T. E. Lawrence to E. M. Forster
26. 4. 26
I broke my right arm and wrist trying to start someone's car. It has been a source of discomfort since, and is not perfectly cured. In fact it's twisted a bit. No matter: but it takes away my last hope of being admitted some day to a beauty chorus.
At last, after weeks, I have found Lucas' letter, somewhat crumpled, for I carried it about with me for a while. His sentence about 'a supernatural background' startled me. Perhaps he meant unworldly: or unearthly. Surely not supernatural? I do not believe in that. There is no more rational being than myself alive. It's excess of reason which makes me seem mad to people. Otherwise I've now digested the letter, and can read it coldly, unblushingly. Odd that my confidence in my critical sense should let me condemn as rotten what so many excellent artists praise. I may see Lucas on May 9: and will then try to pin him down to particularities.
Your letter after Lincoln stares me reproachfully in the face. What can I say or do? I have a shell on me like a crab's: so I can't show what I think. It's my opinion that you will yet write (or have written and not yet shown) something very big: bigger than the Passage, which deliberately was bigger than any of the previous novels. Greatness lies in the eye that contemplates not in the subject: and your eye has grown very slowly. All the more lasting, thereby. Of course it's a bore being famous. You have cracked the crib, and the swag isn't any longer up to your standard. Consequently you feel empty, for the while: as if the profession was exhausted. But it isn't. Just wait a bit. Ten more years if necessary. You aren't wasting your time: everybody likes seeing you. Your present emotions span themselves into articles for the Labour Leader. Very well. There are sparks and flames: affairs of degree. Yours are the most sporting and fiery sparks. They are so good that someone will some day collect a shower of them. You needn't do that. Let the Passage represent you for the moment.
Do you remember little Smith, the bearded bookseller of Lincoln? He asked who you were. I told him, feeling pretty pleased with myself. He ordered a dozen assorted E.M.F's. (5/- brand) on the strength of your visit. Sold them. Ordered 20. Is selling them. I told him The Omnibus was a book. He ordered two. A Yank came in: guessed he wanted something to read. Saw The Omnibus. Said 'That’s the best set of short stories ever printed' and took the two.
I don't endorse the Y's opinion. V.G. yes... but the best? No, I don't agree. However my critical judgement, though dogmatic and dictatorial, is (according to Lucas) bad. Hoots. I congratulate you, anyway.
This letter must stop. Pen-holding is a small scale business, and makes my wrist ache: and there are many letters to write.
Writing is a mean snivelling business. It fails to convey anything bigger than its own scrawling miserable pot-hooks.
|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