T. E. Lawrence to William Rothenstein
8. 12. 27.
Many thanks for the second Enemy. He digresses too much, in it; so that there is almost no main argument. If he would send his ideas one by one to the weekly press as they occur to him - then what a critic he would be. The background of a general idea, some vague bogey of a time-spirit, would then give depth and strength to his writing. He cuts Miss Mayo wholly to bits: but then she is easy meat. He goes fairly for Sherwood Anderson, who is more his size. I think he is convincing there: but I do not know all S.A.'s work. Then he goes for D.H. Lawrence, who's [sic] boots he is not big enough to wear. He does not seem to have read much Lawrence, so far as I can see. He criticises only some pages of his little Mornings in Mexico, which are just the snapshots of a literary artist, in the slack time while waiting for a subject - the same way as a barber snips his empty scissors all the time he is moving the comb, and preparing a new grip on an uncut lock of hair. Just the maintenance of a vital rhythm. I'd like, immensely, to see W. Lewis tackling such a thing as D.H.L.'s Plumed Serpent, an immense and significant book. A fundamental criticism of that would be wonderful reading. Only he would have to forget his time-spirit obsession. There will not be a new time-spirit till the implications of Einstein have entered the new generation with its mother's milk - say about 1960 or so. We are Newtonians yet.
Lewis is vastly entertaining on poor Ezra Pound. [5 lines omitted]
Yet Lewis is a first rate brain, and a very good artist, surely? His drawings impress me with their power. They are really fine, I fancy. Isn't it odd to like all that a man does, and to dislike, almost vehemently, all that he likes? Or is that a natural consequence of living in his generation. Your work will be exactly dateable to your epoch, in the eyes of the future: as will the work of all your contemporaries. The most academic of them, and the most fiercely revolutionary, will all be 1880-1930... isn't that odd? What are these 50 years of a man's production, if his own time takes such possession of him? I think, mainly, that it means that any search or endeavour after difference (as an end in itself) is wasted effort.
Miss Gertrude Bell's Letters came to me: they are very good - but so on the surface as to be impalpably unsatisfying. Only twice did I feel that she had got actually down to anything. She was born too gifted, perhaps.
Poor Sir Henry Wilson was a fool, behind all his brilliance and power and knowledge. That vitiated his political efforts, and made him easy meat for all the politicians. Even I had no difficulty in ringing him round, over Mesopotamia. He was utterly blinded by prejudices, and so a victim, always. No vision over his wings or tail, only straight ahead. And he was not honest in mind or straight in tactics.
The death of Hogarth hit me very hard. Oxford was to me a beautiful place, and a home, because he lived there, for me to see for a few minutes whenever I passed. I did not want to delay there: but I did like to see and hear him just for a moment. And he takes most of his richness into the grave with him, because he did not express many sides of himself on paper. A great loss: the greatest, perhaps, or probably, that I'll ever have to suffer. [3 lines omitted]
|Last revised:||20 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