T. E. Lawrence to E. M. Forster
[20 lines omitted] I've read all your books, except the Passage to India, several times lately. They beat me. All over them are sayings (generally terrible) which I feel are bursting out from your heart, and represent yourself: but when I put together a sheet of these, the portrait they make is not the least like you, as I've sat at tea with you. Tea, of course, is your drink, as water is mine and beer is Chesterton's and Burgundy is Belloc's. How hard critical work is. I wonder if I'll ever be able to write that article I imagined before I left England. It would be something snatched from the shipwreck which is this visit to India.
'To India' but it isn't that. I haven't been outside the camp bounds yet, and haven't seen an Indian house, nor any Indians except the degraded denationalised ones who work as servants in the camp. I mean not to go out while I am here. Most of my time passes in reading and thinking, while I wander or sit upon the huge aerodrome, a flat clean stretch of sand, nearly a mile square. At night I lie down on my back in the middle of it, and speculate on the chances that some of you will perhaps see these same stars a few hours later over England. A gay life. I've bought 8 records of the choral symphony, and find it very wonderful.
Are the dons any better now? Poor dears, having you sitting among them while they babble must be a very purgatory: and very purgative, too.
And your critical lectures? Aren't they to come out? I'm hoping to add them to the novels, as part of the evidence against you. Do realise that it's your duty to give the world a flag as guide to your course (even a rabbit shows the white of its tail in flight): otherwise the great hunters will never win your pelt: and how other can they keep warm in winter, except they dress in writers' skins? The keynote of this age is critical.
Also you are slowly maturing your judgement upon my two texts. Do you remember the fellowship candidate given three hours for his essay, who sat for 2 hours 59 mins, in silence in the great hall, then bent down to the firelight and wrote one single sentence: and won!
|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