T. E. Lawrence to Edward 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.
|Last revised:||10 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