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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!

Source: DG 531-532
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 9 February 2006

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