T. E. Lawrence to J. B. Acres
Your letter upon Dostoevsky was most excellent. I've always believed him the greatest of the Russians: though he never achieved an epic like War and Peace. He never aimed at the epic manner. When I'm forced to describe The [Brothers] Karamazov in a word I say 'A fifth gospel'. It is that intense preoccupation with supra-moral goodness, Christ-like-ness, which marks him so strongly. An epileptic and ex-convict, he drew always from his own experience and feelings. That's why his books are full of neuroses: and his characters so often criminal. There is a sameness too: for D. lived over-much within himself. Not many people are happy enough to strike the balance between inside and outside, and achieve a harmony.
André Gide’s book on Dostoevsky was not good. He tried to make him into a Protestant (Gide is a French Protestant) and didn't get to grips with his real powers and depths. Few Frenchmen could. They are too dapper to feel as untidily and recklessly as the Russians. Here ended Friday's letter. A wire intervenes. A week-end.
I must send you more of D. but take a rest between whiles. Have you read Lost Souls? (Gogol). I think you spoke of it to me once. This was written on Monday. I give up trying to write.
There are two or three books here waiting for fine weather, brown paper, and string, before venturing to Oxford. Nothing earth-shaking or portentous, like The Karamazovs: but man cannot live entirely on either dynamite or beef.
Not this week-end at Oxford. I'm for Welwyn, on business, if the roads clear. Zero here on Sat. Night. My mind is frozen. Good luck.
|Last revised:||27 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