T. E. Lawrence to Mrs Thomas Hardy
16. 4. 28
Dear Mrs. Hardy,
You should not have bothered to answer my letters: you know that these letters to the person left behind when someone dies are such vain, inadequate things.
One thing in your letter pleases me very much: you say you have failed him at every turn. Of course you did: everybody did. He was T.H. and if you'd met him or sufficed him at every turn you'd have been as good as T. H. which is absurd: though perhaps some people might think it should be put happier than that. But you know my feeling (worth something perhaps, because I've met so many thousands of what are estimated great men) that T.H. was above and beyond all men living, as a person. I used to go to Max Gate afraid, and half-unwillingly, for fear that perhaps it would no longer seem true to me: but always it was. Ordinary people like us can't hope (mustn't presume to hope) that we could ever have been enough for T.H. You did every thing you could: more than any other person did: surely that's not a bad effort? You thought him worth more: I agree: but life doesn't allow us an overdraft of service. We can give just all we've got.
The biography is a very difficult thing. They will trouble you very much about that. Do not let these troubles go in too far. What he told you, on November 28, that he'd done all he meant to do, absolves you from infinite toil. He will defend himself, very very completely, when people listen to him again. As you know, there will be a wave of detraction, and none of the highbrows will defend him, for quite a long time: and then the bright young critics will rediscover him, and it will be lawful for a person in the know to speak well of him: and all this nonsense will enrage me, because I'm small enough to care. Whereas all that's needful is to forget the fuss for fifty years, and then wake up and see him no longer a battle-field, but part of the ordinary man's heritage.
You say something about giving me something that was his. You'll remember I have an inscribed Dynasts, which is suffering the Indian climate. After all, I am, too; and so must the book. I don't want to lock up a treasure against a day of enjoyment which may never come: but if you really have anything else, then please keep it for me, if you will be so good. It will be to fall back upon, if some white ant, or flood or accident robs me of this one which I have. Only I feel that his older friends have so much more right. I only came at the eleventh hour.
Please do not answer all this: it's just me talking to you, as I used to do in Max Gate, while we waited for him to come down. I wish I hadn't gone overseas: I was afraid, that last time, that it was the last.
T E Shaw
|Last revised:||27 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