T. E. Lawrence to Sir Herbert Baker
I don't write, for I have nothing to say: and many people write me business letters, demanding answers: which use up all my spare cash on two-anna stamps. How could there be anything to say from Drigh Road?
The Viceroy came: we worked for weeks beforehand, collecting dust to throw in his eyes. There was a daily punishment list as long as my arm, in his honour.* When the day came I dodged off on a side duty: so set no eyes on him, nor he on me. Ditto the King of Afghanistan. These big men are too big to catch an insect.
Drigh Road will hold me, inshallah, till the end of my term in India. Not yet have I crossed the bounds of camp. I moon about inside, and think of nothing, or of Hogarth and Hardy, who have died.
I'm glad the South African buildings are ripening with time. All the world speaks well of them:- which must make you quake sometimes in the night watches. I'd like to see them.
The Bank won't look well while it's half up and half down. I hope you'll scrape the old wall, somehow, to make the whole less of a magpie when it's finished. I'll be back to see it nearly done: and have promised myself the Bank as the goal of my first walk in London. You cannot imagine how I'm looking forward to getting home. But it's too far ahead yet for me to afford to say so often. A weakening entertainment, that thought of getting home.
Cameron paints very quietly, and very pastorally, and rather affectionately, I think. He may be a good team-leader for your decorators. Kennington has rather forsworn painting for sculpture, and is abroad somewhere - or was, months ago. I'm glad you've booked Anrep.
I should sell the S.P. if I were you. No book is worth £600 to anyone of moderate income. I feel inclined to sell one, and print a thin-paper edition of four copies, for my private amusement. A pocket edition. Why not? Or rather why? Nothing doing, really. There are always good reasons for not doing.
'Trevelyan got a new idea of Christianity', did he! Not a good idea, probably. You know I meant once to write a book on the background of Christ... Galilee and Syria, social, intellectual and artistic, of 40 B.C. It would make an interesting book. As good as Renan's Life of Jesus should have been, if only he had had the wit to leave out the central figure.
I encouraged Graves, to give my reputation the coup de grace. A premature 'life' will do more to disgust the select and superior people (the R.A.F. call them the 'toffee-nosed') than anything. Observe the reaction on yourself.** Admirable! I can only get peace, now, by being digested and tipped out on the rubbish heap. The 'lying quiet' game I've played out, and lost over. Mrs. Bernard Shaw sends me many reviews of Graves' book, and the general tone of them is that they are fed up with my subject.
I wonder why Curtis wants to encase the dagger. Arabia does not produce any wood except the palm-wood, which resembles boiled beef in texture: except of course acacia: and in gardens fruit trees: and hard thorns, which you reject. They build with Indian teak, at Mecca and Jiddah.
The fellows who come down from New Delhi, where there is a small, fortunate, unit tell me it's a posh place. Not very satisfying, critically, perhaps, but at least the right spirit.
An advantage of this filthy brown paper which India gives us is that it breaks brittly into brown flaky dust after a short exposure to light. So my 'life and letters' will not include this effort. Adds a new terror to letter-writing, that sort of threat.
* I was fortunate. Sheet still clean.
** Laurentian, that sudden insult. I thought I'd sloughed off those manners with the names.
|Last revised:||9 January 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