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