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T. E. Lawrence to J. B. Acres


Dear 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.


Source: DG 492-3
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 27 January 2006

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