T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett
Tuesday 6. 4. 26
Your letter has interested me much: though you vitiate your thinking by the assumption that books are meant to be read. They are to be written only.
The abridgement is better than the complete text. Half a calamity is better than a whole one. By excising heights and depths I have made a balanced thing: yet I share your difficulty of seeing the shorter version's real shape across the gaps.
(i) The ending. I was overpersuaded to stop on page 644. The natural place is after 'sun', on line 35 of page 635. It fulfils your demands for balance and reflection and sordidness among the triumphs. Pages 632 and 633 are the philosophic climax of the narrative.
If you will consider anew, and approve this new FINIS, will you then please so amend your text, and also cross out 'a' before 'pearl' in the last line of the revised version.
Your statement that the hospital passage would be a wipe in the eye for 19 readers out of 20 puts it out of court, as I put it. This abridgement is to be fit for girl guides
(ii) To include the death of Farraj meant the restoration of many pages, to explain it. The 'private delectation' of 115 people is better than the public delectation of 10,000 My men are not to walk the common street.
Me to write again? God forbid. I do not bear another misshaped child. C'est fini. If only I'd had the courage to destroy this one in time.
Left handwriting constrains to brevity.
Note: This letter refers to Lawrence's draft abridgement of the subscribers' text of Seven Pillars, to be published in 1927 as Revolt in the Desert.
|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