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T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett



Dear Garnett

An old friend of mine, Fontana, sent me two chapters (one on Moharram, in Constantinople, the other on an earthquake there, while in a Turkish Court House) out of a book of reminiscences he'd written on Turkey of 30-40 years ago. They seemed to me to be really good writing. I believe Cape turned them down. Am I wrong or was he?

Williamson has sent me a book of his, The Old Stag: stories. He seems pleased over what I said of Tarka. But he has written a great deal. If I'd known he was so practised I wouldn't have dared write him. I haven't yet read The Old Stag. I lie about the earth, like a crust of dung, doing pretty nearly nothing.

Last week I sent you two letters, which was excessive: but I realised, too late, that my R.A.F. notes might be called another book by those who hadn't tried to read them. Actually, they're in an emotional and intellectual short-hand: a précis of the stuff that might have been fused into a book by some writer of the scale and calibre of Kipling. Hopeless for my dregs to do anything with them, now. I fear you will be dreadfully disappointed. I hope Garnett III will be. He jumped off, so soon as I told him of them, with the idea that I was becoming a professional writer! That made me laugh; rather crookedly; on the sorrowful side of my mouth. The worst part of the show is that people tell me how very good my failures are. It shows by how low a standard we judge the work of everyday.

The Trenchard letter will explain itself to you. If he asks for the notebook, it will be out of curiosity only. My handwriting will easily defeat him. Probably you're the only person who'll ever read it all

Besides him, you and D. Garnett, Mrs. Shaw has seen some of it. I sent her two batches of the third draft, which is very like your text: only a little rougher. My re-working was no more than planing. The notes were like a rough plank: and here in Karachi I smoothed them, very carefully, to make it possible to handle without splinters and things coming away. Every sentence of the original was used: and very little was added: no significant addition, certainly. Just enough lubricant to make the thing work. Metaphor upon metaphor mixed! I wish I could lie down and sleep for ever.


Why do I hurry to tell you, so repeatedly, that they are only notes? Perhaps to discount to my own always hoping expectation your inevitably unfavourable judgement. I know it's no good: but I don't like people to say so. Until these there might have been a hope for it.

I think I will print cards 'to announce cessation of non-business correspondence': and send them to every address I can remember, at the rate of 20 a week.

Source: DG 580-581
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 10 January 2006

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