Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to H. H. Banbury
Yes, I was sent the Woolf review: and laughed. Here are the judgements of the great upon my style.
'So imitative of Doughty as to be near parody'. Woolf in the Nation.
'Has none of Doughty's biblical or Elizabethan anachronisms.' John Buchan in Sat. Review.
'Gnarled texture twisted with queer adjectives and adverbs.' Woolf.
'Effortless, artless-seeming, adequate prose'. Gerald Bullett.
'Obscure to the point of affectation.' Tatler.
'Writing as easy, confident and unselfconscious as a duck's swimming.' Lit. Digest.
'Style has a straightforward fierceness, an intrepid directness'. Ellis Roberts.
'The style is like music.' C.F.G. Masterman.
'A scholar's style, simple, direct, free from ornament.' H.W. Nevinson. (Manch. Guard.)
'Style here and there affectedly abrupt and strenuous, but mostly without affectation.' Edw. Shanks.
'A cool distinguished prose.' Eric Sutton in Outlook.
'Positively breezy' G.B. Shaw in Spectator.
There y'are! Take your pick! I wash my hands of the affair: though I protest that I am not peevish, as Woolf says.
Karachi it still is. Now they have found me a job, in workshops. I follow the overhauling of each engine, as its particles float about the benches, and write a history of its new parts and processes. Tricky, and not either quick or easy to do. Especially for a non-technical man, very vague as to the function of a camshaft or inclined drive. I will be in Karachi, (unless the press blow me out) till the boat calls me home, in 1929 or 1931.
Birdwood and Salmond came to us a week ago. Our Stores accounting Section is a causality - and deserves it. [2 lines omitted]
The Seven Pillars is a quotation from Proverbs - 'Wisdom hath set up her seven Pillars' - meaning a complete edifice of knowledge. It was the title of a book I wrote before 1914 and destroyed when I joined up: and I put it on my war diary because I couldn't think of anything short and fit. The figure 'seven' implies completeness in the Semitic languages. [20 lines omitted]
Yes, lice had no blood-feuds or clan prejudices in Arabia. I'm glad you read Doughty just before Revolt. How did they compare? I think, (despite Woolf), that there is very little of D. in my style, and less in my matter. But D. was keen only on death and life, and I was keen on psychology and politics. So we quarter different fields.
I have not met anything very new and good - except Winston's book, which is a superb demonstration of power.
You talk of Candler's critique. But didn't you read The Seven Pillars at Bovington? I thought Posh persuaded you to borrow it? It is better than Revolt.
Revolt is selling like apples. Something over 40.000 copies in the first three weeks, they say! That pays off my debts, just about. A service fund gets the surplus, if any! Good luck to it. There should be something coming from U.S.A.
|Last revised:||9 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