Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett
1. iii. 27.
[Postmarked 3 Mar.27]
The book is your own fault. I said you might have a text, lacking illustrations, as a gift. You were scornful of this: and sent me a subscription. So all I could do was to ask Pike, my printer, to send you as well-bound a copy as he could. I hope it was a good one. I deplore the waste of money on a book by a judge who knows so very much what books should be. But you are given, by inscrutable fashion, a chance to redeem an extravagance. Sell the thing, now, while it stands at a premium. The son for whom you told me you wanted it, as an heirloom, will much prefer £100 or so.
Your gift of the Allenby pastel is an irresistible thing: but rather overwhelming. It leaves me hopelessly in your debt. Hopelessly, for I see no way in my life and power of ever pleasing you again. My we regard it as yours, while you have walls and I have no walls? Brick by brick I have sold or given away or lost everything I possessed. The course cannot proceed much further, or I will be naked in the world. It's only by rationing my letters to not more than 15 a week (and 15 is nothing of a proportion to those I receive) that I can keep myself in postage stamps. I'm most grateful, for as a portrait of Allenby the drawing is unusually rich, and Allenby is an admiration of mine. The losing all that little private gallery was rather a wrench. I still have a jolly collection of books, and that is all: and the books I haven't handled for six years. They are in St. John's Wood now, I believe, well cared for by a man I met at Oxford, and have liked since
Edward Thomas wrote very fine poems, and some almost perfect prose. He must have been a beautiful person. I'm glad you are helping to bring him out a little. How much of that you have done! I was sorry not to use your text for the Revolt in the Desert abridgement. I wrote twice to Cape, and asked for the loan of it: but he was presumably afraid that I meant to destroy it, and so do him out of his power to produce an abridgement of his own if I made default. At any rate he would not let me have it: and I could not very well go on protesting to him that if I asked for the loan of a thing he might understand that I meant a loan.
In the end I waited till the last three days, and then ran through a scratch abridgement of my own, not looking for the best things to leave in, but for the best bits to cut out. It will be all the same 100 years hence: or very shortly after my death, a nearer occasion. I suppose the complete text will then be reprinted.
This place, Karachi, is a colourless unrelieved desert, without any of the beauty of clean emptiness, for it is all spotted over with odd military and air force magazines or barracks. If my mind takes to itself the likeness and tone of its natural surroundings, then indeed I shall have achieved Nirvana.
Before that last stage I'd like to have copied out and sent you an intelligent transcript of my R.A.F. Uxbridge notes. If the energy comes to me this year or next I'll do you this final disservice - and convince you that there were not the roots of writing in me. The 'fear of showing my feelings' is my real self.
More thanks. Why do you show so disproportionate a generosity?
|Last revised:||11 February 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