T. E. Lawrence to Edward Marsh
10. VI. 27
Dear E. M.,
It seems it wasn't Freeman, so much as the London Mercury, which was inept: for a 'Clennel Wilkinson' goes one worse about me, this last number. 'The happy warrior' who 'enjoyed his little scraps'. A reckless, cheerful, man of action. 'The fact is that everything worth having in the Arabs comes to them from the days of Saladin, who was born a Christian'. 'The fact is' who told the idiot that? The supreme assumption of it! And Saladin was born a Kurd, which I've never heard tell was the same thing as a Christian. Poof! Piffle!
Also he says that I was a physical weakling. I'm not that yet, despite my extreme age. In fact I passed into the Army as a first-class recruit, in 1923. In 1914 I was a pocket Hercules, as muscularly strong as people twice my size, and more enduring than most. I saw all the other British officers' boots off in Arabia: they went to base, or to hospital, while I did two years in the fighting areas, and was nine times wounded, and five times crashed from the air, and had two goes of dysentery, and suffered enough hunger and thirst and heat and cold and exposure, not to mention deliberate maltreatment, to wreck the average constitution. I go so far as to claim that I've been perhaps the toughest traveller who has ever written his true history. 'Mooning about the towns of South Italy'. Gods! [4 lines omitted]
Winston wrote me a gorgeous letter. Called his Crisis a pot-boiler! Some pot! and probably some boil, too. I suppose he realises that he's the only high person, since Thucydides and Clarendon, who has put his generation, imaginatively, in his debt. Incidentally neither T. nor C. was impartial! That doesn't matter, as long as you write better than anybody of your rivals.
He alarms me a little bit, for I feel that he wants to go for Russia, and the ex-bear hasn't yet come into the open. It's hard to attack, for its neighbours, except Germany, aren't very good allies for us. We can only get at her, here, through Turkey, or Persia, or Afghanistan, or China, and I fancy the Red Army is probably good enough to turn any one of those into a bit of herself, as the Germans did Rumania. Persia certainly: Turkey will be very strong, soon, and should be our ally, if common interests make for anything. China I know nothing of, but she is too huge for anyone to swallow. The most dangerous point is Afghanistan. Do you know I nearly went there, last week? The British Attaché at Kabul is entitled to an airman clerk, and the Depot would have put my name forward, if I'd been a bit nippier on a typewriter. I'll have to mug up typing,: for from '14 to '18 I served a decent apprenticeship in semi secret-secret work, and Russia interests me greatly. The clash is bound to come, I think. In modern Europe it was first Spain which tried to dominate: then France had two tries (Winston's ancestor the spoiler of the first. I wonder what he thinks of him? England's only first-rate military genius, I fancy... but a doubtful honour to us in other respects): then Germany has her go. It works from West to East, doesn't it? And England has been the main obstacle each time. Usually there has been about a hundred years between each effort: but the tempo of life has grown so much faster since the age of machines opened, that it's quite on the cards Russia may have her go in our time. It will be a complicated and difficult affair, which we will win, of course, after we have learnt the necessary modification of tactics. The Dardanelles and the Tanks both show how much dead weight has to be moved in favour of a new idea. Do you know, if I'd known as much about the British Government in 1917, as I do now, I could have got enough of them behind me to have radically changed the face of Asia? Russia, to these people, seems the new and growing idea: whereas there is more promise and capacity in our structure than she will contain in the next thousand years.
Apologies. I burble. This is Drigh Road and my proper job is hut orderly. The explanation of this recent shower of letters upon you was:-
(i) My delight in The Crisis
(ii) My fury at Freeman's blindness and prejudice
(iii) This letter: my apology for being furious with as little a thing as Freeman.
It doesn't seem to me that evolution will produce a No. iv. So you will have peace now.
|Last revised:||12 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