Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Sydney Cockerell
There, Christmas is safely over, without my running down to Cambridge. The road is a tempting one, which explains my thinking of it; but the snow and ice made riding impossible. I hate going to people's houses on Christmas day, because it's a family festival, if a festival at all, and merely a false sentiment for single people. In camp they make it an excuse for eating a lot, and drinking too much, the usual police regulations being lifted, so that drunkenness goes unpunished. Yet at Cranwell this year I have been very fortunate. The rest of 'B' Flight went on leave, so that I have the hut to myself. Sixteen beds at choice. Sometimes I feel like the last survivor of a sinking doss-house. Still it is very pleasant to have a solitary bedroom, and quiet, and lack of talk. I even lent away the gramophone, so that there should be no disturbance, and passed my spare time reading T. S. Eliot's collected poems (he is the most important poet alive) and correcting the proofs of an old-fashioned book you can guess the name of. It's odd, you know, to be reading these poems, so full of the future, so far ahead of our time; and then to turn back to my book, whose prose stinks of coffins and ancestors and armorial hatchments. Yet people have the nerve to tell me it's a good book! It would have been, if written a hundred years ago: but to bring it out after Ulysses is an insult to modern letters - an insult I never meant of course, but ignorance is no defence in the army!
It was very good of you to ask me down: and I would have looked in at tea-time if the road-conditions had been possible. I have no fear of mud or rain: but ice-ruts, with a blizzard continuing on top - No, that's not motor-biking weather. Lincolnshire is a very wintry country: the weather is still awful.
Some time next year I'll try to turn up again for a moment.
I didn't tell you about Lucas, did I? E. M. Forster had him in a room at Kings for me to look at. The man is magnificent, a mental athlete. If he is ever sent down or divorced he will write glorious books. Well worth your knowing.
|Source:||SCC 363-4 (also, with variant punctuation, DG 488-9)|
|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