next year. Three hundred copies, perhaps, at a ten-guinea price, to cover the reproduction of pictures. A subscribed edition of course, without publishers or booksellers or reviews.
In giving my MS to the Bodleian I acted perhaps unhumorously, taking myself a little too seriously as a classic. Cowley was equal to the occasion, and never smiled at all throughout the transaction. Whether he has a treasure or not the next century can tell. It rids me of a bulky weighty volume. A neat manuscript don't you think? There is of course no need of restriction in its use: the man who could read so much of my handwriting would deserve what he found. It's the third edition (identical with the printed copies) but the fourth, if it comes out, will be widely different – and better, if my skill has not wholly gone.
I have not been to Max Gate lately: the army is dyeing me khaki by degrees, and I don't know that I'm any longer much company for real people. At least I feel that way, so shall abstain till I'm different.
|Source:||SCC 357-9 (also, with variant punctuation, DG 437-8)|
|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