Cookie policy: on we use analytics cookies to understand how visitors use the site. The anonymous information they provide suggests improvements and alerts us to technical errors. For more information, see our cookies page, which also explains how to block or remove cookies.  Search T. E. Lawrence Studies

Contents lists

Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Mrs Thomas Hardy


Dear Mrs. Hardy,

I've been waiting since Wednesday for the moment fit to write in about that night: and it has not come. So here goes, in the cleaning-up hour, with a babble of songs and quips over my head and the trumpets just blowing 'First Post', outside. Also it is raining, and I am tired. Please pardon the inefficiency therefore.

I asked Russell his mind. He said, again, that the audience were unworthy: that they interrupted his notice of the play. He much liked the Chorus: its slow speech, and the continuity it gave the action, and the brevity. The two songs were 'luvely': the words spoken in the balcony were superfluous. A look and gesture would have been enough. (I, too, felt that the Queen's 'I can't bear this' was dangerously near common speech).

So for Russell. We tried to get over together once more: but facts (and the orderly Sergeant) were not kind. We got no penalty for Wednesday's crime however: yet I would have liked the second hearing.

What took away my mind, so that I could only stammer to you in the hall, was the beauty and power of the verse. The phrases preserved their full force in that artless limpid speech of the actors: and I've never heard finer English spoken. That's the profit of the simple acting... Your people had no technique, no arts and graces, to put between their 'book' and us. It took my breath away... and then the two silly people behind you began to giggle. I suppose they have had no agony in their lives, and cannot see tragedy in others even when it is great and very greatly put. The 'O Jan' was like a benediction after a very stormy sermon: a blessed piece of foolery to give our poise back to us.

You must have felt very happy after all the nights were over.

I'm so glad that I enlisted, because daily troubles here make desperately sharp the pleasures - speed, the country-side, quietness - which I get in my leisure: and one of the best hours I've had in my life was that one in the Corn Exchange.

Russell asks me to send you his best thanks: and his hopes that Tristram will be done again where he can hear it.

Yours sincerely


Note: Lawrence and Pte Arthur Russell had attended a performance of The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, by Thomas Hardy, at Dorchester.  

Source: DG 441-2
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 28 January 2006

Copyright, privacy, contact | Cookies help