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T. E. Lawrence to Lady Sandwich

Clouds Hill


Dear Lady Sandwich,

Shaw or Lawrence, as you please. [5 words omitted] I like the shorter, because it's short! However...

Your letter is very kind: and your cheque too. I hope the book, when it arrives next year, will not be disgusting to you, or a great disappointment.  Bits of it are decently written, but the whole lacks design and unity, and the action and characters in it have no movement in them, beyond my words. In other words, it isn't a real work of art: only a painstaking imitation.  I was very ambitious of making a good book when I attempted it, and my failure is correspondingly great. A smaller thing I could have done better. However again...

The invitation requires a new paragraph to itself. Precisely because your house and company would be delightful, I can't risk it. My lot here is 1/20th of an army hut, and the company is too human, and too constantly with me. If I go away even for a night the return becomes poignant - for by nature I hate noise and fear animal spirits, and like warmth and smooth things and music and books and abstract talk, and colour, lots of colour. When I enlisted I knew that these things were forfeited, and my quaint mind now looks on them as things to be shunned. Time seems not to change with you:- whereas with me it has changed wildly, taking away all the material comforts I used to have, and giving me in exchange the sense that if I'm not doing much good, at least my peculiar talents aren't being misapplied somewhere. It's better to rust out, than to go on grinding other men's lives through the mills of your own political ideas.  A leader who sees two sides cannot lead - cheaply, at any rate.

I don't know why I should bother you with all this rigmarole. An alternative excuse would be that I'm in khaki, and have no decent clothes, fit to visit you in. I got rid of what I had, to imprison myself here against this very temptation, and can't afford others.

Apologies. I hope this note won't read rudely.

Yours sincerely

T E Shaw

Source: DG 464
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 10 February 2006

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