T. E. Lawrence to Ernest MacKay
Your letter is threatening to bear fruit: I wonder if you meant it, or if it is to take advantage of a politeness. I showed your letter to one of the nine hundred, a moulder (aluminium, iron, etc.) who when in Mesopotamia spent ten days at Ur, where Woolley gave him a tent and some food, and good conversation. He liked Woolley, therefore; it is not very often troops get treated as reasonable beings; in India such a thing is not dreamed of. However you come from Egypt, which is a comparatively civilized land; so perhaps it is well. Please consult Mrs. Mackay. You would find the moulder (name of Heir, pronounced like the electrical variety) a decent being. He likes music, especially of the semi-light sort: Schubert to Mozart. Beethoven he finds dry.
However, to business again. He said that he would give his future to visit your digs. I told him you had found practically nothing, and nothing that was not dull. He sniffed at me for prejudiced, because I couldn't go myself. He swore you were not far off:- a matter of 15 Rs. by rail, return. He said one Jones, a fitter aero, would hold him company. He said Christmas would be best of course, because we then get five days holiday - from the 24th to the 28th - but that if you were then full, as I hinted, they could get leave for not less than a week early in the new year. He was hot to write to you at once; but I pushed this eagerness to one side, so that you should have a good chance to back out, if you didn't mean it.
If you can do it, the pleasure of the devils will be inordinate. You need not be afraid that they will be devilish in your neighbourhood. Devilishness is of two sorts, physical and moral. These are nice devils. The Air Force sets a new standard of troops; they are squeamishly timid of being thought to resemble the Army. I think you will find them quite interesting and amusing.
If you are forthcoming, as I rather expect, will you say when would be the best time for them to come, what would be the best way to come, and what stuff they should bring with them? Blankets and things like that are camp commonplaces. But of course you may be as richly furnished as we were at Carchemish, where the B.M. housed us richly and gave us good hospitality allowances. Troops are, anyway, not exigent.
They would probably like to do something to get the full flavour out of their visit. Old Petrie used to make visitors string beads, or wash pots, according as they were males or females. I do not know on what scale you work, or what goods you have found. Heir is a decent photographer. Jones I know less about. He is very quiet: reads a lot, I fancy. Of course I've been five years and more in these circles; now they are, to an impartial mind, much the same as any standards anywhere.
Airmen mustn't fly machines:- that is a privilege of officers, and R.A.F. officers are very unlike R.A.F. airmen. It would not be becoming for me to say which set I preferred; though perhaps it may be deduced from my manner of life. So please don't give Heir directions for finding the best landing ground near the digs. Camels are more in our manner.
I hope I am not causing you to swear, as you read all this. If you have too little company, and too few appreciative visitors, then you will not be peeved. I mean well. [8 lines omitted]
|Last revised:||17 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